An ode to Jerusalem (my first, true love).

An ode to my first, true, love.

A hot summer day,
A bus full of first timers,
Bad rap music blasting through the stereos.
He’s flirting with her but she likes that guy and those two are having a deep conversation and those two are talking about their jobs,
and plenty are asleep.

And then there’s me, sitting at the front of the bus alone.
That gigantic bus that says “Birthright” on it and gives us away.
Sitting at the front of the bus alone, blasting “Matisyahu — Jerusalem” into my headphones on repeat,
Waiting, hardly breathing
Jerusalem if I forget you
How can I forget you?
We’ve never even met.

Oh, but I’ve heard you!
Calling to me, begging me to come home.
How can you have a home you’ve never been to?
How can you have a love you’ve never experienced with your heart,
Or your hands?
How can you hear a voice from 6,000 miles away?
Jerusalem if I forget you
But I never did.
I longed for you long before we met, I longed for you long before I knew who you truly were, who you always will be
I fought to get to you.
I knew that the emptiness within me,
that piece of me that yearned for a home,
yearned for a place to finally rest, I knew that I would find it in you, and that you would help me find me.

So I sat on that bus, on the edge of my seat, waiting for the moment when the world would become clear,
“When we come out from this tunnel we’ll drive some and then we’ll be in Jerusalem” the guide informed us.
I asked him to let me know exactly when,
I wanted to know the exact moment, when the normal buildings I was looking at would transform into my personal paradise,
Into the very thing this oh so sensitive heart of mine has been waiting for.
Under the tunnel,
Trying to force air into my lungs.
And in the end no one had to tell me.
We emerged into the light and my eyes began venting their frustration, their relief, their immense passion.
Pouring tears of gratitude, tears of belonging, tears of truth.
Tears of “Ah, finally, there you are my love”
As if I arrived at my chuppah to see my soul mate for the first time.

There you are Jerusalem, my love.
With your crowded streets and your honking horns and your angsty kids and your soldiers with guns and men with black hats and women with long flowing skirts of every imaginable color and scarves to match.
With your smells of fresh bread and fresh pomegranate juice .
And your trash
and all of your damned divisions.
But, you unified my heart with yours, right then and there didn’t you?
So I visited your stones,
and they told me secrets I never dreamt of,
and they fused themselves into my skin and whispered words of love and eternity, words I always knew I knew but lost somewhere along the way

but all ways lead to you.
“I’ll come back, I promise, I’ll always come back”
And I did.
And here we are together, struggling and learning about each other and growing everyday.
And your stones still whisper secrets to me.
And you are still fused into my skin.

And this oh so sensitive heart of mine still plays your melody with every advancing beat.
And you will always be my first, true, love.

Jerusalem if I forget you
Ah but not to worry,
you never forget your first love.

About the Author
Born and raised in sunny California, Reena Bracha traded in her beach attire for the slightly more modest approach of orthodox Judaism. Her first love is Israel and her second, her ukulele. She recently made Aliyah and currently lives in Jerusalem.
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