I shop at the junction of good and evil.
It is the tzomet where green and yellow license plates waltz around the giant roundabout, the dance partners eyeing each other with curiosity and suspicion. Tanned soldiers watch as elegant, turban-wearing women wait at a corner for the kindness of a lift while men ride past on donkeys and shepherds goad their sheep across green, thriving hills.
This junction stands near tangled, breathing vineyards marking land that came to life like a golem, only real, only after loss and victory, only after miracles. It is a connection point between two holy cities, north and south, between The Wall and other walls, where Patriarchs walked and where they now rest. To the east wait the ancient ruins of Herodian; to the west stand far fresher ruins, bus stops now doubling as memorials where three boys were kidnapped kindling a war, where a sweet young woman was stabbed, where cars transform into weapons– even just last week– the evil intersecting with the good.
Still, the supermarket at the junction is bustling with its better prices and selection than the safer-feeling stores closer to home. It’s the store where over-sized knitted yarmulkes mingle with dark hijabs and voiceless heads, where many avoid eye contact but where others dare to venture a cautious smile, a slight curve of humanity that you hope will be returned, even for a moment. Together, you wait on long lines. You struggle to get those stubborn, rickety carts though the maze of the parking lot, to get home. Here, practicality breeds interaction, and sometimes, even pleasantries.
Next door is the bakery with a cafe on its balcony. It is filled with heavenly smells from crackling brown seeded baguettes that reassure you that you’re eating healthy, from little flaky rolls that marry bitter chocolate and sweet tahini in a strange yet perfect fusion. Students study there with their headsets blaring secret melodies and couples enjoy an afternoon away from their kids with an upside-down coffee and jeweled salads of beets and fried cheese.
And as you savor the flavors you pause: Will someone come in and try to harm the patrons — maybe you, wonder whether that soldier with the baby face standing over there near the bourekasim will be fast enough with the gun slung nonchalantly over his broad shoulder. And you recall fleetingly that when you lived in America, the gun would have been unseemly, jarring — but now it brings an uneasy comfort.
At the junction, “us” and “them” mingle and sometimes blur, customers and proprietors both, fixing cars, buying toys and quinoa and appliances, sharing advice on cuts of meat and brake pads and sometimes even a laugh together and you briefly forget about the tears.
You shop here because you live here, and you live here because of answers you know in your bones, and yet you live in a world that is drowning in questions. Still, you wouldn’t want to live anywhere else because you’re home.
But when you come and go, and you find traffic is at a standstill at this junction, backed up into the veins of its roads, you wish your first thought could be: Accident.
Instead you fear: On purpose.
Yet each time, unless something has happened, by accident or too often on purpose, you brush away your thoughts, you look at the old ivory stones on the zig zag hills of history and controversy, and you go about your business.
You smell the smells of the fresh bread, struggle with the fullness of the rickety cart, dread the tangle of the traffic at the roundabout, and you watch two peoples at a crossroad going about their business.
And you hope.
For peace and quiet.