I was tired, most of all I was tired. I had spent the entire day studying Halacha, contemporary women’s issues and hebrew at a midrasha of advanced torah study for women, however marvelous it is to learn and experience judaism in Israel, after an entire day of study all I wanted was to get to the safety and familiarity of the Jerusalem Theatre and eat something while listening to jazz. I believe I’ll never forget the faces of the people sitting on the chairs around me, the music, the hebrew letters at the advertisement on the walls of that theater, the waitresses, the salmon and the soda can with more hebrew letters. My rented room at Katamon and that Theater were my home away from home.
I still remember the people, the buildings, the cats, the gardens and how it felt to be in a country where most part of the people are jews, despite all the beauty in front of eyes, every time I got on the bus on my way back home last summer in Jerusalem, some part of my mind always thought about explosions and terrorism, would I die on that bus? However, somehow I managed to run away from those thoughts and enjoy the the air and the wild feeling of be living an adventure so far from my birthplace.
In order to get to my cultural haven, I still needed to walk after the bus ride. I can recall every step until the theater and then to my rented room, I remember the houses, the silence, the beauty of the gardens – I live in a city considered the “capital of Amazon”, but I don’t see anything like those beautiful gardens when I walk in the streets of my city – and I remember the sun despairing while the darkness penetrated each corner. Darkness and light, there was beauty and fear on the streets of the eternal city last summer.
Almost everyday, on my way home, I passed through a public bench, where an old man seated with his dog. I remember him because he was always there, always looking to some distant place, maybe looking at the past, maybe looking at the future, as someone who is hypnotized by the beauty around him or the pain around him, as someone who sits on a bench by the lake while sees history on a furious river in front of his eyes. Every evening on my way home, he and is dog were there or just the dog.
The missiles started to make noise in the air on that summer, the fear started to make his noise through sirens spread across the country, the intolerance and the hate also spread across Israel, but they don’t make any noise, they just make the air hard to breathe, confuse the mind and bring the worse out of the most wonderful of the human beings. Only the cats seemed untouched by the reality. The cats and the immortals jazz singers of the Jerusalem theater, my mental and spiritual haven on the holy land.
One day, on my way back home, once more I saw the old man and his dog, and I noticed something different, something that remind me of a rosary pearl on his hand. That remind me of my grandma, she seems to be always praying with this object on her hand. A memory that today still seems as distant from me and my jewish religious lifestyle as on that evening in Jerusalem. But that was no rosary pearl, it wasn’t Christian, it was something I, at the time, related to Islam, today, after my google search I found out it is something called “Tasbih”.
I didn’t know what it was on that evening in Jerusalem, I only knew it was something used by muslims. I will never forget that moment not because I felt fear, but because I was surprised. The old man was praying only a few steps away from the oficial house of the Prime Minister of Israel. It was comforting to see such scene, although ordinary, it was incredible to see liberty among the war, the lack of hope and the deaths.
A muslim old man, praying while sitting on a public bench close to where the Prime Minister of Israel also could be sitting and praying. Liberty is precious and beautiful.