Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ben Yehuda

First of all, kudos and kappayim and kol hakavod to Eliezer Ben Yehuda the man.  We learned about him in Ulpan and of course everyone (?) knows that he is the father of modern Hebrew.  He was determined that people living in this country speak Hebrew as a daily language, and fought against the natural inclination of the new immigrants to revert to Yiddish, Polish, Russian, or whatever the language was of their native homeland. There are all kinds of stories and songs about him (yes, we actually song the Eliezer Ben Yehuda song in Ulpan).

Now, let's move on to Ben Yehuda the street mall in Jerusalem. 

When you are here as a visitor, one of the things on your MUST list is a stroll up and down Ben Yehuda.  You buy a couple of tchotchkes, you shop for a kippah, eat a falafel, but mainly you people watch.  You soak in the atmosphere of Israel - the seminary / yeshiva students enjoying their year here, the families, the soldiers, the variety of religious garb, the people begging for money, the musicians, and it is a critical part of what you remember when you go home.  When you walk into the stores, your wallet just magically opens and your shekels and credit cards jump out - very few people walk away from a stroll down Ben Yehuda without buying something.

Last Motzei Shabbat my husband and I, for the first time in our almost one year here, went to Ben Yehuda.  A couple of thoughts occurred to me:

1. When you live here your wallet stays closed.  Tightly. 
We walked into an art gallery where we once, during a visit, purchased a painting that we fell in love with.  Sure enough, the artist had even more pieces there.  We fell in love with them too. 

And then, guess what happened?  Like magic, we jumped into tourist mode, and our wallets were throwing themselves against our pockets trying to get out and give the gallery owner all of our money.  "No, wallets," we said, "stay where you are."  Reluctantly, our wallets quieted down. But it was amazing how quickly we had turned back into that mode - oh!  we are here in Israel, we must buy something to remember our trip!  I looked my husband straight in the eye and said, "We can't do this anymore.  Not for a while, anyway."  When his vision cleared, he agreed with me.

2. When you are not a visitor, you kind of feel sorry for them.
Walking on Ben Yehuda, watching the tourists, I remembered all of our trips and how sad I'd feel when we knew we were about to go back.  You know the feeling?  Wow, it is so special and holy here, it feels so right, and now we have to go back home and leave all of this.  I know how that feels. At the same time as it made me feel awesome knowing that we didn't have to leave, I empathized with visitors because I know how it feels when that plane takes off from Ben Gurion and you leave Israel behind.

3.  I don't like walking on wet, uneven stones.
Just saying.  I always feel like I'm about to keel over walking on those pavements.

4. Israel needs more visitors.
When all is said and done, there are not nearly enough people visiting Israel. When tourists come, everyone wins, especially the tourists.

5. People can and will eat outside in the cold.
It was really chilly (OK, not the 30 degrees of Baltimore, but pretty cold for here - 50!) and people were sitting OUTSIDE eating ICE CREAM!  Seriously?

6.  And the most important item - I am no longer completely and utterly terrified of driving to and in Jerusalem!
Thank goodness for Waze, which is not foolproof but pretty good ("In 400 meters, at the roundabout, stay straight, and then, at the roundabout, take the second exit"). 


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