I recently began chemotherapy and the routine of my life became inundated with doctors, hospital visits and days where I could hardly get out of bed. So when my sons, Alon and Dolev along with Dolev’s girlfriend Nili, announced that we were going on a tour, it was the best surprise I could have asked for. Erez organized the whole tour so that it felt like we were making different stops in my life. It felt like time travel.
On the eve of Sukkoth, just before sunset, we met near Ben Gurion Airport and headed towards Jerusalem. At Sha’ar Hagai we turned to the valley of Bet Shemesh and up to Kislon. There, hidden inside a beautiful forest, was a large bronze sculpture by the famed artist, Nathan Rapoport, called “The Scrolls of Fire“. Erez led us around this incredibly intricate sculpture, explaining every aspect, while he himself kept discovering new elements. It told the story of the people of Israel: The Holocaust, uprisings, liberation, independence and revival. It was an astonishing memoir of who we are.
Loaded with emotions, we returned to the car and drove into the mountains of Jerusalem. Erez picked this particular road because of it’s resemblance to the mountains of my childhood in Romania. Though it has been nearly 50 years since I have been there, I still remember those mountains and this road was able to take me back to that time.
We arrived in Ein Karem; a neighborhood of Jerusalem with a fascinating story about the birth of Jesus Christ, Erez providing the narration with metaphor and animation. Across the road from where we parked, we stumbled into an art gallery with beautiful oil paintings of scenery and still life. One of the paintings being showcased was actually of the valley from which we had just come.
It was time for dinner and Erez led us to a cozy little restaurant in the Nachlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem. It was called “Ima” (mother in Hebrew) and Erez explained that he chose it because this trip was in honor of me, the Ima. Near the main entrance to Jerusalem, this restaurant had a wonderful variety of authentic and delicious Kurdish food.
Feeling full and contented, we drove to the market of the four species. A special market that is held during Sukkoth in which all the supplies for a proper Sukkah can be purchased. This was a fascinating anthropological experience that activated all of my senses and once again made me feel as if time travel were possible.
The streets were crowded with people running, tasting and examining the ingredients for the holiday ceremony. It was so packed there was hardly space to move even though it was nearly 10 p.m. All the shops were open, families with children walked in the road because the side walk had no room left. Clothing shops, spice merchants and other business owners were selling their treats, as the mix of Hebrew, Yiddish and English could be heard all around.
For us, Israelis from Tel Aviv, the more secular part of the country, it was definitely a unique experience. Erez, filled with stories, knowledge and smiles, made this trip far more interesting than anything we could have organized ourselves. It was an interactive experience that left all of us wanting more.
And me, what more could I ask for while walking in the streets of Jerusalem? Just that the trip would never end.
Special thanks to Ayala for sharing her experiences with us!