This is my last Israel post, and rather than ending it with general impressions like the other two posts, I’d like to start with some quotes that are like little bookmarks of my trip:
“I stood there and I said all those numbers very slow, and I watched very careful how every number looks on the mouth. And once I even said to her, Tell me, Judith, how much is three and four? Just to see the seven on her mouth. But she probably thought I’m nuts. And sometimes, listen, Zayde, just the eyebrows, just the eyebrows of a woman, can grab a man for a whole life.”
-Meir Shalev, Four Meals
“When the instructor saw that Aviad had put down his pen, she gave him an inquiring look. ‘I don’t have an ending,’ he whispered apologetically, keeping his voice down so as not to disturb the old ladies who were still writing.”
-Etgar Keret, ‘Creative Writing’, Suddenly, A Knock on the Door
“Next day was one of those mornings where spring kisses winter goodbye. The inmates who were left in the institution played ‘rounders’ in a cleft in the hills – a broad patch of ground where warm pools still glistened. Smells of dried blood from the nearby slaughterer’s house stung the nostrils, mingled with the light heat haze and with the honey fragrance of the yellow cassia.”
-Rachel Eytan, The Fifth Heaven
“Anyone who has been tortured remains tortured ... Anyone who has suffered torture never again will be able to be at ease in the world, the abomination of the annihilation is never extinguished. Faith in humanity, already cracked by the first slap in the face, then demolished by torture, is never acquired again.”
-Jean Améry, quoted in Primo Levi’s The Drowned and the Saved
“In the square, by the wine shop
somebody suddenly shouts, ‘Gapozo is back!’
The people who are sitting in the coffee house and by the bar
wave their hands at me as if nothing has ever happened.
Here, the routine never stopped
I leave the convoy
and cry all the way back.”
-From the song, ‘A Song After the Rain’, in the album Ashes and Dust
I visited the Bahá'í Gardens in Akko, which are a small sanctuary in a busy city. As we left the gardens, my family and I bought some popsicles as it was a particularly hot and sunny day. I acquired many new freckles that day, and I counted them over the deliciousness of grapefruit-flavoured ice. I made the mistake of saying out loud that I needed new hiking shoes for the next day as we walked past some market shops. Some shop owner nearby heard and me and bustled me into her teeny shoe shop. So there I was with grapefruit juice dripping down my hand trying to put on socks with the other hand. I did find shoes, but the shop owner also sought to find me something else: a husband. When she found out I live in Australia and that I’m (gasp!) unmarried, she said: “I’ll find you a Jewish man”. Oh goody, like I haven’t heard that line before. I paid for the shoes and tried to make a quick exit as she screamed after me: “But there are plenty of men here!” Seriously, this actually happened. And it basically sums up Israelis: your business is their business. It was funny but mortifying at the same time. Still, the shoes were great.
I didn’t get to see much of Haifa this time, unfortunately, but I did visit the Bahá'í Gardens there too, which are just stunning.
Banias Waterfalls, Tel Dan and Nahal Me’arot
This is where I used those hiking shoes bought in Akko: the Banias Waterfalls in the Golan Heights, the Tel Dan Nature Reserve and the Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve at Mount Carmel. They were long hikes with beautiful scenery. It’s totally worth the effort to visit these places.
And a few other places ...
From top to bottom: A calm evening at the beach near Givat Olga, where I stayed with friends; My grandfather’s study (one of my favourite places on earth); Kibbutz Yagur, where my grandfather lived for most of his life; Art on my grandmother’s wall, painted by her own hands; Ramat-Gan, where I grew up; Sushi night with friends (all of which was home-made); A morning stroll in Netanya.
Goodbye Israel, I miss the new freckles you gave me, which have all disappeared now. I miss your traffic and noise. I miss the feeling you sometimes give me that I may belong with other people. I miss your supermarkets packed with shelves of hummus that actually tastes like hummus. I miss your copious salads on tables. I miss your loudness and rudeness. I miss the knowingness of what it’s like to grow up Jewish. I miss not feeling that strange. I miss your shops closing down for Friday evening and Shabbat. And I miss your afternoon siestas. But most of all, I miss my family.