were definitely more solicitous than they have been in the past
just returned from a trip to Jerusalem for a cousins wedding.
I went with hesitation and trepidation, my on and off again trip
coming just a couple of weeks after the bombing at Mt. Scopus Hebrew
University. I must say I would still recommend going to Israel for
anyone who has a mission or feels a need to go.I,a middle-aged woman
went alone, but I did stay with my cousins in Jerusalem while I
I walked and shopped on Ben Yehuda St. which was not filled with
its usual boisterous café sippers. There were construction
crews aplenty. Lots of stores were boarded up. But salespeople were
definitely more solicitous than they have been in the past in the
open stores. Actually, there was even one strolling street musician
who did give the street some "normalcy". And finding a
parking spot in the area was still a problem!
At Yad Vashem there was no parking problem, since its visitors that day
included a group of Russian immigrants, a squadron of young army recruits
and my cousin and myself. Also at Soreq cave ( a stalactite and stalagmite
wonder) 20 kilometres southwest of Jerusalem , we were amongst a handful
of tourists who were addressed in English by the bilingual guide. When
we visited the Mormon university campus at Mt. Scopus, my cousin and I
were its only guests. Consequently, we were treated to a solo concert
overlooking the most picturesque view of the Old City that I have yet
Fortunately for the economy, diners still frequent restaurants in off
the beaten track areas. We had a superb pre-nuptial dinner at the Holyland
Park Café overlooking Jerusalem whose security guard and location
on the fenced back hills of Bayit Vegan neighborhood gave it a sense of
protection. The wedding , the raison detre of my trip, took place
at Moshav Shoresh on the outskirts of Jerusalem in a modern hotel. Attended
by 300 people, it was considered small by Israeli standards. The chuppah
which was set outdoors had lavish staging ,lighting and numerous videographers
and photographers. It had the feel of a Hollywood extravaganza replete
with rifle-toting security guards.
Israel is full of contrasts and ironies. Walking through the park adjacent
to the Knesset on Shabbat , we saw several birthday parties in session.
Children were just having fun and playing soccer, well supervised by adults.
A few streets away, a Palestinian bride and groom were quietly being filmed
with the backdrop of the Tower of David, no one harrassing them on their
special day. My aunt is in a long term care facility in Hod Adumin
(east of the Old City) and she is being lovingly cared for by Arab personnel.
My uncle (recently deceased) lies in a cemetery adjacent to the five family
members killed by a suicide bomber. The graves groan with the weight of
visitors stones and markers of their short lives. One cousin has
a brand-new modern condo in Yemin Moshe (1st neighborhood built outside
the citys walls after the war). You can hear strains of Arab music
and the howling of animals at night through the windows of her home. (its
not far from the zoo)
At Lod airport, (where I spent many hours waiting for a connecting flight)
I remarked that Israelis and foreign passport holders are still very aggressive
in airport line-ups. Everyone ignores no smoking signs. Servers are brusque
at self-service counters, prices high and tips are expected.
But, on the other hand, a vocal New Yorker, now an Israeli citizen, and
I struck up a meaningful conversation which began with a tirade to the
smokers beside me and ended up with an offer of a shared meal.
When a coin -operated phone refused to function, I accosted a Russian
speaking cleaner and he patiently dialed the numbers for my call because
I muttered a few Russian words. While in the departure lounge, a surveyor
grilled me on my demographic status, my spending habits and if my safety
while in Israel was an issue. In spite of its paradoxes, I answered unconditionally
"yes" to returning to Israel and so did the students on a Birthright
trip with whom I shared my return plane.
© Sylvia Charles October 2002
< Reply to this Article