Tag Archives: Jerusalem

J is for Jerusalem

11 Apr

a-to-z-letters-jThey say home is where the heart is. If that’s the case, then my heart has at various times and I guess always will belong in England, Australia and the United States, because these are the countries I have lived in. I also lived in Israel for 11 years, specifically in Jerusalem. But I wouldn’t say Jerusalem has my heart. Israel has my heart and my entire immediate family still lives in Israel. But I would say – unequivocally – that Jerusalem has my soul.

Because Jerusalem is just that kind of place. If you’ve never been, it’s hard to describe. If you have been, then you probably know what I’m talking about. Jerusalem seeps into your pores and is impossible to shake. The sights, sounds and smells of a modern city clashing with an old one is nothing short of miraculous.

As a journalist whose job was to cover the City of Jerusalem every day, I had the extraordinary honour of learning about and interviewing everyone from school children to volunteers to government officials. I could do my job every day because there’s no real hierarchy – because your mayor and council members are in the phone book and you don’t have to go through 47 publicists to get an interview.

In Jerusalem you can rail against a corrupt municipality and in the same breath witness extraordinary acts of chessed (kindness). I know of no other place where can  you walk the streets without a  single car on the road on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) and chat to complete strangers. Or have a complete stranger open their home to you for a Shabbat (Sabbath) meal because they met you in the supermarket and asked if you had somewhere to go. It’s in Jerusalem that your heart will break over and over when there’s a suicide bombing and scores of innocent lives are lost; where your cell phone will give out because people around the country and the world will be calling to make sure you and everyone you know is okay. And then you’re heart will break all over again when an Ultra Orthodox organization will rally its volunteers and they will come out and collect every piece of shattered bone and tiny piece of flesh that used to be a person – collect them all and ensure that there is a proper burial.

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In Jerusalem you can  also rail against those Ultra Orthodox who curse those who travel on the Sabbath or who receive handouts from City officials; who wield so much power in local government.

In Jerusalem you’ll dance in the streets on Simhat Torah and be proud to be a Jew in your Jewish homeland in the capital of the country. And you’ll also be awoken to the unique sound of the muezzin call as the Muslims head to morning prayers. You’ll haggle in Hebrew with Israeli vendors for a better deal on a dozen apples at the outdoor shuk in Mahane Yehuda. And in the Old City of Jerusalem you’ll haggle in English or Arabic in that market too.

IMG_0115In Jerusalem you will find the best falafel of your life; you’ll get up early just to head to the shuk to inhale the smell of pita with za’atar, to sample gleaming olives, to scarf down freshly-baked borekkas and watch old men play shesh besh (backgammon), while drinking strong black coffee or sipping tea with mint.

In Jerusalem you can walk to the Western Wall and touch stones that are thousands of years old; say a prayer; leave a note and then walk across the street to Sultan’s Pool to see a rock concert or a movie.

In the Old City you can simply walk a few feet and be in four different quarters. You can run your hands along the stones in  the Jewish, Christian, Arab and Armenian quarters. You can see the bullet holes in the walls from wars.

In Jerusalem you’ll watch in awe as hi-rises and new buildings tower over some of the most ancient structures in existence and whizz in your car down a major highway while struggling to negotiate the tiny one way streets in the heart of the city (with cars parked on the footpaths), knowing that it’s so much easier to walk to wherever you want to go.

And if you are sitting in your car, who else will stop at the light, hoot their horn and ask you if you want to sell your car? And if you’re in Jerusalem, the chances are that the person who asks will remind you that he saw you last week and asked you once before and do you have an answer for him yet?

Jerusalem is where you can be hospitalized and volunteers will show up during holidays and sing and dance for you and offer to say prayers for you.

Jerusalem is where an old world meets a new one and nobody blinks an eye. Jerusalem is where a sunset over the Old City Walls will stop your heart; where you know summer is on its way because vendors start selling watermelon on the side of the road.

Jerusalem is where people from all over the world flock to live; to visit; to pray and to play.

Jerusalem is not an easy city to live in. She will break your heart many times over. But she’ll also heal it, too. Life in Jerusalem is an ongoing love affair of ups and downs and of struggles and triumphs. You have to give yourself over to Jerusalem in order to truly understand the beauty that his her and her alone.

And that is why she has – and always will have – my soul.

 

 

 

The write to be happy

26 Jul

FALLING OFF THE PLANET
So, where have I been for the last six months? What happened to my resolve, my life, my outlook, my world? Well, a lot to be frank and none of it particularly good. I need the discipline of being answerable to something/someone, and so, dear blog, you are it. You are here from this day forth to keep me on track. Do you hear me?

DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE
Where  I have been in the last six months is less important than how I move forward. But, to bring you up to speed, it’s been a tough half-year, complete with the loss of my steady freelance gigs, a stint in hospital, the turning down of a great job to write a travel guide book for Frommers to my home town of Jerusalem in favour of a great great writing job that made me so happy professionally and paid more money than I knew what to do with. Maybe it’s because I really wouldn’t know what to do with all that money that it turned out that job never paid me. Two months of work, thousands of dollars later and now I”m as poor as a synagogue mouse (to quote from Topol in Fiddler on the Roof, whom I saw the other night – -AMAZING – but I digress).

GET EVEN OR GET HAPPY?

Am I mad? You bet I am. Do I hope to see my money someday? You bet I do. Am I doing everything in my power to try and get that money from them? You bet I am. But, with the upheaval and turmoil and sickness and stress, and having gone through all my savings, I woke up last week virtually unable to move. Money, or no, I realised I needed a serious massage. All that stress and tension of the last few months had finally got to me. And so I went to the ONLY place to get a massage in Los Angeles – The Massage Therapy Center. Trust me, it’s not cheap but they are SOOO great there. I’ve learned the hard way, better to have a great massage and pay for it, than a bad one that simply leaves your wallet lighter but no real improvement. At the Massage Therapy Center (I sound like an infomercial, no?), there’s none of the “What sort of massage do you want?”. Of course you can request a style, if that’s what floats your boat, but far, far, better, is the therapist asking what your issues are, where your tension is, and then tailoring your massage to your body’s needs. And believe me, those therapists usually know what you need more than you do. My therapist was AMAZING although she did say I’d need about five hours of work on my back to get out all the accumulated knots.

GOING TO PIECES OR SEEKING PEACE
Still, after that amazing treatment, I suddenly had a great deal of clarity. I realised that while I was still as poor as a synagogue mouse, and still spending all day every day scanning the Internet, bugging friends and sending out job applications and resumes, I needed to find a way to be at peace with the fact that I wasn’t working. That didn’t mean swanning around town and maxing out my credit cards ( which I’m on the verge of doing by necessity anyway), but to actually allow myself some time to breathe. After all, I figured, when am I actually going to have the time to just do things I can’t do normally when I do have a full time job? I needed to find a way to be okay with being “funemployed” as a recent Los Angeles Times article noted. And so, I began to try and okay with my status, while still making the effort to search for work.

WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE?
So what could I do that wouldn’t break my already broken bank? And what could I do to not just focus on what I wanted to do from here on out, but to truly take advantage of this situation? Well, firstly I have an uncle who very kindly has sent a small amount of money my way that should keep me covered for the next four to six weeks while I search for work. And, because of this, I am blessed to be able to say: Right, for the next four weeks I’m going to focus really hard on how to move forward while still being responsible.

BACK TO MY BOOKISH ROOTS
Well, I went to the library! I love books and had a problem with buying them – A LOT! I love wandering into a bookstore and smelling the new pages (my sister can relate to this, too). But then I realised that the city has a plethora of libraries that I hadn’t used in ages. I made a careful list of the type of books I wanted to read, the authors I wanted to seek out, and to find a way to get back to FICTION, which is my great love after all, which is the purpose of this blog, and clearly of my life.

THE PERSPEX IN MY PERSPECTIVE
And the first book I read and am still reading? Not a work of fiction at all, but Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. What an amazing book. Why did I wait so long to read this? I am inspired. She is inspiring. Go read her book if you haven’t already. Thank you Elizabeth Gilbert for putting the perspex in my perspective. I spent my week giving myself permission to just “be”, courtesy of Ms. Gilbert. I took my dog to the dog beach (she’s a Golden Retriever who loves nothing more than to swim) – on a WEDNESDAY! How decadent! How bohemian! I did it. I’m proud of it. The guilt twinges were definitely there but I was learning to be okay with taking a couple of hours out in the day, midweek and being okay with it. I went to the park, sat under a big tree (again with the dog) and read: the newspaper, fiction mags and Ms. Gilbert. Absolutely delicious! And none of these “experiments” cost me money.

CHANCE AND/OR FATE = CHANGE?
Through a series of bizarre circumstances, I landed up meeting and connecting with a former Australian child star whom I adored when I was a little girl. The circumstances are so coincidental and surreal that I couldn’t do them justice by attempting to explain them, plus I want to cocoon and cherish the magic of this encounter so I will say nothing more on how this came about. I am forging a wonderful relationship with this extraordinary woman and am now working with her to publish a series of articles on her life and write her memoir/autobiography with her, all because of a series of random events colliding in the universe. I do not know where this relationship will lead either professionally or personally, but I’m just enjoying the ride and getting to know her and her amazing boyfriend who were clearly destined for each other. It’s true what they say, that another person’s happiness can rub off on you.

THIS IS ME
This chance meeting, the massage, the reading, the permission to breathe, the extraction of myself from a toxic work situation, have all somehow crystalised into my upcoming four week challenge, which is to allow myself to really spend more time on my fiction, to do what I love and let that place of peace and serenity guide my actions. I was lucky to interview for a job and even luckier to not be offered that job. And no, that is not a typo. I learned an important lesson at that interview. I have spent the last two and a half years freelancing, from home. As a (ahem) forty-something woman, I knew going into the interview the job was a desk job in a real office, where I’d have to wear real shoes (ugh) and clock watch (double ugh). And as I sat there in that interview, I could feel the walls closing in on me, and I almost couldn’t breathe. I knew I could never go back to a desk job and while that may narrow my options work-wise in the near future, it was enlightening to know who I really was, what I could truly deal with, and what I couldn’t. I love working from home. I am self-disciplined, organized, when it comes to work (with the usual dollop of procrastination we all have from time to time). I’m a morning person and love being able to start work at 6 a.m. My 12-year-old Golden Retriever loves having me at home too (the feeling is mutual). If I’d been offered that job, would I have taken it, though? Absolutely! But I wasn’t. I believe this was the universe’s way of confirming for me I’m not meant to be in an office on a 9-5 schedule.

THE FOUR WEEK CHALLENGE
And so, this leads me to my four-week challenge, (which I have already begun), and which I hope my readers will hold me accountable to. For the next four weeks my tasks are as follows:

  • To give myself permission to enjoy this time
  • To spend my days doing the following: Exercising (sadly I can no longer do my 6 a.m. on the beach boot camp classes because I have no money); more yoga; focus on writing fiction (three stories done already and sent to various competitions, sites etc);
  • Seeking only decent paying freelance markets (I’m over those cheap bastards who think you are not worth anything … see previous post
  • Finding a “happy place” every day. This includes more time with my dog in parks, promenades, the beach. Summer in LA is amazing. Take advantage – right?
  • Spending time seeking jobs – but NOT 24/7
  • Reading more books. On my list right now: The Secret, The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Accidental Tourist (which I read years ago but Ann Lamott is extraordinary and I love this book), more Elizabeth Gilbert; Julie and Julia (I’m a vegetarian but obsessed with all forms of cooking and food books, shows etc. no idea why!).

And so, I beg your indulgence. Please help me keep to this regime. You’ll know I’m doing so by my postings. If I’m not posting and updating, feel free to kick my bum via this blog and keep me on the straight and narrow. I hope, pray and wish to believe that by doing what I need to do, and approaching what I love from a happy place will lead to emotional and financial stability. Help me in this journey and I will help you in yours if you wish me to. The focus now must be MORE FICTION and MORE FORGIVENESS. This, will be my F PLAN. Join me on my journey, won’t you?