Prior to coming back to Jerusalem this summer, I had a very fuzzy but definitive picture of Jerusalem in my mind. It was built upon memories from the mind of 16 year old me. From the time I came to Jerusalem for the fall semester of my junior year of high school… 13 years ago.
There were landmarks in my mind… Ben Yehuda street, Hebrew Union College/Beit Shmuel, King David street, the YMCA, Jabotinsky street, Independence Park… along with less well known locales. The shouk on the corner that was open on Friday nights to sell us beer, the restaurant across the street that served the best pumpkin soup, that place on the corner where our tiuyl bus would always stop and we would run in the back door and get the best baklava ever, and that one street in that one neighborhood where the lady from Belgium sold the BEST waffles ever!
Here is the problem with all of these memories – over the years they have degraded a bit, as all sweet memories do and what remains was the fun and sweet parts not the challenging parts (like getting there). Also, most of the time they stuck us on a chartered bus or led us somewhere and we really weren’t allowed to go places alone, therefore, I never really learned how to get around by myself.
Coming back to Yerushalim (Jerusalem), I wanted to revisit the places of my child’s memory but I really didn’t know how to get started so I just let it flow. I got to know my new neighborhood and slowly started venturing out with other girls to further places. Currently we are located in the Katamon neighborhood near Emek Rafaim. Emek is a great and busy street with ice cream shops, super markets, tons of restaurants and coffee shops. The setup seemed vaguely familiar but one peek at the map and it seemed like King David street was miles away.
It all clicked the day I walked with a friend, on Erev Rosh Hashanah, to my G-dparents’ shul. I knew I had been there before but a lot had changed since I was here 13 years ago. We finally found the place and I had a HUGE “AH CHA!” moment. This Emek road that I had been trekking up and down was actually the much less developed street that was a bit of a walk for us but a nice treat 13 years ago. We would buy Pomelos and Pomegranates from the street vendors and sit on the sidewalk and eat. There wasn’t nearly as much car traffic as now, if I remember correctly. Also, I don’t know where she went but I heard the Belgium waffle lady is still around the city somewhere. It all was starting to make sense. Then I visited with a Denver friend after Rosh Hashanah on Emek. We decided to visit the new Mamilla Mall near the old city. We took a cab and unlocked the other puzzle. Here was the school and dorms, the building that was just started being built (that is now a HUGE and expensive hotel and apartments), and the memories from my child’s mind. Sadly, the bits and bobs of collected memory aren’t there any more. Most of the shops were removed and the landscape has changed greatly with this new walking mall but there was the Jerusalem of my childhood.
It’s been an amazing time, connecting past with present and present with future. I am just thankful for the opportunity to do that!