By Bambi Katz.
With retirement came the idea of visiting Jerusalem for an extended length of time. My husband Al and I embarked on an experience that was phenomenal. We rented an apartment in the centre of Jerusalem. We explored the city by foot, public bus and the occasional taxi. We had visited Jerusalem many times but each day in our own apartment was a new adventure. We awoke to the sounds of Israelis rushing to work, kids going to school, Yeshivah students gathering before class. Everyone was in a hurry. We could feel and hear life in Israel.
There was no lavish Israeli hotel style breakfast! Coffee, pita, cereal; check the news of the day, read emails from home and off we went to explore. We never tired of touring the Old City, praying at the Kotel, smelling the foods of Machane Yehudah (the Jewish market), browsing in galleries, remembering at Yad Vashem or drinking coffee in one of the many wonderful cafes.
We hobbled over broken pavement while the train track on Jaffa Road was being built. Now we can ride the beautiful, modern train, which we did this past October.
With a good guide book in hand, each day was completely filled. When the weather was bad, the museums and other indoor sites became our destination. We attended lectures and classes offered in English, wonderful Israeli films, musical concerts and performances. Yung Yiddish is a cellar café with musicians who play and sing old and new Yiddish music, and is a place close to my heart.
Shabbat in Jerusalem is unique. On Friday the shops are busy and the restaurants are filled with lunchtime crowds. Then, like clockwork, at the very moment Shabbat begins, a siren wails through the city. The streets become quieter. There are no buses and few cars; just people walking to shul. Friday night dinner with friends is special. I will always remember Shabbat morning services at Hebrew Union College or Kehilat Har El, with Holy Blossom friends Nancy Ruth and Rabbi and Mrs. Marmur.
As soon as Shabbat ends, the streets are once again filled with people and activity. The shops and restaurants reopen and there are cars and buses on the road. A new week begins.
Of all the places in the world I’ve visited, I think it’s safe to say that Jerusalem is my favourite city. When we say Next Year in Jerusalem at our Pesach seder, these are not just words but a genuine and meaningful wish.