Without the group, I am completely on vacation, and I must say that Jerusalem is the place to be for that! I'm so happy to be able to just hang out and enjoy what was a special place for me (and Michael....I miss you!). Most of my time here for the last few days (Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday -- which is today -- I am finally caught up with the blogging!) has been culinary -- I needed to eat in my favorite spots and eat with my favorite people -- and also mercenary -- I've spent time shopping and exploring all the places that were my favorite stores.
So here is my update on Jerusalem as I remember it (since I left in 1999):
The Village Green is still here and the food is still fabulous. Maybe I'll even go back one more time before I leave. I just love that place.
Sefer v'Sefel is still here. This is a great used-English-bookstore that Michael and I frequented. The books are still awesome and the store still has that wonderful policy of allowing you to return your books for a discount on your next purchase. Almost like a library. It kept us going during our Year in Israel. We probably still have books that we bought there. I know we do. Wacky.
Little Italy is still here -- an awesome Italian restaurant that is kitty-corner from my old apartment on Keren Heyesod. Speaking of my Old Apartment -- I've walked by it many times and the shutters are tightly closed. Either Shlomo got to the people who live there (he always wanted us to keep those darn things closed) or it's not rented out. The big for-rent sign in front of the building is a hint to me that it's not a lived-in apartment. I know that no HUC students are there. But that's okay. He was a difficult landlord! Speaking of others...I've walked by apartment buildings and stood for a moment recalling fond memories....Shabbat dinners, study sessions, poker games...it's all good.
Smushy Yogurt -- Yep, you can still get it and it's still great.
Felafel -- Mmm....good.
Shoes -- There are still Naots to be bought, and, happily, I now own a new pair.
Stores -- So many stores have closed or moved. I'm sure this is because of the various bombings and security issues as well as the decline in tourism. Lots of things are still around, but sometimes have moved. Examples: Kravitz, my favorite school supply store, is moved. And so is Big Apple Pizza. Demises: Yemenite Step is gone, and so is Pizza Sababa. Another sad one: I finally got to Jerusalem Pottery today (it's the pottery place in the Christian Quarter, the really good one that makes the tiles for the Old City Street Signs) and it seemed like their stock was sparse. When I asked about the coffee mugs (mine has a little chip, I wanted a new one), he said that they've closed the workshop and are just selling off their stock...because of the tourist decline, but that hopefully they'd start up again as things get better. For their sake and ours, may it be so.
Makolet life -- yep, still going to these cute little makolets (markets) to buy groceries!
Hotels -- they keep changing the names of the hotels on me! This is only a problem if you use them as landmarks, as I guess I did.
Road Construction -- there seems to be a ton of road construction going on. The corner of Keren HeYesod and Sokolov is a mess and much of Keren HaYesod is all torn up. That would have been annoying while we were here!
Security -- Jerusalem doesn't seem that much safer or less safe to me than when I was here last, but I do notice the guards at the entrance to all the restaurants and cafes. This is new, I'm told, mostly since the Sbarro Pizzeria bombing. Overall, it's been quite quiet while I've been here... (I really haven't been here in a while, though: the first time I was asked if I had a weapon, I just laughed at the security guard. Luckily for me, he realized that I am not a danger!)
Cell Phones -- Certainly a lot of Israelis had them when we lived here but not like now. EVERYONE has a phone, including me! All the HUC students are required to have them for security reasons and my friends here have taught me the joy of SMS, which is what they call text messaging in Israel. We have this capability at home, but I must not be cool enough at home to do it so often.
Internet Cafes -- another new thing for me -- especially in the dark and scary(ish) streets of the Old City. I was a little surprised to see Internet cafes next to merchants hawking shlocky Armenian pottery and stuffed camels and t-shirts.
I'm sure I've missed something that either I noticed or I didn't even remember. That's the amazing thing about time....it certainly passes and makes the memories foggier and foggier. That's why I guess we'll need to keep coming back and creating new memories here in Yerushalayim...
Also -- I had dinner with Mike and Sara Bram last night. He is here studying in Yeshiva and she was studying in a Professional Kosher Cooking Course and they're heading home on Sunday as well, but I'm glad to have caught them before they left to go back to Atlanta. Mike is an old friend, for those of you who don't know, and it was great to see them. Here's what they taught me:
Keeping Kosher in Israel can be hard! (I had really no idea about this. See, this is why we need to keep coming back, you can always learn something new in Israel) I never paid much attention to the various Kosher Certifications at restaurants, but there has been a bit of an uproar in the Jerusalem Rabbinate, the ones who do the Kosher Lemahedrin certification. I guess the head Mashgiach (Kosher certifier) was fired, and now all Kosher Lemahedrin (the bulk of restaurants, I guess) are "suspect." So we had to choose from a list that has been circulating in the haredi community. I had no idea it was so complex, but I was assured that most of this is just politics. Still, it seems like we're just making it more difficult for ourselves if you ask me. Anyway, we went to a dairy restaurant in the Sheraton Plaza hotel where the food was great, and it was good to see old friends.
A few things still on tap for me in the next two days:
Shabbat, of course, will be wonderful. I plan to go back to Kehillat Shira Chadasha for Kabbalat Shabbat and to HUC for Shabbat morning....and then I'm so excited to see Liz perform in the Vagina Monologues. I'll have to write a post to share that with you. I also want to go to Mahane Yehuda to buy pita and, of course, Marzipan rugelach to take home....and maybe another felafel for the road.
Am off to prepare for Shabbat....Shabbat Shalom!