And I don't quite know where to begin.
Do I begin with the El Al flight, which left JFK just before Sandy slammed into New York? With the old man I sat next to for eleven hours, who read a Hebrew prayer book until his eyelids grew heavy with sleep? With the family in front of me, a bearded man and his young, pretty wife, both with heads covered, who passed their baby back and forth while their other three daughters quietly played?
I should start with the food, though there's so much more to say... about the ancient city of Jerusalem, teeming with the modern and devout, the men casual, or in long black suits, top-hatted, the women with natural hair, or with wigs, or with heads covered in snug black scarves to protect their modesty. Here, I feel my Jewish heritage and my foreignness in equal measure. I studied Hebrew for years, and yet I don't understand the words swirling around me. It's unnerving. So familiar, in a way, but I listen, I lean in, and still, I cannot comprehend.
I have to ask someone how to say thank you.
This is embarrassing. This I should know.
Now I'll remember.
Oh, but the food. The vast array of breads, and the baklava. The hummus and tahini, the nuts and the rose water, the dates and the figs. The Machane Yehuda Market offers so many types of halva my head spins. It is soft and sweet, gentle and fresh, and it melts easily in the warmth of my mouth.
Vendors offer tastes, of cheeses, of freshly pressed gat juice, of foods grown here and those from abroad. There is dragon fruit, there are uncured olives, there are spices in every hue. We walk, we taste, we feel, we see, we take in the scene around us.
More, soon, about Old Jerusalem; about my talented, kind, and well-known traveling companions; about a restaurant where the cooks toss back shots of arak (ouzo), sing, and dance during service; about a meal high on a hill; about a dip in the Dead Sea.