---Is Like Visiting Old Writing
Just returned from Jerusalem, where I had the privilege of visiting the house and neighborhood I grew up in. I was reminded of an old Shalom Aleichem story where he returned to his childhood home and found the rooms have grown smaller, the street became alleys, and the tall trees have grown shorter.
Don’t get me wrong- West Jerusalem is undergoing a frenzy of new building, as is the whole country of Israel. It is a dynamic place with an almost maniacal energy, for good and bad. But my old apartment building and the streets surrounding it are not part of this fever, and they felt much lessened to me.
I write here not about the stuff you get from the daily news. I got a taste of that in the city-wide alarm sirens when collisions on the Holy Mount erupted, and saw the helicopters hover over. I saw troops descend on a shopping area near the old city the day a Palestinian minister died after altercations with Israeli security. Those troops were there to prevent further violence, which did not materialize. But this is not what I am referring to.
For the most part, the city of my birth and the country as a whole are thriving. Israel is bustling, creative, and internally argumentative as ever. Art galleries and cafes are full, and the fruits and spices of the market fill the streets with intoxicating fragrance. Jerusalem is eternally “the navel of the world,” as Ezekiel 5:5 and 38:12 coined it thousands of years ago.
But, at least to my eyes, not my old home. Not the place where I grew, and dreamt, and finally left only to dream of it, looking backwards.
It occurred to me that this experience is akin to visiting my old writing. Have you done that? Some writers say they can’t bear to read their old writing. Some aspects I remembered as powerful turned out to seem awkward, derivative, and so much less effective that they were in my memory. Reading old stories or old blog posts can have a discouraging effect.
But then, I always find glorious surprises. Not what I remembered, but what I barely noticed and certainly forgot. A turn of phrase with eloquent charm I can hardly believe came out of my typing hands. A line of dialogue as surprising as it is both punchy and profound. Did I write this? Pat-on-the-back.
Bittersweet. Like visiting my old home.
Here is my little unexpected bit of love that I found in Jerusalem, with an old feral alley-cat. In the weeks I was there, I came back to visit him many times, and he slowly allowed me closer. I worried about him when it rained hard and I couldn't find him in his usual spot. But when I called, he came. Finally, he agreed to be photographed for my post, here.