Hospitality in a Holy Land
The fresh air, the long hikes, the overload of Biblical history, the museums and ancient artifacts, walls and gates everywhere combine to make us want to head back to bed. The kids are shocked when it’s 10:30 at night a couple of evenings in a row and they still have not donned their pajamas.
We’re trying to squeeze it all in. And that includes friends, so we head to home after home, each more gracious and inviting than the next. Our children get to see how the majority of the population live in apartments and how their families try to live in peace and not-so-much-quiet in close quarters.
We travel to see a couple of friends this evening. Benedetto, of course, has his own method and madness when it comes to driving. He does not wish for me to inform him that his old routes of many moons ago simply won’t work any more.
“You’re in the bus and taxi lane,” I inform him.
“The one in the middle of the road. Cars need to be on the side lanes, and can only turn left when the authorities decide to put in a left-turn light.”
He ignores me and drives “his own way” to our friends. What should take 15 minutes requires over an hour. Let’s call it the “scenic route”.
At last we arrive on the outskirts of Jerusalem proper, where the apartment faces a synagogue while overlooking an Arab village across the valley. We find their building number, get buzzed in to the lobby, and take an elevator to their penthouse apartment with a fabulous balcony the length of it.
There are hugs and kisses all around and despite the fact that all of us have been to each others’ respective countries numerous times, this is the first time in several years that we can meet. Tomorrow they go to their daughter’s to babysit as her husband whisks her away to London for a long weekend. Plus, we will soon be heading home.
You could say we’re all a bit busy.
Over pistachios and almonds, they become acquainted with our youngest three. The friends tell non-stop humorous stories and we love the continuous laughter laughter emanating from our sons and daughters.
We thought we were coming for cake. Now we hear about lentil soup, mushroom quiche, breads, crackers, cheeses, hummus, and a Greek salad with lemon and olive oil. The bottles of water and juices are brought to the table. Then there are cakes (chocolate or cheese?) and fruit.
The warm ambiance cannot be feigned. In my mind, the two of them appear to be maybe 50 and 60. Instead, they reveal that in another two years, they will celebrate 50 years of marriage-!
The kids eat up the experience, drowsily reliving the high points on the way back to our apartment, where we deal with one of those tiny Euro washing machines.That’s after finding parking on narrow streets where stray cats and tiny cars outnumber our huge van 10:1.
On the way to our friends, my husband pulled over at the open-air market, so that I could buy some flowers. The only vendor in close proximity had no vendor manning his kiosk.
I read over the prices in each bucket, pull out a beautifully-wrapped assortment, pace back and forth a couple of times looking for someone, anyone, and finally lay my shekels down on his counter.
These are the special moments that take us beyond the tourist sites and into the heart of the Holy Land.
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