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My Jerusalem Love Affair – Tablet Magazine

Anti-Zionism Has No Place in the Progressive Movement – Tablet Magazine

Tavit and I met at Champs Pub in 1993, on Yoel Moshe Salomon Road proper close to Zion Sq. in downtown Jerusalem, in the course of the bar’s Thursday dart night time. He had thick, black, wavy hair, almond-shaped eyes, and a touch of a beer stomach. The partitions contained in the bar have been pocked and drizzled with gunshots from 1948, I used to be advised, when Israel turned a state. “Look closely,” the bartender stated, pointing simply to the left of the dart board. “See those holes? That’s the original wall.”

The bar was square-shaped and darkish—the type of darkish mild that made everybody look higher than they did in pure mild. It smelled of cigarette smoke and rancid beer; Thursday nights introduced in a well-known crowd. I keep in mind one common, Aryeh, who carried his darts and dart glove in his fanny pack each Thursday, and after getting his first drink, very rigorously unzipped his fanny pack, positioned it on the bar, after which methodically took out every dart and inspected the ideas and wings of every one. Then he’d take out his dart glove and examine that, too. The bartender’s identify, fittingly, was Israel.

5 years later—the night time I left Jerusalem—and in love with Tavit, I waited for the taxi to take me to the airport. Tavit was with me. He’s an Armenian Christian. “No one gives a shit about us here,” he informed me quickly after we met. The Armenians are a subculture in Jerusalem, squeezed out by the dominant battle. We’d been ready for 1 / 4 of an hour; the taxi would arrive any minute. We have been on a busy street—Eshkol Boulevard—named for Levi Eshkol, Israel’s fourth prime minister. I’d lived in so many various neighborhoods during the last 5 years: Rehavia, Katamon, downtown simply off Ben Yehuda Road, and most just lately, in Ramat Eshkol, a neighborhood subsequent to French Hill and proper close to the college.

The Oslo years in Israel from 1993 to 1995 have been seemingly hopeful. Israel and the PLO signed agreements designed to provide Palestinians the suitable to self-determination. These agreements additionally created the Palestinian Authority, which gave Palestinians the power to self-govern in elements of the West Financial institution and Gaza. A number of the extra skeptical believed, nevertheless, that this gesture on Israel’s half to offer autonomy to the Palestinian Authority was solely a facade of energy, and that Oslo truly gave Israel extra management over the Palestinian inhabitants registry. With this, Israel had the power to gather knowledge about Palestinians and to additional monitor their motion. A Palestinian pal of mine, Hatem, would inform me tales of dwelling within the West Financial institution metropolis of Ramallah, and unable to journey by means of the checkpoints to his mother and father who lived in Bethlehem. “It’s a Swiss-cheese map,” Hatem stated, telling me concerning the concrete wall and checkpoints that dot the West Financial institution.

As a result of I used to be in Jerusalem on a scholar visa with a U.S. passport, I couldn’t really feel what this type of monitoring should have been like for Palestinians. I wasn’t Israeli both, so I didn’t know what it was wish to stay with the fixed menace of conflict. As an American Jew, although, I used to be naively looking forward to peace. I’d skilled a number of shut calls with suicide bombings—simply barely lacking the quantity 23 bus that was focused throughout the road from my condo one morning throughout rush hour—and felt a bizarre combination of privilege and luck to have prevented all the buses that blew up. I needed peace and believed that these in cost needed it too. When Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin lit King Hussein’s cigarette in 1994 minutes after they signed the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, I rigorously minimize the photograph out of Newsweek and taped it to my wall. “Peace pipe,” the caption learn.


Whereas we waited for the taxi, it turned darkish. I wasn’t positive what time it was however I knew I referred to as for the taxi to reach at 9 p.m. I didn’t know if Tavit and I might see one another once more. We hadn’t actually talked about it. Our relationship was filled with smoking pot and having intercourse and speaking about the whole lot like previous buddies, and simply hanging out, such as you do in your 20s. You don’t actually go on dates. You don’t want a plan. You finish a telephone name saying, “Just come over and we’ll figure it out.” You exit someplace otherwise you don’t, and for those who do, you get there a lot later than you assume you’ll since you’ve simply been hanging out. That’s the way it was with Tavit. Our spending time collectively was extra necessary than the issues we did.

This appears to be the other as I become old. Now, I make plans round doing one thing particular, like seeing a play, or going to a restaurant, or writing on the neighborhood cafe. I’ve a time restrict on issues I do now as a result of I’ve to go to work the subsequent morning and I’m drained. It’s onerous to recollect a time—it’s getting harder to even keep in mind these years in my 20s once I lived in Jerusalem—once I simply frolicked.

Someday when Tavit came to visit, he taught me how one can make hummus. We didn’t plan it, as a result of I had advised him to only come over. He was sporting my fuchsia shorts—we had simply had intercourse—and I keep in mind the odor of garlic on his arms from mashing it after we ate the hummus, after which had intercourse once more. I smelled like garlic for days. Or when he took me to the well-known American Colony Lodge in East Jerusalem and we smoked and drank and pretended to be diplomats with grand concepts for world peace. I do know that a lot of our hanging out was typical of our age, as I look again many years later, however from the beginning I knew that I used to be all the time leaving as soon as I’d completed my research in English and Hebrew literature, and he was all the time staying in his house, Jerusalem, sure to marry an Armenian, like him. His household had been in Jerusalem for the previous 800 years, he informed me. That was for much longer than the Israelis and Palestinians, he joked, as he identified his household’s residence—which was additionally 800 years previous—within the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Previous Metropolis. We didn’t speak that a lot about what we might every do as soon as I left. He’d hold working in his father’s store in East Jerusalem; I’d search for a job again in Chicago since I had accomplished my graduate research.

After that first Thursday dart night time at Champs, we noticed one another on a number of subsequent Thursdays and would speak a bit every time. After a number of weeks, when he requested the place I lived, in my naiveté, I advised him. The subsequent night time, round 11, he confirmed as much as my condo unannounced. Once I opened the door, I noticed that he seemed upset. His nostril was bleeding. His denims have been ripped and his knee was bleeding too. He stated he had gotten in a battle and didn’t know the place else to go. I requested him who hit him and he stated some guys on the road within the Armenian Quarter within the Previous Metropolis the place he lived. Some Armenians, like Tavit’s mom, had been in Jerusalem for hundreds of years. Others who survived the 1915 genocide when the Ottomans killed 1.5 million Armenians, arrived after World Conflict I. The Armenian Quarter is the smallest of the 4—Christian, Jewish, and Muslim are the others—and sometimes ignored by outsiders who don’t know its historical past. I had assumed his being beat up should have had one thing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian battle. I had heard of assaults within the different quarters however I by no means heard something concerning the Armenian Quarter.

I led Tavit into the toilet. I motioned for him to take a seat on the bathroom seat. I put some cleaning soap and water on a towel. I stood above him and cleaned the blood from his nostril. He sat quietly and let me. I gave him the moist towel to press on his nostril to cease the bleeding whereas I wiped the blood from his leg. I used to be a mom serving to her son in some bizarre grownup model of a tea celebration I’d hosted alone in my bed room as a toddler. We have been in a play nobody was watching. We didn’t speak. I put Band-Aids on his nostril and his knee. It was quiet outdoors. After, when the bleeding stopped, we walked into my bed room and he lay down on my mattress. The mattress was within the nook of the room. Subsequent to the mattress have been my bookshelves—three onion packing containers on prime of one another that I took from the grocery retailer across the nook from my condo. I by no means purchased bookshelves as a result of I all the time knew I’d depart. Tavit knew he’d by no means depart Jerusalem. Two teal glass balls from the shuk hung within the window with white dental floss. I took his footwear off. We have been each mendacity on our backs on the mattress, wanting up on the ceiling. I attempted to offer him extra room by shifting as near the wall as I might. Periodically, I checked out him however I don’t assume he observed. Quickly he closed his eyes. I watched him sleep till I, too, fell asleep.

The subsequent morning we awoke each dealing with the identical course away from the wall. My nostril virtually touched his again. He stated he was embarrassed concerning the earlier night time. He requested if he might smoke in my bed room. I stated sure, and requested if I might smoke considered one of his cigarettes, too. I provided to make some espresso and he stated no, thanks, he needed to go to work. He got here again the subsequent night time, and the subsequent, and for a lot of nights after that. One night time months later once we have been speaking and smoking and hanging out, he introduced up that first night time he had come over unannounced. He stated he hadn’t gotten right into a struggle with some guys on the road close to his residence, however together with his father, in his house.

It was unusual for me to be caring for Tavit within the condo I had leased for one yr—a short lived residence at greatest—when he was unwelcome in his 800-year-old residence. He stated he didn’t know the place else to go. He thanked me for trusting him when he confirmed up. He stated he knew it was bizarre for him to return over like that. He would have understood, he advised me, if I hadn’t let him in.

He all the time completed his cigarettes earlier than I did. I had all the time imagined placing the butts out within the ashtray collectively after intercourse, bare, dramatically, leaning with our elbows on the windowsill, our naked knees pushing into the mattress, after watching the smoke disappear. I might miss one night time particularly once we stared out on the metropolis, our garments strewn everywhere in the flooring. I watched him watch his metropolis, and the best way he would breathe in, after which breathe out, like he had pressed a pause button on himself after an extended day.

We didn’t have time to stay bare throughout my final night time in Jerusalem, nevertheless, and I dressed shortly, anticipating the taxi that may quickly arrive. That night time appeared dreamy to me—a mixture of pot smoking and crying. I knew what time my flight was however aside from that I had no sense of time. Issues appeared a bit blurry. I didn’t understand it however I used to be beginning to see these final moments with him as one thing up to now, wanting again from the longer term, and it made me unhappy. My thoughts knew that the second would quickly grow to be reminiscence. I used to be already in between time and area and, quickly, my physique would catch up as I boarded the flight to Chicago. My privilege to trip between Jerusalem and Chicago was misplaced on me. I wasn’t but conscious of the political implications of my means to journey inside and out of doors of Israel with my U.S. passport when so many others are restricted inside Israel and the West Financial institution.


One night time Tavit picked me up from my condominium. We didn’t know the place to go. There had been one other suicide bombing. This one was at a restaurant, Cheesecake, a number of doorways down from Champs on Yoel Moshe Salomon Road. Fourteen individuals have been killed. Neither of us had been there, however we had each been shut by. Tavit knew the household of the bomber. He was upset concerning the lack of life and in addition had empathy for the Palestinian man who detonated the bomb. He knew of the household’s hardship dwelling beneath occupation. Tavit held each side in his coronary heart in a metropolis the place individuals have been polarized. After choosing me up in Ramat Eshkol, Tavit drove towards the Previous Metropolis. He went on Hebron Street, previous the Cinematheque, then turned onto a quiet street with a steep incline—I can’t keep in mind the identify now—with a view of the partitions of the Previous Metropolis, and put the automotive in park. On this hill, we have been only a bit above the Previous Metropolis. We didn’t converse a lot. Periodically, Tavit would level one thing out like, “See that tower over there? That’s part of the Armenian church.” Or, “See that shop over there, just behind that part of the wall,” he’d say, and lightweight a cigarette in between his phrases, “the guy who owns it is such an asshole.”

I watched him when he’d inform his tales; I’d watch him, too, when he was quiet. I had memorized the emotions related to issues he did: arching his eyebrows, laughing to a sure pitch, and recognizing ache in his voice on nights like this one when there had been a bombing. We sat in his automotive for a pair extra hours. It was heat outdoors however we stayed inside as if we have been at a drive-in film watching an previous present. I knew Tavit wanted a long way from the one house he knew. The view of the Previous Metropolis from his automotive, for me, was just like a photograph my mom gave me once I was a woman in Chicago. I had spent years watching that photograph of the Previous Metropolis, taped to my bed room wall, dreaming of visiting.

Tavit’s residence had turn out to be my playground. That we liked one another so deeply was framed by understanding we’d haven’t any future. It might go deep as a result of it was finite. I didn’t take into consideration the longer term however I knew he wouldn’t be part of it. I received sleepy that night time in his automotive. On the brief drive again house to my condo, I dozed whereas Tavit drove, and knew he’d wake me up at residence. He’d pushed me across the metropolis like a father whose daughter is asleep within the automotive with no worries about getting residence safely.

I feel that perhaps from the surface we seemed like an Edward Hopper portray that final night time in Jerusalem. “Pink Bedroom (Window Seat)” could be the one. The person is sitting on the mattress together with his hand on the again of his neck. He’s wanting down. It looks like perhaps he’s simply gotten dressed. The lady is sitting on the window seat searching. The messy, unfastened white sheet on the mattress signifies some type of intimacy. The delicate pinks and greens make it appear to be it may be early morning. Like all Hopper work, there’s a unhappiness and loneliness captured within the second—just like the second is about to be over, nevertheless it lingers nonetheless, and for proper now, it’s heavy and full.

That night time, as we dressed, Tavit sat on the mattress like the person within the portray. I placed on the identical garments I had worn for 2 days—darkish blue Levi’s and a maroon ribbed long-sleeve prime—the one garments I had not packed or shipped house. I wore them for 3 extra days once I received to Chicago. I wouldn’t bathe as a result of as soon as I did, I knew the odor of him and Jerusalem can be gone from me. My mom, simply recognized with breast most cancers for what can be the primary of 3 times over the subsequent 20 years, would say to me, “Honey, please, take a shower. You’ll feel better.” For weeks after returning, when nobody was wanting, I’d take a look at the clock, then rely up eight on my fingers in order that I’d know what time it was in Jerusalem.

For years, I satisfied myself that I’d be happier in that different time zone, my thoughts and physique disjointed, a collection of “if only this or that,” repeated in my head, as my dad threw the job advertisements at me at breakfast. With every day that handed I’d really feel extra distant from Jerusalem and inevitably, what I simply got here house from would turn into reminiscence, as my time in Jerusalem settled into a unique a part of my mind, and I began to misremember issues.

Years later, once I return, the town might be unrecognizable to me, historic roads changed with pedestrian malls made to appear to be they’d all the time been there. Champs shall be lengthy gone—a baby-clothes boutique in its stead—and I’ll stroll by and marvel who remembers. I’ll turn out to be misplaced on Jaffa Street; sidewalks could have disappeared and there might be a brand new tram down the middle of the road. And once I see my mom growing older through the years, radiation and mastectomies having induced deeper strains in her face, I’ll keep in mind the love she prolonged to me once I returned, misplaced, in 1995—a self-absorbed 25-year-old—holding me like a child once I didn’t know what to do whereas she was sick. It was far simpler accountable Jerusalem than to acknowledge my mom’s most cancers.

A cab drove by. It wasn’t the one. I checked out Tavit when he seemed away. I in contrast the angle of his chin to the hills behind Jerusalem and I observed the way it aligned completely with the hills outlined by the lights within the distance. In that second I couldn’t separate my love for Tavit from my love for Jerusalem. It was cool outdoors. I knew that the subsequent morning it might be scorching and the hills can be so white with sand and stone they’d be blinding. Once I returned years later, the hills I had in comparison with Tavit’s chin would have a completely new panorama of settlements and concrete partitions.

And once I see him 25 years later, once we’re each 45, Tavit and I’ll have aged as properly. We’ll each be married. He’ll have married an Armenian and have three youngsters. He’ll drive me to Bethlehem to go to some buddies. As we exit Bethlehem and undergo the checkpoint close to Rachel’s Tomb—all the metropolis surrounded by a concrete wall—he’ll say as soon as we’ve pushed by means of, “There’s no money in peace.” We’ll each discover the soldier on the checkpoint flirting with the Palestinian lady who’s in her automotive making an attempt to get by means of. She’ll bat her eyelashes and smile on the soldier, and hope for the soldier’s weak spot. We’ll snicker about it although it’s not humorous. I’ll tear up as we are saying goodbye, once more, not understanding once I’ll see him once more, confused by age and my distorted reminiscences of him and Jerusalem. By means of my tears, I’ll remind him of one of many letters he despatched me once I was again in Chicago in 1995 and he advised we meet in Italy the subsequent summer time. “Why didn’t we ever do that?” I’ll ask him as I watch his lips. He didn’t know.

For a second, in my thoughts, seeing him once more will turn into some sort of a marker in my life. I’ll say to buddies once I get again to Chicago, “And then I saw him 25 years later …” as if seeing an previous lover when one has aged has some type of significance I can’t identify. Like an adolescent, I’ll ask him once we hug goodbye if we’ll all the time be buddies—I gained’t have used that expression in many years—as if his reply, “Yes, of course,” will by some means make it so. I don’t know if that may occur.

Throughout my final night time in Jerusalem, although, I didn’t distinguish my love for him from my love for the town. Each the town and the lover had been a playground for me to discover. It will be so humorous, I assumed on the time, if we might snicker about this tomorrow once we go get one thing to eat, however then I remembered that we wouldn’t do this.

The cab lastly got here and I obtained inside. I didn’t look again, although I knew Tavit had began to stroll residence. I seemed forward, and because it began to rain, I stared by way of shiny moist glass that made all of the lights of the town look greater and brighter than they actually have been. The driving force turned from Eshkol Boulevard, starting the descent to Freeway 1 that took us down and out of Jerusalem towards the airport. The rain hit the windshield arduous and it turned troublesome to see. My view of Jerusalem was distorted. It was becoming to go away it this manner.

5 days after I arrived again in Chicago, Rabin was assassinated by the right-wing Jewish Israeli extremist Yigal Amir. The hope for peace ended, and with it the hope—nevertheless idealistic—that the Oslo Accords would make a distinction and convey peace. Settlement enlargement would improve, as would Israeli and Palestinian frustration. A couple of days after Rabin’s assassination in 1995 I acquired a letter from Tavit, the primary of a number of that arrived over the subsequent yr. After my first yr again in Chicago, the letters stopped. I’ll e mail him 25 years later telling him I’m coming to Jerusalem and ask if we will get collectively for espresso. “I don’t think there will ever be peace,” he wrote within the letter to me after Rabin’s assassination. “Sometimes I don’t think anyone wants peace.” He wrote that due to current violence; his father’s store and lots of outlets in East Jerusalem have been closed for some time. “I don’t know if we’ll be able to reopen because the situation is so bad. I’ll always be in Jerusalem in the same damn shop,” he wrote. “Mark my words. Things will only get worse.”


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