Crickets and Turtle Doves

October 2015
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In February 2015 it was snowing in Jerusalem.

By the Damascus Gate a Hasid stood wearing a black hat and galoshes over his shoes.  Covered with snow.  Resembling a miller who had just sifted wheat flour.  Could you have imagined this golden, sunlit eternal city to be ever covered with snow?  

It is likely that the dark-blue wings of the turtle doves sitting on the walls of the Old City, on the roofs of buildings, are also covered with snow.  Turtle doves, sprinkled with snow, are like sweet rolls in a pastry shop covered abundantly with powdered sugar.

And a thought occurred to me that nevertheless snow comes to Jerusalem more frequently than Messiah.

How strange look the snow-covered olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane.  How unusual to see the snow-covered tracks of the Jerusalem streetcars.  Most happy to see the snow are the children.  For some reason children always revel in the snow.  I am trying to recall the streets of Jerusalem, their names, wards, so as to imagine what they look like now.  However, I remember how standing on the wall unveils the panorama of the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane with the Church of All Nations - I looked at the white stones of the buildings and tombs, merging into a massive gold plating, as if this whole land was draped with it.  I saw: how beyond the Kidron Valley, in the Arab part of the city, children were running with a dog on a stone footpath deep into the settlement.  Now they are probably running on the same path, but on snow.  The footpath is the same and so are the children.

The greatest mystery of the eternal city is its spirit and its aroma.  The aroma of white bread from the bakeries, of cinnamon pastries, sweets, of herring sprinkled with spices, of the produce markets.  And its spirit resides in the words of the kings of the Old and New Testaments, the prophets, cabalists and apostles - of all that is before your eyes and all that is hidden from them.

Yohanan says that in another life he wants to be a cricket living in a Jerusalem bakery.  He says so on the train which we took to Haifa together with soldiers of the Israeli army, who were returning to their units.  Soldiers in green uniforms with submachine guns and knapsacks stuffed with all kinds of things.  In the railroad car there are as many civilians, as military.  Yohanan relates how he would remember Jerusalem by its smells and that in his memory the aroma of bread from the bakeries has been most permanent and most nourishing.  "Why a cricket?" - I ask.  "Well, there is nothing strange here" - ponders Yohanan - "because as a cricket you can inhale enough bread and alleviate your hunger".  Approaching Haifa - we get off at a station of city beaches, where someone is supposed to pick us up by car.  The train with the soldiers departed farther north.  We got off on the platform and went to the beach to view the waves of the Mediterranean, which roused by the early evening breeze, would subside on the sandy beach.  It was warm.  Our ride had finally reached us by phone.

I chose an angel with a well-hidden face.  Actually he had no face at all, I just named him with a well-hidden face. Chiseled out of Lebanese cedar of strong stock, with round wings and grey stripes emanating from the knots of the wood.  Still visible were traces of the twigs.  The angel found itself in the pocket of my summer jacket and I walked with him along the well-trodden stones of the narrow streets.  Almost everywhere you are accompanied by rows of merchants, by noisy vendors.  But there are also quiet little streets , filled with a special sense and content.  They are hidden from the tourists,...

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Originally Published in This Issue of Krytyka