Lev FEarlier today yet another Israeli was stabbed in Hebron and a little while ago there was vehicular terror in the West Bank wounding two Israelis. We heard many sirens outside the CY building this afternoon. It always makes me wonder what’s going on. Since there was no instantaneous report of an attack, we assumed it was something benign, perhaps a traffic accident. Needless to say, this is a tough time to be in Israel. For me it’s the first time in my six visits here that I feel a fairly constant hum of anxiety while walking around and exploring the neighborhoods. We’ve been advised to avoid the Old City, unless going to the Kotel in a bus hired by the CY. This security problem means I cannot visit a very friendly Palestinian acquaintance of mine who owns a wonderful shop there. He and I have had several good, spirited and meaningful conversations during my two previous visits to Israel and he was one of the first people I went to see as soon as I got here (before all the attacks began). He is a Sufi Muslim and a man of peace in possession of a quiet dignity. He asked me to come see him as often as possible and I said I would. Right now this isn’t possible and it makes me sad and angry. The Israeli trope goes, “ye’heyeh b’seder,” which idiomatically means, “It’ll get better.” Reasonable people on all sides hope so.

On the other side of the coin, it is possible to completely enjoy this amazing place. I had dinner the other night at Tmol Shilshom, a wonderful restaurant/bookstore tucked away in a charming alley near Jaffa and Ben Yehudah Streets. It’s named for a novel by SY Agnon, the Nobel Laureate, whom I always enjoy attempting to read in his magnificent mishnaic Hebrew. The name translates as “Those Were the Days.” There is a certain irony to the fact that we were eating inside a restaurant named for this novel which evokes a time when tensions in Jerusalem were not high at a time when they are. And yet, my young friend and I lucked out in going there because that night there were two folksingers and a poet reading from her new book. Both of us were delighted that the singers and the poet sang and spoke slowly enough that we could actually understand much of what was being said. So, in a sense, we felt as though we were back in “those days.” Incidentally, I just ran into the very same poet on my way home from class today on Emek Refaim. We had a lovely conversation in Hebrew and she was sweetly patient when I was halting with the language. Moments such as these are not uncommon.

I am 65 years old and a rabbinical student from Hebrew College in Newton, MA. I’m here alone for the semester and grateful for the brilliance of those people who developed Skype and Golan Telecom. They make contact with my wife, grown children, and siblings very easy. Speaking Hebrew and of course, tackling text is what I came here to do. As the poet said to me in our short conversation on my way home, the Hebrew language is the heart and soul of the Jewish People. I agree wholeheartedly.

I will close with saying that I’m in my third week of study at the CY and enjoying it very much. The Beit Midrash learning and the classes are engrossing, intellectually challenging, and sometimes, thank G!d, spiritually uplifting. And now I’m going to look out over the city from my wonderful mirpesset (balcony) and imagine a city and country at peace. Ye’heyeh b’seder.

Lev Friedman
Newton, Massachusetts
Rabbinical Student at Hebrew College