Now that I am settled into my apartment in Jerusalem, you are probably wondering what it is that I do with my time. Believe me, I wonder that too at times but I quickly put that thought out of my head. I put on my Nancy Sinatra white vinyl walking boots that were made for walkin’ and I head down Ramban. Some days are planned such as Monday and Tuesday when I go to class at the Rothberg International School at Hebrew University on Mount Scopus. Then, of course there’s Monday night when I go to Talpiot, a neighborhood on the opposite end of Jerusalem from Mount Scopus, for my belly dance class. The Egged Buses, remember them, have been successful getting me from Mount Scopus to Talpiot on time.
As for the rest of my days, well I’m afraid to say, serendipity rules. Actually, I’m not afraid to say it. SERENDIPITY RULES! I know this is the only time in my life that I’ll be able to say it with such conviction. So, boots, here we go, start walkin’.
Take Friday for example. I saw an ad for a violin ensemble concert at the Anna Ticho House. The series is called Concerticho, cute huh? Friends from the States told me about the Anna Ticho House. It’s a delightful museum and café with lovely gardens. Anna was an artist and her work is displayed throughout the house. Her husband, a doctor, had an extensive collection of Menorah lamps which are also displayed in his preserved study.
The concert began at 11:00 am so after I stopped at my favorite sleazy internet café on Yaffo Street; I made the short walk over. The ticket taker said, “44 shekels unless you’re a senior citizen, I’ll let you decide”. He saw my blossoming grey hair, but youthful face and demeanor….I guess he must have been confused. Believe me, often I am too when I see grey hair. I shook my head no, I wasn’t a senior. Then I remembered my Hebrew University student i.d. card!!! Cha-ching! I said, “ani student”, I am a student. “Show me i.d.” he said. I got out my HU i.d. card with photo and handed it over to him. He examined it as if he were reading the Torah. Then he looked at me still somewhat unsure, shook his head and said, 25 shekels. What, he’s never seen an older student?
I entered a room with arched windows and vaulted ceilings. The windows were open without screens; it was a sunny day with a slight breeze. I could see outside roses and geraniums still in bloom. The concert began. Two violinists, one who is Russian, accompanied by a pianist played three pieces of Bach’s Concerto in D Minor, three pieces from John William’s Schindler’s List, waltzes by Kreisler and Chopin, Romance by Sviridov and a Circus Fantasy by Drezdin. What a wonderful two hours, very peaceful and a lovely way to ready myself for Shabbat.
The day became a little looser after the concert. I went in to the Museum of Psalms, adjacent to Beit Ticho. The museum featured the work of Moshe Tzvi HaLevi Berger who painted all 150 Psalms in a very unique style. Moshe, artist, curator of the museum, Holocaust survivor and a serious student of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) was very happy to sit and talk to me for an hour before he closed for Shabbat. Moshe was born in Transylvania in 1924.
When Moshe found out that I wasn’t Jewish but a Christian AND that I was a “priest” he was really interested in what I thought about things. Particularly, Jesus. He recounted the history of Jews and Christians with a few variations on a theme. And why am I paying to attend Hebrew University to learn about Jews and Christians in Dialogue and Conflict in Late Antiquity with one of the best professors on the topic?
“Avraham, you know Avraham?” Moshe asked me. “Ken”, I said which means yes. He stroked his long grey beard, adjusted his kippah; I could tell that he was impressed with my Biblical scholarship. Then told me the story of Avraham and Sarah. Then he said, “Moshe, Moses”, you know, Moshe?” Again, I said “Ken”. “Noach, Noah, you know…”. “Ken, betakh, of course”, I said, “I know Noah, he’s the guy that built the ark right”. “Right” Moshe exclaimed as he pointed upwards. It was as if I finally understood the entire history of the Jews. Damn, that seminary education REALLY paid off.
“Just be a good Noahide” said Moshe, “keep the commands from the Almighty, you have 7 maybe 10. We, we Jews have 613 but some of them we don’t keep because ahhh, sadly there’s no temple. So, maybe 70 we keep.” “Ken,” I said, “but 70 is still a lot of commands to keep.” If only I had my camera with me. He shook his head yes and looked at me with a look of satisfaction and pride.
We were interrupted by the grounds keeper who in Hebrew said it was time to close, Shabbat was coming quickly. I bought a poster from Moshe but only had half of the shekels I needed. I said that I would come back on Sunday and give him the rest. And although he thought it would be best if I converted and become a Jew, I’m looking forward to my second visit with Moshe.
I walked out of the Museum of Psalms, put on my sunglasses and said, “boots, let’s go home”.