I’m in love.
It’s only been a week. But I have fallen in love.
I’m in love with this city.
I love that buildings are all made out of the same beautiful stone. I love that men with black hats and beards ride the train next to women in olive army uniforms. I love that all of the toilets have two flush options to conserve water. I love that the stoplights turn from green to yellow to red and back to yellow again, gearing Israeli drivers to go. I love that I can go to the shuk (market) and buy fresh, delicious produce for half the price of a grocery store from the same shopkeepers every time (shout out to our Vegetable Man!). I love that on Fridays and Saturdays, people in the street call out “Shabbat Shalom!” (“Have a peaceful Sabbath”) because it’s a normal greeting and also normal to talk people you don’t know. I love the hummus. I love that people open their homes when there’s nowhere to go for dinner. I love that I can see the Old City and the Dome of the Rock from my kitchen, with the sun coming into through the big windows and washing our white tile apartment in light.
Of course, it’s not all fun and games and romance. I started Ulpan at the university, our intensive Hebrew training before the semester starts in February. The majority of orientation was spent informing us of which neighborhoods to avoid for safety purposes and what to do if we hear the sirens, signaling a rocket missile approaching. The attacks on the Light Rail train were only a few stops away from my station. The synagogue stabbing took place a few miles away. It’s an unfortunate reality for this beautiful city.
However, as a friend who has been studying here all year (shout out to Naomi Bennett!) told me, as we discussed this over dinner, “We cannot allow ourselves to be victims of terror.”
So we don’t. We go to our intensive Hebrew classes for five hours each day, pouring over foreign language textbooks with students from all over the globe. We ride public transportation. We explore and talk to strangers and try new foods. We’re careful, but we’re trusting. We don’t take anything for granted and we live. We live for those who are consumed by hatred and we live for those who no longer can, unfortunately, because of this hatred.
And what’s better to combat hatred? A good love story.