18 July 2010

A Run I'll Never Stop Running

 I'm not going to lie.
I love this city more than any other.
Milwaukee raised me, nurtured me, gave me a base of existence.
Madison, is where I was began asking questions and constructing a narrative.
But while in Jerusalem, twenty-five years ago, I started to formulate the perspectives that would make me the man I am today.

This is a kind of axiomatic statement that is inescapably true for me.
Having spent last week in Milwaukee and Madison with a ten hour stopover in New York before heading to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, I have had some time to reflect on home and place; origin and destination.

No place is perfect--that's axiomatic, too.  Growing up in Wisconsin, there was always something missing, some unnameable sense of total belonging.  In Jerusalem, there is always the matter that Hebrew is my second language and that national service is what separates my full identification with Israelis.  In New York, the rooted unrootedness of my existence, the sense of exile or *something's-missing-ness* of it all has its own sense of home or place but it's a narrative of always making oneself that ironically, leads me to a feeling of loneliness in New York as well.  My kids, born in New York, are more New Yorkers than me.  One of those weird ironies in the City of Immigrants that so many of us know to be true.

Scratch not thy head.  When I walk in the door to my home in Brooklyn, I am home.  My wife, my children, even my dog (that warm and well-meaning furshtunkiner beast!) create a sense of love and permanence that evokes every possible definition of home.  But that would be true anywhere.  What I'm trying to get it as the way in which Jerusalem is in my bones more than any other place in the world.  I'm just stating the facts.  Moving on.

I rose early this morning and took a run--from Old Katamon where I was staying for Shabbat and around the city, down into the Valley of Hinnom, up Mount Zion, past Jaffa Gate and around the corner down toward Damascus Gate.  This was my only run in Jerusalem on this trip so I was going to make it worthwhile.  Diesel, gasoline, cigarette smoke; fresh burekas, rugelach, and that sweet air from the Judean Hills.  If you don't know what I'm talking about or can't remember, then it's time for a visit.

Jerusalem mornings are overflowing with possibility.    The rising sun--not yet an affliction of heat and unmitigated intimidation--evokes promise.  I saw small kindnesses; wishes of a good morning from one to another, and a generally cooperative industriousness that proves, as usual, that the reason why things are such a damn mess is because the leaders of each nation can't bring the people to peace.   These runs I take when I visit--from the Jewish part of town to the Palestinian part of town--are done for three basic reasons:  One, exercise is good for the body and heart.  Two, seeing this city on foot is the only way to love it.  And three, one should always be reminded that Jerusalem is a shared city, loved by and sacred to many, and therefore worthy of shared devotion.

How is it that the most peaceful place in the world can be the source of such bitter conflict?  You think that's a naive question?  If it's so easily answered, then how come...ah, forget it.

In 1964, my grandparents came here on their only trip to Israel.  They got near Mount Zion, as close as they could get at the time, and got a little certificate for their efforts that I hang on my eastern wall in my prayer corner at home in Brooklyn.  Today, I ran up to Jaffa Gate and around to Damascus Gate, down the stairs and briefly inside the walls of the Old City, touching a spot on each side of the gate as one might, say, kiss a mezuzah to be reminded of the obligation to observe God's words written inside.

To love the Source of Life with all your heart, all your soul, all your might.  Just like we all love this city.  A prayer I'll never stop praying.  A hope I'll never stop hoping.  A run I'll never stop running.  Because it's good for the body and good for the heart.

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