The hotel was crappy, but the bed was comfortable, and it had hot water, a lock, a safe, and wifi. I was good to go. I knocked myself out with a Benadryl to make sure I didn't go 72 hours without sleep, because once I get on that insomniac crazy train, it can roll on for more than a week. So, I was not letting that happen -- I woke up feeling great after a 10-hour snooze and headed out early to my actually sublet in the Nachlot section of Jerusalem -- trendy, and right by the main Mahane marketplace.
My taxi driver was slightly shady, but I was ok with that -- he didn't mug me or anything, just overcharged me 10 shekels. I gave him a 10 shekel tip for good measure, and he seemed very happy with that. He even carried my bags to the doorstep.
So, it was an absolutely gorgeous morning, in a beautiful neighborhood, and there I sat, with all the instructions from the apartment owner, but one -- combination for the front door lock wasn't working. And, I had no phone service (I cruise wifi when I'm overseas). I sat there feeling mildly panicked, but not quite sure of what my next course of action should be. There was a crush of people on the main avenue above, and lugging a giant suitcase and a bag of computer equipment was unfathomable. So, I sat on the steps for a moment pondering my next move, and this woman, maybe slightly older than me, came walking by with her shopping wagon and just stood, watching me. She said, "Are you subletting?"
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"I seem to be locked out," I said with a sigh. "This combination seems to be incorrect."
She put her wagon down and began chatting away, trying to help me with the lock. "No, it's definitely not working." She looked at me quizzically and asked me where I was from. "America, the USA -- Northeast. Pennsylvania now, New York-born." She smiled and nodded at me. "Wonderful, you're going to love it here -- how long are you staying?" I smiled, and said, "A bit." She nodded enthusiastically and said, "My name is Lisa! I'll be your first friend here! I love your outfit by the way..." I looked down at myself, with my long flowing flowered shirt, leggings and sandals, and said, "Really? Thanks!" She said, "Very artsy. It's something I'd wear. What do you do?" I laughed and said, "I'm an artist." She said loudly, "Aha! I knew it!" I laughed, thinking, "I guess I do look insane!" She asked me, "Are you Jewish?" I said, "No, not really. Like 17% on my Mom's side." Her eyebrows shot up. "On your Mother's side? Then you're a Jew." I nodded. Okay. That sounds good. She looked at my luggage, and at all my stuff, questioningly.
"Do you have a phone?" I sighed and shook my head "no." She thought for a moment and said, "I don't have mine either." At that point, an older man was walking by and she flagged him down. "Moshe, let me have your phone. This girl is locked out of her apartment." We began to call my host and her brother, and soon, we had a little crowd of more neighbors all trying to help.
Within a few minutes, a girl named Miriam showed up. Miriam stated she had an updated combo for the door, and once in, I could reset it. Problem solved, and everyone was very happy and chattering and inviting me to different meals. I was a bit overwhelmed, but Lisa became the coordinator, and we exchanged phone numbers with the promise of meeting again tomorrow in the park for the afternoon. I was quite overwhelmed with all of the hospitality I received. The folks in the neighborhood were very warm and welcoming!
I finally got into my adorable little apartment and was greeted by Sensei the cat. He purred loudly and gave me a lick on my face to boot. I was able to unpack, and now, thanks to my new friend Lisa, I have three invitations: one to lunch with a family on the corner, one to the Shul tonight for Shabbat service, and dinner following the service. Plus, two seders -- one for tomorrow night, and one for Passover. I am officially being Jewish here in Jerusalem! Shabbat Shalom!
So, in preparation for all of the festivities, and the coming Shabbat, I went out to the shook, Machane Yehuda, and was bowled over by all of the stuff. Everything you can think of -- heaping mounds of food, spices, meats, sweets, pastries, loaves of bread, produce -- and all sorts of other things for sale from trinkets to housewares to accessories, you name it, it's there. I walked through quicker than I would have usually, aware I had to be sure I kept my pace up since things would close down early, and I would have no supplies for the weekend. Lisa had told me not to worry, since an alarm sounds throughout the city, giving people warning that Shabbat will start in 40 minutes. "It's not an air raid or anything," Lisa said with a laugh. "Don't get scared -- it's just warning everyone the stores and everything are closing up."
Lisa also came by during her travels and gifted me with some very nice Shabbat candles. "Light them tonight for Shabbat -- is this too much instructions for you?" I started laughing and just said "thank you no, it's all very fascinating. By all means, I would love to hear more!"
So, tonight, I will be attending Shul at a place called Kol Rina. I've never done this and I am looking forward to attending a real service with the Jewish families and having dinner with them after. It will be a real experience for my first official night in Jerusalem!