A washed-out utopia

Rain in Jerusalem is properly wet. It’s that alive kind of rain which bounces off the pavements, causes water to cascade down the streets, and feels more like someone is emptying a bucket rather than gently watering the world.

It’s the kind of rain that totally justifies sheltering for a while in the peaceful dryness of the Garden Tomb, before making a dash for the nearest cafe to sip a warming coffee and watch passers-by run for their buses. 

It’s the kind of rain that is actually quite nice when you’re on holiday because it means it’s ok to come home early, change out of your soaking wet clothes, and curl up on the sofa with a book, a cuppa, and some delicious falafel from the guy down the road.

It’s nice being here. I like the feel of these houses with their stone floors, heavy front doors which clunk metallically shut, and roll-down shutters which remind me of living in Spain. I like the mini challenges of working out how to validate my ticket on the tram, of sussing out zebra crossing etiquette, and of getting from A to B in the old city without looking at a map.

I like pretending to live here, even though I know that my camera and guide book give the game away.

However, my bad dreams and sleepless nights are a reminder that I am still me and that this week is just a reprieve. Family conflict that makes me cry at home still makes me cry here. The Left is still stupidly fragmented. Brexit is still, erm, Brexit. My scars are fading but the pain that caused them still lurks within. 

And besides, I remind myself, life here would have its own challenges.

Unfamiliar cultures can be exhausting and confusing, and it’s horrible when you feel like you’re being ripped off or taken for a ride but are powerless to do anything about it due to a lack of language and understanding. You have stressful days at work. Little things can take a long time. And specifically here, every choice and action is political, injustice is daily, and the guns that soldiers carry on the trams aren’t just for show. 

The heavy rain of Jerusalem found its way into our building that night, and water gushed from top to bottom, inundating all the corridors and running perilously close to the electricity wires. Perhaps it wasn’t so perfect after all.

I took off my rose-tinted spectacles and resolved to just enjoy one day at a time, without deceiving myself that running abroad would fix things. After all, I reluctantly concluded, there’s probably only so much falafel you can eat.


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