Picture the three of us. We look like we’re off on a high-maintenance camping holiday, or triumphantly leaving an all-you-can-grab shopping spree. Harris is carrying a laundry airer under one arm and a train set under the other. He’s wearing an enormous rucksack and hasn’t yet noticed that the bottle of floor cleaner within is slowly leaking onto his T-shirt. I’m pulling an old lady shopping trolly. Everyone here uses them, and we like to think we’re being ironic having chosen one with a leopard print design. I’m also pushing the buggy, the basket of which is overflowing with groceries. The hood is up and on top are balanced a washing up bowl, a broom and a laundry basket.
We rocked this look twice a day for our first week here, shuttling back and forth from our local mall (thankfully minutes away) loaded with everything needed to make an flat livable and, as the week progressed and the essentials were in, comfortable.
Besides starting my programme at Pardes (more on this in my next blog), finding our feet has been a largely practical process, but also a cultural one. We are slowly learning to navigate a culture where someone will give you their shopping trolley because you don’t have the right change for your own, and in the same shop the staff will point blank refuse to help you find something. Where a stranger will call down from their balcony with helpful directions before you’ve asked for them, and a beggar will kiss your hands and shower you with Shabbat blessings in exchange for a coin. Then there are the mundane, everyday things to adapt to. I now know only to pick tomatoes from the top of the mountain for sale (having experienced a tomato avalanche earlier this week). And we now know that nurseries here don’t provide you with a blow by blow account of everything the toddler has eaten, drunk (and details of the results of these), toys played with and time slept. You do however get lots of smiles and a homemade challah on Fridays.
It’s a vibrant, passionate, outdoor culture. Walk out at any time of the day and night and you’ll see full cafes, friends sitting and chatting on the grass, buskers, people studying Torah together and hoards of children in the playgrounds. Teenagers here go hiking as a social activity with their friends without being seen as remotely geeky.
I’ve been struck by how culturally creative Jerusalem is. No doubt this can be found in every major world city, but I guess not so much quirky collective pop-up art has made its way to Borehamwood. Below are just a few examples (you can hover over the pictures for descriptions). I haven’t yet managed to take a photo of the craft-bombed curvy bollards on a street near us, each bollard now enhanced with a different feminine hairdo and matching clothes… but when I do you’ll be the first to know.
So we’re getting really well settled and enjoying the new cultural experiences. I’ll post in the coming week about getting started with studying at Pardes.
Ooh, some more good news to share with you – our spare room is open for business. Taking bookings now 🙂