Esther carries heavy shopping bags. She is waiting for the elevator to get to the eighth floor, but when the door opens and she sees us, she gives up. She is a religious person and does not want to be in this small compartment with us – people, who on a hot August day in Jerusalem are dressed completely inadequately, by orthodox standards. Shorts, T-shirts, naked legs and arms – we are not good companions for religious Jews.
We will look the same way a few days later on a plane from Tel Aviv to Warsaw. When an orthodox Jew sits next to me, I will wonder for a moment whether he will start protesting against our company. But he only smiles, takes a four-hour nap and looks at me no more.
Sarah, who works in the canteen at Yad Vashem, will look at our colorful fingernails. “Nice,” she will say and show hers, each in a different color. “Very nice. Have a good day”.
A lot of things are nice here – restored buildings in Tel Aviv, beaches with modern sculptures, vending machines with towels, which are a perfect souvenir from holidays, Arab restaurants where you can eat all day, and above all rainbow flags waving from the apartments and shop windows. “Love is love” says the slogan on a special frame inside which you can take a souvenir photo on the beach. In Tel Aviv you can dress as you like, you can hold the hand of anyone you want, you can love anyone you want. The only thing you may have a problem with is finding the right parking space. I have never left Israel without a ticket – at least one.
Jerusalem is different – more severe and subdued. Unlike Tel Aviv, it goes to sleep at night. However, during the day it is difficult to find not only a parking space, but even a free space to walk on the sidewalk. In the market, sellers shout at each other, trying to persuade as many people as possible to buy something from them. In the Old City, the Arabs sell rosaries and dirt Jesus walked on. From the excess of this holiness, some people assume that they themselves are the next incarnation of Jesus, or at least one of the apostles.
Between magnets with the walls of Jerusalem and key rings with wishes of peace, in straight rows there are bowls that look as if they yesterday left the porcelain factory in Bolesławiec – navy blue sleeves, dots, flowers. And only the inscription “Shalom” shows that it is a local product.
Shalom, or peace, is a word that is often heard here. It’s something that everyone wants, but not everyone believes it will come true. Our shalom means that in a Jerusalem apartment on the ninth floor we have one armored room in which we can hide in case of a rocket attack. It has its own ventilation, reinforced walls and powerful doors which can survive a lot. Locked in there, we can wait for rescue if something happens. But let it not happen.
In order not to think about it, I visit my favorite place in Jerusalem – the Israel Museum. This is where the oldest written Bible version known can be found. Figures from the works of Picasso, Chagall and Rubens look at it from the walls. We do the same and we want to remember every detail until we meet here again.