Jogging down memory lane yesterday, I remembered a time in my life when I attended college for a semester in a foreign country, the Holy Land, to be exact. The university was nestled into the rocky terraced hills on Mount Scopus and from my room balcony, the Dome of the Rock and the strong walls of the Old City of Jerusalem were visible.
The weathered cobblestone on the narrow streets easily supported the thousands of steps taken by street vendors, shop keepers, locals, tourists and those on religious pilgrimage.
Hundreds of people packed every small pathway in and out of walled City, and thousands more lined up at the gates to gain entrance. Smells of breads and spices wafted through the air at every turn, piquing the interest of my taste buds.
The hillsides were more than dirt mounds; they were tels, dry grass-covered knolls sitting atop of ruins of homes, towns and cities of once great glory. Passing by, you could see only a few stones, barely visible. Yet, theywere broken remnants of lives as real as my own.
|Omar, master wood carver|
As much as I recall the sights, sounds, smells and scenery, my most poignant memories are of the people.
“Erika, Jodi, come in, come in. You need shekels for shopping today?”
The moneychanger, Aladdin, was quick to learn names. He loved the students; we were loaded with American dollars and he was happy to give us a good rate and a smile in exchange for our business. On his shop walls were years worth of letters from past students, whose names and faces he still recalled. I hope my letter to him, and my wedding announcement, is still on his wall today.
Down the street, Omar’s hands were worn, but exact in every cut, as he gently turned olive wood logs into nativities and decorations.
“You like wood case for your Bible? Maybe a statue of Je-sus for your mother?”
He was a businessman who knew his clients well and catered to their wants, but his tender care of the wood demonstrated the master within was much more than a salesman. I bought five nativity sets from him, studied and marveled at each.
Beautiful tanned-skinned children were often part of the landscape. One little girl, with curly hair matted to her head and skin, was more quiet than the others. She put her hand out like the rest and repeated, “shekel, shekel” probably hundreds of times each day. Her dark eyes seemed to mirror her soul.
It has been 17 years since I saw her in person, but when I came across a picture of that little girl, I realized she is a woman, 20 or 21 years old. I can’t help but wonder what she looks like now, perhaps with long dark flowing hair, or gentle curls still blowing in her face. Though I would never know her now, I only hope her eyes are the same.
If I could see her today, I would tell her this:
You don’t know me, but for a moment,
you spoke to my soul.
We are sisters, from one creator,
and though we were born miles and years apart,
we are the same.
Our eyes reveal the light within.
Thank you for sharing your light,
now part of you radiates through me.