I’m wondering if I should have called my blog Nicole’s Conversations instead of Nicole’s Adventures – since it turns out that’s what I’m interested in the most. Here are some snapshots of the conversations I’ve had since I left Toronto Wednesday night:
On my flight to Amsterdam, I sat beside a woman and man who are originally from Iran. They identified as Persian Canadians. We had a series of conversations about Israel, Iran and living in Toronto. They both made a point of letting me know that not only do they not seek my destruction (as a Jew), they seek my friendship. And that they feel Iranian leaders do not represent the majority of Iranians well. It was such a fascinating way to start my trip.
In Amsterdam, I met a group of guys (probably half my age) visiting from Manchester. (As a side note: If there are unfriendly people from Manchester, I haven’t met them. I have met people from Manchester in Athens, Toronto and now in Amsterdam and everyone was so friendly. Katie would remind me this is a small sample size.) I think we had very little in common except for that we love travelling and love conversation. That was more than enough. We spent about 15 minutes laughing together about various things we had seen and then happily went our separate ways. As I made my way to the Rijkmuseum, I reflected how perfect travelling conversations are. You can learn all sorts of interesting things in a short period of time; connect with people in really meaningful ways and then feel perfectly happy to leave them and never see them again.
I shared a cab from the airport with a man who lives in the neighbourhood that I’m renting an apartment. He was coming back from Kenya. We talked about the beauty of Kenya, the draw of Israel and the amazing qualities of our children.
On my tour of the Old City yesterday, I met a girl who is studying here for a semester from the Netherlands. She was drawn to Israel because she’s an engaged/committed Christian. We talked about what an emotional experience it is to be in Jerusalem and see things that have lived in a mythological place in our heads until now.
Last night, after attending services at Shira Hadasha, I was hosted for dinner by two lovely women and joined by four members of the Kehilla (community). We talked about all sorts of different aspects of Judaism, ancient history, psychology, politics, healthcare and possibly other topics that the wine I drank made blurry. All this with really delicious food. Needless to say, I was in heaven.
This afternoon, after Shabbat morning services (also at Shira Hadasha), I was again a guest for lunch. I am getting spoiled every which way. The six women I lunched with have all made aliyah in the past 10 years or so. The sole man (husband of the woman who hosted) didn’t seem to be challenged by the distinct gender imbalance. These conversations today were probably my favourite. People shared travel stories to India, Jordan and England. We talked about US politics, fear mongering and the West Wing. I love that these women are liberal and independent in fundamental ways and are also living observant Jewish lives in fundamental ways.
I am travelling literally and figuratively. I am literally travelling through a city that feels both familiar and new. Both foreign and like home. I am travelling spiritually. I was lifted last night and this morning by song and a visible and energetic love of Judaism and community. I am travelling intellectually – I have learned so much since I left Toronto, it is taking me to new kinds of understanding, new highways of thought.
Tomorrow, I travel to Hebron. I’ll make sure to post a full report : )