השכנים - The Neighbors
Since my Aliyah I have lived in one general area of Jerusalem. I started in Armon HaNatziv (a.k.a. East Talpiot) because my Ulpan was there. When my Ulpan was coming to a close I chose to live in the neighborhood of Arnona because it was nice, near the familiar, and relatively cheaper than other desirable locations. I was lucky enough to find work nearby and so I decided to stay in the cozy, family-friendly Arnona.
I often talk about the people in Israel, about how they were the first thing about Israel to really intrigue me. They never cease to be interesting and although Arnona is not the eclectic, funky Nachlaot or the trendy, upscale Emek Rafaim, it has its fair share of interesting characters. My neighborhood is full of people from all walks of life. Some of them are new like me and some have lived here their whole lives. I don't actually know most of them that well and a lot of what I know about them is gathered through bits and pieces and sometimes assumptions. In my mind they are all these characters in the storybook of my life here. So, let's talk about some of my neighbors.
My Moroccan Mama
Picture a dark, full-bodied, Moroccan woman. Her hair is long, jet black, and shines as much as her shimmery eye shadow. Her nails are long and always manicured. This is Inbal. She lived in the apartment upstairs from me with her husband and four children. I think she is what people here would call a "fraychah" but whatever you want to call her, she has the biggest heart. For the first couple months I lived in my new apartment she was like my mom. She received my mail and every time I went to get it she would give me food. She also loved to take care of Mindy. You see, Inbal and her kids loved dogs, but they were not allowed to have one because her husband was very religious. It is not uncommon for religious people to not allow pets in their home. Inbal might have been this boisterous Moroccan lady, but her husband was a quiet, observant, ashkenazi man. I'm not sure how Inbal and her husband ended up together, but they were and they were happy. It was beautiful. Unfortunately a couple months ago Inbal and her family moved away. Her husband wanted to be closer to his Rabbi and Inbal wanted a nicer kitchen and a bigger yard.
The Music Man
Every morning I take Mindy outside to do her business and we have a routine path we take. This is how I've come to meet a lot of my neighbors. Some of them are fond of Mindy, and some aren't. What can you do? Anyway, there is one man in particular who really likes Mindy. He always greets her and I with a "Boker tov Snoopy!". He has this pretty strong, booming voice and you never see him without hearing him first. He is constantly singing Jewish songs and prayers. Similar to Inbal's husband, I don't think he actually is a huge fan of dogs. However he is always ready to greet Mindy a good morning.
As I mentioned, a lot of families live in this neighborhood. It is not exactly a hot spot for young singles (such as myself). Any of the young people around are usually kids, teenagers, or those young adults who still live with their parents—a common thing in Israel. One such young adult is Daniel. He lives in a building across a little parking lot where I walk Mindy multiple times a day. I met him for the first time when he tried to ask me out on a date. I had a boyfriend at the time and sadly had to decline. We saw each other every once in awhile, said hello, and when I broke up with my boyfriend I told him I'd be happy to go on that date. But as you can imagine things were not so simple. In that time he had acquired a girlfriend. Basa (disaster). Needless to say Daniel and I are not dating, but he is still a very nice neighbor. He is helpful and dependable and it doesn't hurt that he is pretty cute as well.
Another place I meet a lot of people is at the dog park. (Mindy really is my ticket to anything these days.) That is where I met Loren. He is the principal of an American high school program here in Israel. Loren has the cutest puppy named Hamilton who Mindy loves to play with. But beyond that, Loren is a really nice man. An Oleh himself with a family, he knows the struggles of young people in Israel and is always offering himself as a resource. He also just seems to understand. Based on what I see from him on Facebook he is also quite the warrior for religious pluralism here in Israel. Overall I just find him to be a very humble, respectable person that I feel good having in my neighborhood.
There are definitely many more, but these are the one's whose stories were swimming around in my mind today. Perhaps another night I'll sit down and tell you about the rest.