Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage is available in paperback and on kindle and is being reprinted on Catholic News Agency with author’s permission. Cheryl’s non-fiction book is called Our Jewish Roots: A Catholic Woman’s Guide to Fulfillment Today by Connecting with Her Past.
Peace upon Israel! Psalm 129:6
The rush of emotions that engulfed Elizabeth as she stepped off the plane was overwhelming. She was glad she had spent time visiting miscellaneous friends of friends and various sundry relations who had previously made a trip to Israel. Wanting her experience to be less “touristy” and more “native” had really driven Beth to acquire information in the months leading up to her excursion to the Holy Land. She was thankful for the time that these many strangers had afforded her as she questioned and cajoled information out of each and every person. It was how she had made the decision to rent an apartment instead of staying at a hotel. She liked the idea of living in a neighborhood for the duration of her stay and decided to sacrifice some amenities to do just that.
When she thought of her trip she always envisioned spending time with the people who lived in Israel versus lying at the pool of a hotel with more people like herself. Her sister thought she was crazy to give up the luxuries that would be hers at a hotel while her husband shared his concerns regarding her safety in a neighborhood instead of a hotel. But she was not deterred. And now she was stepping right into her carefully laid plan of living in an apartment on Azza Street in Jerusalem.
With her claimed luggage quietly rolling behind her, she stood ready to exit the Ben Gurion Airport and hail a cab. She wanted to reach her apartment and drop her things off. The young couple from whom she was renting the flat had assured her that a key would be left with their neighbors, the Goldfarbs. Beth was also told that Mr. and Mrs. Goldfarb, while somewhat nosey and more than a bit geriatric, would be a great resource for anything Elizabeth might need, including a warm smile and a hot cup of chicken soup.
Beth tingled with anticipation as she walked out into the warm October air. It was about sixty-five degrees with mostly sunny skies. The Lord could not have given her a more perfect first day in Israel. She knew the Mediterranean was about a half hour away from the airport but was convinced she could smell the sea air. She untied her sweater from around her waist and pushed her arms through. She buttoned the three bottom buttons, as was her habit, and was on her way.
Having read up on all the modes of transportation available; bus, train, cab, and car, she opted for a cab from the airport and then considered using a bus or train for most of her other transportation needs. There were bus stops everywhere, with one even located right in front of her building. While she had been quizzing all of her friend’s friends and relatives about their trips to Israel she had come across quite a few differing opinions on things. One insisted she eat at this particular outdoor café while another shuddered at such a suggestion. Someone else directed her to shop at this specific shuk, which was an outdoor market, just as another person weighed in with their thoughts about the freshness, or lack thereof, of the cheese found there.
Elizabeth found that her planning was as exhilarating as her proposed trip and immensely enjoyed these information gathering sessions. But regardless of the differing opinions about restaurants, theatres, attractions, and shopping, every single person agreed that she should avoid renting a car. Apparently even the most adept native drivers became lost in the maze of streets and often found themselves facing a dead end because of one misread sign or miscalculation. Based on some of Elizabeth’s experiences during these conversations, she secretly figured that the drivers probably got so caught up in trying to make some point or another to their passenger, that they simply missed exits and turns. For Beth, it was one of the quaintest things she could imagine.
During this entire fact finding mission, Beth knew that Luke was keeping his concerns about her safety to an occasional comment or raised eyebrow. She made a point to allay his fears by sharing her newly acquired knowledge and her thought process for most decisions. He seemed to appreciate her thoughtful handling of these important aspects of her trip and she found a sense of pleasure in respecting his concern. She stood under the beautiful skies of Israel, inhaled the aroma of the Mediterranean Sea and listened to the honking and yelling of drivers whizzing by her, barely keeping a respectable distance from the curb.
She smiled and gave thanks to the Lord for His hand in her decision about a cab. She waited until there was a big enough break in traffic before approaching a cab. She picked the driver who looked like he had the most compassionate eyes and left the rest up to God.
Lamely, Elizabeth produced the sounds that she hoped resembled her desire to get to the King David apartments. The driver’s eyes twinkled as the corners of his mouth turned upwards in a smile. She then said, “He'dlaktah?" upon situating herself in the cab. She was given this sage advice from all who had recommended cabs. Apparently the drivers were required, by law, to begin their meters as soon as they began the trip. ‘He’dlaktah’ meant, start the meter now!
However, most disregarded this law and did their earnest best to simply collect a five dollar fare. Although this seemed more than reasonable to Beth, she understood that she couldn’t start doling out five dollars three and four times a day when the actual fare, should the meter be running, would be more like two or three dollars. Plus, in keeping with the new and improved Elizabeth, she was making a statement with that simple question, He’dlaktah? While the literal question was an inquiry to the running of the meter, the subliminal question was Who do you think is in charge? And the answer she was looking for was, Elizabeth.
Beth arrived to her apartment none the worse for wear but had to admit that the streets and traffic were a bit more treacherous than she had anticipated. She knew that maneuvering a car through the congestion and craziness of the streets would have been impossible and was doubly thankful that she didn’t talk herself into trying. She paid the cab fare and walked into the apartment building. The apartment she would be staying in was on the third floor and Beth gratefully caught sight of an elevator.
Wheeling her luggage across the warm, tiled floor created clacking sounds that drew the attention of a couple leaving the building. They looked across the mezzanine at Beth and nodded while they said, in unison, “Shalom.”
For the first time in her life Beth was tongue-tied as her enthusiasm garbled her response, “Oh-my-gosh-slahom!” This was not at all what Beth had expected from herself and rolled her eyes as the elevator doors closed, but not fast enough for the thoroughly embarrassed Elizabeth. Slahom! Great job, Beth, she said to herself during the quick ride to the third floor. Great job! You should go into politics with your charming social graces.
Shaking off her humiliation, Beth walked down the narrow hallway towards her apartment, shalosh, apartment three. She was told that across the hall from her apartment would be apartment four, arba, where she would find the Goldfarbs. Shalosh, arba, shalosh, arba, shalosh, arba. Elizabeth kept counting as if these two numbers, three and four, were her lifeline. She figured as long as she wasn’t required to say any words that required her to roll her tongue, she would be perfectly fine.
She found the Goldfarbs apartment and knocked, softly at first, but then with increased urgency as her fears began to take hold. Oh great, she began thinking, they forgot I’m supposed to be here and now I’ll be left in the hall endlessly. Never one to overreact, Elizabeth began formulating a plan during her attack on the door. To her embarrassment, the door opened and she was staring at the sweetest old man she had ever seen, Mr. Goldfarb. Her babbling kicked in and she began offering her apologizes, realizing that while she had begun devising “Plan B,” she had continued her incessant knocking.
“Barux haba!” was all that Mr. Goldfarb offered as he stepped out of her way and motioned for her to enter his home. Although Beth wasn’t quite sure what he was saying, she knew from the twinkle in his eyes that he was welcoming her. She nodded a simple response that she hoped said, Thank-you for your kindness and thoughtfulness. Taking two steps into the Goldfarb residence Beth was overcome by fatigue and hunger. She rolled her suitcase off to the side of the small foyer area and clasped her hands together. Now what? she said to herself.
The previous chapters are listed below: