Monday, September 06, 2004

The Twilight Zone in Jerusalem

I have always said I will write at least three books before I die. The first will be titled "Breaking the Rules: How to Lead an Unconventional Life." My memiors, also coming to a theatre near you someday, will be called "And the First Runner Up Is..."

After much deliberating I decided to add to my works a collection of strange "small world stories." Those of you out there in computer land who know we well can testify that my life IS a combination of strange, almost "Twilight Zone" esque experiences.

I had a few experiences like these while in Palestine. Minor ones, maybe last-chapter or appendix-quality stories, but they nonetheless brought me that feeing of joy and a little shiver of awe at just how dang small my world is.

Cosmic Shift #1:

It was after 12:00 noon and the doors to Dominus Flevit, the church atop the Mt of Olives commemorating Jesus's tears there, were closed. Neverminding that small detail, I pushed the great iron doors open, wanting my mother to see a church I frequented with my fellow JC (Jersualem Center) buddies. The man we found inside, cleaning the floor, was a little on the grouchy side, but fairly accomodating, considering we were barging in during his midday break.

I explained my connection to the church and he immedietely asked me if I remembed the JC cook, Hussein. Remember him? I honor him each time I make pita bread (and hummus, for that matter!), as it is his recipe. Truth! I wrote him a belated note of appreciation and give it to the now more cordial neighbor/Dominus Flevit employee.

Cosmic Shift #2:

Our agenda included, of course, the Garden Tomb, but due to this distraction and that, we ended up arriving RIGHT before it closed...and about three hours after we planned to get there. We jumped into the last tour of the garden, joining up with two very pleasant-looking American couples and one British guy.We chatted with them intermittantly throughout the tour, and finally my mother says to one of the two American men--"I see your name tag and I believe I have read some of your work." I look at him and ask..."well,what is your name?" He tells me. It was difficult to contain my surprise. Although I had never met him before, I had certainly heard of him. Not only IS he a distinguished scholar from my university (Brigham Young University), he also happens to be the father of one of my favorite professors with whom I am still in touch.

I casually mentioned something about his family...something not just any random stranger would know....and after their initial shock they had a good laugh when I revaled that I knew their son.

Cosmic Shift #3 (and possibly my favorite):

Anyone who has studied at the Jerusalem Center knows and loves Aladdin...the money changer in East Jerusalem that the JC students have been patronizing since the beginning. He had his shop set up somewhat like a trading post from the Old West---you could write and leave a message on the wall for someone you knew/hoped was coming on a subsequent study abroad, creating a unique connection between past, present, and future students. Aladdin was friendly and affectionate and a tease, and beloved by us all. Beloved by ME, especically, was one of his sons, Feras. I intially met him at his father's shop where he was working during his month long winter bring from Amman University in Jordan. Since every single foray into the Old City involved a stop at Aladdin's, I had plenty of opportunity to chat/flirt with him. Quite enjoyable. So when our JC group was preparing for our trip to Jordan and Aladdin asked me to deliver a book to a friend of his in Amman, I was more than willing to so...on the condition that he put me in touch with Feras, now back in Jordan.

The trip to Amman was memorable enough by itself, but the whole experience was enhanced by my night out on the town with Feras and his friend. I brought two JC friends with me...Rochelle Banks and Adam Flake. Feras and his friend took us to this famous Jordanian restaurant with a strong cultural ambience and GREAT food. A big draw was an opportunity to put on traditional bedouin attire and take a picture. I still have this picture--Rochelle and I are covered with bangles and fake hena, and the guys all have tunics and weapons. Its great...

Well. Five years later I take my mom to try to find Aladdin's shop. I wasn't QUITE sure which street to take, but I seem to remember it being on the corner of Jaffa Street and the Police Station. So we headed up the street. I actually didn't have much hope but suddenly there it was--Aladdin's. I was in shock--poked my head in and felt like I was in a time warp. There was Aladdin and his three sons sitting behind the desk--like no time had passed all. The only thing different were the notes on the wall--taken down since the Jersualem Center is closed. He quickly pulled out one of the guest books he has organized by year and find OUR JC group (the best one ever) and yes--your names were ALL THERE. I could bearly see the names for the tears that blurred my vision. What a memory! And there he was, Aladdin, and you guessed it--Feras right next to it. Of course he remembered our crazy night out on the time in Amman and we had a fabulous time catching up. I asked "so, how's college?" before I remembered--hello! That was five years ago. Of couse he's long since graduated. Girls, for those of you that remember him, he is JUST has darling as always.

So there you have it, folks! Nothing too out of the ordinary...I suppose these things happen to many people....but somehow I get the idea that my life IS like a twilight zone. Randomonium.

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