Monday, October 6, 2008

"And he reaped 100 fold"

I love the place. I think that it's beautiful, ancient, welcoming, and feels spiritual just by walking through there. I love the people, and the walls, and the courtyards with wells.

I loved spending Shabbos there, with families who open up their homes and hearts to myriads of guests, some of whom you would be very surprised to find there.

I love exploring the twists and turns, finding my way through the alleyways to the people I know there. I enjoyed learning from them tricks of the trade- a really good sponja, the best Yerushalmi kugel. I saw the variety of people, and saw their acceptance, their beauty found in all forms of religious/charedi spirituality.

From reactions I've seen, most who visit see only the sign, proclaiming that all who are not dressed modestly shouldn't enter. They see those dressed in typical Yerushalmi garb, in shtreimels on Shabbos, and in three layers of clothing. They see the houses falling apart- leaning on each other like a building of wooden blocks tenuously holding their own. They see it as a place to visit, an exotic way of life that no one like them could ever attempt.

But, take the time. Meet the people- you'd be surprised. Walk around the neighborhood and see the children playing happily- the girls with their long braids, the boys with different yarmulkas and peyos swinging. See the women, smiling, holding their littlest one, and looking out their tiny porch window. Come on Shabbos- see all those heading to shul. See the fervor of their prayers and the songs they proclaim with joyful voices. Meet those families who have 1 room apartments but still host guests.

And then I wonder- could I live there? Could I be happy there? Could I see myself living their life? Would I feel alone- would anyone speak my language, or understand where I come from? Would I fit in?

You'd be surprised- after meeting many of these families, the answer might change from a definite - no chance- to a - I don't know- or - who knows. The answer might even be - possibly.

Visit it with new eyes the next time you come. You might be surprised at what you can find in the Yerushalmi neighborhood of Meah Shearim.

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