Last week we swapped hot and yellow for cold and green and East Jerusalem now feels like a million miles away.
We decided to exchange three weeks of lockdown in Israel for two weeks of quarantine in Scotland and one week of visiting family. In 2020 that might even pass as a ‘holiday’. Lockdown is snapping at our heels however and new UK restrictions will mean we can’t mingle freely with our relatives as we would have wanted to.
Despite this, it still feels like a tonic for the soul. I always get a bit annoyed when people say they ‘just have to get out of Jerusalem every few months’, and claim the atmosphere is oppressive and intense. It just seems a bit disrespectful to the Palestinians who can’t leave if they want to and are the ones actually suffering the oppression unlike most of the people I hear saying they need to leave.
It wasn’t therefore a ‘need’ to escape that has us racing off to Ben Gurion airport in the dead of night yet race we did. Instead, it seemed like a good opportunity to remind our kids who their grandparents were and what a squirrel looked like before another six months of covid-fuelled water went under the bridge. Armed with practically a suitcase worth of online learning stuff from school, we were reassured that the kids wouldn’t miss a thing.
We deliberately came to as isolated a spot as we could find. That meant in the middle of a glen, deep in a forest and surrounded by beautifully tall trees that look like they have been here for hundreds of years. There is also the sound of hooting owls at night, little frogs by the stream, red squirrels, deer and all manner of normal Scottish, but now seemingly exotic, wildlife.
From our window we can see every shade of green and the trees carry their leaves with a heavy lusciousness which comes from having a constant water supply. I am a huge fan of the noble Jerusalem olive trees but there is a gnarliness to them that comes from struggling to survive in a hot and dry place. The trees alone tell their own stories about how completely utterly and thoroughly different the two places are.
In Jerusalem everything is baked by the sun. I can honestly say I don’t think I have shivered since February and I have barely looked at a sock, a jumper and definitely not a jacket. In Scotland, the two seasons are ‘cold and breezy’ and ‘freezing with the chance of snow’.
Copious amounts of tea are drunk every day in a bid to keep warm and a chill hangs in the air at all times despite the donning of slippers, vests and other granny-like attire. Ironically, conservative dress takes care of itself here despite no-one giving a thought to religious norms or expectations. In Scotland in September you’d be foolhardy to expose an ankle or wrist. After a week, I can barely remember how good the Jerusalem sun feels on your skin.
The upside however is that you can walk, run or jog anywhere at any time (post-quarantine of course). In Jerusalem there is a small sliver of time in the morning before it gets too hot to run and another dinner/kids bedtime slot which is also a bit awkward. The result is a much more lethargic existence with too much driving and not enough moving which doesn’t mix well with a diet which is heavily based on pitta breads and humus.
But, and I’m sad to say that this one carries more value than it should for me, you can dry a load of washing outside in about an hour in Jerusalem. The ‘cold and green’ alternative is having damp clothes hanging on every radiator and door frame for three days.
They say a ‘change is as good as a rest’. They say the ‘grass is always greener’. I have found that I like my grass green but I also like life under the sun. When the time comes, I know we will skip back to Jerusalem with happiness and gratitude that hot and yellow is somewhere we can call home right now.