I recently relocated my residence to the middle of the Machane Yehuda shuk and the change has been quite interesting. It is a major shift of atmosphere compared to the student village at Mt. Scopus. Since moving, I have been able to spend much more time in the center of new Jerusalem.
It''s birthright season, so the center is pretty hopping. Since arriving in Israel, I have spent countless hours at my friend''s Judaica store Ann on Ben-Yehuda street. It''s a place I go to practice my Hebrew, spend time with my adopted Israeli family, eat Moshiko''s shawarma and falafel (Jerusalem''s best), and come into contact with tourists to talk Israel and Zionism.
Fortunately many birthright participants stop into the store for kippot and other Judaica. Time in and around the store has really shown me the magic this city has always been about. I would be lying if I said that I''m always able to appreciate the place where I live, and how special it is to actually live here in Israel, Jerusalem no less. Sometime you just lose that special feeling if you don''t constantly remind yourself of where you are. So seeing the energy of the multiple birthright groups in town very much re-Jew-venated my spirit.
As I sat in the store talking to my friends about my new apartment, suddenly someone wearing a Chicago Cubs T-shirt walked in the store. Considering that Chicago is my place of birth, I had to comment on the shirt. Then looking at the owner''s face I realized I knew him from my days at Camp Menominee in Eagle River, Wisconsin. We eagerly greeted each other, and exchanged stories since we had not seen each other in over six years. Later I found out that he was here with his two younger brothers and another from my camping days. It was truly an exciting experience to be with people whom I had not seen in so long, in Jerusalem.
After meeting up with his brothers and the other from camp, I headed back home to the shuk on Machane Yehuda. On the way I saw another familiar face: an old girlfriend of mine from the University of Arizona. I screamed out her name with excitement; she turned around eagerly wondering where the sound was coming from. After seeing me, she embraced me with a warm hug, and smile. We made plans for later that day to meet at the Kotel during Shabbos. We met again, smiling, both happy to see each other. Our conversation made me realize how special it is for fellow Jews to reunite at the Kotel. Later she told me how happy she was for me: that I was actually here in Israel, pursuing my passions and my dreams, single handedly giving me that reminder that I think many Israelis need at times. That reminder of where we are, and not to take it for granted. For this I will be forever grateful to her. She reminded me that the passion for the Land of Israel is the only muse I need for my survival here.
After we parted, and feeling uplifted, I sat at the foot of the stairs that overlook the Kotel''s Plaza. I watched the craziness of a Friday night at the Kotel, observing singing and dancing birthright groups, yeshiva students, soldiers, and daveners screaming at the top of their lungs with nothing but joy. Truly Jerusalem has a magic no where else does. It has the ability to bring us together; why else would we have been praying to rebuild it all these years? So that we could return to the city of dreams and magic. Jerusalem is the glue that binds us together. It is the city that has stored the dreams hopes and prayers of our ancestors for our entire history as a people. We must always remember its importance and the intense love we have always had for it. If we are not for ourselves, then who will be for us? Adam Scott Bellos is an Oleh Hadash, Co-founder of the Israelist movement, and Tour Guide for the JNF USA projects in Israel. Follow him on twitter: @adamscottbellos or email:email@example.com