January 8, 2022 – Aloni’s 84th birthday.
He’s the oldest of the 5 Ben-Herut ‘children. He remembers those days so well. He’s written books about his childhood in Jerusalem –
– the mixed relationship with the Arabs, some of whom were close family friends
– the simple life, sharing 1 room with his siblings, receiving the daily ice, walking daily with mother to the market
– dodging the bullets from the Jordanians across the 100 meter of Sultan’s Pool to Jerusalem’s city walls
– Listening to family stories
There’s not much left of the old buildings.
Ben Sira 10 is still standing; also 12 and 14. But everything else from those days is gone, replaced by high-rises and office buildings.
Who’s living there?
Looks very abandoned now.
And downstairs, on the wall, someone had created a very strange work of art….
…..in the mouth, the original drainage pipe..
The rest is made from spiders, cockroaches and beetles.
“Are they real”, I asked, of course not wanting to know the answer.
Even looking at them from up close, you cannot be sure.
An inverted crown of thorns, perhaps?
This is where we sometimes sat and chatted
Perhaps when there were too many guests upstairs
Only 40 meters away
But it gave a feeling of ‘far away’.
And when Margalit called, we would look up and see her on the balcony,
calling us in for coffee and cake.
The alleyway next to the house has been renovated.
This leads to ‘Independence Park’, to the scattered Muslim gravestones and the strange pool.
And from the alleyway, a view of Saba’s Garden.
Avraham one day built a fence, and consequently ‘relieved the city’ of some garden work.
From them on, he looked after that area, gradually filling it with ‘works of art’, a wall here and a chair there, a mirror on the wall, next to a frame, there on the wall, that looked markedly like a toilet seat.
From that rickety old balcony above, he’d see people staring in. He’d call to them, he’d go down and welcome them.
He’d invite them in. And, occasionally, he’d become their guide for a couple of days.
Margalit would get a call from him, perhaps in Haifa. “Don’t worry”, he’d say. “I’m showing these lovely tourists ‘the real Israel’.
Nearby, there is a pedestrian street. It is Shabbat evening, just before the city starts to wake again.
Aviva and Rachel, 2 of Aloni’s 3 sisters (the other is Ora) are enjoying the quiet atmosphere, constantly reminding each other of lovely memories.
(The other sibling is brother Moshe).
At the end of that alley, there is a new building.
“See if Aloni can guess who lives here – or who used to live here”.
(Answer at the end of this book).
A final hug from the girls before saying goodnight.
And while I stand there for a few more seconds,
I remember standing just above their heads, in the very meagre shower, just a few hours before my wedding. And that took place just behind that arch across the street, in the ‘Beit Hamahandes’. I won’t translate that. It sounds much more romantic in Hebrew.
Nearly 48 years ago.
Happy Birthday, Aloni.
And who lived in that building?
It was our neighbour, our friend, and well-known artist, Meron Sima, who lived in the building that was….