"You know what's so strange about this place...it's so...normal!"
--Amshinover, reflecting on his shabbat at the Muqata.
Any place defined by Amshinover as "normal" is automatically suspect, but I found his comment to me this past week very telling.
It's very cold and rainy in Israel now. Jerusalem rain gusts horizontal from the wind, and the cold soaks through your clothes and shoes. You try but can't even avoid all the puddles, your damp socks cause your toes to grow colder. Even sitting on a crowded Egged city bus the cold lingers and the wet is everywhere. The warm falafel from the bus station or Ben-Yehuda doesn't really warm you up, it barely gives you enough energy to continue on your way.
Outside Jerusalem now, you trudge up the part asphalt, part gravel mud road -- the jeep tracks are filled with water. Despite your best efforts, the puddles and mud cake your shoes. After 10 minutes of the upwards climb, a dark fog envelops the hilltop. A handful of fixed trailer-caravans, a generator and a tent of IDF soldiers are barely visible through the mist, as you walk through the narrow paved path to the caravans at the edge of the hill. On a very clear day, you can see the tops of the smokestack's blinking red lights in Hadera and Ashdod, the skyscrapers of Tel-Aviv, Mt. Hermon to the north. Today its just rain and fog.
The caravan door opens into a crowded world of its own. Kids in every corner, a highchair and tray with a half eaten shnitzel smeared with kethcup, a wooden table with shaky legs and a few plastic chairs scattered around the tiny kitchen area. CDs on a rack on the wall, a bookcase of sefarim, a colorful ratty rug on the floor, and a couch covered with toys and laundry. An Uzi machine gun on top of the bookcase.
The sponga-rag by the front door wasn't successful in preventing the muddy footprints from walking almost everywhere. At least there's a heater blasting hot air into the livingroom area.
On the corner's narrow table sits a computer and DSL modem, a link to the rest of the world. The CD plays Jewish and Israeli music which is barely heard over the splatter of the rain on the thin roof overhead and the wind blowing in through the window frame.
Lab Rab mentioned to me last week that he viewed the Muqata as a ramshackle caravan on a hilltop outpost, so it got me thinking about how you view my reality.
How do you envision the Muqata?
Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael