09 March 2008

Backpack, Day 10: Of the Ghetto and Customs

My last day in Rome, I woke up with the boys and got my backpack all sorted out before I went to see the last things I meant to see in Rome. I left and went to the Jewish Ghetto of Rome. And by "went to the Jewish Ghetto" I mean that I kept on looking for it, and kept on getting turned around. Eventually, I bought a cookie (the apricot version of a linzer tart = delightful) and a large bottle of what I thought was water, but was actually seltzer. I spent the rest of the day trying to shake the bubbles out of the foul-tasting water (I hate seltzer).

Refreshed by the cookie and irritated by the water, I finally found my way to the ghetto. Shaking the bottle with every step, I found myself outside of a restaurant called Yotvata. There is a chain of restaurants in Israel named Yotvata also, after the dairy kibbutz in the south of Israel. This Yotvata did not look like the others, and I wasn't hungry. But I did take a picture for proof.

I don't know...Mehadrin. Chalav Yisrael. Many hints that make this Yotvata a lot like the Yotvata(s) I know and love...

Then I found the streets of the Ghetto. Just off of the river, it was really fun to walk through and see the signs in Hebrew and Italian. Much like Golders Green in London, though, when you come from Jerusalem, seeing Hebrew on signs isn't exactly the world's biggest deal. Then I walked over to the synagogue / museum. I walked around and took some pictures of the exterior, because I thought it was majestic and pretty cool. A security guard followed me for a little while, before I turned around and asked him what the big deal was. He wanted to know why I was taking pictures. Clearly, I looked like a terrorist plotting....

"And this is the gate to the heavens." (Above one of the doors to the shul.)

After I got accused of plotting to destroy the synagogue, I went to enter the building. I apparently stood in the wrong part of the line, because after the security guard made me take off my coat, scarf, and show him my wallet, which I had tucked into the waistband of my jeans (just pickpocket-proofing, as advised by our good friend Frommers), he sent me to the end of the line. He gave me more crap when I got BACK to the front, messing around with me and asking me where I'm from.

Here's the thing. I go to Hebrew U. I go through metal detectors every single day at school, so let's be serious. I know what is going to set the metal detectors off, and as an American Jewish student at the Hebrew University, I'm pretty much the last person to do bad things to a synagogue. Not to mention my getup in a pink-and-khaki coat and a so-Israeli messenger bag.

So when I got inside, spent about an hour waiting for a tour to start, only to be told that I had just missed the tour because they gave me the wrong time (even though I'd been standing around waiting for it), and then told me that I couldn't join the other tour for SECURITY reasons, I was DONE with Italian Jewry. I was out of that neighborhood faster than you can say "go get another gelato."

I followed my heart back to the Spanish Steps, except this time, I went the back way and up to the top of the steps. The walk was nice and the view was breathtaking. I was getting plenty hungry by then, so when I finally happened upon a place with a good lunch deal (soda, bruschetta, and pasta), I plopped down happily. Lunch was great and then it was time for a walk back to Piazza Navona.

The view from the top of the Spanish Steps!
Typical Sara Beth, looking down on the world in front of her.

I may dislike Pepsi, but I was enamored by the foil top to this can.

I had spent the day looking for fine Italian shoes or purses or some quality Italian leather but I couldn't find anything. So instead I went to Piazza Navona to get necklaces. There were the best murano glass I'd seen on my whole trip, so I got two necklaces for myself. On this walk, I walked down the Spanish Steps, past the Pantheon, by the Trevi Fountain and to the non-wedding-cake monument. I then enjoyed Piazza Navona before passing the Colosseum on my way back to Aaron's.

After that, I was pretty beat, so I went around looking for more GELATO (gelato count, 4). I delighted in the snack and went back to Aaron's, stopping at the neighborhood pizza place to buy more pizza, and then the grocery store to purchase more M&M's (yes, I have a problem) to bring back to Israel. Aaron came back from school and we went up to his apartment for a few minutes, to get me ready for the airport. He walked me to the train and then I was off to the airport.

The final gelato and the flattering poses that it inspired.
Strawberry and vanilla, topped with tired tourist.

I was excited to get to the airport, as I was sure I'd finally get the gelato (almost 5) that my friend had recommended, but my late-night flight meant that most of the stores were closed. Alas. Instead, I went through duty free to buy Rafi a present, and then boarded my flight. The flight was fine, and when I landed in Israel, I was happy to be back.

I set the camera's timer to take this fabulous off-to-the-airport picture. The classic physics problem of how many books can Sara Beth carry on her back (and front) is solved! Contents: 11 book, including 2 travel books, 1 siddur, and a variety of fiction, as well as a few days of clothing.

I waited a long time at customs, maybe the longest I've ever spent in one of these lines. I thought if I was getting in at 3:00 in the morning, that nobody else would be arriving at the same time. I was wrong. When I finally got to the customs agent, I talked to her in Hebrew. After the usual eyebrow-raise at my Egyptian travel visa (it's really quite pretty), I got the standard questions. Why are you here? Where are you studying? I said I study at Hebrew U and I'm studying Jewish education. "Tzadika!" She continued, "Shabbat Shalom!" I thanked her, and then realized that she was saying I was a righteous person for studying Jewish education, and was wishing me a Shabbat Shalom, as it was Friday morning in Israel. She was dressed in pants and looked pretty secular. Even the secular customs agents like a Jewish educator. Who knew?

After I found my way to the baggage claim, I encountered ads that I'd seen many times before. They're for the tiny soup nuts found across Israel. You can also find them in Chabad houses worldwide. The ad says "From London to Tel Aviv, Soup Nuts That You Have Only At Home." This was my first time in the airport where I took the time to read the whole ad, and realized I understood it. I smiled at the ad, and thought back to just a few days before. I had been in London, in Dalia's kitchen, and her dad took out a container of Osem soup nuts. Just like in Jerusalem, New York, Florida, and every other place I've seen these soup nuts, Dal's dad took a fistful and crunched on them gleefully. "They're a great snack," I said. And I realized that the ad wasn't really true, because Osem ships worldwide. But I was home (sort of) again. In Israel. Where they make the soup nuts.

"Time to make the soup nuts."

The Nesher ride back to Jerusalem was kind of bad. I had trouble staying awake even to give the driver directions to my apartment. He saw the neighborhood, and asked me a question. I was groggy and I just kept on saying yes. When I finally got out of the taxi, I pulled out a 50-sheqel note to pay him. He didn't give me the 5 sheqels of change I was owed. When I asked for my 5 sheqs, he said that I would be giving him a tip, since I have, I thought he said, roommates. It was 5:30AM, and I was tired, and not looking forward to walking up stairs with the backpack on, so I just said fine. I doubt I could have argued very well in English on so little sleep. He drove away. Later, in my apartment, I realized that he had been saying "ashirim" (rich people) not "shutafim" (roommates). He assumed that because of where I lived, that I was rich, and therefore owed him an extra dollar on my cab fare. Now I knew I was really home (sort of). In Israel. Where the cab drivers are always causing some sort of trouble, but usually help with your Hebrew.

There was morning. There was evening. There was morning.
The tenth day.


Melanie said...

Not only are you a tzadika, you're also a gaon(a)!

Melanie said...

Also, I had soup nuts during Shabbos dinner, and thought of you and your post.