On Fig Trees And Whispered Prayers

The Shuk is my Happy Place.
(It has very little, if anything, to do with the figs.)

When I walk through Machane Yehuda Market, or “the Shuk,” the world is nothing short of
golden. The voices
amplify, colors burst and gleam, smells sprint into my nostrils like it’s a race.

They tell me to take it all in. To reach out to the buzzing vibrancy.
To let it all reach me and get absorbed in my skin and senses.

Yes, I love dried fruit, and spices, and bourekas. But it’s not about that.
In fact, I hate pushing, and loud people,
and smelly people, and smelly fish, and smelly cheese.
We don’t have that kind of thing in the Midwest,
where I come from.
Except really, this is where I come from, or where I’m going, or just a place
I feel at home.

In this place of the overt, the loud, the vivid, and the brash.
This place that instructs me to stand my ground as all this madness percolates.
And not as a defense against this madness. But with open palms, receiving and welcoming it, tasting
the heaps of figs
the merchant shouts are a steal compared to his identically shouting competitor.

(This is not a story about Israel. Though it’s not not about Israel.)

It’s about the time in high school when I drafted a whole daydream about the future, the main priority being a planted fig tree on my hypothetical husband’s and my property. That way our hypothetical children could run around barefoot through the yard full of fruit mush, free and sticky and in touch with the earth. The holy land.

I want for them what I want for myself, the prayer I whisper as intently as Shema,

Please, G-d, let me never be jaded…

spoken as I pass stands with mounds of nuts and seeds, hoping to somehow capture this scene in something more than a panoramic photograph.

With these words, I yearn for something lasting. I reach out to sample something sweet and earthy, asking the merchant, “efshar lit’om?” (“May I have a taste?”), hoping he keeps agreeing to my appetite for the novelty that never fades.

I want to live like this.

Of course, I purchase several baggies of sticky papaya, thick coconut strips, flattened apricots, and smushed figs. I try to ration them out and hide them in a drawer. I try to put them in the bottom of my backpack, so as to avoid the temptation to finish them at the airport gate. Mainly I try to will these treasures into being bottomless.

Please, G-d, let me never be callous. Let me be sensitized to the voices, shouted or whispered.
Please, G-d, let me never be blase. Let me be moved by wonders and woes.
Please, G-d, let me never be bland. Let me be energized by the flavors and the wafting breezes.

Let me be speechless, allow me to revel in the
mundane, take pleasure in how my paths overflow with the currency of
amazement.

I want sensory overload, to be left with nothing to exclaim but
“gahhh” and maybe a sigh and definitely
a reprise of that lingering, resilient hope,

Please, G-d, let me never be jaded.

They push and scream on the subway, but it ain’t the same and I
couldn’t tell you why exactly.

But the figs at here at Westside just don’t compare.

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