“V’ahavta L’re-achah c’amocha.” Love your neighbour as thyself.
I’d run into the chatzer without shoes, so the gravel was digging into the soles of my feet as I found my place in our chet. My long black wrap around (uber tznius) skirt was immediately streaked in pinky orange dust. My mefakedet saw me and told me to turn around and zip up my sweater with my back turned to our group, exposing myself to the shetach, where we were supposed to set up tents for the night. Without preamble she explains why that activity has now been abruptly cancelled. “War has officially broken out.”
But no, we’re not all 6 ft tall, confident beauties with adorable smiles, sexy hoarse voices and endearingly honest senses of humour. I naively entertained the idea that, maybe here… here’s one for the ashkenazi girls. We can be tall, strong and gorgeous AF. That idea crumbled pretty quickly.
It was about coming to terms with the fact that NO, my body was NOT causing or going to cause a catastrophe, whether it be disgust or desire. It was about realising my body was not going to elicit any reaction from anybody, because my body was not for others to react to. It was for me.
This was the first time I cried. I broke down in front of those elasticated barriers that zig zag towards security stations at Trudeau airport. People consciously ignored me, in that uncomfortably, strained, polite way people usually behave with at airports.
Even though I don’t walk around with a sense of wonder anymore, my chest lifts with relief when I’m twisting up the hill on highway one. Magical may be far fetched, but there is a supernatural quality, an easiness and earthiness and timelessness in the air of this city.
We're out of the cab on our way to Kikar Safra, the square in front of City Hall where a bimah was erected and sober revellers would unselfconsciously dance those Zionistic dances out of step. The ones they learnt in gan and elementary. The ones immortalised by women wearing shorts and white shirts in black and white photos. The ones they saw in historical videos of kibbutz life and that moment when Independence was declared.