Le’al tells me that she’s returning to Toronto in a month to finish her law studies. Her husband will follow her in a year, when he’s given a visa. She says she finds it difficult to make friends, which surprises me. She is a gorgeous girl, friendly, sweet, clever. We talk about keeping in touch and visiting each other in Canada, in London, if that’s where I’m going to live. She wants to be my friend, and, to me, that is amazing.
Dan prints my passport renewal forms and tells me about his recent trip to Berlin and the week he spent with his partner and young children on Crete. My time here would have been more difficult without knowing him. He is clever and kind, everyone at the Nahat says he’s a good man to work for. I am happy to know him.
I need to fax a money transfer request. I know, I know, who uses faxes? It is a long story, for another time. The people in the stationery shop are friendly and helpful. They remember me, of course, from the nine thousand faxes I sent last month trying to transfer money from the UK to here. The owner, Yaron, tells me he’s bought apartments for each of his three children, so the stationery business must be good in Tel Aviv. His younger daughter is a field-medic in the army, the other is a research scientist at a pharmaceutical company, and his son works in the Romanian Bourse, and, in three months, has doubled the profits of his employer.
The passport office needs colour photocopies of every page in my Israeli passport, even, maybe especially, the blank ones. Where will I find a colour photocopier? Yaron directs me to a place on the corner of Frishman and Diezengoff, a storey underground. I find it, but they say they’re not allowed to copy passports. However, I can use the machine in the far corner to do the job myself. Tasks always take a stage or two more than you expect in Israel.
Din co-owns the kiosk where he works, and is surrounded by fruit, like Carmen Miranda. I say to him, Se-juice me! It is my idea for a name for a chain of smoothie stands. He likes it and makes me write it down. He puts the piece of paper in his wallet, for the future. He makes me the most delicious drink, sweet, with some refreshing sourness. We chat, as we always chat, pleasantly, companiably. Two weeks ago he was in some despair when he thought his girlfriend was going to finish with him. Every day the rings under his eyes grew darker. But now he has moved into her parents’ house while they look for an apartment together. He is very happy about this turn in his life.
I meet Nathan for the evening in Basel, a smart part of the city. After a period of coolness, our friendship is almost as tight as it was three months ago. This is a good thing. We talk, as we often do, about how we haven’t found what we’d hoped to here, although neither of us can really say what that is. This, probably, isn’t Israel’s fault. I came here expecting to stay, I brought everything I own. For a while I have understood that a large part of leaving London, maybe the largest part, was to put some geographical distance between me and my family. But they’re here, in your head, says Nathan, and he isn’t wrong.
He tells me how his parents had been warm and accepting when he told them he was gay, taking his boyfriend Ben in like a son-in-law, which is what he is, really. Why couldn’t they have given me a hard time over it? Everything has been too easy for me. I don’t really understand why he wishes his life had been more difficult. Nathan is less accepting of himself than his parents are, perhaps. It took four months before he outed himself at the ulpan. I don’t suppose anyone was that surprised. At the synagogue he goes to every weekend he evades questions about whether he’s married, preferring not to make friends over telling them about himself. Late in my life, just in the last few years, I have discovered the pleasures and value of candour, but he isn’t convinced.
All this is to say I have people in this city where I no longer want to live who are more than acquaintances, sometimes even friends, and this is something I find moving and wonderful.
Today’s word: chaverim – friends – חברים