Home June 2016 Southern Comfort

Southern Comfort

0616simantovIt was the first time I’d bought a property on my own; we met with the lawyer in order to issue the final checks and pay the brokerage fees. He asked to speak with us privately for a few minutes.

“Are you certain that you know what you’re doing?”

“What do you mean?”

“Are you certain that you want to purchase an apartment in South Jerusalem? You are very close to the eastern sections, the Arab villages.”

I looked him in the eye. “Yes, we are certain. This is where we want to live.”

My husband felt angry that that an Israeli Jewish attorney disparaged our decision to leave the English speaking ghettos of Jerusalem and venture to where so few of “our kind” lived. But I question whether the right price, proximity to the Western Wall and rubbing shoulders with the common-man was enough reason to tempt fate? As predicted, terrorists from the kfar-next-door do enjoy  plying their nefarious trades which frequently result in our deaths and pretty much guarantee theirs.

Occasionally, I question whether I hold a double standard. With three children living in infamously dangerous Johannesburg, every visit introduces me to the latest in home security and personal protection. Turning your rings gem-side down and leaving enough space between your car and the one in front at major intersections is old-school, and the lines between good neighborhoods and those that are “sketchy” confuse me. Frequently I wonder “How can they live there?” Immaculate and affordable housecleaning and pristine gardens could not sway my commitment to living in a land of our own and stubbornly holding onto that which I believe was Divinely ordained. I would like to believe that the threat of abject poverty would not stand in the way of making a moral, legacy-insuring decision.

I admit that my politics pretty much echo those of my Facebook crowd, Jew and non-Jew alike. And while I would love to believe that in the 1930’s, beleaguered European yidden would have abandoned their gardens, art collections, grocery stores and more to save their own lives, and those of their children, I’m not entirely certain that this would have been the case had modern-Israel existed. I have seen with my own eyes the flesh-pots of Hendon, Johannesburg, Paris, Boca and Berlin. I have memorized the laundry lists that rationalize continued presence in host-societies that seem to, at best, tolerate Jews and, at worst, demonize our existence.

I find great pleasure in purchasing new houseplants and painting walls of my humble home, in a corner of the Holy City that my detractors say is verboten and where I am called an obstacle to peace.

New York-born Andrea Simantov is a mother of six who moved to Jerusalem in 1995. She frequently lectures on the complexity and magic of life in Jerusalem and can be contacted at andreasimantov@gmail.com.

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