Friday, August 28, 2009

The Jerusalem Underground

We were towards the end of our second day in Israel where my three friends and I had wrapped up the standard list of must-see highlights. After a day of touring Jerusalem the four of us were wondering how things were settling down around town. The day before there had been a sniper attack in the city that had claimed one victim. The folks back home both crowed about being right and worried all the more for our safety.

“Stop worrying, Ma,” I implored before leaving. “Things are worse in the ghettos.”

“I don’t go over there, either!” Whaddya gonna do?

The evening scene was so normal it could have been the Gas Lamp district of San Diego. Instead of cowering in doorways or quivering behind locked windows people filled the gloaming streets, enjoying a night on the town as if, for them, nothing unusual had happened. We even saw the mayor himself walking the streets, pressing flesh and soothing those nerves that had indeed frayed from the incident.

As we continued along Yael Solomon we found a very unique example of “normal” nightlife in Jerusalem. Beckoning off our left shoulder was an exact copy of the London “Underground” sign. Jerusalem doesn’t have a subway, we thought. Oh, cool! It was a nightclub! We skipped the patio area at ground level and went downstairs to the dance floor. The lone female in our group was a trained dancer and had been dying to let off some steam after touring and the sniper. And they were playing Bob Marley!

Our lady companion took the floor with a swan’s grace and a tiger’s eye, spelling each of the three of us in quick succession. We noticed, however, that a good third of the crowd were soldiers of the recently recruited variety, young, hormonal and deadly. Our expressions went cold at the sight of uniformed militia in a club. We softened a bit upon realizing they were simply out for a good time but went even colder when we noticed their rifles stacked along the walls. They took turns, though, some hanging back at their table and guarding the weapons while the others did what young soldiers in a disco do the world over. We settled down, determined to relax like any local in the place.

“Crack!” The music faded instantly in our minds and everything fell to a slow motion crawl. Someone had gotten too close to the rifle pool and bumped against one, sending it clattering to the floor with a sharp and rattling report. It was an accident. There was no gunshot and in more than one language we realized in a blink’s eye that felt like hours that the safety was engaged and had held true.

Not good enough! Leading the way to the stairs and the now relative safety of the streets above, our dancing queen had had enough night crawling and dragged us three protesting fellas by the hand back to our hotel. Oh well…

Gotta go!

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