I saw Jerusalem through different eyes today. I saw the city through the eyes of my front seat passenger who let out a gasp as my car curved around Sha'arei Tzedek hospital onto Herzl Blvd where the glistening silver of the Jerusalem light rail caught him off guard in the early morning sunlight. The involuntary reaction was expelled like that out of a small child seeing the ocean for the first time. It began to dawn on me that everything in Jerusalem that I had long taken for granted was going to be a "first" for my visitor. He was not a tourist. He, Elias, a university graduate with a business degree, is a resident of Beit Jala, just eight kilometers away and we were on our way to Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem with his sister, Lina, my eighteen year old back seat passenger, for a dental check up where she had three wisdom teeth extracted the previous week. Elias and Lina had requested and obtained permission from the Israeli authorities to enter Israel for medical treatment.
Our journey took us from the Bethlehem checkpoint to Ein Kerem and back. I had a rear-mirror view of the wonder in Elias's and Lina's eyes soaking in the neatness of the tree- and flower-lined streets as we drove through Gilo; the colorful figurines lining the six-lane boulevard down to the circle dividing north and south Beit Safafa; and the streamlined parking and architectural attractiveness of the Hadassah medical school. All these elicited comments of unabashed admiration.
The kind attention of the medical staff only accentuated and enhanced the beauty of their surroundings. The doctor, who had extracted Lina's wisdom teeth, personally came out to the waiting room to warmly greet Lina and inquire about her well being before escorting her into the cubical where the attending nurses remembered her and welcomed her back like a long lost friend. One would have thought Lina was brandishing some kind of neon "handle with care" placard that only the medical personnel could see.
The Malha Mall was another first for Elias and Lina, where we stopped to grab a bite to eat, sitting at tables near the protective rails overlooking the Purim decorations dangling over the great expanse of the mall. Elias, scanning the diverse mileiu, culminated the events of the day when he said, "I am just eight kilometers from my home and I am in culture shock. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to experience another world."
Zoe is a guest blogger who is a Third Perspective