Late last night, after a long day of being allergic to Israeli cigarette smoke, and trying to write despite the noise of a nearby highway, and feeling chilled by the coldness of an ex, and freaked out by yet another glimpse of the irrational hatred and plentiful armaments in the neighboring twenty-two Arab countries, and alone in my Tel Aviv kitchen, I decided to try to make my grandmother’s German Apple Cake.
I didn’t know the name of her cake. I wasn’t thinking things through. I do that sometimes. Her cake contained walnuts and raisins, and I had a printout before me, a recipe, that didn’t ask for walnuts or raisins. I didn’t have the right kind of pan. The recipe was in familiar Fahrenheit instead of strange new Celsius. But I did my best to translate the recipe and produce Versunkener Apfelkuchen. The finished result was a love affair between butter and sugar, and it sank low in the middle. I checked online, and discovered that all was as it should be. Turns out that versunkener is German for "sunken."
This was yet another walk in the dark. Trying to hear something unsaid. Looking for a comfort that doesn’t come from memorizing dogma or obeying outside commands. I’m trying to heal. I’m trying to make sense of insane human history. I'm trying to live from my soul.
Day by day I continue to live here, hoping for peace on earth and surrounded by dreary concrete architecture like the physical manifestation of some socialist manifesto. I drink the local coffee. I write my new novel.
Twice a week I learn Hebrew in a school called an “Ulpan,” along with Russians with skin white as polar caps, Ethiopians with the dignity of Solomon, Coptic Christians, refugees from Sudan, and others from Argentina, Australia, Bulgaria, Britain, Morocco, Syria, Lebanon and places beyond. Most haven't heard of Berkeley, California. Some haven't heard of New York. People talk to each other in French and Italian and Arabic. There are young people built like slender orchids reaching up through jungle foliage, and seniors who quiver like dried thistle in wind.The United Nations doesn’t even come close to the truly international reality here.
Counter-intuitive, perhaps, but I’m lonely. I speak Hebrew like a two year old. It's hard to make a living. My grandmother never gave me that recipe because it reminded her of escaping the Holocaust. It's amazing she even made the cake once. And I don’t have a date for New Year’s Eve. Whatever. I’m alive. And someday I’ll figure out how to bake the right cake. That’s enough.