Jogging for a good, hard 35-minutes around my neighborhood in southeastern Jerusalem is no different than dropping acid, except for the hallucinations, flashbacks, and induced schizophrenia. Running simplifies life as it clarifies thought, dousing everyday trivialities in strong, bright colors whose pleasing afterglow continues for hours.
There’s not much more to running than putting one foot after the other, heel-toe, heel-toe. But these steps, run in a pair of worn-out L.A. Gear sneakers, create the mental callouses I need to weather life’s little tempests.
When I begin my run, on the corner of Derech Hevron and David Remez near the Jerusalem Cinematheque, fatherhood feels like boot camp for the soul. Being a patient, supportive, understanding husband and father requires me to access emotional reserves that I don’t come by naturally.
But Jerusalem is a city built on a plateau in the Judean Mountains. I run up five different hills of varying elevations. As I traverse these inclines, my sharper edges are slowly rounded off, enabling me to bare life’s burdens more gracefully while I become less burdensome to my wife and kids. As Beitar Street becomes Leib Yaffe, the latest outbreak of laziness by the chronically absent lady who runs my twin sons’ nursery flows off me like water off a duck’s behind. My wife’s ailing leg, a growing concern for everyone in the family, no longer seems mysterious, but solvable. Our four children’s frenetic energy becomes a source of amusement, even pride, instead of fatigue tinged with frustration.
As spring time in Jerusalem nudges up to summer, the temperature and humidity rises. And I’m in high cotton. Exhaust fumes, blaring horns, irritated pedestrians and double-parked cars bounce off me as effortlessly as a mountain gazelle gallops through the Ramot Forest. Frayed nerves are magically strengthened as I round the bend and attack the short but sharp Yanovsky Street incline. For a few fleeting minutes, I’m footloose and fancy free. Home-life’s many splendored madness has evaporated, freeing up my mind’s eye to focus on a great issue or two, depending on how much longer my legs can keep pumping.
Netanyahu… what’s his deal? As I’m about to drift off into a SWOT analysis of the French Law, checks and balances, inherent weaknesses of the parliamentary system, term limits and electoral thresholds, a man with a thin mustache and thick bathrobe wanders into my path. Homeboy is chasing down a poodle right as I’m veering left on Ein Gedi Street. I hop over the runt canine with uncommon elan as the owner shoots daggers at me. By the time I regain my bearings, the strengths, vices and possible fate of Israel’s premier have fallen to the street, to be trounced on by a runaway poodle and its gasping owner.
Books. This will turn out to be the final subject tackled during today’s run. I’m on a serious reading losing streak. The last four books I’ve read have been God awful. What gives? Am I trying too hard to expand my reading horizons? Should I stop trying to be an intellectual dilettante and return to the safe and cozy confines of history and biography? Why can’t I grasp even basic concepts in astrophysics? Linguistics? Economics? Why is it that the only information I can retain are song lyrics? Hey, there’s that guy with the mustache again. What happened to the poodle?
As I take off on a final sprint passed St. Claire’s monastery, a final thought: Why is it that after I congratulated a colleague today about the birth of his daughter, he refused to tell me how many children he has. Me: “Mazal Tov!’ Him: “Thanks G.” Me: “How many is that?” Him: “We don’t count them that way.” Me: “Alrighty then!”
And here we are: home.
Another day not merely endured, but lived!
This piece was originally published in Newsmax on June 12, 2019.