A Tokyo Memory


Back in 2014 when I was an exchange student in Japan, I made a trip from Kyoto to Tokyo in the middle of the semester with two of my international University friends, Ruby and Jess. 

We chose the night bus as our method of transportation. It takes between 6 to 7 hours to reach Tokyo, we left Kyoto at 12AM (exactly) and got to Ikebukuro central bus station by 7 AM. With the Shinkansen (bullet train), paying a lot more, you can make the same distance in 3 hours. 
When we reached Ikebukuro I was super tired and so excited. It was my first time in Tokyo, a city I had wanted to visit for most of my life. I felt familiar with the place somehow, and it seemed very natural to order my first Tokyo cup of coffee at the nearby Starbucks at 7:20 AM. 
However, when we arrived at the subway, I was lost: the map indicating the different lines seemed INSANE to me. How do we even? What?  Maybe it was the lack of sleep, but compared to the simple subway system in Kyoto, this was out of my league. A few months later, when I returned to Tokyo, I had a different perspective on this, but I still find Tokyo to be incredibly layered.  
We arrived at our boarding house in Asakusa where we were planning on ONLY spending our nights at. Asakusa is considered “old style” Tokyo, wooden houses and shrines, it was reconstructed that way even though the entire place was burnt to the ground in WW2. The boarding house was very small, falling apart in some places and full of women. Oh, and the shower was in the kitchen. The cost was indeed very low and part of our successful “saving money” plan. 

We dropped our bags and moved on to explore the city.
We returned around 11PM. 

The landlord was a Japanese elderly woman and the rest of the girls were all foreigners from Malaysia and Indonesia. Most of them were aspiring immigrants who lived in that boarding house for a very long time and were cleaning offices for a living. We found ourselves in a tight room full of bunkbeds, each was 3 beds, so you could only crawl into your bed with some difficulty, which is what I did. 

Some of the girls were removing their headscarves, others were already combing their hair. They were all amazed by our presence. 

None of them spoke English. Japanese was our language of communication. I presented myself as an American named Effi (first time this happened), the girl in the bed above me got very excited. “We had people from Spain coming here, from the Netherlands, but never the US!”. “How come your hair is like this? So pretty” said another.
Before sunrise, some of the girls woke up to pray, then left for work. I laid in my small space listening to the sounds of their breathing, the ruffling of their clothes. Tokyo was waking up around us as well. Through the thin wooden walls of the room, I could hear voices in Japanese: A family was preparing for the new day, a TV was turned on somewhere, a child was laughing at something. All so close to our room, a room full of young women who don’t belong, yet, wish for a better life. 

I was observing a side of Tokyo I wasn’t planning to see.
The next days, I visited Shibuya, Roppongi and the fanciest shopping centers I’ve ever been to in my life in Shinjuku. I returned to the boarding house each night (I even showered in the kitchen). Once, I let one of the girls to comb my hair, she told me I should always comb it with a wooden comb.  

Tokyo exceeded my expectations. It is a lively, prosperous city, full of everything excellent- Food, Art and beautiful things. 

But the boarding house is on my mind today and will stay there for a long time.


September Update (and a bit of October)

Hello!


Summer is gone, the holidays are finally over, fall and reddish colored leaves are not really something you see in Jerusalem, but October in the holy land will always be my favorite kind of October.


September was a shaky month, I faced some down thoughts and emotions. They related to a few uncertainties and challenges that are going on in my life. But that’s life. And I am working on embracing them. Overall, I think the changes are good for me.

In a month and a bit, I will be heading to the US, for a long period of time. I am planning on taking part in an Artist in Residency there this winter; something I’ve been wanting to do for the longest time.
My parents, who had their green card for a while, will soon be able to vote, which excites them. I, the only american (on papers) in the family, have been feeling very detached from the political scene there. Honestly, my interest mostly comes from how it influences Israel/Palestine. But lately, I’ve been far from that too. It’s probably better like this, for now. The things I am looking forward to the most in the US are simple: going groceries with my mom (checking out all the options Israel doesn’t have), sit at Barnes & Nobles with my dad and talk about nerdy things (I can do this for hours) and hear from my sister (who isn’t american on papers) about the american slang I never heard of (none of it basically).
One of the doctors I visited this past month told me: “you are very close to your family but you are trying to run away from that. Don’t worry though, once you form your own family you will feel better”. Sweet of him. Though I don’t think I will “form” a family anytime soon. There is still so much I want to explore on my own.


On Sukkot, I traveled north to the Golan to visit my aunt, who keeps with the mitzvah of building a sukkah every year, without a man. Women are not committed to a sukkah according to the texts, but here it is anyway, and it is marvelous. 

It’s a shame sukkah’s lifespan is 8 days and then it ought to be gone.    

Drawings of earthy growing foods. Seriously the most beautiful sukkah ever. My aunt is traditional and does things according to the halakha, but always adds her own artistic touch to everything. 

The round table in her studio 🙂 
A mountain monster in my sketchbook

The area where my aunt lives
Part of our breakfast. 
The candle is for my grandma who recently passed away

I’ve been meditating regularly for the past two weeks. I have a long way to go in my meditation journey, but I try to gently focus on the moment, on each morning, and each breath. 


Another Sukkah. Karen and I made drawings for it in my living room. It supports the Palestinian Beduin community at Khan Al Ahmar as they face the threat of demolition.
I am still thinking about the concept of sukkah against demolition. There is room for more on this topic, for sure.

Old City discoveries. Matilda (who speaks and reads all the languages) translating some Arabic as I take a photo. 

More from the old city. Some very beautiful calligraphy. 
I especially like this one.

Another page from my sketchbook



Summer and late updates

I love the summer.

And even though I have been out of school for a while, summer still feels like it breaks the rhythm of the year: a time to do something different from “sitting in class” all day.

I wish for summers to always be special.
A lot has happened since last summer: I visited Berlin(October) and the New York(Twice! December and May). I haven’t written anything about my travels even though I was planning to. Therefore, I will do it now J
I was very impressed with Berlin. I managed to fall in love with most of it (mainly coffee places, bookstores, galleries). I visited a few dark history memorials as well. I didn’t like the Holocaust memorial (those large black stones in the middle of the city), but I loved the Jewish Museum! It was truly fascinating to visit.  So many details about the life and traditions of different Jewish communities across Europe and during the ages. Israel doesn’t have anything quite like it.
Shada came to explore some street art with me, and we visited her cousin who recently moved to Berlin with her husband (she is a Palestinian Christian and he is Jewish Israeli). They reported that there is a community of young Israelis and Palestinians in Berlin who know a lot about each other. They also admitted (with big smiles) that life is much more peaceful for them in Berlin. I don’t doubt this for a minute.
New York was an adventure both times. There is something I really appreciate about New York. I do not feel at home there, but I am not a stranger to it either. It always feels too big and too exaggerated, but I find it very intellectual and liberating as well. 
A week after I returned to Israel, my parents and sister came to visit. 
It was the first time we were all here together since forever. We visited many people and places. My head was spinning a lot. My parents always meet with everybody when they come here, it’s like they know everyone.
Their presence attracts conversations from the past and people I don’t see often. As well as an old me that I have been trying to let go of.

I am not going anywhere this summer. I will be taking care of all sorts of things I hope I can tell you more about in the future.
The photos are a bit unrelated.
Recent Woodcut Prints I’ve made 

A display in New York

The Painting at the Seeds of Peace Office. I worked on it with lovely seeds last year but it recently moved to a new wall. So here it is!

Sondos and Sam who usually invite me to spots in Jerusalem I never get to on my own