My Barber, My Book — and The Temple Mount

Could a Jersey Hairdresser Answer Question About Jerusalem?

Jerusalem: Ruchama King Feuerman needed to find out whether there are bathrooms on the Temple Mount for her book, ‘In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist.
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Jerusalem: Ruchama King Feuerman needed to find out whether there are bathrooms on the Temple Mount for her book, ‘In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist.

By Ruchama King Feuerman

Published November 03, 2013, issue of November 08, 2013.
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I hadn’t known this. I thought he hailed from Jordan. “You must miss Jerusalem,” I said. I know I did. I moved there when I was 17 and stayed 10 years. My family followed me to Israel and still lives there, even after I returned.

He nodded heavily as he expertly moved his electric razor over my son’s head. His eyes grew wistful as he spoke of the gorgeous smell on the Noble Sanctuary, a scent of the hereafter. Meanwhile, tufts of my son’s dark hair fell like sheep’s wool onto the linoleum.

I felt a certain tension between us then, a kind of tribal static. It was clear we both loved the same city, and I’m not talking about Passaic. I still remembered my last day in Jerusalem — after 10 years of dating in the Holy City, it was time to seek my bashert, and a writing degree, in the United States. I’d wept as if someone had ripped out my womb. And what about Waleed? I sensed his pilgrimage visits to Jerusalem were the highlight of his life.

Suddenly I had the uncomfortable feeling that we were two wives devoted to the same husband. What? You love him as much as I do? You make his favorite dishes, iron his shirts, and darn his socks? He gave you the family jewels? But he promised me I was the special one, the real wife, and you were the mere concubine!

I pushed those unhelpful feelings aside, and told him I was working on a novel about a mystical friendship between a rabbi and a devout Arab Muslim. He smiled blankly as though I’d mentioned I’d just picked up my dry cleaning down the block.

“This may sound like a strange question,” I said to Waleed, “but could you tell me about the bathrooms on the Temple Mount?” I explained how my main character cleaned toilets.

“Bathrooms?” he shook his head. “There aren’t any.”

That sounded preposterous. How could there not be?


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