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.
Getty Images
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.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 5 of 5)

He said, “Maybe one or two.”

“That’s all?” I said, feeling stupidly disappointed. The character in my novel, Mustafa, came from a poor village and experienced terrible hardship. He laughed. “They have a nice, big house. They do very well.”

“Okay, but what about your other uncles and aunts. I’m sure they must live in cramped quarters.”

Again he chuckled. “They all do very nicely, make excellent livings. They also don’t have to pay taxes like the Israelis.” He gently poked fun of me. “You’re like all the others who think Arabs live terrible lives in Israel. It’s a fantastic country. I can’t wait to go back.”

Finally, I asked about the bathroom.

“Sure,” he said. “There are definitely bathrooms.”

No hesitation. I was stunned by this simple declaration. “Really?” I was so excited. Bathrooms — in plural. “What do they look like?”

“Twelve at a bunch. Finished toilets, pretty, some white, some blue. Some marble floors.” The details came spewing forth. Such a man I believed. I whooped. I wished I could hug my bathroom verifier. I went back to writing my novel and Mustafa went back to mopping bathrooms.

Now all these years and revisions later, my son doesn’t get his haircuts at Waleed’s anymore. My husband bought a kit and cuts our child’s hair himself. Waleed’s barber shop is still right next to my husband’s office on Main Street. I am tempted to walk in and tell him, “Pssst. Waleed, there is a bathroom up there. There really is.”

I still wonder why there was so much confusion and dissension about the bathroom’s existence. Perhaps my question touched a nerve. We have our lower halves — the parts that go to the bathroom, and upper halves — the parts that pray. And never the twain shall meet? Maybe I’ll find out the most definitive answer once I start going on my book tour.

Sometimes I catch a glimpse of Waleed through the window of his shop, LA. Hair Design, cutting the hair of the little Orthodox boys of Passaic and making sure not to shave the sideburns, according to Jewish law. He is devoted. Really, I think. Why say anything?

Ruchama King Feuerman’s new novel, “In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist,” was published as an e-book last month by the New York Review of Books.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight":
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here:
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.