We left with a caravan of vehicles from the Dead Sea encampment to Jerusalem. Peter and Karen went in a different direction. The caravan group had known of an abandoned village named Lifta outside the city of Jerusalem. This sounded interesting. Why, in a country where people were fighting over land, was there a village that had been completely abandoned? We decided to go with them and see for ourselves.
Lifta was a Palestinian village in Jerusalem overlooking Wadi Salman. Archaeological remains dating as far back as Iron Age II have been found in the village. The Romans and Byzantines called it Nephtho, and the Crusaders referred to it as Clepsta. The remains of a courtyard home from the Crusader period remain in the center of the village. Almost all of the hundreds of emptied Palestinian villages were destroyed. Lifta is one of the few remaining Nakba villages whose residents were deported or fled during and before the war of 1948.
Only 60 of Lifta’s 410 homes remained after the war, together with its mosque, an olive press, and a tiled pathway to a spring. Living conditions in Lifta were difficult. A few Jews resided in the village, and one former Jewish inhabitant described the relationship between her family and the Palestinian majority as “excellent.” With the buildings in poor repair, poor roads and transport, and a lack of electricity, water, and sanitation infrastructure, by 1971, most of the Jewish inhabitants left. Holes were drilled in the roofs of the evacuated buildings to make them less inhabitable so squatters wouldn’t take up residence. Lifta became a ghost town.
Several of the Rainbow travelers had nonetheless decided to set up camp in these broken homes. The traveling community easily set up an encampment with a functioning spring water well and easily constructed cooking facilities. We set up our tent outside of one of the broken homes. That night we could see the lights of Jerusalem on the surrounding hillside. The next morning, we washed with the well water, helped with a community breakfast, and packed our tent. We only spent one night in Lifta, which didn’t feel like the right place for us, and made our way into the city.
Segal in Jerusalem
Having arrived in Jerusalem, we called Segal, who invited us to her home. She met us somewhere in town, and we walked the short distance to her apartment. Suiting a young woman living alone, the apartment was well-appointed. She offered us the sofa, which was moderately comfortable for Donna. I slept next to it on the floor.
Segal explained her plan to organize a show telling a story for schoolchildren. As I accompanied her on the guitar, Segal would sing and act out the parts. I was to make any responses and minor parts. It sounded like a fun time, so we got to work on building the idea and fleshing out the details.
Salads and pita bread were our go-to meals with Segal. She taught me how to prepare tahini properly. We played and sang many songs in search of the right program for the children. She took us around to see some of the sites and the better falafel stands and introduced us to some interesting people. Living with Segal was fun.
Our First Segal Show
The show had basically come together, and the date arrived to perform for the schoolchildren. It was a short walk through the city to the school. Greeted by the principal and shown to the room of eagerly awaiting children, we unpacked and prepared to perform.
When I was in elementary school, everything seemed to be a normal size. Now that I was a ‘grownup,’ walking into that classroom was a little shocking. Everything was so tiny! They had cleared a performance space and arranged some children-sized chairs for Donna, Segal, and me. Sitting scrunched up and nearly on the floor, my small guitar seemed huge compared to the surroundings.
The excited children chattered as we settled in until the teacher signaled that the show was about to start. Segal introduced us, and the program began as she began to tell her story while I accompanied her on guitar.
The children’s class was rapt with attention taking in every detail and reacting as the story unfolded. Segal taught the children little songs, accenting the experience. When the story ended, we all drank cups of fruit juice together, I packed the guitar, and we left. The children all thanked us as they waved goodbye.
We stopped at one of Segal’s favorite falafel shops on the way back to the apartment. I believe I could live quite happily on a diet of falafels. The incredibly huge salad section with endless refills as long as you haven’t finished eating the pita and falafel balls is perfect for someone on a limited budget, which we were.
Moving to Edna’s
After a few weeks at Segal’s apartment, she had some out-of-town business to attend to and suggested we meet Edna, where we might stay for a bit. Her small house had a fairly large kitchen space, a living room that doubled as her bedroom, and a bathroom off to one side. There were also two bedrooms, one with a small bed she offered us to stay in. There was a young girl and her son staying in the other room. Edna turned out to be an interesting character. A devoutly practicing Jew of Persian descent was one of the main connections for the rabbis to purchase some really good herbs, “the kind.” She was kind and generous with what she had, and we were sure to contribute.
We made excursions to downtown Jerusalem to busk, catching a public bus only one block away from her house. After trying several ‘pitches,’ we found our spot at the top of Ben Yehuda Pedestrian Street next to an ice cream shop and across from an ATM. This spot was like magic for us.
One time, I was playing Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced?” A little old lady about four feet tall, with ‘old lady blue hair,’ wearing a mink stole, walks up and tosses a couple of shekels into my guitar case. As she does, I can see the number tattoo on her arm from the Holocaust. She looks right at me and says in a thick accent, “Yeah, I’m experienced.” And she turns and walks on down the street. I said, “Thank you,” but we were stunned, blown away.