Yesterday I went to the Har ha-Menuhot cemetery in Jerusalem to visit the grave of a dear friend of mine who passed away last year. But I never got there. Instead, I got lost.
Perhaps I should explain. Because Jerusalem’s neighborhoods are built on hills, many streets, which run parallel along the hillsides, are linked by perpendicular stairways. So when I saw a long flight of stairs that appeared to lead toward a main road, I took it all the way up ...
... and reached a dead end. Literally. Right there in front of me was a high stone wall, impassive, imperturbable. I barely had enough breath left to contemplate what it has seen and endured, what it would tell if it could talk. But I knew what it was telling me at the moment: this is it, kiddo, the end of the line. Inevitable, unalterable, final. No amount of pleading, praying or anything else was going to change a thing; I was going to have to go back the way I came. All the way down.
I understood then why the two men in religious garb far above me on the same stairway had looked at me strangely when they saw me climbing upward. Of course, they knew where they were going, so they were probably wondering what on earth I was doing there and what connection I could possibly have to anyone buried in that particular section. Well, their wonder was resolved quickly enough.
Another thing about the Har ha-Menuhot cemetery: various burial societies own different sections of the land there. These sections are not connected. You can stand at the edge of one and look over to the section where you would like to go, which is close enough to touch, but that’s all you can do. It seems like it should be so simple, but it isn’t; there’s this stubborn, counterintuitive, chest-high stone wall right in front of you. Like the saying goes, you can’t get there from here.
So although I managed to visit the graves of other friends and acquaintances, I didn’t get to visit the one that was the purpose of my trip. And as I puffed up yet another flight of stairs while the sun went down, vowing to stick to the main roads next time, it seemed that I could hear from the other side, ever so faintly, the voice of my dear, departed friend ... laughing his head off.