Ratz means “to run” in Hebrew.
I get to know a place by running through, around, within it. I’ve done countless laps around the Colosseum and between ancient churches in Rome, navigating the cobblestoned streets and ducking under graceful archways. I did repeats on the steps of the Sydney opera house, drawing confused looks from passerby but ignoring them to take in the beautiful architecture from all angles. I’ve mapped out San Francisco with my feet, and know all the hidden gems of Golden Gate Park and the Presidio. I was looking forward to doing the same for Tel Aviv — exploring Jaffa, running along the Yarkon River and the beach, paying a visit to the Ganei Yehoshua park. So I was devastated when, a month ago, I fell while rock climbing and severely sprained my ankle. The doctors said it was bad — it would be a month until I could walk on it, and another month until I could run again.
I was barely walk-limping when I left for Israel, and the plane ride didn’t help with the swelling. The first week I was here, I hobbled around the classroom and primarily stayed in bed icing my ankle when I wasn’t teaching (the terrible weather conditions justified staying indoors, at least). By the second week, I was able to walk without a limp, and with minimal pain. And then today, the weather was beautiful and warm and sunny, the beach boardwalk was so appealing, and Jaffa beckoned mysteriously… so I decided to try for a run. I ace wrapped my almost-normal-sized ankle, squeezed into sneakers, and tentatively jog-ran towards the beach. It felt amazing. I was going at a snail’s pace, and getting passed continuously by annoyed runners, but I was running! And I got so caught up enjoying myself, admiring the sunset, and watching the surfers, that before I knew it I had reached the town of Jaffa. My two-mile excursion had timed itself perfectly with the setting of the sun, so as I stretched out my sore leg (it hadn’t done any form of exercise for a month) the Muslim evening prayers began to ring out from the many mosques around the town. It was a mesmerizing sound, the solemn voices projecting from all around me, resonating through the cobblestone passageways and layering on each other like a rich, textured, lilting chorale. And in that perfect moment, I was finally at peace with the world and happy.
Originally published at shalomsohard.wordpress.com on January 13, 2015.