I love this poem, Tourists, by Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai. I wish I could read it in Hebrew. Here it is in English.
Tourists by Yehuda Amichai
Visits of condolence is all we get from them.
They squat at the Holocaust Memorial,
They put on grave faces at the Wailing Wall
And they laugh behind heavy curtains
In their hotels.
They have their pictures taken
Together with our famous dead
At Rachel's Tomb and Herzl's Tomb
And on Ammunition Hill.
They weep over our sweet boys
And lust after our tough girls
And hang up their underwear
To dry quickly
In cool, blue bathrooms.
Once I sat on the steps by agate at David's Tower,
I placed my two heavy baskets at my side. A group of tourists
was standing around their guide and I became their target marker. "You see
that man with the baskets? Just right of his head there's an arch
from the Roman period. Just right of his head." "But he's moving, he's moving!"
I said to myself: redemption will come only if their guide tells them,
"You see that arch from the Roman period? It's not important: but next to it,
left and down a bit, there sits a man who's bought fruit and vegetables for his family."
Here I am, post-Chagim (holidays, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah), the time where Israelis resume a regular schedule unimpeded by days off of work and school. We came here pre-Chagim, started settling in, and now we are re-settling. I am still settling. Where do I buy my groceries? How do I use my appliances? Do I have the right cookware or do I need to buy another pan, a ladle? Where do I take the kids for haircuts? Oh time, please slow down for a minute so I can catch my breath. My to-do list still grows.
It’s a lot of minutiae. Only in retrospect do I realize that having the minutiae worked out in Cleveland enabled the time and space and energy to do other things. The little stuff seems so much easier when it is my everyday establishment, my American suburban life. I can target hit Whole Foods like a pro. The days pass quickly here, and I am so busy, but when asked what I am busy with I pause and smile inwardly. I am busy hunting groceries and cooking dinner and all the other details in our life. I walk everywhere. That takes time! The minutiae have grown big and tall in my life!
I am standing right there under the Roman arch on my way home from the market. I marvel at my own trip to the store! Are tourists watching me watching them? The mundane is marvelously sacred. And yet I still haven’t figured out what to make for dinner.