Atara Vogelstein is a junior at NYU studying Creative Writing, Drama, and Psychology. She currently serves as Artistic Director for SHMUTZ, the theatre troupe of NYU Hillel as well as Director of Engagement for TorchPAC, the Israel advocacy club of NYU Hillel.
I will not take a picture, I tell myself from day one. It's too cold to take my fingers out of my sleeves, anyway. But that sun. The way it streams through the trees as if they're not there. Those shadows. I can't help it. I slowly peak my fingers through my windbreaker and touch the camera icon on my phone, struggling to get a clear shot as I jog in place, not wanting to break stride. Got it. No more though. It will distract me too much. I can appreciate the beauty here without snapping photos. The air tastes fresh enough.
I keep jogging. I jog down the dirt path as it meanders further from the quiet street. I'm running closer to the sun. I've seen this sun before, but not these shades. It glints a burnt orange, a golden yellow, soft. An orange and yellow I think I haven't seen. It's so quiet. Quiet enough that I hear my breath, tired, eager. My legs move swiftly in stretchy Gap leggings I packed for these moments. I watch as the black blurs with brown dirt. The more I run, the more I wake. And the closer the sea becomes. I could run onto it. I think of the grave of the poet Naomi Shemer I visited near here some years ago. I think of the poetry of Hannah Senesh.
אלי, אלי, שלא יגמר לעולם.
The dirt changes, swiftly, into a solid bridge. I slow, the bridge a bit slippery in the morning dew, last night's rain. I look up, inhale, exhale, whatever. I breathe without trying. That sun. The shadows. החול והים. The earth feels silent. Why do I ever leave here. The birds fly in purposeful incantation. Don't want to take a picture. But I must. ברוך אתה הי אלוקינו מלך העולם עשה מעשה בראשית. It can't be real. It's not water I walk on. I tread on air, elevated, everything. I want the whole world to see it. I know that they can't. That they won't.
My fingers are numb, but it doesn't matter. Israel gets cold, too. An elderly couple drifts by; I remember with a pang that people live here. We smile. I try not to slip. The sun is higher. Others will be waking. How do I capture this. How do I stay. Morning doesn't last forever.