Not far from our small apartment in the small stone building in a quiet corner at the southern tip of Jerusalem there is a splendid stone walkway with views of the Old City. So near, it seems nearly possible to touch the Kotel and the clouds.
We meander—nodding hello to passers-by—a group of students from Denmark, a cluster of middle-aged couples taking pictures, Arab women and children picnicking on the grassy slope below. Cats of every shade and shape. Birds with yellow beaks and yellow feet. Olive trees.
And a gentleman in a floppy hat. We cross paths twice. The second time he apologizes for talking to himself.
I say, “I do that often—talk to myself.”
“I never tire of the view,” he says. We agree. He asks if we live nearby. We tell him that we own a little place not far from where we stand, but we live in America. He has lived in France and Canada, and now in Israel, he tells us. His wife was born in Egypt but escaped with her family to Paris which is where they met. He and she converse in French—or did—but now she is ill. “An Indian woman is with her all the time,” he tells us. “The woman has a little boy. They have become like family.”
He says that his hearing is poor. It enforces solitude, he comments, in not those words exactly. We raise our voices.
He studied at the London School of Economics and Princeton University and taught at the University of Toronto and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. He is an economist.
“You must have published?” I ask. “Seventeen books,” he answers. “Sixteen, actually. I am working on the seventeenth.” He lists an array of thinkers about whom he has written: Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus, John Stuart Mill among them.
We exchange names. Later, we Google him. He is a star. A controversial figure. The recipient of a Guggenheim. We learn that he is eight-five years old. We watch twenty minutes of a lengthy lecture he gave in 2019, and we comprehend nary a word.
How lovely to have met a scholar on our walk.
Anna Gotlieb is the author of four books: Between the Lines, In Other Words, Full Circle and Pinkey’s. The first two books are collections of first-person vignettes. Full Circle and Pinkey’ s are novels. Anna is a wife, a mother and is known as Granny Annie to her grandchildren.