Recommended Reading

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Jerusalem / Upper West Side

Sing next year in Jerusalem
You know, the one at 103rd and Broadway?
'Cause this orthodox girl fell in love with the guy at the falafel shop
And why not?
Should she have averted her eyes and just stared at the laminated poster of the Dome of the Rock?
-"Finger Back," Vampire Weekend

Those who are fans of the New York band already know that Vampire Weekend buries some of its most meaningful work beneath layers of jumbled jibberish and sporadic references. In its misleading major key, the song "Finger Back" discusses sectarian animosity at different levels, most touchingly in this tale of forbidden love between an orthodox Jewish girl and, presumably, a Muslim young man working at a falafel shop.

I imagined myself in the shoes of this girl as I set out one afternoon to visit the restaurant that inspired Ezra Koenig, indie poet laureate, to tell her fateful love story. When I surfaced from the 103rd Street subway station, I faced a restaurant storefront as understated as the story itself. Its royal blue awnings were decked in gold letters which read simply: "Jerusalem." I was soon to discover that, indeed, the restaurant inside could easily be mistaken for a "holy land" of sorts.

Once indoors, I placed my order to a smiling waiter--one vegetarian falafel sandwich with hummus, please--but for the first time in my life, food was not the first thing on my mind. As I awaited my cuisine, I did the unthinkable and stared at a poster of the Dome of the Rock that just happened to be hanging on the wall. As I stared I imagined how much more intense it would be if I had just fallen in love with the waiter and knew that the tensions between our respective cultures forbade us from being together.

Alas, I did not find love during my visit to Jerusalem--that is, apart from the deep and instant connection I felt towards my falafel sandwich. I unwrapped my food, prepared with expertise by a handsome Arab man, and bit into a medley of the freshest flavors and vegetables, paired with an all-American Snapple lemonade (to destroy whatever cultural awakening I thought I was having.) Kudos to Vampire Weekend for helping to season our musical tastes as well as our palates!

Before leaving, I asked the cashier if many Vampire Weekend fans came to see the restaurant. With a smile he informed me that indeed, fans traveled from as far as Canada to make their pilgrimage. (It’ll be the day, though, when an Israeli fan travels from her capital to its humble Upper West Side namesake.)

When I bade farewell, the cashier called after me, “See you next time!” I bit my tongue to keep from responding with traditional Passover well-wishes, “Next year in Jerusalem!” a refrain as fitting literally as it was inappropriate contextually. I thought about the "orthodox girl" and the "guy at the falafel shop" and I hoped that one day maybe they could be together.


  1. You're hilarious! Check out other famous landmarks in nyc on my blog!

  2. So cool! I've always wanted to go to the Seinfeld diner but didn't know where it was. I also like the music aspect of the post too. My blog is also about music and history. Cheeeeck it out here:

  3. It's awesome that a great song can take you on a pretty cool adventure! Great pictures and interesting stuff!