I had certain expectations of Jerusalem: churches and mosques and Western Walls, an assortment of weird and wonderful new food, and maybe a political discussion or two. What I hadn't anticipated was being hit on by an Israeli goat herder at a party beneath the walls of the Old City.
I was couchsurfing with a big lovable gay bear called Yoni. He and his lesbian flatmate took me ten minutes walk through a few streets of the modern face of Jerusalem, with its lightrail system (the first in Israel), fashionable clothes shops and high-end bars to the student union, where the local LGBT community was having its monthly party.
Not being one for dancing, I was left sitting alone on the wall next to the dance floor, below the rainbow drapes, plastic cup of cheap beer in my hand. There was a guy and his friend sitting a few feet away. I’d noticed him looking over at me a few times already. His friend got up and headed to the bar.
“Lighter?” The remaining guy said with his bad English. He pointed to his cigarette. Then he moved over to sit next to me. Before I had a chance to apologise, he said, “No, it okay. I just want excuse to talk to you.”
He said his name was Lior. He was attractive I suppose, and there was no questioning his sexuality: he had a stud in his ear, a small lip piercing, smart white shirt with a couple buttons undone to show off the top of his chest and his gold necklace. And he had the confidence, clearly, to go up to random guys and hit on them. He’d have no trouble going home with someone tonight, but that someone was not going to be me.
When the drag show started, we sat together cross-legged on the grass to watch. I caught my host's eye at one point and met his raised eyebrow with a grin.
“What TV you like?” Leo asked. “I like Coronation Street.”
Hang on. Back up. This goat herder from some teeny Israeli village in Jerusalem on business for a few days – probably getting best prices for goats – happened to know about, and even like, the same English soap opera that my nan had watched every day for the last fifty years.
Evidently my face gave away my thought process because he said, “Yes. It's true.” Before I had a chance to ask one of the dozen new questions in my head, he said, “You want go somewhere more private?”
I was flattered but things were now getting awkward. I felt bad for leading him on, but I'm sure he went home with someone that night. As for me, I couldn't stop smiling. I'd had my expectations of the city smashed. When people back home would ask me about Jerusalem, asking whether I'd seen this and seen that, I'd say, “Never mind that. Let me tell you about the gay goat herder I met...”