Friday, January 23, 2009

My First Shabbat

Last Friday, I experienced my first 'Shabbat' in Jerusalem. Shabbat is the Hebrew word for Sabbath, which is observed by Jews (and consequently, the state of Israel) on Saturdays. This means a few things that are new to me:
  1. Weekends are Friday and Saturday, meaning the work week runs Sunday through Thursday.
  2. EVERYTHING shuts down in Jerusalem at dusk on Friday and only reawakens after three stars have appeared in the sky on Saturday. That means restaurants, grocery stores, public transportation... everything.
  3. There is a huge tradition surrounding Shabbat dinner, which takes place after dusk on Friday. Traditionally, families come together every week and share a large meal together - the trick is, it all has to be prepared before dusk, so Friday is a 'gathering' cooking, preparing day.
  4. After dusk on Friday, observant Jews do not work until after dusk on Saturday. For some, that means even the pushing of a button is forbidden. It is AMAZING the inventions that have materialized to compensate for this. For example, there are elevators in Jerusalem that have a 'Shabbat function' - on Saturdays, they automatically stop at each floor so that the user does not have to push a button to get off. I've also heard rumors of self-starting ovens that work on a timer so that no dials have to be turned.
To prepare for my first Shabbat, I opted to join Talia, our group leader, to go to the traditional market in Jerusalem and stock up on fruits and veggies for the weekend (it is kind of silly now, but I was actuallymore than slightly worried that I would not be able to eat for the whole weekend since everything would be shut down and I had no food in my house yet -- I have lately developed this irrational fear of being hungry). ANYWAY, the market was fabulous, complete with all of the smells, colors and chaos that I adore. Middle Eastern foods abounded - hummus, tabouli, dates, pita, absolutely no pork, etc.

My favorite experience of the day (which I don't have a picture of) was a stop at a woman's juice stall. She had all sorts of juices that I had never heard of, and was so kind - once she heard KC and I were from America, she let us try almost all of her juices for free. My favorites were almond and a hot drink I forgot the name of - but that reminds me of hot horchata, only thicker. I ended up buying pomegranate mixed with orange, and we sat with her for quite a while, chatting, learning Hebrew slang, and eating sesame pretzels.

Check out the amazing color of this eggplant:
Talia invited everyone in our program over for our first Shabbat dinner with her family. Her father is a Jewish immigrant from New York and her mother, an Israeli attorney. Her grandmother also joined us - she is a famous television educator, apparently one of the first women who had her own show in Israel. (think Mrs. Doubtfire)

Here is our glorious Shabbat feast:
And of course, dessert:
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1 comment:

Jennifer said...

im becoming jewish immediately.