It was raining today but nothing could keep us out of the city on our free afternoon! There is a big food market in West Jerusalem and on Fridays it is bursting at the seams with people stocking up for the Sabbath. What is it that is so charming about being on a busy street with people shouting on every side in a language that you can’t understand? I shouldn’t love it as much as I do. I did pick up on a few things. My favorite was, “Shalom la” which would be a literal version of “hello there.” Cute.
I stopped by a baker’s stand and placed a few pastries in a bag. I had just picked up money so all I had was big bills. When I finally shoved my bag in his face before the people around me (that’s the name of the game, no lines, just the squeaky wheel gets the grease) he declared, “Two shekels!” I will never forget the look on his face when I handed him my fifty-shekel bill. It was like, “Seriously lady?” After I offered an apologetic shrug and smile he unfurrowed his brows and shooed me off with my change, but he was smiling too.
Next we ran into Shimon, a young Hasidic Jew from New York studying in a Yeshiva here. He wouldn’t shake my hand because he refrains from touching any women outside of his immediate family. It was raining so hard so we stayed with him under the little fruit stand umbrella where he had set up a little box. He was yelling to the crowd reminding them to observe the Sabbath and wear their phylacteries. He told us too, but upon learning that we were not Jewish took it back. “Non-Jews aren’t going to be held accountable for not performing the mitzvot,” he assured us. It was great to ask him questions because he is our age, speaks great English, understands American culture and was really cool and articulate. When we asked him if there was one thing he would change about Israel he said a stronger state. As we bid him farewell two other Hasidic Jews came walking up the streets blowing a little horn to remind the shop-owners of the setting of the sun. I swear that place went from Times Square to ghost town in two seconds flat. It was incredible. We walked home in the dead quiet and I was reminded of Rexburg for my first time here. Idaho and Jerusalem: the only two places in the world where you can’t find a shop open on the Sabbath.