Shabbat in Jerusalem As Told By Jody

August 16, 2013

Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Shabbat message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, August 16, 2013.

Shabbat in Jerusalem

Last Shabbat (August 9, 2013)  was the first Shabbat of my vacation/work trip to Israel. So much to do; so many old friends to see; and although I’ve never forgotten how special Shabbat is in Jerusalem, actually being here brought it back with the full force of memory and experience.  It was as I was shaving in the late afternoon getting ready to go out to dinner with traditional friends that it started. While I was shaving, the Sabbath Siren went off. Special sirens blast all over Israel, but are especially intense here in Jerusalem. The sirens signify the beginning of “Candle Lighting Time.” Although the Sabbath actually starts when the sun drops completely below the horizon on Friday evening, candle lighting is usually earlier than the actual sunset. The idea is that if you light candles a little early, and begin the Shabbat when you light the candles, you won’t make a mistake and actually light the Sabbath candles AFTER the sunset! In most places, “candle lighting” is 20 minutes before the actual beginning of Shabbat. But in Jerusalem candle lighting is 38 minutes before the Sabbath.  Hearing the Shabbat sirens blasting all over the city exactly 38 minutes before sunset has always been a special part of my Shabbat in Jerusalem.

There’s a rhythm of Fridays here in Jerusalem. Most offices are open Sunday through Thursday, with a full Friday off as the beginning of the Israeli weekend. The mornings are spent shopping, getting enough groceries for the entire Shabbat, and rushing around and worrying that you’ll forget to buy that butter or humus that you need. Then the day slows down as the shops and grocery stories begin closing down. The frantic driving, honking and searching for parking at the supermarkets calms down. The “action” however, shifts to cafes and restaurants all over Jerusalem.  All day from Friday morning brunch to afternoon coffee, Israelis enjoy their non Shabbat day off by going out, socializing with friends, and hanging out at cafes. But at some magical point, even the cafes empty out and people head home. But late afternoon, things quiet down and the rhythm of Jerusalem slows down. Evenings are quiet (although admittedly, there now is a nightlife in certain parts of Jerusalem), and both traditional and secular families have their meals together.  Shabbat in Jerusalem is truly Sabbath Peace.

Israelis enjoy a Friday afternoon in a Jerusalem cafe before things close down for Shabbat. 

Shabbat Shalom.

Are there particular Shabbat foods that are traditional in your family? Let us know! jhirsh@jccmilwaukee.org