PreShabbat: My last Friday in Jerusalem
In Israel, it’s impossible to escape Shabbat! Even if you’re secular. Or Atheist. Or not even Jewish. Shabbat is a presence to be reckoned with, especially in Jerusalem. There used to be NO places (or almost no places) opened on Shabbat here: no grocery stores, and no restaurants. Now there are, including night life places for young people. Shabbat in Jerusalem, however, has not lost its character. Even secular families have a Friday night Shabbat dinner, which is more cultural than religious. If the young folks go out to clubs, is REALLY late – after Shabbat dinner! But for most Jerusalemites it’s a time for families to have dinners together. On Friday nights, you see groups of people walking home from the synagogue, on the way home, or on the way to the Shabbat dinners where they’re invited. Things are quiet. There are almost no cars on the road. It is unlike anything we experience in Milwaukee.
And because of Shabbat, Fridays are also special. The supermarkets and open-air markets are packed! People are buying food for Shabbat –really . . . there’s no chance anyone won’t have food for the weekend. The markets close around 2:00 pm, so as the day gets later, the markets are more and more crowded.
And, it’s not only the markets that are crowded. There are cafes! Israeli weekends are Thursday night, Friday, and Saturday.(people go back to work on Sunday). So Fridays (like Sundays in America) are the best times to meet friends for brunch. The cafes everywhere are full.
Especially in Jerusalem, Shabbat is a presence. A powerful reminder to stop working, or to be with friends and family, And to enjoy the peace of the Sabbath.