Sunday, July 22, 2007

Before Tisha B'Av: Only in Israel, Jerusalem Certainly

There are a number of different Jerusalems. There is is the city of dreams that kept Jews alive through the ages. There is the obviously Holy City that is familiar to tourists and pilgrims. Then, there is the intimate of its residents (and suburbanites, like myself). The latter includes Mahane Yehudah (for REAL shopping), the tailor you know since when; the barber whose cut your hair as long as you can recall etc. And, for a number of years now, there's Rami Levi. Rami Levi is a chain of supermarkets that has superior products and prices 10-30% lower than anywhere else (except for fruits and vegetables in Mahaneh Yehudah...and even then....). Those of us whotry to live on Israeli salaries, and who know full well that 'Zol This' and 'Cheaper That' are anything but, buy in Rami Levi. You meet your neighbors there. You see friends you haven't thought about in years. The customers are a cross-section of the population, including Arabs.

I've been buying there since last Pesah, and it's been a fixed part of my weekly routine. Howevcer, in Israel, routine is an oxymoron.

Last Thursday, I was just about finished with shopping. Guiding my overflowing wagon to the end of the last aisle, past the meat counter, a guy asked if I'd davened Minha. I looked at my watch. It was 7:15PM, and I gratefully replied: No. 'We have a minyan in the left hand corner,' he said. 'Go there.' So I proceeded to the paper goods section, piled high with paper towels and toilet paper. I was expecting the typicalkind of ersatz minyan that Jews get together and which are typically Israeli. As I parked my wagon, I heard some guy ask: 'Where's the shul?' 'Shul,' I thought tomyself, 'the guy must be quite the cynic.'

I was wrong.

Between the piles of tissue was a corridor, leading to a small but beautifully appointed Sephardic shul. The walls were lined in marble. The furniture was Qibbutz Lavie (and upholstered!). The library had siddurim for Ashkenazim, Hassidim and Sephardim. One bookshelf had the complete popular works of R. Ovadiah Yosef. It was strikingly beautiful. I couldn't believe I was in the supermarket. (Azrieli should have a shul like this).

The room was full. No, it's not what you think. There were, of course religious Jews and Haredim. Then came the surprise. In walked three or four greasy kids, who looked like JD's. They did nt look like the Minha type. Wrong. The put on three day a year white kippot and davened with the best of them.

The davening was beautiful. The epiphany was better. Only in Israel could you see a scene like this. For those who swear the country is weak, you should have scene the determination in the eyes of the kids (who then removed their kippot and returned to work). This scene only reconfirmed my experience over the past ten to twelve years that despite the best efforts of the politicians, the Supreme court, the media and the academics- this country wants to be Jewish. As long as that is true, we will overcome all our internal and external enemies. With God's help.


Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Hah! Now I'll have to blog about my similar experiences in "Aleph" (Be'erot Yitzchak).

They have maariv announced every 10 minutes on the loudspeaker (with a shul as well!)

Ben Bayit said...

You describe a wonderfully typical "israeli" experience - one that never ceases to amaze me - even after more than a decade here.
what you write about the country wanting to be Jewish is 1,000% true. However the post-Zionism (nee communism) of Avrum Burg and Co. is more widespread amongst the so-called zionist left that most people realize. The groups that you mention will have to be confronted ideologically and politically if there is any chance at salvaging a Jewish and deomcratic state. There is little room left for dialogue. I for one do not believe it is a given that we will overcome this.

Nachum said...

Beautiful. Haaretz had a similar article about a shul in Ikea, in Ramat HaSharon, I think, a couple of months ago.