Saturday, July 12, 2008

Shabbat on Mount Zion

The week passed without much happening.

The company seems to have woken up to the fact that I'm earning to do absolutely nothing. I had alrady alerted my immediate supervisor. In the beginning I was trying to give opinions on the production etc.. I've decided just to keep quiet and not getting involved with the mess.

One noteworthy occurrence is that I started with live drawing classes. Very weird for a beginer, a girl comes in takes her clothes off and we're supposed to act as she is just like a vase of flowers or something and get on with the drawing. Don't forget it's been a month that I've been away from my Libia and naked women can be very tempting!!!

I kept my cool and the drawings came out better than I expected although compared to the guys who have been doing this for some time I suck big time.

I had decided that this Friday night would be the first one that I'd go to a Synagogue and try to have dinner with an Orthodox family. Apparently it is a very common thing for them to invite people, Jews and non-Jews, for the Shabbat meal.

The tourist information office provided me with a phone number, it was answered by a boy that seemed more like an answer machine, and it sounded that I'd be yet another stupid tourist being marveled by trivial everyday stuff for them. The address he gave was pretty far away and looked pretty dodgy in principle so I decided not to go.

Instead I went to the Old City to yet another session of photography. I am beginning to feel like someone in that joke:

  • Do you like photography?

  • Yes, I love it!!!

  • So why don't you learn it???

The place I decided to go was the location where King David was supposedly buried which is literally on top of Mount Zion.

I had been there before with the tour guide, so I knew there was a Synagogue there etc.. One of the guys comes up and I ask him about the service etc... he turns out to be the guy responsible for the computer graphics/video stuff of the centre and the Yeshivah (Rabbinical School) that runs the place. We start to talk, he's has a skinny American who very probably has a hippie past, and voila... I am invited for the dinner and the service.

The place also has a Holocaust memorial, so after what was a pretty emotional conversation I went to photograph it, and was invited by another member of the staff for the dinner and service.

So there you go, a Shabbat Service on Mount Zion!!!

The service was pretty chaotic. Everyone seemed to be doing their own thing most of the time. Everything is much more un-ceremonious than one would imagine, there is singing and dancing, women are separated by a curtain, there were children coming in and out and kicking around a ball.

I was very nicely welcomed, the guys obviously understand their holy scriptures and know exactly what to do, so there were moments where I was like a fish out of the water. But all and all it was great, probably I will be going back to accept the invitation for studying a bit with them in night sessions.

The dinner was not at all posh: plastic glasses plates and cutlery, but the atmosphere was great.

Another nice thing was that there are two Brazilians studying there, the first ones I find here. It was great to chat away in Portuguese.

Orthodox Shabbat dinners can take hours, there is a lot of praying, drinking, ritual hand washing, traditional singing, etc... but this one wasn't the longest.

After dinner we decided to go for a stroll to the Wailing Wall, we stayed there remembering Brazil and talking about Jerusalem. Both of them are probably still in their late twenties and are very religious but for an amateur Scripture student like myself it is interesting to talk to people who live this on Mount Zion 24/7.

As we are going back, the gates are closed. The Old city is under yellow alert, two Israeli policemen have been shot and no one can leave the Wailing Wall. We must have stayed there for three hours, the Hassidic Jews were dancing in a hall by the Wall, a bunch of others arrived to do a midnight prayer which apparently has great Kabbalistic resonance, some people simply went to sleep.

Finally we were allowed to leave and at one point it seemed the exit of a football game, the police were only allowing small groups out, and some naughty Haredi Jews were trying to escape the order and force themselves out.

I have discovered that many Orthodox don't like the “zionists” read Israeli Jews who are not religious but who get shot defend ing the Haredim... Crazy stuff.

The only other noteworthy observation is that today, Saturday, there was a car procession passing in front of my window, it was for a Palestinian wedding. They were making a LOT of noise by over accelerating their cars and putting the music very loud. It seems a popular way of the young wealthier Arabs to express their anger and call attention. I had seen similar scenes before, cars driving by an Israeli crowd with music at full blast with the guys sticking their heads out of the car defying the people.

A mixture of testosterone, frustration and foolishness...

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