Shabbat in Jerusalem

For my first Shabbat Eretz Yisrael, the Holy Land of Israel, I was invited to my nephew’s home in Kiryat Menachem, a fast-growing suburb in the hills of Jerusalem. Local train service is about to be extended here and is almost ready to open, and cranes for high-rises are everywhere. But the community of Kiryat Menahem still meets the criteria for a fifteen-minute city, where most amenities can be reached on foot. It is also an older settlement built into the mountainsides and has preserved green spaces all around, including proximity to Shvil Yisrael, the Israel Trail that runs the country’s length. So on Shabbat afternoon, we walked there and revelled in the Jerusalem spring flowers sprouting in the wild.

During Shabbat, the children could showcase their costumes for the upcoming holiday of Purim. Our seven-year-old, Eitam, decided he would be the Saba, the grandfather who gives out candy to children during Shabbat services, a familiar figure in synagogues worldwide. Eitam was eager to acquire his grandfather’s cane and a bag of sweets from the local store to hand out. Our eleven-year-old, Yehudit, wanted to dress up as her teacher. Her teacher had offered her a choice of dresses, a purse, a pair of glasses, and even her wig. Yehudit’s transformation from an eleven-year-old to a thirty-five-year-old was remarkable and so much fun!

My second Shabbat was spent in my new apartment in my new neighbourhood of Katamon. Katmon is a typical residential part of Jerusalem outside the walled portion called “the old city.” Jerusalem construction is distinguished by the pink Jerusalem stone that is, by law, used in most buildings. Here is my street; the stone garden fences are in the distinctive pink Jerusalem stone.

Abigail Hirsch's street in Jerusalem

And here is a quick tour of my tiny apartment and the indoor-outdoor space created by the enclosed balcony.

Abigal Hirch's apartment

Around 3 pm, one sees a lot of traffic of children and their caretakers of both genders. I took these photos around that time.

Abigail Hirch's neighbourhood

My next-door neighbour, Joyce, who had made aliyah from Toronto just before the pandemic, brought me some delicious fresh baked challah which she had made herself, and I bought cooked food from one of the many outlets catering to the Shabbat crowd.

My neighbourhood has many functioning large and small synagogues and a Chabad House Synagogue. I was told that this Chabad had a public lunch after services on Shabbat but no Friday night communal meal. I went to Chabad for the Friday night services and was walking home alone along a dark street. I noticed a group of people in the middle of the road, engaged in animated conversation and thought little of it. But then, all of a sudden, one of them addressed me by name. It turned out that there was someone who knew me in this group. It was the broker whose mother’s apartment I had just bought. She recognized me, and when she realized I was in the neighbourhood for the first time, she invited me to join them for supper and lunch the following day!

On my way to the synagogue the following day, I passed a school with abundant children pouring in. I entered, and a little girl pointed me to the adult service, where I discovered a woman giving the Sabbath talk in an Orthodox prayer service!

I continued to Chabad, and during the post-services kiddush, I sat next to two English-speaking women who had lived in Jerusalem and Israel for many years. One was visiting her in-laws, who had immigrated to Israel from Los Angeles, and the other woman, who was divorced, had just moved back to the neighbourhood and shared that she was building a sound studio in her closet and starting a new career. As we chatted, it turned out that all three of us had lived on Lake Street in White Plains, NY, for almost the same period many years ago.

What a fantastic world!



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