שבוע טוב!/Shavua Tov! -Hebrew for “good week,” and the customary exclamation of well wishing after Shabbat.
The sun is currently setting here in Jerusalem. That means shortly the busses and light rail will once again be running after the legally required shutdown from Friday night to Saturday night-Shabbat, or the Jewish Sabbath and the kosher restaurants will reopen for patrons to enjoy a final dinner before the work week begins again tomorrow. In Israel, because of Shabbat, the week is from Sunday-Thursday with the weekend being Friday and Saturday. It’s been a bit odd adjusting my internal clock of how to view the week. Tuesday is now “hump day” instead of Wednesday, TGIT instead of TGIF.
The weekly shutdown of the city during Shabbat is also something I feel one would be hard pressed to find anywhere else. Today, I went walking around at the Shuk, the major open marketplace that, during the week is full of people speaking Hebrew, Arabic, English, and other languages from around the world, but today on Shabbat was a ghost town. On the major streets taxis and cars still go by, but the inner streets of the city are quiet.
It is peacefulness that I have not experienced anywhere else. It is not empty but rather intentionally still. But not everywhere is shutdown. The Jewish world may be still here, but the Arab world keeps going. A ten-minute walk from campus and there is a grocery store open as if nothing has changed. It is so interesting to see such difference here. Two separate, unique cultures co-existing in the same place. Jerusalem is truly special like that. Nowhere else in Israel are there Jewish and Arab communities existing like this. The religious landmarks are the focal point of city with a character all its own.
It has been a privilege to spend two weeks here so far. I have gotten to daven, pray, at three different spots in the city, experiencing a variety of religious Jewish life. Some of it has been familiar and comforting to me, others were new and challenging. I have slowly begun to obtain a routine. I begin my day hiking up the mountain I live at the bottom of to attend Ulpan, the intensive Hebrew class I currently have every day from 8:30am-1:10pm, on the gorgeous campus that has breathtaking views of the city. I then eat lunch either in my apartment or grab some falafel on campus (some of the only food I have been able to find that isn’t way more expensive than everything in America). I then do my homework and study for the next day’s Hebrew, and then to bed. Some days I take the light rail to the center of the city and visit the Shuk for pitas, dry fruit, cheese, and whatever other goodies I feel like treating myself to that day. On others, I relax in my room or with others I have met in Ulpan from around the world (my class includes students from America, Israel, China, Korea, France, Mexico, Spain, and Italy). All in all, I’m finding my way.
Figuring out the time difference has also had its challenges. It is 7 hours between here and the Eastern Time Zone of America which means I start my day with a good morning text from my mom as she is heading to bed.
I will try to end every post I have with a little lesson in Hebrew. Today, in honor of my mother, Instead of goodbye I say “בוקר טוב/boker tov” “good morning.”