Friday mornings in Israel differ from house to house, especially between religious households and secular ones. I can’t really detail what happens in a secular home – it has been decades and beyond since I became more religious. I can’t really give too much detail about anyone’s home but my own.
Though I’m not really happy about it, my home has evolved into a very traditional one and I am, it seems, unable to change it. One of my greatest prides, in fact, is that my three married children don’t have the same house I have.
In their homes, my son-in-law and my two sons share with their wives the preparation and anticipation of the coming weekend. For the most part, I am left in the early hours of Friday – like now – to begin on my own. As I said, it doesn’t make me happy but it is, as they say, what it is.
So long before others arise, I am in the kitchen planning what will be for Shabbat. This Shabbat is the trickiest of the year. All other weeks, I make as much food as needed for guests and beyond. I’m really good on the beyond. The rationale is that what doesn’t go over the weekend, will be available in the coming days for others to eat and I’ll have less work to do, less cooking, etc. during the work week.
This Friday is different because Passover is coming this week – in fact, on Monday night. All that I make must be long finished by Sunday night. In other words, this is the one time of the year, I have to cook as little as possible. It’s quite stressful. It is, for me, so easy to fill a table; so hard to minimize and force one or two side-dishes and leave off so many other options.
So I count how many people come and will make a piece or two extra of chicken. More than once during the army Chaim called on a Friday afternoon and asked what was for dinner, or if his bed was ready. It was his way of telling us he was joining us – and in that simple question was the knowledge that there never was any doubt there would be enough food and he wasn’t imposing in any way.
I love that about my home. Some people laugh at me but everyone knows we are blessed in that our table always is filled for those who join us. This one week, that will not be the case.
I usually use 3 kilo of flour to make challah; this week, I’ll use a meager 6 cups – less than 1/3 of my normal amount. I’ll make soup, but less than a FULL pot, and not even my biggest.
I have so much to do today and I’m more tired than usual. We went to my niece’s wedding last night. It was a beautiful night in which we watched two people who have been in love for years show they will love each other forever. Marriages should be forever.
There were three languages spoken last night at the wedding. The bride’s side (ours) was a combination of Hebrew from her father and our own English enclave; the other spoke in Russian, and the joining point was Hebrew.
The wedding was in Tel Aviv – we are from Jerusalem in heart and soul and body. I always felt that we were one nation until 2005 when the Israeli government, elected by the right-wing, chose to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza. The left wing celebrated; the right wing cried and felt betrayed in the weeks before the expulsion/disengagement from Gaza. In the weeks that followed, the rift has festered for years – sometimes getting better, sometimes worse. We are united in many things; divided in too many others.
Some damaged part of me was healed when a friend of mine on the left told me that he had watched the Sharon plan being enacted on television and had cried. Good, I thought – good. We pulled out of Gaza for nothing – that has become clear to all. Those rockets we knew would hit Ashkelon and Ashdod, have now hit Beersheva, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Yesterday in the morning, five rockets were fired at Israel – it was, without question, a message from Hamas to Obama – we were merely the means of delivery. When my friend told me he was going to take vacation from work and celebrate the Gaza withdrawal,for the first time in my life, I thought I had nothing in common with a fellow Jew. It was the first time in my life that thought and come into my mind and it was an incredibly painful one.
He was Tel Aviv and I was Jerusalem, I thought to myself. He was secular and I was religious; he was ready to chase any and all dreams for peace – even the ones that endanger our country. He would be the one celebrating Obama’s visit; while I would be waiting to hear what Obama said, knowing it would include trying to push Israel unfairly.
Later my friend began the discussion I had been dreading for weeks. He wanted to talk about the results of the Disengagement Plan and his vacation. I wanted him to leave me alone. It was enough – the people’s homes had been destroyed – they were homeless. I didn’t want to talk to him. I had had enough of Tel Aviv and secular and left wing. I surrender to their inability to understand that what happens to me, happens to them and what happens to them really does happen to me.
“I watched it all on television,” my friend began a discussion I had managed to avoid for weeks simply by not managing to get to the client’s site. I had to go and I did and as he started the discussion I had been dreading, I silently pondered quitting the project rather than continue our connection, “and I cried,” he said. It took me a second to understand what he had said. I had been crying for days, for weeks. He had cried too? He told me he was taking vacation to celebrate – he cried too?
It was in that moment that my world came back together just a bit. I told him I have nothing in common with a Jew who could watch the destruction of another’s home and not cry. Years have passed; many of the people who were pulled out of Gaza still have no permanent home. Israel failed them; Sharon’s government failed them and in my mind, Tel Aviv failed them.
It’s wrong to blame a whole city, but I have long felt that the division between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem; right and left, secular and religious, is an incredible, almost insurmountable divide. It was nice to go to the wedding and though we still felt the divide, at least feel a bridge under our feet. There was understanding there – even a warm welcome and happiness we had come. We didn’t feel judged; we didn’t feel pitied. We were allowed to be what we were and we felt accepted, mostly anyway, perhaps even entirely. I was too busy enjoying conversations to really notice so perhaps that’s the point.
They thought it adorable that my little grandson was dressed so sweetly and was so cute. He blessed the groom and the bride with his little hand on their head and his exuberant “Amen!” – and they smiled and loved it and loved him so maybe that divide is more in our minds than in our hearts; more in some back part of our head than on the ground at our feet?
I loved seeing my niece marry her husband. I loved seeing the smile on his face – he was so enjoying himself last night. There was no uncertainty, no nerves of a groom taking a huge step. There was only joy on both sides.
So, it’s Friday morning and as I begin to cook in my sleeping home, I’m going to smile about that wedding and wonder if the great divide that exists in Israel isn’t quite as big as I sometimes think it is. The great joke last night – on both sides, was Obama. We blamed him for the traffic. We blamed him for the red lights. We blamed him for a fork dropping on the floor – all in all, it was fun.
Obama leaves Israel today. I sincerely doubt he is any wiser for having come. But one of the things I love about Israel and being religious is that no matter what happens; no matter who comes to Israel – Friday morning arrives and with it the promise of the Sabbath to come.
So – shabbat shalom – may it come in peace and safety and may the rockets of Hamas be silenced again. They made their point this week – it was a point none of us ever doubted. They can fire what they want, when they want – and the Obama’s of the world will say, oh, very bad…now Israel, as we were saying…overall, I don’t know if Israel made our point. I don’t know what Bibi said behind closed doors. I know that too many fawned over Obama and treated him like the great king gracing us with his presence. The university students didn’t bother to stand with their brothers from Ariel University – Tel Aviv versus Jerusalem was there, as was the divide.
Shabbat is our wonderful chance to say to the world – sorry, we’re busy. Call us on Sunday and we’ll get right on that…or maybe not.