Monday, July 9, 2012

Day 37: Shabbat in Ein Karem

Two nights ago, Josh, Jocelyn, and I met up with Shua to visit David and Hannah Amit.  David is an Israeli archaeologist who spent time at our site this season helping both to teach and to excavate.  The Amit's live in the Talpyiot area of Jerusalem, which is a bit out of walking distance for the time of night we left.  We exited the old city and eventually hailed a cab.  We arrived around 8:30 p.m. and enjoyed many lively conversations and delicious deserts.  During one of our conversations, David, Hannah, and Shua were nearly exasperated that we had not yet visited the Mehane Yehuda--the large street market near the center of town.  All three convinced us to spend our next day there (Friday) because it would allows us to view the entire gamut of life in modern Jerusalem.  With our plans for the next day set, we headed back to our guest house and slept until morning.

We got a late start yesterday, but by nine we had set out.  We  exited the Old City and meandered around until we arrived in an area of town hat we recognized.  Once in an area that we recognized, we hopped over the Jaffa St. (one of the main streets) and followed the light rail tracks until we found the market.  The Amit's and Shua were right!  There were people in the market from every walk of life.  From ultra religious to secular, from local to tourist, from frantic individuals to calm individuals all buying fruit, fish, meat, and cheese.  One of the reason our friends had encouraged us to go on Friday is because Shabbat starts at sundown, making Friday the busiest weekday at the market.

We split up for a bit and while Josh and Caroline went to explore a cheese store, Jocelyn and I sat down for coffee.  We sat and watched for nearly an hour as people haggled over prices and made their purchases.  It was both entertaining and even a bit educational.  Our path eventually crossed with that of Josh and Caroline.  Once reunited, we grabbed a relaxing lunch of hummus and rice stuffed vegetables before heading back to the guest house to rest.

A couple of weeks ago, Shua had invited those of us who would be in Jerusalem to visit with her family for Shabbat dinner.  Her family had visited the dig site this year, and we were happy to get another chance to see them.  Shua picked us up in front of the Damascus Gate by the Old City, and we headed to Ein Karem, the area of the city where Shua grew up and where her family still lives.

Ein Karem is beautiful.  I may have a picture of two to load later, but any picture that I post will fail to do it justice.  The hustling and bustling of the city breaks, and rolling hills and small mountains covered in green take over the landscape.  We arrived, made our introductions (or re-introductions since some of us had brielfy crossed paths during the dig), and sat in the den.  Shua's sister and five-year-old niece arrived shortly after us.  While dinner was being finished, we played games with Avigail, Shua's niece.

When we sat down for dinner, the guys at the table were given kippot to put on our heads during the kiddush--the blessing over the wine and bread for Shabbat.  We listened with awe at the melody of the blessing.  I did not understand all of it (not by a long shot), but six years of biblical Hebrew allowed me to understand a decent portion.  First, Shua's dad blessed the challah bread and passed it around, inviting us each to take a portion to eat.  Next, he blessed the wine, which was then passed around in order to age--oldest to youngest.  After the wine had made it's round, Shua's mother--with a large smile on her face--ended the blessing by saying, shabbat shalom to which we all replied in return, "shabbat shalom!"

Dinner was delicious.  To write about it would require at least another page.  Suffice to say that we ate for what seemed like hours, enjoying one another's company and the spread of food before us.

After dinner, we sat, drank tea, and had desserts.  Shua is also a professionally trained pastry chef.  Working for the Israel Antiquities Authority requires a majority of her time, but she still manages to find both reasons to and patrons who enlist her baking skills.  It just so happened that last week, Shua baked for a family's party.  We were the lucky recipients of the extra desserts.

We finished the night with a rousing game of Sorry, until Avigail was about to fall over asleep.  With many goodbyes and promises to visit again next year, we concluded the night.