While in Israel, I got the chance to take part in a traditional Shabbat celebration. While many know what Shabbat is (and if you don’t – Shabbat is Jewish day in which everyone rests, it is observed every week from Friday night to Saturday night), most non-Jewish (me included!) don’t know the many, many wonderful things about this time of the week, especially in Israel.
Shabbat is an important “date” to Jews, because God worked the first six days of the week, and rested on the seventh.
And they take it seriously.
When I read it wasn’t a good idea to cross the border from Jordan during Shabbat, because buses (or any public transportation, including the trams in major cities, for that matter) don’t run from midday Friday until Saturday at 6pm – I had to make a change in my schedule and arrive on Thursday morning instead.
I spent Thursday night partying in Jerusalem with a dear friend of mine (Thursday night in Israel is the equivalent to Friday night in most other countries) and was surprised at how full of life and bustling the city center was.
And the following day – silence.
I walked out of the hostel to see no people on the streets. No noisy tram passing by every five minutes. I felt as though I was in a Twilight Zone episode and I had suddenly been transported to a ghost town.
That evening, I met two Mexican guys who were working at the hostel. They were Jews and had decided to move for a short time to Israel to see if they could see themselves moving them permanently. After finding out that I am also Mexican, they invited me to join them for Shabbat lunch the following day.
It was here when I discovered Shabbat is even quirkier than I had thought.
While walking to their friend’s home – where lunch would take place – I took out my phone to check the time. “Noo!”, shouted Joshua, “you are not allowed to turn things on and off during Shabbat”.
“Oh, and what about my camera?”
“You would have had to turn it on before Shabbat began.”
“You’re not Jewish. You don’t have to follow the rules, don’t worry”, said Joshua.
“But I want to.”
And it just got better from then on.
Once at the house, more and more guests began arriving. When I stretched out my hand to greet the first newcomer (a guy), he retracted, looking a bit scared. “We are not allowed to touch women during Shabbat”, he told me once Joshua explained to him that I am not Jewish.
And then the pre-meal ceremony began.
The Kiddush was recited and wine was drunk shot style.
After Kiddush, each person has to wash their hands by filling a cup with water and pouring it over the right hand and then left hand. And before wiping them, a blessing must be recited, while everyone else says “amen” at the end.