I was approached awhile ago by a reporter who wanted me to write a bit for her website. The website is very left-wing/liberal, (animal rights, feminism, gay rights, social justice – you know the buzzwords) so I was a bit wary, but I decided to go for it anyway. She wanted me to write about my daily life – and not from a political perspective. She interviewed me a bit and wrote an introduction to my piece. The following is what I wrote for her:
Friday Is A Short Day
I wake up Friday morning with my mind on the long list of things to do that day. The Sabbath comes in early in the winter months, so I need to finish my preparations by 4:30 in the afternoon. Candlelighting time – 18 minutes before sunset – is the final deadline – no extensions allowed.
As I progress with my cooking, I realize that I forgot to pick up an important ingredient on my way home from work the previous day. The local makolet (mom and pop store) doesn’t carry it, so I decide to make the twenty minute trip to the nearest large grocery store. Grabbing the car keys and my cell phone I head out.
I live in Israel in the southeast part of what is called Samaria (we use the Biblical name Shomron) in a Jewish village nestled in the first ridge of mountains directly east of Tel-Aviv. The day is clear, and as I glance at the view before I start the car I can see all of the way to the coast, including the Azrieli buildings and the ocean beyond.
Arriving at the Mega supermarket I notice a short line at the entrance. A man wearing a knitted skullcap in front of me is asked by the security guard if he is carrying weapons. He shakes his head and the guard passes a wand over his body and then lets him through. When he gets to me the guard looks into my bag, and cups it from underneath to check the weight, and I think to myself for the hundredth time that I really need to clean it out. Satisfied that I too do not pose a threat, he waves me in.
Making my way through the crowded supermarket, I pass both Jewish and Arab shoppers, most with children in tow. Finding what I need I head to the checkout line. and start to chat with the woman ahead of me, discussing the prices of various products here and what we are preparing for the Sabbath meals. Dressed in tight jeans and a revealing blouse, she is obviously not Orthodox, but in Israel the Sabbath belongs to all Jews. I glance at the Arab woman who is ringing up the purchases, and notice that she is wearing a salwar kameez. My scarf covers my hair, and hers covers her hair and neck, but for all intents and purposes we are dressed very similarly. It reminds me of my trip to the mall recently, where I saw a beautifully dressed Arab woman wearing a gorgeous headscarf. In an alternate universe I would have come up to her to ask her where she had bought it. In today’s reality I shrugged off the opportunity, not knowing how my request would be received.
I head back, enjoying the scenery. My heart always lifts at the sight of the hills outside my window as I travel up the mountain road. For thousands of years the Jews have been wandering the globe, and I feel grateful to have been born in a time when we can make our home in the land that G-d promised us in the Bible. I also feel privileged that I can add to Israel’s security by living where I do. I shudder to think of what might happen if terrorists with rockets used our vantage point as a launching pad. The people in Tel Aviv would then suffer what the people in Sderot do now.
Back at home I rush to continue my cooking. One son comes home from dormitory high school, and drops his bag filled with dirty laundry onto the stone floor. After kissing me hello he rummages through the kitchen to see what he can grab to fill his perpetually empty teenage stomach. I remind him that it is his turn to wash the kitchen floor this week. Groaning through a mouthful of brownie, he catches my eye and nods reluctantly.
The other kids come home from school, and start their preparations. The rest of the afternoon’s chores get done in a frenzy – the clock is unmerciful. I just have enough time to shower quickly and put on fresh clothes before it is time for my husband and sons to go to the synagogue, and for me to light the Sabbath candles. Sighing contentedly I go outside to enjoy the sunset and to watch the little ones playing.
Since it is the Sabbath the children play not only in the yard and the sidewalk but in the street as well, until the familiar roar of an approaching IDF jeep signals them to scamper to the side. Jewish law prohibits driving on the Sabbath – except in cases of danger to life. Army patrols are considered necessary for our safety, and are permitted. The drivers know that the children play on the road, so they drive slowly.
As the sky turns black and the stars come out the Friday night services come to a close. My husband and sons return from the synagogue with an expected guest. My son’s best friend will join us for the festive evening meal.
There is a tradition in many families to bless the children before the Kiddush (benediction on the wine) is said at the meal. As my husband tenderly places his hands on my eldest son’s head and recites the words, I catch sight of our guest and it hits me. This boy’s father was killed a number of years ago by an Arab terrorist. The ritual being performed now is something he will always miss and I feel a wave of sorrow for him. Then I remember what my son told me recently. His friend had confided in him that he wanted people to treat him normally, and not like the poor kid whose father was killed by a terrorist. I push down the sadness as much as I can, but I am sure my smile looks forced. After the children are blessed and the Kiddush is said, we enjoy the good food and conversation into the evening.
Another Friday has turned into the Sabbath.