We’ve been taking it fairly easy in Jerusalem this week, after a fairly hectic couple of weeks in Egypt and Jordan. Today we went even more local, as it was Shabbat, so we did practically nothing. The country shuts down to a degree which would be familiar to anyone who grew up in Australia in the 1970s. No shops are open (not even corner shops), the trains and buses don’t run, and the lady in the supermarket looked at me very strangely yesterday when I asked whether they would be open today.
For the the idle visitors like us, it is quite lovely. We didn’t have to get anywhere, and it was nice to be in the parks in the sun shine with lots of other people who were relaxing. Wandering around the streets this morning we saw family groups also strolling – probably to and from synagogues. Everyone seemed happy, and relaxed, compared with the more work a day faces we had seen so far.
Since we are living in a conservative neighbourhood, we were seeing much more Shabbat observance than is normal in Israel. A 2007 poll found that only 27% of Israeli Jews keep Shabbat, and 53% do not keep Shabbat at all. So there are increasing tensions about the very strict, government controlled shut down that happens once a week.
As a visitor, I found it lovely, for one day. Almost enough to make me wish back those 1970s days when Australia completely shut down on Sundays. But only almost.