Monday, July 28, 2014

Kippah Stories

So much has happened this summer in Israel. It’s difficult to record– let alone remember it all. 

It almost feels frivolous writing about non-war related experiences, but, on the other hand, perhaps it’s important to do so. To show that life goes on regardless. 

Study, worry, play, dining out, touring, more worry, protest, listening to the news, meeting people from all sides (not both sides b/c as Jews – or perhaps just humans – we know there are never just 2 sides of any issue).  I’ve partaken in all these things this summer. As well as prayer. Oh, and shopping.

However, no Israel experience blog of mine would be complete without Kippah Stories. There are actually fewer than usual of substance this summer, but there are a few. 

Here they are: 

✡ A young religious girl at the Friday morning Jerusalem Crafts Fair on Bezalel Street doing a complete double take – turning herself completely physically around while still holding onto her mother’s hand – so that she wouldn’t lose sight of the novelty of me (or actually my kippah bedecked head).

✡ The family man with wife and small children who approached me, my daughter and our friend Rachel at the First Station in Jerusalem. We were eating dinner outdoors at a restaurant and he asked if he could take a picture of us – me and Rachel actually – because we were two women wearing kippot. I think that was Rachel’s second time that day being photographed!

✡  Then there was the “cool” (at least in his own mind) guy on the motorcycle who did an illegal U across traffic on Keren Hayesod (a main street in Jerusalem) on a late Friday afternoon to ask me if I were a rabbi because I was wearing a kippah. (Jennie and I were waiting for a taxi to take us to a friend’s for Shabbat dinner.) He ended up with one wheel on the sidewalk and one in the road in front of a car that hadn’t quite come to a stop and was about to hit him! All because he saw my kippah from across the road and felt an urgent need to question me about it! Why did the chicken cross the road? We talked for a few minutes and then he left to try to pick up a woman waiting on the next block! 

There have been quite a few other instances of quick looks, a shopkeeper asking to photograph y kippah b/c he liked the design, questions from other shop keepers that usually end with a Kol haKavod -- translated in this case mostly to “you go girl! (from women) with a few “you are off your rocker” meanings thrown in for good measure (often from kippah wearing men in their 20s). But I’ve saved the best for last.

✡  Last week I was walking down HaMelech George (King George Street) toward the Conservative Yeshiva. I was concentrating on the text message I was sending and therefore wasn’t very aware of what was going on around me. Gradually I heard voices gradually raising around/toward/behind me, in Hebrew, saying “Give me a blessing!” Finally I looked around and realized the voices were aimed at me!

There were 3 young men, probably early 20, hanging out and smoking cigarettes in front of the ice cream freezer at the local makolet (like a mini-mart or bodega).  They wore kippot and looked to be Mizrachi (Jews of Eastern descent). 

Anyway, I walked back to them and the following conversation ensued in hebrew:

Me: Are you talking to me? 
They: Yes. Give us a blessing? 
Me: Why?
They: Because you are a Rabbanit, a Rabbah. Give us a blessing.
Me: How do you know I am a Rabbah? 
They: Because you are wearing a kippah. Give us a blessing.
Me: So you saw this woman wearing a kippah and figured she had to be a rabbah and started yelling at her – me to give you a blessing. And when I didn’t hear you, you kept yelling louder and louder until I heard you. All because I was wearing a kippah. 
They: Yes. Give us a blessing. 
Me: Again, why?
They: because if you were a Rav (a male rabbi) you would give us a blessing.
Me: (at that point I gave up or in) Okay…. (thinking hard, I’d never done this off the cuff before)  “Bracha shel shalom v’osher.”
They: (the two sort of smarmy ones smile, the third quiet one stays silent) OK. Thanks.  
Me: (I start to walk away)
They: Wait a minute! 
Me: (I turn around) yes? 
They: Osher with an Aleph or an Ayin
Me:  (Ya’Allah!) hmmm  Osher with an Aleph.
They: (2 nodding, 1 silent) Okay, thanks. 
Me: (I start to walk away again)
They: Wait a minute! 
Me: (I turn around again) Yes? 
They: Maybe also with an Ayin
Me: Ok. “Bracha shel shalom v’osher im aleph V’ayin!”**
They: All 3, including the silent sad one, nod all around and give me huge smiles and sincere thanks. 

**NOTE: Osher with an Aleph means happiness; Osher with an Ayin means wealth

That was at first a puzzling exchange, but the more I thought about it, the more I decided it was in fact a lovely exchange. 

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