Last Friday our 3 week intensive Hebrew program ended and Frank and Charlotte (Adina) Mecklenberg came to our Kibbutz to drive us to their apartment in Arad. Along the way we stopped in Dimona which used to be a small dusty hamlet of a few thousand souls. It is booming…all kinds of stores and large apartment buildings being built…absolutely amazing. Arad has a sizeable religious population and Frank has about 10 synagogues within walking distance of his apartment. We sampled several shuls that he goes to and enjoyed a sweet Shabbat.
A Study In Contrasts:
I was struck in Arad by the incredible contrast that one experiences in Israel. In Arad there are many Arabs and many ultra-Orthodox Jews, living and working side by side in apparent harmony. The contrasts can be mind boggling:
I saw Arab men wearing keffiyot (photo #1) and a Bedouin Arab woman who was covered head to toe (photo #2). There are several levels of Muslim head coverings for women ranging from Hijab to Chador to Niqab to the most severe which is a Burqa. This woman was in a Burqa, as no part of her body or her face was showing. No more than 100 feet away was a lingerie shop called Serenity with a very different style of clothing (photo #3). You will admit the contrast is extreme! Victoria Secret meets Saudi Arabia….Oy!
The Arab woman wasn’t the only one with a long black coat, many Orthodox Jewish women wear long black skirts for modesty and so do the men. (photo #4: the pink bag adds a dash of color!) Frank and Charlotte have undertaken to beautify the yard in front of their building. This is a bit unusual in Arad so I took a photo of what a yard normally looks like (photo #5) and another photo showing the beautification project they have done (photo #6)
As I say the contrasts are amazing….
Two Stories From Arad:
While in Arad I wanted a hair cut…sounds simple enough. Near Frank and Charlotte’s building there is a woman with a barber shop on the first floor. I told her in the States I get a very simple cut, a ”#2 all over” and asked of the numbers were the same in Israel. She said yes but I really would look better with a #3 haircut. She told me the girls will like me better (this is all in Hebrew of course). I said I really wanted a #2 because I had 6 more weeks in Israel and did not want to need another haircut while in Israel…She said ’look, I will do a #3 and if you don’t like it I will cut off some more so you will end up with a #2. She pointed out that she could quickly cut off more but it would not be so easy to grow it back if I decided I wanted it longer, so I agreed. She gave me the haircut and while she was cutting I kept going over the conversation…….At the end I asked her “Please tell me truly when a person comes into your shop and asks for a #2 haircut why do you give him a #3 haircut”? She thought a bit and said “The best shekel (coin) is the truth….my #2 clippers is broken”!
There are several direct busses from Arad to Jerusalem every day and they are generally full of Chasidim because that’s normally who is going to Jerusalem. Judy and I got on the bus and as I thought, there were only 2 or 3 non-Chasidim on the bus. After a bit I hear two Chasidim in front of us discussing something in Yiddish. I looked over and noticed a form in English and they were discussing how to fill it out. Turns out it’s a form W-9 from the IRS. Of course I butted in and explained that I have filled out such a form several times and I could help them. They welcomed the intrusion. Turns out the one was born in the US and was educated exclusively in Yiddish and moved to Israel when he was 10, which explains why an English speaking American was speaking Hebrew to explain an IRS form to a Yiddish speaking American in the middle of the Negev desert!
Next Report: Jerusalem and visits with Sarah Shapiro and Miriam Fisher!
Sent with Blessings,