This has been quite a week and as the title of this entry infers, I have witnessed some note-worthy endings and new beginnings. The first involved me in something that I thought I was prepared for—a funeral. The latter marked the beginning of the new school year in Israel with a few very sweet notes.
At this point I must tell you that I have just finished writing about the vast and unexpected differences between any Asheknazic funeral that I had previously attended and this one (Sephardic). I described the rather surprising procedures and rituals that reminded me that I am still an alien here in Israel, even if I have proof of citizenship. But then I deleted the description. All of it. I don’t think I would want someone to describe my mother’s funeral with a sense of detachment or as an intellectual/religious curiosity. This family had just come all the way from the United States to bury their mother. Not some place nearby where they could come before the high holidays to pay respects or to just visit on a day when they felt the need to be close to her. They were fulfilling their mother’s wish to be buried in Israel. I will tell you that this same family made the exact same trip here just two months ago to bury their younger sister. I will tell you that the entire experience will stay with me for a very long time, as I think about the endless singular, private stories that occur all over this big blue orb even as I write these words. We sometime forget that all the unnamed and uncounted beings out there are just as involved in their own lives as we are in ours.
On to Beginnings.
A new school year began in Israel this week. It was preceded in the very same way that I have always been aware of—children getting new school clothes (hopefully), backpacks, empty notebooks filled with nothing but the promise of the knowledge to come; new shoes, and worries about who their classmates will be, if they’ll like their teachers, and a host of other scenarios that are comfortably familiar to us. I watched as the religious girls walked to school in their black skirts, stockings, sensible shoes, and long-sleeved T-shirts (it actually has gotten a bit cooler here—now in the 80’s rather than 90’s at night) as they filed into their school buildings. The boys dressed sensibly and respectfully as well, but walked into a different school. Secular kids wore skin-tight jeans and tank tops and anything BUT sensible schools. Style über alles. But you want to know something sweet? I love the sound of the school bells. No anxiety-provoking ringing as a metal hammer trills against a metal bell, signaling to the kids that they’d better book it to the next class lest they be late. No feeling that you had just heard the starting bell at The Preakness. Nope. This is more like the sweet, electronic sound that the ice cream truck makes as it winds its way through your neighborhood on a long, lazy summer day. And the song? A combination of some old French children’s song, and then . . . “Oh My Darlin’ Clementine.”
When you figure that one out, tell me.
An now, just to give you a treat, here are two photos taken this morning at the local shuk. The fellow on the left is holding bunches of dates that have just been chopped down from the date palms. Someone told me today that these are female dates, as opposed to those that are dried and that we eat. Not sure. Don’t quote me on this.
And the photo on the right shows you one of the many fruit and vegetable vendors there. Monday and Thursday mornings, you’ll find me at the shuk, buying way too much food (I still think I’m cooking for a family), and finding myself getting lost in the variety of colors, smells, shapes, and sizes.
And those are just the people.