Sophia's Peace Work

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Spittin' Hasidims of Al Quds (Jerusalem)

I recently came back from a holiday trip that involved traveling with two friends to Jordan and Israel/Palestine. We had a lovely trip working through Petra and staying at the Ammarin Desert Camp and then returning to Amman on the King's Highway, then on to Al Quds where we took one day to go down to Al Khaleel (Hebron) and Bethleham (Literally in Arabic, this means "House of Meat"). We saw the ridiculous wall and the massive checkpoints of Bethleham and later Ramallah.

But it was while were were in Jerusalem that we had one of the more memorable events of our trip occur. One of my friends had read in the Lonely Planet that the the Hasidic (Ultra-orthodox Jewish) area of Jerusalem was an interesting places to visit. We needed to wear conservative clothing but it should be fine.

So on Christmas Eve at about 4:30 pm, we took off to find this area ... which wasn't too hard (just watch for the men wearing long, black frock coats and big black hats or fur hats on their heads, which also featured long hanging side curls of hair on either side of their face). As we approached the neighborhood though we saw a sign that said "Groups entering our neighborhood are offensive to our community. Please stop this."

We hesitated a moment but felt that the sign was referring to big gauking tourist groups, not to three conservatively dressed and respectful women such as ourselves. So we forged ahead. There were many people on the street ... men and boys dressed as previously mentioned and women in long shirts. It was the start of Shabbat and many were heading to the Western Wall or to Synagogues. We did start to feel that we stuck out a bit.

Then once we were in the heart of the community, I passed a middle-aged man in a large fur hat, with my friends close behind me. Immediately, a string of Yiddish explatives exploded behind us (in which I distinctly heard the word "Shiksa", a pejorative term for non-jewish women) and the distinct hocking sound as the man spit at us. I never looked back (forge ahead and damn the torpedos being my usual motto) and my friends scooted up close behind and beside me.

We looked for a side turn to get us out of the neighborhood but once we found it faced another spitter! Finally we were free and high-tailed it back to the old city.
After we got back my friend looked at her Lonely Planet guide a bit more closely and saw that it advised avoiding the area during Shabbat. Dang, if only we had known!

Later that night we decided to go to a bar and each drink a shot and make a toast to the spitters. I toasted them, "To the spitting Hasidims of Al Quds, may they learn some tolerance." Then we made a dismal job of burning an effigy of that very intolerance (we soaked the napkin in too much vodka!).

We later had a field day classifing everyone we saw as either potential "spitters" or "smilers" ... and we definitely steered clear of all the Hasidims we later saw ... maybe they are not spitting, but perhaps they are thinking about spitting!!!

Ah what a world we live in!


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