Una and I were spending some time together today. As the day spun by we had to visit a friend to pick up a phone for Una, something we desperately needed! Una chose to sit in the back of the van with Lou to learn the new technology. I was shotgun for Leonardo. (That’s a laugh, I couldn’t find my way out of a paper bag on Shabbat in Jerusalem)
Its complicated but here we go. Hoping to find a parking place in the narrow streets of Jerusalem Una urged Leonardo down a street and into a place to make a U turn. One turn lead to another and sooner than you can say ‘Ultra-Orthodox’, we were driving this 9 passenger van down even smaller streets AND every single person was a Hasidic Jew.
Lest you have not experienced this let me explain, They all wear black, men and women. There is no concern about the wardrobe, its black and white and black! The men wear long black jackets, black pants, white long sleeve shirts, black hats with ear locks. (they have short hair and let the side burns grow; long curled locks of hair some held back with hair clips,but most just dangling in the wind) Big black hats almost like a western hat, brim extended, all of felt!
The women are not often seen, staying at home with their large families, but today they were out in force, walking on the road and sidewalk, crossing where ever they felt like it in no particular order. It was like the penguin migration, only with people. The skirts long, hair covering for all adult women also black, no bare shoulders, layer after layer of clothing in the stifling summer afternoon.
We kept trying to find a way out, but with each turn we were driving deeper and deeper into Hasidic holy land, Mea Sharim (seemingly the land of no return). I was wearing a skirt and sleeveless top, very nice for church, but I could get a stone to the face for letting my arms show. How small can someone get in the front seat of a biggish van on tiny, narrow streets swarming with black and white penguins? No mocking, really! It was a stark picture out my front window!
More than once we had to back out of a dead end and wonder how we were going to ever see a color filled world again.I really have no idea how I was handling this( You can ask Una if I was laughing or crying), the back seats were pretty quiet and the kids just trusted that mom and dad were going to get us out of this scary mess. At one point as we were all watching behind and beside us trying to back up the van (felt like a sidewalk) the kids were offering, ” A good 2 inches over here dad, way more room to the left…” Una calls out, “Do you feel like your in a movie?”
Personally it was more of a nightmare than anything else! Then we saw a possible lane to freedom. Finally, the Jerusalem I have grown to be comfortable with, dead ahead! Una spoke, “God bless them Lord, they are trying so hard to get it right”!
I thanked Leonardo for his skillful driving and indicated I would not require a front seat from now on!!! Una was much more prepared to run shotgun along side him. I am so grateful to be leaning on the wisdom and cool headedness of these folks. But its true that we all felt a collective sigh of relief and decided to skip church for caffine ladden coke and fat filled pizza. Oh wow did that hit the spot!!
Funny how I was suddenly very aware of every Othrodox Jew as we drove on to the local pizza place. Trauma spelled, “Hasidic”