18 Feb SABBATH IN JERUSALEM
By Cristina Millan
Everyone, who is a bit curious or observant and has the opportunity of taking a walk by the Old City in Jerusalem on Friday at the sunset, will be able to understand how important, even vital, religion is for Jewish people, especially ultra orthodox ones.
Last week Annika and I were walking around the Armenian Quarter in the Old City and we decided to go to the Jewish one in order to continue our visit. In fact, the Armenian compound is a monastery which is closed for tourists and, in general, for those who don’t live there or try to enter without a guide, so after going around the Armenian neighborhood, we got bored and decided to go to the Jewish Quarter just before the sunset.
The point is that every Friday, when sunset, Sabbath starts and Jerusalem, one of the most religious cities around the world, stands still: all the transportation, every shop, almost every pub and, in general, everything in the West part closes until the next sunset on Saturday. As well as, Fridays are holy days for Muslims; therefore, except some Christian Palestinians who open their business, these 24 hours are almost off in Jerusalem, especially for foreigners such as Annika and me.
In this way, in Sabbath ultra orthodox Jewish can’t use any electrical tool such as lights, cars, elevators, ovens and every tool which needs electricity or any ‘artificial’ energy, different to the human one, to work. Because of this, Sabbath is time to pray and it is also when Ultra orthodox Jewish couples can be watched by walking along Highways, close to Jerusalem, with their four or five children because they can’t use a different tool than their body.
Furthermore, when Sabbath starts if you decide to go to the Jewish Quarter and, in general, the Old City, as Annika and I did last week; you will have the opportunity to see how religious Jewish people are in a hurry to arrive at the Western Wall to pray. You will have the opportunity to see hordes of Jewish youngsters by singing and dancing in group in their way to the Western Wall. They get crazy, like in a catharsis state, and they totally invade the Old City ‘in name of religion’.
In the beginning of Sabbath, you can see the Western Wall totally crowded with hundreds of Jewish praying, singing and dancing. And as well, in this moment, at the sunset, you can also hear the call for praying in every Mosque! It is really crazy! If you let yourself go with the flow of this catatonic moment, you will feel the huge pressure Jerusalemites live with; you will feel like a kind of war through religions, by praying and singing. For me and my imagination, it was like a cold war in order to determine which nation is stronger and more religious, which nation has a stronger presence in Jerusalem and, definitely, in order to determine which nation deserves Jerusalem.
And, from my point of view, in this way is like Jewish and Muslims use religion as a war tool every Friday at sunset.