Friday is an interesting day here in Jerusalem. Before the Shabbat, which commences at sundown, the place to be is the shuk in Machneyuda. The shuk is a market with every imaginable fresh food, sweets, breads, meat, fish, spices and everything in between. On Friday, it becomes packed with people all buying their food for the weekend as well as a large contingent of tourists eager to explore the lively alleys. It is quite an experience visiting on any day, but on Fridays there is an extra buzz of life as people from all backgrounds, religious persuasions and tourists and locals alike explore the winding narrow alleys, tasting the fresh market offerings.
We ventured there around 2pm to meet up with my partner’s cousin – he would be our guide. Our instructions were to come hungry! We met up in one of the bustling alleys and sat down in a busy and narrow bar. This would be our lunch, kubbe. Kubbe are large meat-filled dumplings in a clear, sour tasting soup with vegetables. It was delicious. As we ate, more and more people packed into narrow space to order bowls of kubbe, so once we were done we cleared the way for other hungry patrons.
The next stop was a tiny Spanish themed tapas bar called ‘Que pasa’. The bars in the shuk only have room for about four people inside so the chairs spill out into the pedestrian thoroughfare. There are no seats I thought, we might need to find somewhere else. Wrong. We were with locals. Our guide quickly conjured up a few chairs from thin air and we were soon seated sipping an exceptionally large beer. More and more people came to join our table and slowly our group began to occupy most of the seating area.
This was not to be the last stop. We were about to meander our way to our next pit-stop, a Greek style tavern with live music. I then remembered, we were supposed to buy challah. Challah is a platted bread that is traditionally eaten at the Friday night dinner. My partner’s cousin assured us there would be ample bakery supplies en-route. We stopped at the first bakery. All the challah was sold. This could be a problem.
My partner decided he would go on a mission to find challah and catch up to the rest of us at the Greek music taverna. So I wandered along with his cousin. Up until this time, almost all the conversation had been in Hebrew. I don’t mind at all, but from time to time, it can feel a bit awkward sitting there smiling and nodding without really understanding what is going on. On the way to the taverna tough, we struck up a good conversation in English.
As we approached the taverna, loud music and clapping could be heard. Cries of ‘oohhpaa’ and laughter were coming from a small bar on the corner of the street. We entered and people were dancing and clapping to the Greek music that was being played. The band looked on happily to see the enjoyment their music was bringing.
We ordered a drink and we all chatted a bit more. Then, we danced. It occurred to me that nothing brings humans together quite like a bit of music, dancing and alcohol. In fact, as I watched all the people in the taverna, I could see the diversity in the crowd. But we all had one thing in common, our enjoyment of the music that was playing and the desire to dance and be part of it. It is a nice thought that no matter where you are in this world, music and dancing will always bring people together.
The afternoon was getting long and we all had to be back in time for Friday night dinner. So, we said our goodbyes and went home – to eat more! Fortunately we had been able to get our hands on some challah so we would not disappoint the family when we returned. Prepared for us was a delicious meal of fish and meat and many salads to accompany. We sat around sharing our stories, laughing and chatting well into the evening.