Timing Out in the Levant

I’m happy to be in Israel on the Friday morning before Shabbat, when the country takes a break from politics and from time itself, switches from the contemporary Israel to an eternal space.   The seaside city of Nahariya is like most resorts in winter – a bit tawdry, strange to itself, a place that shivers at sixty degrees.  The Levantine stain is on the once white tile.  It’s on the white Mercedes and on the third-generation white Bauhaus buildings.  Souk alleyways have given way to ’60s alleyways, little stainless steel stands that sell falafel (everywhere), hummus and salads.  Mattress stores and cheap clothes on street side racks and aging Russian furriers watch women pass by in fake furs.

We arrived Thursday night when the full moon was shining over the darkened desert hills.  Now people are now shopping for their challahs, their chicken, their pomegranates, oranges, salads.   As the sun warms the early afternoon, people sit talking in outdoor cafes.  The faces, even in the predominant Jewish community, are fascinatingly diverse.  It makes you ask, What is a Jew?  In the meantime, green parrots walk on the  electric wires between shaggy eucalyptus trees.  Shabbat Shalom.

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