I’ll be very frank and say that I would have preferred not to be spending Sabbath in Jerusalem. Public transportation, shops and key attractions were closed, and most importantly, the money-changers were closed too. But the inconveniences aside, it was actually quite a day like no other.
The complete shut down of the Jerusalem on Sabbath took us by surprise. We were walking through an upmarket mall with international brands, and even the likes of Zara and The Body Shop were closed by 3pm on Friday.
Most of the restaurants surrounding us, including Pizza Hut were closed by dinnertime. We eventually made do with dinner comprising pita bread and canned cod liver which was quite delicious on its own, and instant noodles, bought from a convenience store ran by an Arabic shopkeeper. It was good that we had bought some craft beers earlier.
On Saturday morning, we did some research via Google, and found that there was a restaurant open for business. There was hardly anyone around except foreigners. Feeling hungry from the simple dinner the night before, I had steak & eggs, which were decent, though I must say the steak was a tad well-done for my liking.
The only attraction left on our list, within walking distance was the Israel Museum.
As public transport had come to a complete standstill, we decided to walk to the Israel Museum, which was 30 minutes away on foot. The walk was a pleasant one given the cool temperatures of spring in Jerusalem, and the silence and serenity of the city, only to be stirred occasionally by the mechanical whirl from the engine of a lone car.
During our walk, we came across a Jewish family dressed to their nines, similar to how families in Singapore would dress up for Sunday service. The men were dressed in black hats and suits, similar to that of Orthodox Jews you see in New York. The ladies were clad in elegant dresses. However as we walked past the suburbs, the houses were quiet too, which makes me wonder and want to find out, what exactly goes on at a Jewish home during Sabbath.
Our walk was a nice one, though hunger-inducing. When the chaos of a modern city stops, perhaps only then will the subtle beauty of the city start to reveal itself. In the form of a perfect red tulip amidst a dry grass patch near the of the Israel Museum.
This scene still lingers in my mind, six months on. In an almost deserted city, we stumbled upon a playground with a man sitting on the park bench, watching his kid run freely around the playground, letting out shrieks of delight in a world without cares or consequences. There was no one else except for us and them.
My grandfather had passed away the night before, and I found this scene strangely comforting. It was as if nature had sensed my sadness and had a response to my grief.
My attention drew away from the boy and his father, to a white cherry blossom tree which sheltered the park bench they were sitting on. It was in full bloom – pure, serene and elegant, a rare sight. And yet I knew at that moment, it was ever-changing, with the seasons of time.
*I have no botany experience and have no means of determining if that is a cherry blossom tree. But it sure does look like one. : )