The 11th Floor

A Perpsective Overlooking Jerusalem, Israeli Life, and Talmud Torah

Monday, April 02, 2007

Who burned the biscuts, Or, The long line at the car wash

This morning, all of Jerusalem smelled like burnt bread. It's about as surprising a scent here the morning before Passover as incense would be surprising in a Greek Orthodox church on a Sunday morning. It may be the one day that pyromaniacs and people with an unusual hatred of baguettes have a ritual to celebrate together.

People heap leftover pita, dry challah and breakfast cereal into hastily made bonfires which let columns of smoke waft heavenward, if I may be so poetic. When it comes to some ultra-orthodox, the plastic bags these things come in also go into the fire, which makes the smoke change from the scent of burnt biscuits to the smell of a tire fire, which is not so poetic. Unlike parents in the US, israeli children are encouraged to poke the fire with sticks, get too close to the flames, and watch stuff burn at their leisure. Most of the bonifires are on empty lots, old train track lots and other public spaces, which allows one to see the cross-section of religious groups in J'lem. Everyone from Hasisim in gabardines and long side-curls to girls in jeans and university sweatshirts shuffle over to put their bread to the fire. Then they all shuffle away to leave the fire unattended by anyone. (I should contrast this with Baltimore, where all the Jews bring their chometz to one location and have it burned by people who know how to make a conflagration of dangerous proportions- the Baltimore Fire Department.)

There are only a handful of car washes in Jerusalem, and it seems that they are rarely put to task. This morning, they are getting a work-out as car owners here in the Holy City suddenly become neat freaks. Lines were long this morning, as Jews tried to vacuum out the chametz from inside thier cars- and wash three months of crap off the outside while they were at it.

Of course, bread may be burned, but few Jerusalemites have the stomach for wasting other foods that are not consumed on the holiday. Hence the artfully arranged heaps of lentils or mustard jars I saw set out on several fences, walls and driveways. Jerusalemites also don't throw out books; they leave them near trash cans or walkway fences in neat piles. You can also tell who is Sefaradi this way; those who can eat kitniyot don't have as much stuff piled up for the taking outside their homes before passover.

And now, your Jerusalem Moment for April:
You can buy Mezzuzot in the home supply store. They are at Home Center (pronounced "Ohm Senter"), just by the drapes and window dressings in aisle 8.
Hey, it's hardware.

Chag Sameach!


(photo: View of Jerusalem's Nachla'ot and Machne Yehuda from the Supreme Court Building)

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