A Thursday In Rishon

It’s a typical Thursday morning in Rishon Lezion. I’m up early. Wash, dress, recite my Thursday prayers and out the door, walk to the corner of Ahad Ha-am Street to pick up my daily copy of Yisrael Hayom and wait for the bus to bring me to my favorite shopping mall, Kanyon HaZahav. A light breakfast at Aroma or Cup O’ Joe, newspaper in one hand, mug of steaming coffee in the other. No milk. No sugar. Black as the night. And delicious.

Then I continue my routine of walking through the mall, all three floors, browsing in windows, watching mothers holding the hands of young children who want to ride on the white pony machine. Nothing to buy. Prices are high and the quality of mens’ clothing is lacking. Almost everything bears a “made in China” label . I miss the days when I could buy an Israeli-made suit at OBG in Tel-Aviv.

I leave the mall and take the bus to the giant supermarket, Chatzi Chinam. Nothing is “chinam” (free) but the quality of fruits and vegetables is superb. And the catered food department is the most tempting. I buy two schnitzels and a half kilo of goulash, my favorite, challot for Shabbat from the fresh bakery section and yummy cookies which I devour before leaving the supermarket.

Bus #11 is waiting and I board for the return ride home. As I put the key in the door lock I hear my telephone ringing. I rush in, put the bag of groceries on the table and run to the phone. It’s Micha, my friend for almost 65 years since I first arrived in Rishon Lezion in 1951.

“Nu? I’m making moussaka for erev Shabbat tomorrow. Are you coming?” It is Micha’s usual Thursday invitation and as always I accept. Two hours later his sister, Elisheva, calls to remind me that I am expected to come for lunch on Shabbat after I return from the synagogue. They are my oldest living friends in Rishon from the days of my youth. Hayu zmanim. Those were the days !

I ask both of them what I’m supposed to do with the schnitzels and goulash which I have just bought. “Put them in the refrigerator or the freezer and eat them during the week”. It’s the same answer every week and I wonder to myself what’s the purpose of my buying Shabbat food when I don’t eat it on Shabbat.

But Shabbat with beloved friends in Rishon is something that I cherish. The Talmudic adage reminds me “o chevruta o mituta”….. give me friendship or give me death. A life without good friends is not a life.

The groceries have been put away. Now I begin to do a little “sponja”…mopping the floors and vacuuming the rugs for a clean Shabbat. When finished, I make myself a cup of coffee, sit on the couch and continue reading Yisrael Hayom. Then I look at my watch. Is it time to call my children in America? There is a seven hour time difference and I want to wish them a pre-shabbat shalom.

If the weather is seasonably pleasant, I sit on my mirpeset (balcony) facing the main street and watch the traffic, pedestrian and motorized, all passing by under my balcony. Where is everyone going? So many cars. So many buses. So many people chatting in only God knows how many different languages.

The sun is beginning to set over the Mediterranean. Another Thursday is coming to an end. Soon it will be time for bed. Laila tov. Shaina metooka . Chalomot ne-imim…. Good night. Sweet sleep. Pleasant dreams.

Tomorrow is another day.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.