On a third floor balcony across the street from me in central Jerusalem, a strange ceremony is taking place. On one side of the balcony stands a heavy-set religious man with a an oversized white dress and a huge black skullcap, and on the other side an attractive young blond woman, dressed in colorful clothes, sits. The man steps over to the lady and puts a towel over her head. Then he walks over to a table in the center of the balcony, takes a frying pan and a huge spoon and walks over to her. He pours liquid over her head, over and over again, and steps back. This process, obviously a ritual, is repeated another four times. Once done, the lady walks back into the inside of the house and the man follows.
This ceremony, done by a rabbi, is one of the newest “miracles” performed for a fee, for the purported purpose of “getting the demons out.”
It is the Eve of Shavuot and it’s recommended, of course, that ladies will celebrate the holiday free of demons.
On the streets nearby, stores close one by one. No one here dares to have his or her store operating on a Jewish holiday. This is God’s city and God doesn’t like people doing business on holidays — unless, of course, they’re getting rid of demons.
Night soon falls and I walk out to the establishments that are open on God’s days: Synagogues. Tonight, Israel’s Chief Sephardic Rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef, is speaking at the Great Synagogue of Jerusalem, and I go to listen. The esteemed rabbi discusses the issue of a “Kushi” (a disparaging term for people with dark skin) who converts to Judaism: What kind of a Jew should the Kushi be? Sephardic or Ashkenazi?
I go to the next synagogue, Jeshurun. Here a Haredi professor discusses children of surrogate mothers. What will happen, asks the esteemed scholar, if either the mother or the surrogate mother is a “Goya” (non-Jew): Will the child be a Jew, or must the “two mothers” be Jewish in order for the child to be recognized as a Jew?
As far as I can tell, on this holiday of Shavuot I’ll either become a learned man or I’ll lose my mind.
I think I should go to Tel Aviv. I need a rest from so much studying. The Rolling Stones are having a concert in Tel Aviv later in the day and I need some fresh air.
Well, fresh air might be too much to ask today. According to my iPhone, the temperatures now stand at 99 degrees.
My taxi driver, luckily, is in a good mood and he puts on the air conditioner.
I want to go to the Rolling Stones concert, I tell him.
“Who are they?” he asks.
“Rolling Stones! Don’t you know?”
“Who are they?”
“A music band from England.”
“You like music? Good music?”
“I’ll take you to listen to good music. I’ll turn on the radio for you and you’ll hear the best music there is!”