“There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the Lord.” —Leviticus 23:3
“Shabbat Shalom!” is the greeting used here for Shabbat (sabbath) weekly here. People greet each other with that phrase in stores, on streets…even the tour site announcements on intercoms began with “Shabbat Shalom!”
Shabbat in Israel has been a real learning experience for me. It began Friday evening and lasted until Saturday evening—reflecting the rest God took during His work of creation. No work can be done on Shabbat, and many things here are arranged to accomodate that. El Al doesn’t fly. Stores and government services are all closed, with the exception of things needed for security and other urgent services. People do all their cooking ahead of time, and eat only pre-prepared cold foods. I got stuck in the “shabbat elevator” at our hotel—it stopped automatically at every floor (and does so all day every day anyway) so passengers need not press a button. Even the air conditioning and lights in my room have a shabbat setting—meaning they go off automatically so no switch-flipping is required. (Today I have to find out how to turn that off; the last two nights I got up regularly to get the air back on . . . the only way we found we could do that was to open and close the hotel room door!)
Even though these practices are quite foreign to my American sensibilities, what a witness to God’s command to rest! I am always busy busy busy. Even when sitting still I have a million things processing in my mind (or on my laptop!). Watching a whole country shut down for 24 hours proves that all that “busy-ness” is not required . . . life can be lived without constant work! (Who’d a thunk it?)
I’ve spent a little rest time with the Lord this Sunday morning out on the balcony of the hotel. Just sitting and watching, listening, drinking in this city that oddly feels comfortable. Like someone said to me last night, it feels like we’ve come home to a city we’ve never been in before. The promises made to Abraham are also given to Christians, grafted into the family of Abraham by faith, so we also are promised the restoration of God’s holy city, so that could be why. Yesterday I purchased a beautiful pendant; it is silver with mixed colours of roman glass in it, and the silver detail shows a fish grafted into the Star of David, with a menorah atop both. I loved it so much when I saw it, because of its reminder of my heritage with Israel as part of the family of God.
It’s been very quiet til just a little bit ago; I’ve been listening to crickets, and a dog barking somewhere in the distance. The soft rumble of a few cars is turning slowly into an occasional hum. A few birds chirp off in the distance, hopefully enjoying the cool morning air like I am, and watching the sky go from a slate greyblue to brighter sky blue, with a tinge of purple all around the horizon.
Well it’s about time to go off for another day of touring, and the convention begins this evening . . . I should be posting more pictures again when I get home, but depending on how crazy the schedule gets, time may be more limited for the rest of the trip; they tell us we’ll be busy busy busy so I guess that means Shabbat really is over!