A touch of Tel Aviv has come to Jerusalem. Conversion of the vacant old train station to a trendy new First Station complex with restaurants, shops, and entertainment, has brought new life to a mostly unused outpost at the edge of the Emek Refaim neighborhood in Jerusalem's German Colony.
During the week, it's been welcomed by residents and tourists. But on Friday afternoon, as Shabbat approaches and the rest of the city's culinary and artistic venues shut down for 24 hours, there is ambivalence and uncertainty about where this may lead.
Orthodox residents are concerned about Shabbat violations and a loss of the special qualities of a day of rest, but some are taking advantage of having a new destination for Shabbat walks and window shopping for purchases to be made after Shabbat is over.
Secular Jerusalemites are happy to have dining options (kosher and non-kosher) on Shabbat, and some are finding new ways to find spiritual meaning in Shabbat observance with music and dance.
As Nathan Jeffay reported in The Forward this week,
The 400 people assembled include Jews from secular to Orthodox. All of this is taking place in Jerusalem, the city that has a reputation as dominated by Haredi zealotry — just a few minutes drive from the Western Wall where this year women holding communal prayers have been pelted with eggs.
As of this spring the city has a new trendy recreational venue called the First Train Station with cafes, restaurants and in the middle a stage and seating. During the summer every Friday a group of musicians takes to the stage and performs a funky version of the synagogue service to welcome the Sabbath, Kabbalat Shabbat. The performance varies depending on which group leads it, but there tends to be original tunes and catchy chants that help those unfamiliar with the service to get involved.
When Jerusalem’s Bridge of Strings opened in 2008 the city famously insisted that the girls in a performance troupe wore shapeless clothing on top of their outfits for the sake of modesty — and there have been numerous controversies in Israel about women being prevented from singing at public events.
But here, two energetic women dominate the stage, one in a sleeveless top and one with short sleeves, singing and jumping up and down.
“Maybe this is the beginning of a new development of non-religious people coming to see Jewish culture as something that doesn’t necessarily need to be done the Orthodox way,” said Adi Talmon, a middle-aged secular Jerusalemite as he looked at the scene approvingly.
Talmon has become a regular because “as a non-religious person I think it’s great to finish the week with Kabbalat Shabbat — every person has his own Shabbat and this is to separate between the sacred and the mundane.”So where is this headed? Take a stroll through the First Station in the video below and share your thoughts with fellow readers via the comments box.
Enjoy and Shabbat Shalom!
(A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS: THE VIDEO MAY NOT BE VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY ON SOME COMPUTERS AND TABLETS. YOU MUST CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO.)