Wednesday, November 30, 2011

back in Palolem, day 3, Jewish House

Friday, November 30th, 2007

I found Nadine and Pascal still at the beach, with not much intention of going anywhere... They also moved up the beach, close to where my beach hut is, but they're right on the beach.

At lunch, I met my Israeli friends at the restaurant again. They were having a conversation about God, with one of the girls saying she knows God exits, that she can see Him in everything she looks at. The only guy in the group retorted, "If God exists, why did the Holocaust happen?" On both sides of the debate, it wasn't something I hand any interest of getting involved with, but he then said he liked Buddhism because Buddhist don't believe in God, and asked me what I thought. I hesitated, trying to formulate a diplomatic response as quickly as possible, and said, "It doesn't really matter if there's God or not. Just be kind to each other." I hope it was a good answer, it didn't draw any negative response, anyway. It did segue the conversation onto the topic of Jesus, though, whom they all had the same general opinion of, he was a good teacher, but not the son of God...

After eating, I walked around the beach with Neta, talking about more simple things. She told me tonight was special time at the "Jewish House", where she'd gone the previous evenings, and said she had promised she would go help and that I was welcome to join her. She explained "Shabbat" to me but I was too stuck on Sunday being the day of rest to really get it. Anyway, I said I was interested, so we planned to meet in an hour.

I think the only thing I knew about Jewish people before then was that they made the best bagels in Montreal (it's true, I'm not just saying that to be funny...) but I was about to have a serious crash course in Jewish culture.

It was just a short walk past the market, behind the coconut grove that lined the beach, until we came to a small house with the sandy yard closed in with blankets, and the Jewish House sign over the arch way, written in blue Israeli script. There was an Indian woman preparing the grounds for the outdoor meal along with a few young Israelis I recognized from the beach, two small, blonde haired boys running around playing, and a woman in white robes and a white scarf wrapped around her head. Neta introduced me to her (I couldn't pronounce her name, let alone remember it...) and she spoke English very well. She talked to me a lot while they were setting up, explaining things to me, quizzing me on my knowledge of Jewish Angles, and talking about Palolem the first time she visited. She said she burst into tears seeing it this time, with all the development that's taken place.

At one point, I mentioned the things she was telling me about Judaism sounded very similar to what I'd been learning in Korea so she told me that's because the sons of Abraham went to all corners of the world spreading the teaching, but each of them were missing something in their teachings, so only the Israeli people had the entire teaching. Personally, I'm not fond of claims of "the only truth" but being a guest in their house, I gave my thoughts a 500 meter restraining order from my tongue and any of the nerves connecting my brain to it and nodded with a smile.

When I later mentioned that I didn't realize Rabbis could have families she shot back, "Anyone can get enlightenment sitting on top of a mountain, but try getting enlightened with a house full of kids!" I wasn't sure if I agreed with her or not, but I was too busy laughing to worry about biting my tongue! Though, even in solitude on top of the mountain, a house full of kids is really nothing when confronted with yourself...

She brought me inside to get a hat for Shabbat. One of her young sons came and picked out a white one with a black symbol embroidered on top. Inside, I met her husband who was helping prepare the food. He was tall with a long frizzy beard that seemed to contradict the child-like quality of his face, and long locks that hung from his white head-piece. He didn't seem to speak English as well as his wife but he welcomed me with a warm smile.

Neta explained that they were Breslov Hasidic Jews, which didn't make any difference to me (not knowing what the difference was), and that there aren't really any Rabbis in this sect, but that he is like a Rabbi. The sect they follow is only about 200 years old and that it is focussed on love and happiness together.

At sunset, they lit candles and Havdalah began, the ceremony separating Shabbat (Saturday) from the rest of the week. When the prayers were finished, everyone began greeting each other, "Shabbat Shalom, " and the Rabbi (for lack of another term) starting giving a round of hugs. When he got to me, he gave me the biggest hug I'd had since leaving North America. I squeezed him right back for what would have been an awkwardly long time in most circumstances but it felt great. By the time the hug had finished and he'd given me a big kiss on the cheek and put me back down, I felt like we were old friends. It was the first time since I'd landed in India that I felt totally comfortable and at ease and it felt amazing! I used to love giving my friends hugs when we'd meet but it's something have to let go of living in East-Asia.

After the meal, most people left, but Neta wanted to stay and asked if I'd mind staying with her so she would have someone to walk back with in the dark. Those who stayed moved into the house, around the dining room table, poured some wine, and started singing and playing drums and tambourines. One of the boys told their mother that one day I would visit Israel. She told me children are either psychic or fools. I asked which one her son was and she said he's definitely not a fool! Next thing I see, the Rabbi picks up a long, spiraling, antelope horn and begins playing it like a trumpet. It sounded something like Klesmer free jazz and I was thrilled by every note of it.

It was evenings like this that I'd come to India looking for, though I didn't suspect I would find them at a Jewish House in Goa!

I didn't bring my camera to the Jewish House, but I found these online here. It amazed me to see these photos because they're of some of the same people I saw there...

1 comment:

  1. What an awesome story Joseph! THIS is why I travel, for real experiences like this!! Love reading your blog..taking me back to my backpacking days...