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Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Shabbat Candle Ladies




Liat, a young Israeli, rushes to catch her bus on this early Friday afternoon. "Shabbat Shalom!" an older lady greets her along with the warmest smile you have ever seen and hands her something small.

The Shabbat table is beautifully set with a handsome tablecloth, dishes, silverware, tall glasses, wine, flowers, challah - covered, and Shabbat candles. There is nothing unusual about that. What is unusual is that this table resides not in an apartment in Meah Sharim but in the middle of the sidewalk directly opposite Jerusalem's Central Bus Station.

Liat does not remember the last time she lit candles on Friday afternoon just before sunset to welcome in the Shabbat, but today she thinks she just might as she examines the two Shabbat "tea-light" candles that were handed to her. Liat smiles back at the older lady "Shabbat Shalom!" she answers.

If you ever happen to find yourself in the vicinity of the Jerusalem Bus Station on Friday afternoon - as so many of us do, be sure to sure to wish a "Shabbat Shalom" to those two or three women standing by that famous awkwardly placed Shabbat Table handing out Shabbat Candles. They are the "Shabbat Candle Ladies" and just watching them for a few minutes makes one so proud to be part of this wonderful land of ours.

A pair of chayalot (female soldiers) curiously approach. "Shabbat Shalom!" "Shabbat Shalom!" they cheerfully respond examining the candles they were handed. One chayalet pauses. "Oh, and Chodesh Tov too!" she remarks, offering the traditional "new month greeting" which this particular Friday just so happens to be as well.

Now a middle aged women passes by. At first she is hesitant but then accepts the small plastic package not altering her brisk stride. She too stops and then returns back to the Shabbat Candle Lady, beaming. She thanks her and the two have a brief minute long discussion. A minute, of course, is an eternity in Jerusalem on a Friday right outside the Central Bus Station.

Now comes a teen boy walking just ahead of his parents. The boy refuses the gift and rushes by - his father calls ahead to him and tell him to wait. The father nods and accepts the candles and continues walking as he shows them to his wife. She says something to him. He returns back to the Shabbat Candle Lady. "Can I have another one?"

They are the Shabbat Candle Ladies.

(Cross-posted at Point of Pinchas)

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