I’ve fallen in love with Fridays in Israel. At first, it was frustrating that all shops, restaurants, grocery stores, and public transportation shut down around 2pm and stay closed until Saturday night. And sometimes, it still is, when you’ve got a surplus of hummus but no pita.
But, what happens on Fridays is pretty remarkable.
People stop worrying about what needs to be done. No one goes to buy anything, no one is working, and the traffic on the roads start to thin. Unless you are bustling in the kitchen making preparations for Shabbat dinner, it seems like most people leave their homes to go be among others.
At noon in Ashdod, a diverse crowd of Israelis populate the usually deserted beach to play music, talk and laugh, lounge, snack on fruits, smoke hookah (and often other things), drink beers, and alternate between baking in the sun and cooling off in the pleasant Mediterranean waters.
Around 5pm, the sun starts to hang low in the sky, and the air finally begins to cool. The beach is still a viable option at this hour, but the full breeze is more noticeable without the powerful heat beating down. Sometimes my friends and I have stayed into these later hours, waking ourselves around 6 from delightfully semi-conscious nap-states.
Just before twilight, there are many people out and active on the walking and bike paths that line the beach.
One such path leads to a play-and-exercise park just a 30 minute walk from our apartment. There, parents watch their children play on giant playgrounds, while older kids and young adults play basketball and (European) football.
Just beyond that, on a nearby hill-top, a ring of exercise equipment is free for public use. Most of the equipment has adjustable resistance/weight, or is measured by your own opposing body weight. It’s such a cool concept, and these exist all along the walking paths and on playgrounds throughout Ashdod.
Once the sun has set, it’s time for Shabbat dinner. It’s always so nice to spend time at the end of the week with the other fellows. I’m sure that in the future, I will have the opportunity to visit other homes for Shabbat dinner. I hope these dinners will be with new Israeli friends, maybe some Israeli host families, and maybe with other fellows in other cities. Hopefully, I’ll also get to host some non-fellows for Shabbat dinner in our apartment as well…especially since my friends are so in love with my food 🙂