Monday, June 29, 2009

The Jews of Gibraltar

Sara and I were walking up the street in Gibraltar, minding our own business and thinking we already had Shabbat plans pre-arranged weeks earlier when we spotted obviously frum women in obvious sheitels, so we popped into their jewelery store with an incredibly Jewish name to ask them if the island had an eruv (complicated Jewish ritual construction that allows us to carry things outside the home on the Sabbath.)

They said yes, and we went along in search of kosher meat. But the restaurant whose address we had was defunct, so we went back to their store to ask them where there was a kosher restaurant. Mrs. B (as I will call her) immediately asked us about our Shabbat plans, and we told her that we were eating with Mr. L. She looked concerned and said he had been recently ill, and we should check to see if our Shabbat plans were still on. Then she gave us her phone and told us to call him (we left a message) and told us that if it fell through, we should go to her for the meal. She sent us up to Mr. L.'s son-in-law's restaurant, where we got yummy pasta, and rearranged our Shabbat plans. Mr. L.'s son-in-law confirmed that he was in the hospital, then called Mrs. B and her husband's stores alternetely until he got in touch with one of them. Then this woman, her sister and her baby walked into the store to eat and jumped into the swing of things. Their mom, Mrs. H, had been in touch with Mr. L's wife and was prepared to have us for lunch. Fortunately, even in a religious Jewish community, we look foreign enough for people to take pity on us.

We observed that the Jewish community is both very English and very Sfardi. They read Hamodia and send their children to Yeshiva in Gateshead (note: the rest of this paragraph will contain many cultural references. I won't explain them all while pounding away on a Moroccan computer. I'll leave it to commenters to explain the significance of various things.) The women wear sheitels and the men black hats (v. Ashkenaz) but they speak Spanish and have this really awesome custom to eat food after Kiddush and before Motzi in order to say more brachot.

Sociologically, they are a really interesting bunch. Lots of kids in small but well-organized apartments; they seem to marry young, be fruitful and multiply. They have WAY more than their fair share of seriously beautiful women and in true Moroccan style, they are all very well-put together.

Both couples served kind of different meals than we were used to - first course always contained a protein and many different small salads. The main course was probably less substantial and less carby than what might be served at a North American Shabbat table. We were well-fed in Gibraltar.

I have more to say, perhaps later...



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