Spring has returned to the Atlantic seaboard. As usual, it has come too late for my taste. Weekends in April here mean something very different. Outdoor happy hours, beginning on Friday, merging seamlessly into sunny workless days. For yuppies in their mid-20s, an extension of college but without homework, really.
Weekends at home begin on Thursday nights. I have many memories of spending the first few hours of the weekend riding the bus in a dirty uniform, waking only to realize it is my stop. Then, scrambling to get off the bus, hoping nothing has been left behind, like a backpack… or a gun.
However, Israeli weekends in the warmer months are much more than that. Friday mornings, sitting outside a cafe on Rothschild, watching the world stroll by, one cannot help but feel relaxed. And the afternoons just feel different. It is a rush of preparation, but in some way, is still relaxing. No place is more chaotic, yet perfectly symbolizes a day of rest than the shuk in Jerusalem only a few short hours before Shabbat.
Sunny days on the East Coast are uplifting, but seem rather meager compared to the piercing rays of the eastern Mediterranean sun. The sensation of those rays is an enlivening one, albeit one that does not last very long when my feet are shackled in army boots. Yet, here, even on the sunniest of days, a sharp breeze can send shivers down my spine, somehow feeling more cold than refreshing.
The final day of the week, even in Israel’s capital of secular life is still a day of true rest. Where else do people sit on balconies, a warm breeze working its way from the west, eating Jahnun and Cholent at the same table? Nevertheless, I am rather far from that for now, and I don’t quite understand the obsession with shopping, and practically devoting a day to this ritual, on a weekly basis.
My familiarity with Tel Aviv’s Saturday nights is limited, but it is very different in Jerusalem from its western version. Despite, or perhaps because of, the day’s importance, with nightfall Jerusalem is transformed. The streets fill with weekend revelers, drinking as if on vacation.
Sundays are a sore point for most Israelis who hail from the western world. A day’s worth of freedom – lost. The feeling, late on a Saturday night, that the weekend is not yet over, is like winning a small jackpot, week after week.
One day soon, spring will again mean sipping an americano while forgetting about troubles everywhere for a few short minutes, but still missing Sundays. Hopefully, though, it will not mean falling asleep on a bus with a rifle between my legs, hoping to wake up in time and not miss my stop.