As the title of this post says, I am in Jerusalem, the Holy City for three very big religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This city is awe inspiring because of so many reasons. Jerusalem is the biggest religious destination in the world. It has a history of thousands of years. It has always been on the minds and in the hearts of millions of people for very different reasons - political, religious and spiritual. I will not be going into that aspect of the area right now but will focus on a very interesting inconvenience I have encountered here.
Everybody needs money to do many things and I am no different here. For some purposes, simple currency notes are still preferred to plastic and it was for the same set of purposes that I went in search of some Israeli currency notes (New Israeli Shekel). Where else would a tourist get it other than in those wonderful machines of convenience - the Automated Teller Machines, remembered with gratitude by several people as Any Time Money? ATMs have become so common now across the world that they are expected to have a ubiquitous presence wherever we go and naturally are expected to be in working order too!
However, at least in Jerusalem, that is not the case at all! The period of Shabbat (this is how the word is spelled in Israel), from Friday evening to Saturday evening, a time for prayer and rest religiously followed by Jewish people, completely shuts down Jerusalem. For an outsider like me, this came as a complete shock.
Since only prayer and rest are to be undertaken during Shabbat, almost anything else is prohibited. I had heard before that secular activity is prohibited to the extent that even elevator buttons were not to be pressed. But seeing it in person was something else. The city completely shuts down!! Even the two preceding exclamations are not adequate to convey my surprise. It is not as if I have not seen this in India. But I have only seen that in the middle of the night (sometimes) and during bandhs. It is as if they have a weekly bandh here! On Friday, one sees traffic everywhere until Shabbat starts. Then all of a sudden, cars are off the road. Roads full of vehicles go completely empty with just a stray vehicle here and there.
I tried looking for an ATM just before Shabbat itself and found one with difficulty. Naturally, the text is all in Hebrew and you begin navigating the ATM menu after selecting English. But when I tried to draw money, it complained of some temporary problem. I later figured out that because of Shabbat, local people just draw all the money and none of the ATMs in busy areas have any currency left in him. Of course, on Shabbat, none of the ATMs work anyway.
My attempts at other ATMs too unfortunately have proved unsuccessful so far. People have told me that Tel Aviv is alive during the Shabbat time - but I have not been there during the weekend yet. I have been here just for a couple of weeks, but the locals seem to be just fine with it.
Jerusalem is a very interesting city steeped in history and legend. I wish to make a few posts about it when I get the time with pictures if possible.