How an Arab saved my Shabbat

Shabbat shalom!  I don’t typically blog on Shabbat.  I usually go to shul, have a meal, and chill with friends.  But tonight, I had a very unique night.

First, I started off at Reform services.  They were musical and fun.  They start at 6 so that ended pretty early, leaving me with an empty evening alone.

To avoid feeling lonely (aliyah is hard and this has been a hard week), I did something I don’t typically do on Shabbat which was to go to a movie!  It was my first time in a movie theater in Israel, so I said a Shehecheyanu and watched Logan Lucky, a film starring Channing Tatum (mmmm!) about some rednecks in West Virginia robbing a Nascar race.  Dudn’t get more ‘Murrican than that!  Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have seen it in the U.S. (although, Channing Tatum), but here it felt perfect.  I laughed at all sorts of things the audience didn’t get and I relished hearing some southern accents, which you don’t hear much around here.

After I left the theater, my friend invited me to Arisa, a gay Mizrachi music dance party.  I love Mizrachi music (it’s my favorite music in the world) and have been aching for months to go to this event.  My friend was running later than me, so I showed up alone.  The security guard patted me down and then asked me to empty my pockets.  I’ve been to a lot of clubs around the world and I appreciate the need for security, especially in Israel, so I did as I was told.

He then noticed my circular pill case.  Without my permission, he tried to open it.  He was opening it the wrong way so that all the pills would fall out if he succeeded.  I told him to stop and that I would open it for him.  Again, I was already feeling really uncomfortable with this invasiveness, but I understand the need to avoid drugs getting into the club.  I explained to him what the medications were for and the names of the prescriptions.  There is also some writing on the pills, as is typical for prescription medication.  At this point, the guard and his colleague, without my permission, start thumbing through my medications and grabbing the actual pills.  I told them to stop but they ignored me.  Meanwhile, I was having to explain my medical issues in front of other patrons who were waiting behind me.  A female guard even told me that I couldn’t enter the club with my pills.  Eventually they let me in, but I was so angry, embarrassed, and humiliated that I just left.  This is a disgraceful way to treat a customer and to handle someone’s medical needs.  If you can’t distinguish a prescription from ecstasy, you probably shouldn’t work club security.  I plan on contacting them through their Facebook page because I was so insulted.  I won’t complain if you join me 🙂 .

Feeling blue, I headed to Yafo, perhaps my favorite part of Tel Aviv.  My friend got tired so we didn’t end up meeting up.  I was just exhausted.  After a long week, the last thing I needed was some random guy grabbing my very personal medications.

I headed to my favorite baklava shop to see my friend Seger, an Arab from East Jerusalem.  He’s a wonderful, fun-loving guy in his early 20s.  And when I entered the shop, by coincidence, he was blasting Mizrachi music- the same music I was supposed to hear at Arisa.  He gave me free knafeh and we talked in Arabic and caught up.  He showed me his favorite Arab singers and I taught him some English.  I even came out to him and his immediate reaction was to show me on Facebook his gay Arab friend.  I had been nervous about coming out to him, but not a split second passed before I felt comfortable again.  It’s good to feel like you can be your full self.

The night was coming to an end as he closed up shop.  As this is Israel, things went from sour to sweet.  And not just because of the heavily discounted baklava he gave me.

Seger put on Sarit Hadad, whose first CD was my first CD when I was 13, and blasted the music.  We started to dance.  Then, people walking by start dancing.  And before you know it, I’m having my own gay Mizrachi dance party.

I gave Seger a hug and we wished each other Shabbat Shalom.  I told him my night really sucked before I walked into his store and that he made me feel happy.  Since we’re now Facebook friends, he might even be reading this blog.  Thanks man 🙂

Would it have been fun to dance in a room of 500 beautiful Israeli men singing to my favorite Mizrachi songs?  I think so.  And maybe I will find out one day if I’m treated with dignity there.

In the meantime, screw Arisa.  I don’t need to pay 120 shekels to have a gay Mizrachi dance party on Shabbat.  I just need to hang out with an Arab friend at a baklava shop.

You know you’re in Israel when an Arab saves your Shabbat.  Eid Mubarak indeed.

Author: Matt Adler - מטע אדלר

A compassionate multilingual Jewish explorer. Author of "More Than Just Hummus: A Gay Jew Discovers Israel in Arabic": & Join me on my journeys by reading my blog or following me on Facebook May you find some beauty in your day today. :)

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