Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Sad Neighborhood News

As noted two posts ago, I've been out of Jerusalem quite a bit this week, grabbing food on the go at bus and train stations (yes, kosher food), and in cafes. So I haven't done any grocery shopping.

Tonight I ran out to get a few staples before my local grocery closes, and it was all locked up! An hour early! What the ---? That never happens!

I thought that perhaps the owner's wife, who is quite pregnant, had gone into labor. So I went into the much smaller grocery nearby and asked the owner of that store whether everything is OK with Shabi.

"I guess so," he said.

"Do you know why his store is closed at this hour?" I asked.

"What? Didn't you hear? His father died. On Friday. The funeral was on Saturday night. He's sitting shiva."

Whoa. I didn't see that coming. Shabi's father, Shimon, had founded the store and until recently was there quite often. I knew he was old and sick, but there was nothing in particular to tell me his life was coming to a close. Maybe his family knew.

It's a strange relationship, that between the friendly every-day shopper and the friendly grocery store owner. I've seen Shabi and/or his dad almost every day since I moved into this apartment more than three years ago. They've taught me Hebrew, I've helped them with American references in crossword puzzles. They've let me buy things on credit, I brought them mishloach manot on Purim. Shabi knows what I eat, and I know that he works too hard and that his wife hangs out at the store in the evenings because otherwise she'd never see him. I know that since they got married she's become an excellent cook, and they know what I look like when I'm recovering from the flu and have no makeup on. I know that Shabi's devotion to his father was obvious and heartwarming.

And yet, I don't know their last name.

There's a poster on the outside wall of their store, announcing the address for shiva. I see these people every day, but tomorrow when I pay them a visit it will be my first time in their home. Shimon was one of the first native Israelis I came to know after moving here, but I cannot say he was someone whose absence will make a big difference to me personally, except insofar as I feel very bad for Shabi, who loved Shimon very much.

It's hard to know what to feel, when someone has passed on whom I knew, and yet did not know.

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