Last night, as I was doing laundry, I ran into a neighbor who asked me where I’d been last fall. When I said Jerusalem, his eyes lit up and he told me that he’d been there three times, too. As a contractor—by now, living where I do, I knew this meant military—he had had three stopovers in Israel while installing these “flat air-conditioners, you know.” “I am not a religious person,” he went on, “but Jerusalem!” He took my arm and dragged me to the little hut housing our mail boxes. Slightly alarmed, I had little choice but to follow him. Once inside, he pulled up his t-shirt and revealed an elaborate pentagram with wings decorating his left chest: his personal reaction to the religious fervor of Jerusalem. Clearly, he was expecting a response, but all I could come up with was an eloquent “Eh, nice.” Oh, Jerusalem!
A few days ago I picked up a burger and a salad at that American institution on Emek Refai’m, and while I was waiting for the guys behind the counter to slab some Chimichurri on the burger I was looking around and what did I see? A GLATT pastry shop. I was quite amused.
Glatt, which means as much as smooth in English, usually refers to a higher standard of kashrut in meat, meaning that the animal’s lungs have checked for their glatt (smooth) surface during slaughter. Pastry tends to be lung-free and hence cannot be glatt by definition. First I thought this was a case of the constantly escalating “I can outfrum you!” competition but now I think that “glatt” has come to denote the same meaning as “kasher lemehadrin” which means, basically, superkosher. If you go to a glatt restaurant, you can rest assured that your meat will be glatt, the veggies Gush Katif, that all your food will have been cooked by an observant Jew and that a mashgiach, a kashrut supervisor, is always on the premises. With the advance of food technologies, people are becoming more and more stringent. There was the scandalizing NY drinking water, now, as a friend reported, there are OU approved mandarines in the stores, the sticker right next to the bar code identifying the fruit’s origin.
Glatt then means super-kosher, meaning that even harmless pastries can acquire a status thata petit four usually cannot aspire to.
Yesterday was Pentecost and I spent most of Moze Shabbat trying to find out where to go to see the festivities. When I lived in Jerusalem in the 90s, I witnessed the (impressive yet slightly scary) frenzy connected to the miraculous appearance of the Holy Fire in the Holy Sepulchre, and now it was time for Pentecost. For sure, this important holiday, symbolizing the authorization and legitimization of the nascent Church, would be the subject of some serious celebrations here.
But in spite of checking out every website I could think of–from the official tourism sites to the Custodians of the Holy Land, all I learned was that Fr. Pizzaballa had been confirmed as a Custos of the Holy Land (“here since the 13th century”), that Pope Benedict XVI would visit Cyprus in June, and that the German-speaking Protestant community has stationed a lot of clergy in Jerusalem.
I felt a bit ill in the morning, and it was almost noon by the time I walked over to the Old City and I suspected that I would have missed most services. Not surprisingly, the place was pulsating with people: pilgrims from all corners of the world, the obligatory sullen Israeli soldiers who were being dragged to tourist sites in an attempt to instill some awareness of the importance of Jerusalem for non-Jews and, surprisingly, Israeli school classes seemingly sent on a similarly educational quest. There were many Russians, most memorable among them a woman whom I encountered as I was leaving the Holy Sepulchre: Setting foot into the Church, her camcorder catching every single moment for the loved ones back home, her free hand was making furious signs of the cross–it was a sacred moment after all, in spite of the huge camera in front of her face. Many of the tourists were young–I was used to seeing a elderly women in black who looked as if they had saved a long time for the trip, with big bundles of the 33-candles pack in their hands, each one diligently lit and extinguished before the Sepulchre of Christ. But today, I saw young couples (perhaps locals after all?), happily posing for pictures against the backdrop of hundreds of fellow pilgrims, Jerusalem stone (although the actual location hardly seemed to matter) and the piercing sound of church bells.
P.S.: After a talk about the afterlife of Stefan George–in itself fascinating–I met a Franciscan who patiently told me that there were no processions on Pentecost, and that in any case, Catholic processions in the Holy Land at least were restricted to the Holy Sepulchre. Now I probably should have remembered this, Pbut at least the reading enabled me to discuss Fr. Pizzaballa’s reconfirmation and the massive presence of German pastors in the Holy Land…