Sunday, November 4, 2012

Shabbat in The Swamp

Men in The Swamp do not look like Swamp Thing.

I had quite the Shabbat this week. I round-tripped nearly 4.5 miles by my Google Maps calculations on Shabbat evening. In the morning, I traipsed a mere few feet across the park to the next street for my meal, which was an utter delight with a great family from Canada that's in town until next month experiencing all that Israel has to offer.

But Shabbat night. Where exactly did I go? Why did I schlep so far? And why do my knees hate me today? Well, I was invited down (literally, it was like a long downhill fall) to Shabbat davening at Yakar in Katamon, followed by a meal with seven other singles (seven women, one guy), followed by a Singles Game Night hosted in a local gan (that's like a preschool).

The unique thing about the locale of all of this is that it was in The Swamp. Yes, the illustrious Swamp featured in the hit Israeli TV show Srugim, which some have said is like the Religious Zionist version of Friends.

I realized the depth of the "meat market" that is The Swamp after leaving services at Yakar, because there were gobs, we're talking throngs of singles in their 20s and 30s just hanging around outside the shul. I can't imagine what it looks like on Shabbat day. And I'll admit -- I'm kind of wishing I lived down there. If anything, it would create a lot of fun blog fodder. On the other hand, it would probably result in a lot of frustration and annoyance at the show-stopping antics of single Jewish people. The nice thing about Yakar, however, is that the girls aren't dressed like they are at Mount Sinai in Washington Heights in NYC, so that was a relief for me. Although some gals had on more makeup than Honey Boo Boo at a million-dollar talent show. I felt pretty, oh so pretty. (No, really, I did.)

The davening itself was very much what I'm used to, except that the inside was either too toasty or too swamped, so the balcony outside the upstairs entrance was filled with women, making the entrance an awkward one for the menfolk. And menfolk there were. (Insert obnoxious and unnecessary drooling here.) There was a lot of singing, which took me back to my West Hartford days, but the girls around me were ... well ... let's just say they needed tuning.

Dinner was outstanding, and I was lucky enough to meet a whole new gaggle of awesome people as well as explore the possibility of the gluten-free diet/sourdough bread connection. Stay tuned for more about this. But it did feel like I was in a fun scene from Srugim ...

As for the game night aspect, well, it was a bit of a bust. It's hard to walk into a very crowded space where people have been set up and playing games for a while and interject yourself. There were quite a few attractive Frenchmen there, I will say, and it really makes me wish I had done a better job retaining my French from high school. There's always Hebrew, right? But I have to work on that, too. So I didn't meet anyone, but I did learn how to play Rummikub, and I won the first game. It did make me miss Othello, and Pandemic, and all the other games that I had back in the U.S. that I don't have here. I did bring, however, Bananagrams.

Overall? Worth the more than 4-mile schlep? Sure thing. The walk home was the rough part, but it gave me a lot of time for some personal dialogue, which is necessary when you're as internal-dialoguey as I am.

I'm also semi-happy to have discovered a blog about the scene down in Katamon, although the post from November 1 kind of really makes me sad for people who come with a puppies and roses view about Israel only to have it logically dashed within days or months of arrival.

So, do you live in The Swamp? Have experience in The Swamp? Perhaps you fell in lovveee in The Swamp? I want to hear about it!