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May 24, 2007

modern day "bivin"

We had the good fortune of being able to spend Shvuos in Jerusalem by my in-laws. This afforded me the opportunity to daven vasikin Shvuos morning by the Kotel, something I am not always able to do...

After a night of learning and trying to fight off the drowsiness, I started my walk to the Kotel. I was alone because my boys were not successful in staying up. They tried and one of them had said he might want to come with me to the kotel, but because they did not listen to me and take a nap before Shvuos, that did not work out.

When learning the gemara of eiruvin a while back there was an interesting concept we learned about. It was called "bivin". Bivin are wells or pits dug in the middle of the streets. The people of Jerusalem would dig wells and pits of water during the holiday season. They did this for the benefit of the multitudes of people who were travelling to Jerusalem for the holiday and aliyah l'regel. The discussion in the gemara centers around whether the area of these bivin are considered public domain or private domain and whether one would be able to carry within them.

It is a bit hard to imagine wells being dug in the middle of the street just for the holiday season. I mean, what would they do when the holiday was over - fill the well? leave it there? It might be dangerous to have an open well in the middle of a well travelled road all year round...

Well, on the way to the Kotel I think I understood that topic a little better. I have been to the kotel many times in previous years on Shvuos morning, though not much in recent years. I saw something that was completely new, at least to me (meaning, maybe they did it last year as well, but not a few years ago).

On the main road of Shmuel HaNavi st., with the tens of people turning into hundreds and then into thousands, as the side streets spill into the main road, walking towards the Kotel, different organizations put out hospitality tents in the middle of the road. These tents or drinking stations offered cold drinks, hot drinks, cakes, cookies, a place to sit and rest for a bit.

These are the modern day "bivin" displaying the generous hospitality of Jerusalemites.

The kotel was great. Shvuos is probably the one day a year that Jews can walk safely through Shaar Shchem - Damascus Gate (why is it called Damascus Gate and not Nablus Gate - Shchem is translated as Nablus, while Damascus is Damesek in Hebrew? Just somethign I have wondered about).

Shaar Shchem leads directly to the Kotel but through the Arab shuk (marketplace). And of the two main Arab shuks (shaar shchem and shaar yafo) Shaar Shchem is considered fairly dangerous for Jews. So usually Jews will not go there, aside from the few people who do, such as members of Ateret Kohanim and the like.

But on Shvuos morning with thousands and thousands of Jews puring through, we generally walk through Shaar Shchem instead of the longer way through Shaar Yafo. Jacob recently wrote about his memories of walking through Shaar Shchem and how kids and yeshiva guys would pick fights with the Arab locals. I have similar memories. I remember people overturning Arab pushcarts, breaking locks on the Arab stalls, singing loudly Jewish songs of taking over the city and building the Temple, etc.

I was expecting to see that, but it seems that either I missed it, or the kids have gotten tamer than in my day. I did not see any disturbances except for one. One 10 year old kid tried to jam a padlock on a stall. The soldiers stopped him fairly quickly and chased him away. No lous singing in the Arab shuk (there was some singing by a group of people near one of the gates to Temple Mount, but not in the shuk itself).

I davened in Rabbi Lau's minyan. Rabbi Lau is a former Chief Rabbi of Israel and currently Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv. He has a set minyan every year and the last few times I have gone to the kotel Shvuos morning, I have davened in this minyan. Generally the great chazzan and performer Dudu Fisher is the chazzan of this minyan. I was looking forward to hearing him again. Unfortunately Fisher is in America and could not make it back for Shvuos. For the first time in many years he did not lead the services in Rabbi Lau's minyan. They had a different chazzan who was ok. He was no Dudu Fisher, but he was ok.

On the walk back I passed the Mayor of Jerusalem, Uri Lapoliansky who was also walking home from davening at the kotel.

1 comment:

  1. Rabbi Lau and the mayor are mentioned here that they will be there.


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