Passed over

I had no idea we had bought in the Jewish Quarter.

As far as I was concerned, I had chosen a small, cheap, central flat at the bottom end of the market. And, like every property we had bought, it needed a little TLC.

I can’t see any point in paying more for a property because someone has put in double glazing and a fancy kitchen. It would be never be to my – very – minimalist taste

Have partner in construction industry: buy cheap, do up, sell at profit. The fact that we only ever motivate ourselves to do up when we have decided to leave is a minor point.

But after a while, when people asked where we lived, we cottoned onto the fact it was known as the Jewish Quarter.

‘Oh. You live there. That must be expensive to rent. It’s the Jewish Quarter.’

‘No. We own it.’

Whereupon the interrogator usually fell off their perch.

We should have worked it out of course. The freeholder of the block is Jewish, and he lives next door. On the other side, the neighbours are, well, Jewish. The Jewish girls’ school is across the road. The synagogue and Jewish headquarters are five minutes walk away, a stone’s throw away from the mosque ironically. On early morning dog walks we can usually guarantee to meet devout Muslims and Jews, peaceably walking the streets in the dark on their way to pray to their different god who is really the same anyway.

This particular week was Passover. One of the most important Jewish festivals. Those of my readers with a religious bent will know it is something to do with Moses and delivering the people of Israel. Those of you with religious knowledge who don’t believe, will know that Moses didn’t exist.

But, why ruin a perfectly good holiday by letting the facts get in the way of the story? And Jewish people are big on holidays. Certainly the orthodox Jews are. And the 600 strong Gib community is very orthodox. There is no dispensation for working on a Saturday, rather you will get a fine for even thinking about it.

No driving on Shabbat and other holy days. No touching or using electrical equipment. Which means the Jewish family in our block stand outside calling up to be let in because they can’t use the intercom, they stagger up the stairs in the dark because they can’t touch the light switch, and if they need an urgent phone call they ask their non-Jewish neighbours – us – to pass on messages.

Passover this year started on Friday evening. It was party party until after midnight. Passover is a big family event, so kids of all ages are involved. Well past midnight I heard wailing babes who would clearly have preferred to have been in bed. Reading up about Passover, it seems alcohol is not just permitted, it is de rigeur. The order of service for the meal includes four glasses of wine. No wonder there was much jollity in the streets.

But they obviously have a good head for it because come Saturday morning they were all out and about in their finery. Normally the women wear appropriate dowdy clothes, but on high days and holidays some can be seen in heels (gasp!) and wearing clothes other than black, navy blue, dark brown. Their skirts may even rise to knee height. They are always left holding the baby though. Got to remind a woman of her role in life while the men get on with male chat. Even if they are merely adolescents.

Chat on shabbat
Chat on Shabbat

After two days of not being allowed to do anything except talk, sing, eat and drink, the next four days of Passover are not as strict. People can go back to work. And then, to conclude, another two days of holidays.

There’s a lot to learn from Jewish people. They invest in decent areas, they make money, and they enjoy their holidays. They don’t proselytise. In fact converting to Judaism is no easy task.

For all that they are a tiny percentage of Gib’s population, they are hellish visible on Saturdays.

Then, I decided to leave the hurly burly of Main Street for the tranquil back streets.

Veg shop
Veg shop
Another veg shop
Another veg shop
New street sign telling us about history
New street sign telling us about history

And to end on a foody note which is not remotely Jewish, cheesy lemony dumplings.

Put chopped veg of choice in pan and cook. I used carrot, onion, garlic in olive oil, then added potato, courgette, peas/beans, tomatoes and stock/water. Add a strip of lemon rind.

To make dumplings: put flour or half flour, half semolina in bowl, bicarb or baking powder, add egg, grated cheese (a cheddar type), grated lemon zest, squeeze of lemon juice, salt, fresh parsley if you have it, or a pinch of dried herbs if you don’t. You can use self-raising flour if you use that instead of flour plus bicarb.

Add teaspoons of dough to the casserole and cover with a lid. Let cook until dumps are ready. Do not add too much dough. The dumps really expand. Also make sure you have enough liquid in the casserole as the dumps absorb a lot.

Buen provecho.

Delicious dumplings
Delicious dumplings

Header photo: my Easter cacti were having a Jewish year, they flowered for Passover not Easter.

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89 comments on “Passed over

  1. Good morning roughseas (4:32 am here). I really enjoyed your post – very informative and interesting. I heard a Jewish comedian once who was hilarious. He asked the audience if they had ever wondered why Jews have so many celebrations. He explained that every time in history that a government or group had tried to kill all the Jews, when they failed the Jews would have another miracle to celebrate.

    Fascinating reading about living with a different cultural group. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Paul. I’m not sure how much people know about strictly orthodox Jews, so I thought an observational insight might be interesting. I do find their festivals interesting. Shukkat (spelling?) involves building a temporary structure and yes, more feasting and drinking within it.

      We have a lot of Muslims too but I’m not as well versed on their culture. Maybe when Ramadan comes round though …

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Love those pictures, made me feel summery and relaxed. I’m the original pome I’d have trouble leaving the home nation long term because … humour and … cheese … but I still love travel and the whole business of immersing myself in other cultures from time to time. Makes me hanker for another holiday, this.

    Cheers

    MTM

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    • Thanks MT. I love the back streets here, the veg shops are so quaint. I use the second one in the photos sometimes. Mostly we go to a Spanish one down the town. I went yesterday and bought some delicious asparagus.

      I left for a number of reasons. I didn’t like the system/government, and I couldn’t bear the thought of growing old and dying in the place I’d lived in for the last forty years. I needed one last big adventure!

      There is cheese abroad you know …

      Liked by 2 people

      • Mwha hahaharhgh! I love blighty, myself, but I get that. I certainly love to travel. McOther and I are trying to see the places that are still places before Western homogenisation hits all.

        Liked by 1 person

          • I remember going to Thailand in the late 80s, thinking, this is going to be really different and it was like Greece in the late 1970s. ;-) Except it wasn’t. But I suppose that now there’s a McDonalds in every town and a Starbucks on every street corner the differences are less obvious to the casual observer and you have to immerse yourself in the culture a bit more. No bad thing really.

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          • Starbucks, McDs: vile. I went to Thailand in early 80s. Don’t remember them then, but maybe I ignored them. I do remember pointing at two menu items, starter and main course, and ended up with virtually two of the same. But then, I didn’t read Thai. Greece was easier. Still don’t remember S and M there either. They haven’t made my local Spanish town yet. Yet. We do have Costa Coffee in Gib (prob franchised), does that count?

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        • We buy Cheddar (vegetarian) from Morrisons. It’s adequate for the few times I use cheese. Mainly because He like it. I live without it on my own. I did buy goats cheese for puppy Snowy when he was only a few weeks old though.

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  3. Interesting post. Funny that you didn’t realise you were buying in the Jewish quarter. :)

    No disrespect towards orthodox Jews, but where did the ‘no touching electrical thingies’ come from? They didn’t have electricity when their laws were written (unless they kept it very quiet.) And isn’t it slightly cheating to ask other people to operate them by proxy?

    One day I must sit down and find out where, when and why all these religious rules came into being. I recall being on a company convention in Portugal many years ago, when we were to go to a black-tie dinner. 58 of us had to sit on a coach for almost an hour waiting for our Jewish colleague and his wife to see three heavenly bodies in the night sky before they could mount the coach.

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    • It’s not obviously Jewish. It’s not even official. My main interest was in no loud noise at night. Or at all. Otherwise I don’t care who I live with.

      From memory, I think it’s something to do with no lighting fires on Shabbat. I tend to think most of the prohibitions are work-related, so lighting a fire was work? Who knows?

      Yes, I agree on the cheating. What was even more funny, was that the phone call we were asked to take was from a Jewish family member in Spain, which left me thinking they can break the rules there, but not in Gib which is more heavily policed? And it was about a relative having brain surgery. For goodness sake, why is a phone call about that not allowed? That’s when it all gets to be absolutely barking.

      Tell them to make their own way, I would have liked to have said.

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      • Hm. That relative having brain surgery. By candlelight and with a hand drill? Or are there dispensations at such times, which would account for the relative being able to make the phone call?

        If I was in charge, every religion would have the same rules. Don’t hurt anybody or anything. Be kind. Simples.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting post.
    Those seem to be nice neighbours to have. They only bother you on holidays and not so much even then.
    Good morning or is it afternoon already

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    • They don’t bother us for the most part. They just get a little excitable on their holydays.

      It’s 12.30, so in Brit terms it’s arvo. In Spanish terms it dorsn’t really start until 2pm. But as Gib is brit, it’s arvo :)

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  5. What a fascinating and unusual post! Food, orthodox Jewish traditions, and all!

    Don’t feel bad about not knowing you were moving into the Jewish quarter. I went to work for a TV show once and didn’t know the boss and many others were Jewish until a high holiday when I was almost the only person who turned up to work…. when they returned to work, I started pestering everyone with questions – I love to learn about cultural differences and similarities, and as we know, much of organized religion is cultural — and some of it doesn’t make sense in a modern setting.

    Great post!

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    • It was the whole Passover thing. They do it big around here. And for such a tiny community, 600 out of 30,000, they are very visible. Especially on Saturday and other holy days.

      When I buy somewhere I look at the neighbourhood and consider whether it is a good financial investment. I don’t care two hoots about the culture/religion unless there is some obvious discrimination.

      I did grow up working with Jewish people but they weren’t so strict because they worked on Saturdays and … shock! horror! … ate … pigs.

      Each to their own. All we do is try and fit round people and accept we all have our own beliefs. Or none as the case may be. I do check out Jewish holidays though, so I know to respect whatever they are doing.

      Thank you :)

      Liked by 2 people

  6. That was interesting!
    I’ve never seen a brown Christmas cactus before…and the stew is mouth-watering; you won’t like what we call the dumplings… Dough boys. :)

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    • I’ve given up predicting what my cacti do. Sometimes they flower for Christmas and Easter, and now Passover. Next they will be flowering for Muslim and Buddhist festivals!

      My dad hated dumplings so I grew up to not like them. My mum and grandma merrily cooked them for lunch on Wednesdays when he was at work. I never ate them though. But now …

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I think that your Easter cactus converted to Judaism. (sp) Anyhoo, it is always nice when our plants bloom. My property abuts an orthodox Jewish synagogue. They have been nice neighbors- they don’t say hello and I don’t either but then there is a tall wood fence at the back of my property.

    There is one other synagogue (un-orthodox) in town and the numbers of attendees are about the same. I’n going by the number of cars that I’ve seen in the parking lots.

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  8. I teach a guy here who, being a Seventh Day Adventist, actually observes the Sabbath and can’t do anything after sunset on Friday. He also follows all the old biblical “do nots…” like eating shellfish. It’s a peculiar side note to him because he’s otherwise perfectly normal.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Cultures or religions? Or cultures influenced by religion? Ironically as atheists, we do meet halfway, at least, with our Jewish neighbours. We live and work together and help out. Clearly not as much as a Jewish:Jewish relationship, but it works well enough. What I like about it, is that it is predictable, follows rules, and they don’t get in your face. I don’t like the overt Abrahamic sexism, but same with Islam and Xtianity. Still, at least they educate their daughters. So they can be married off well.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Man, what in the world would you guys do without us?
    Not much to talk about, innit :-)?
    BTW, much of what you see, is not scriptural traditionalism, but talmudic/rabbinical heritage from times of exile, when in the absence of the Temple and the prescribed rituals, an observant way of life had to be developed as close as possible to the scriptural requirements.
    Most of it comes from Eastern/Central European exiles, e.g. black fur hats, long coats, etc.
    As for dietary requirements, if you pay some closer attention, they have some elements of food hygiene and healthy eating, which many of us, of more liberal stock follow accordingly.
    Not that bacon doesn’t taste good, but if I have to compare the “cleanliness” of a pig against the one of a lamb/mutton, I’ll chose the second. no offence… And if anyone has tasted the smoked dry-cured goose sausage of one of Budapest’s kosher butchers, they’ll gladly forget any other.
    On top of all, dietary requirements are/were mandatory only for the “descendants” of Moses, the ones bound by his acknowledgement of the Law. The Nations were always free to follow their own traditions.

    That’s roughly about why “once a Jew, always a Jew”.

    A Jew :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Moshe. Well, we wouldn’t know where to invest our money to start with. And I’m just a shiksa who grew up with some Jews who worked on a Saturday. So the close observance of the Sephardi Jews is interesting. So not Central Eurpean but Iberian exiles.
      I’m not sure why pig is cleaner than sheep, but as I’m vegetarian it’s not my issue. I think a chief rabbi in the UK was vegetarian too. Cleaner than ever?

      Like

  10. Hi Roughseas,
    Well, I do work Saturdays, but as I work in healthcare, that makes it kosher ;-)
    As for Sephardi and Central European, the difference is rather in small details.
    Why is porky less clean than lamby? It has rather to do with what they eat…
    And I am vegetarian too. I actually eat packaged grass…
    Vegetarian Chief Rabbi?
    Oy vey…
    ;-)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. One could not have done any better that to have bought a property in Australia’s Sydney, and especially in the inner city suburb of Balmain. Our last house we lived back in 1996, sold recently for over 3 million dollars. (We bought this house in 1976 for 70 thousand dollars.) An un-renovated 2 bedr. shack on a busy street will set you back 2 million at present.
    As for the Jewish question; why can’t ham and lamb make up and be friends?
    Oh, I cry for Palestine! The horror, the horror.

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    • We had friends who rented in Balmain in the early 80s. We were in Potts Point. The going rate was 36 grand for a flat in our block, except none were for sale. ’Twould have been a good investment methnks.

      Palestine. A rather spectacular British cock-up.

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  12. Friends in Highgate were telling me of a project by one sect of Orthodox Jews to set up some sort of religious enclosure….wires on top of tall posts…which would permit them to move around more freely on the Sabbath…

    Something about women being able to use pushchairs came into it.

    Said friends had well twisted knickers as they had no wish to see posts and wires in their area but equally were afraid that their protests – if voiced – would have them labeled as anti semitic.

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    • Ah yes. No criticism of Jews at the mo. Especially if one is remotely lefty.

      Pushchairs are ok here oddly.

      I read something recently about Jewish schools in the UK, how the kids get pulled out of state schools and pushed into Jewish ones to be indoctrinated and focus on religion. Depressing. Oh, and no one did anything because … anti-semitism label.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I enjoy your observations and comments on life and people in Gib.
    The side streets are where you find the real life of a location these days.
    (Disturbing and annoying to find local places disappearing and all that’s left are the generic centers/buildings that are repeated place after place with the exactl same big box stores and eateries decorated to look quaint/individual along side the frying grease drive-through. What a plague of architecure of dining options. UGH! Ugly, yes. At least you have some actual what life was before instant slab concrete buildings.)
    Our neighborhood was very much Jewish with my high school probably 80+ % Jewish. Teachers probably loved it as most kids were pushed to make good grades and there was a lot of competition. While there was a pretty wide range of congregations from conservative to reformed, there weren’t any ultra conservatives. Girls all seemed to dress fashionably, work hard in school, go to college.
    Talking religion really wasn’t considered polite. I did get a “talking to” by my dad once when I said to a Kindergarden Jewish friend who had been talking about what worship places looked like. She like the way Catholic cathedrals looked on the outside and wished she could go inside one and see the stainglass windows fromt he inside. I simply said she could probably go in if she wanted. When she said only Catholics could go inside, i said, “Well, you can decide to be Catholic if you want.” which she apparently repeated at home. Hey the kid just wanted to see the building, but her parents went nuts and called my parents saying I was trying to convert her. Dad thought it was funny, but decided I should use the adult rules of “Polite converations never talk about politics, religion, or how much money you make.”
    The only real problems in the neighborhood was when some kids couldn’t go to birthday parties on Saturday, and other kids (whose moms were mad about the Sat. party ban) couldn’t go to birthday parties on Sundays.
    Kids managed. We knew to be careful about the 2 kitchen set up thing and not get dishes in the wrong place.
    Good to buy in a preferred solid location and fix a place up so when you move on, there’s a bit of money to take with you.

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    • There’s only one place we’ll be moving on and money won’t be of any use there. It will be left to some dogs somewhere. Liked your childhood stories. Shame about the restrictions even then so young. It happens. Conversation. Sounds like freemasons: three forbidden subjects – sex, politics, religion.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Those are the old “Deep South” rules for appropriate conversations – oddly quite a few Masonic groups used to be around across the country.
        So many secret clubs or clubs/religions with secrets.
        Seriously, I was sure to tell her after she took a look around inside the cathedral she could come out and decide to be Jewish again. It’s like a club, right? Sigh. Life is made far too complicated by adults. Good I had one down to earth parent.
        Paw waves to Snowy from the pack here: Molly has The German and Ella visiting …yes the back yard is a mud hole…ladies like mud baths, right?

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    • It mentions fire. And not building and various others. So it’s brought across to modern day practices. Hey. I’m quite up on this!! No carrying pens because that’s work too, etc.

      I have mixed views. Good to get away from crap. Silly to avoid phone calls about a relative having brain surgery.

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  14. Not something I associate with Gib, but interesting. The restrictions they place on themselves in the name of religion seem strange to us, but I guess if you’re brought up with those traditions they seem perfectly normal. A tad inconvenient, though. :)
    You got the place for a good price so noisy neighbours now and then’s not a bad trade off, is it? And a recipe I can almost certainly manage to cook. Bonus points :)

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  15. Hmm The Good Friday penitential garb doesn’t sound very becoming at all. I think I’ll pass on that one. :( Most of our neighbours are also Jewish and they’re a really jolly lot. As you say, “no proselytising”, which suits me just fine. We’re all just ‘normal’ people who get along well together and enjoy life. Enjoyed your photos, and I love dumplings, although I haven’t had any since I went to China, when we got ‘dumplinged out’. :D

    Like

  16. Very interesting post and I enjoyed reading it. Those fresh veggies look so good and those dumplings looked and sounded good too. Hugs and nose kisses from me and mine to you and yours.

    Like

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