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