Abu Ali, Shabbos Goy

A fascinating fable of cultural connection (and not-quite-connection). I wonder if there’s a muslim analogue to this need for folks who don’t follow your traditions. Maybe something during Ramadan, though no specifics spring to mind …

Like any archaic tradition, getting non-Jews to help on the Sabbath has evolved over time. Talmudic scholars, Jewish academics and Israeli lawmakers all have wrestled with how to balance religious devotion and modern life.

In this Jerusalem neighborhood, once the sun sets on Fridays and the streets are cordoned off, the only driver on the roads is Abu Ali, in his white taxi, with a red police light that he puts on the roof and special laminated signs he sticks in the front window so his car isn’t mistakenly attacked.

Since observant Jews can’t ask for help, they use a special code with Abu Ali. If they need the air conditioner turned on, they tell him that it’s hot. If they need a light turned on or a fuse changed, they say that it’s dark.

Abu Ali charges about $10 per visit. If he has to rush a pregnant woman to the hospital — something he said he sometimes has to do three or for times each Sabbath — it costs about $30.

The families aren’t supposed to pay him for his services, so the community set up a box outside the neighborhood synagogue where people can put the money. If Abu Ali has to come collect directly, it costs an extra $5.

from “In Jerusalem, Muslim handles Sabbath chores for Jews,” by Dion Nissenbaum, McClatchy Newspapers, 7 August 2008

Originally published at culture-making.com.

Add Your Comments