So there’s this city in the Tel Aviv region, situated right between outer and inner suburb, called Bnei Barak. Or Bene Beraq. Or B’ney Brak. It really depends on what road sign you’re looking at.
But sometimes, while passing through Bnei Barak, you’re not looking at road signs because you’re on foot and consumed by the GPS on your phone, trying to find the bridge over the highway and into Givat Shmuel. Other times it’s shabbat or erev chag, and you can’t do that.
You see, Bnei Barak is somewhat unique for the Tel Aviv area. Because Bnei Barak is, well, religious. I don’t just mean that the residents are religious: the city itself, it can be said, is religious. And in order to walk from my apartment in Ramat Gan to a friend’s apartment in Givat Shmuel, I either have to walk through Bnei Barak or take a rather silly detour.
And sometimes it can be a little intimidating to walk through a neighborhood like that when you know you stick out like a sore thumb and it’s, for example, erev sukkot. It’s not the kind of intimidation where you think anyone’s going to do anything or even say anything to you, but more just, well, it’s like showing up to a party in a T-shirt when everyone else has a tuxedo.
When you’re already in that mindset, sometimes, right as you pass through the brunt of Bnei Barak, right when you need to start figuring out which side-street will get you to the bridge, something catches you off-guard. Your eye passes over a wig shop. Then it passes over a tzedaka box. Then it passes over a currency exchanger, and it stops. Because your mind sees the large, lighted sign above the store and interprets “CHANGE” as a command.
You shrug it off and keep on going, making your way steadily towards the bridge into Givat Shmuel. But you still wait until you fully cross the bridge, until you step completely on firm ground on the other side, before you take out your phone again.