While most Georgetown students worship the weekend as much-needed time to catch up on homework and binge-watch Game of Thrones (let’s be honest, though, when did midterms ever truly thwart us from GOT?), Jerusalem regards the weekend very differently.
As Friday evening approaches (weekends in Israel are on Fridays and Saturdays), supermarkets crowd and bustle with a fervor similar to students dashing to the Leo’s pasta line. Yet, once the sun begins to set, a siren ushers in a silence discernibly grasped throughout the city. From Friday evening to Saturday evening, Jerusalem respects Shabbat, or the Jewish day of rest. Restaurants close; buses and light-rail cease their customary routes. For tourists—and students looking for a fun time—the choice is simple: pray in Jerusalem, or play elsewhere.
Initially, I considered this strict practice of Shabbat overly daunting. Observant Jews not only are unable to check their email, drive a car or prepare a snack during Shabbat, but they cannot even turn on the lights. Is this lifestyle possible at Georgetown? Given our busy schedules packed with difficult classes and leadership engagements, students rarely take the time to even breathe, much less dedicate twenty-four hours to “rest.” Nevertheless, in my study abroad program, four incredibly intelligent and talented modern Orthodox students at a rigorous American university still manage to fulfill their obligations to their religious practice and their academic studies.
Although we cannot expect to fully embrace such stringent observances, Georgetown students can learn a lot from Jerusalem’s Shabbat. Winding down and decompressing after a hectic week can actually help us achieve more in the subsequent days. By dedicating even a few moments from our week to reflect on our lives and the world around us, we perhaps may enjoy a more restful — and meaningful — Georgetown experience.
Jessica Tannenbaum is a rising junior in the College. She has previously contributed to The Fourth Edition.