Hebrew lessons are provided free-of-charge to every new immigrant to Israel. It is part of the government-provided benefits package called “The Absorption Basket” and new citizens are encouraged to speak, read, and write Hebrew as part of their adjustment to life in Israel. At the time, I had Hebrew classes (called “ulpan”) from 830am to 130pm every Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I seldom showed up at 830am, instead I tried to sneak in at the first recess about an hour and a half later. Ulpan was fun, interesting, and challenging; but I wanted to explore Israel. I rebelled against the discipline and often played hooky. I have no excuses; I was a naughty student.
In Tzfat (Safed), every Wednesday was Shuk Day. The shuk is an outdoor market that is set-up in an empty parking lot for one day only and then completely removed by 5pm. Early in the morning, the farmers start setting up tables to sell their vegetables, fruits, and herbs. There are also stalls for all kinds of things you may not expect to find at a temporary market:
Bottles of alcohol
Cookies and pastries
Paper goods like disposable plates, plastic silverware, Styrofoam cups, napkins, paper towels, toilet paper
Underwear and sleepwear for the whole family
Toys, games, and books
Plastic containers, buckets, and bowls
Leaded crystal knick-knacks, candleholders, and vases
China dishes and glassware
One Shuk Day, I skipped ulpan and rode the public bus from Pizza Rashbi to near the shuk. It cost 4.5 shekels if I didn’t have a monthly pass or a ten-ride punchcard. As I entered the fray that was the noisy marketplace, I saw not one, but three of my classmates who were also skipping ulpan! LOL. “You don’t see me. I’m not here!” I shouted to Salome. “I’m not here, either!” she responded with a laugh. That was a good day.