We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
It's been a long time since our Aliyah pal has given us a look at his new life in Israel.
Holy Blood - Part I - Oct 2008
Being two days before Yom Kippur, I set my gyroscope for the Shuk. I travel gyroscopically to reach each station of my pilgrimage: the butcher for chicken, the Arab green grocer; the Menahem Begin booth for fruit; the Ethiopian's for quinoa and spices. In the shuk, nothing should distract me. But, the shuk is mostly distractions.
This day, my 'scope went off its gimbals. A small breech in the shuk wall beckoned. It was on Agrippas Street, just past the rugelach bakery and before the Arab knupfe and sweets seller. First I notice the two girl soldiers guarding the opening. Instead of bustle, an occasional person or a couple entered or left solemnly. The two steps up was half-ramped with rough cement, the stuff what the Romans invented.
Transformed to flaneur, I entered, hesitantly. An open courtyard with three tables forming an open square not quite greets me. In fact, greeting doesn't come to mind here. Only after a few moments does an undertone of pungence, an indistinct rankness fogged about me – comes and goes. I realize later that this is the fragrance of fowl death. I see a trio of pairs behind each table and perhaps five people before them, one young religious couple milling centrally or posed before the tables of judgment. Matters dawn on me. I see the kippa'd man withdraw a live chicken from a coop. He has a deft manner of holding up to the customer. One-handed, he pinions the wings from their base (our shoulder) behind the bird; unflappable these wings are now. I hear peeps and realize that these are almost chickens; oversized chicks, pubertal birds. The chicken, while white, has a besmirched breast, as if it has not yet come clean. It soon must. Of the young couple, the woman, hair-covered, bends forward, but a bit. The chicken-wielder passes the bird in an elliptically orbit and just at an angle near the woman's head, like some off-centered rings of Saturn. I see his lips move. Then, he pulls back this feathered sattelite and deftly again, releases thumb and forefinger from the wings to hold back the chicken's head, goose-necking the bird. In his other hand, he wields a straightrazor, similar to the old types once leather-stropped, but this has replaceable blades, like what Gillette invented. He makes a gentle slit, much less to it than I thought might be. And does the bird a header into one of eight zinc funnels sticking into the table before him. Little is seen from these funnels above – I think I spot a few feathers ascend to heavenward, but are brought back by wind and gravity before they get too far. I think I spy the legs kicking, but perhaps this is imagination. I do see the blood funneling down below. The couple, looking relieved or calmed, perhaps certain that at least the woman's sins have been dispelled, leave hand-in-hand. Money exchanged hands, but I never saw this.
The fellow at the back table, furthest from the wall breach, beckons to me, beckons again. I had thought that I could buy a fresh chicken here rather than my beefy butcher, but realize that this is not to happen hear. Another sinner examines a pinioned chicken carefully, perhaps like the Temple's red heifer, checking for mumms, defects, that might militate against sin-relief from this bird. Far to the right, well-behind the ritual action, is a young fellow, perhaps 15, Arab-looking, working chicken carcasses against a lathe-like instrument that strips birds of their feathers, making them more naked than the day they were born. He is surrounded by flying feathers. He too is a deft handler. I wonder what happens to these sin-soaked birds.
Well over to my left, behind a screen, which keeps him from seeing the neck-slitting, I see the back of a thin-haunched fellow, his trousers unevenly hemmed below and hiked just above his ankles. The backs of his shoes are broken-down (from lack of a shoe horn, I wonder). He is hunched over a featherless carcass on its back. His hands, in purple latex gloves, are inspecting the innards. Like some Hercule Poirot of the fowl, he keeps digging, pulling out organs, bending over for a better look. He seems entirely unaware of the tatters he wears, the suit-pants, once too costly for him, his socks hunkered-down to his worn shoes. He is checking, I guess, for some possibility of an ailment – a lung disease, a gizzard damaged – that might disqualify this chicken from being glatt kosher, as it has suffered during its lifetime. I don't know this for sure; it is a brain-imagining, perhaps brought on by my growing awareness of the musty death smells. I turn to leave, hesitate at the gate. The two young woman soldiers checked me before I entered more carefully than ever before at the main gates of the shuk; perhaps here would be a more likely site of death.
Then, down the two steps, avoiding the rough ramp, I leave for air.