The Evening an Orthodox Jewish Man Spat in My Face: an excerpt from my book

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Then we see a large synagogue situated on a corner – a jackpot of people in party-mode. I snap some 7-12 year old boys – and then one of them begins yelling at me furiously, “Nooooo!” Aw, man. “Shlee-ha” I concede, yet again.

What to do?

Ah! And then I see two very Western-looking men about my age standing against the synagogue wall encircled by several Orthodox men in satin and gold embossed robes. One of the hopefully-English-speaking (no one thus far has seemed to speak any English other than “no” and “camera”), has a sizeable camera dangling from his neck. Perhaps, he can better tell me what the protocol seems to be.

I approach the circle slowly. “Hey, how is the photo-taking going? Do you have an idea as to what’s appropriate and what’s not?”

I barely have the question out of my mouth when one of the Orthodox men, this one in a decadent gold robe,

spits in my face.

Very brazenly, disdainfully, irately, spits in my face.

And then he storms off, joined by the other Orthodox men.

I chuckle to the Westerners, “Okaaaaay,” while wiping the alcohol-infused saliva from my face. Westerner-with-camera, soon identified as a Canadian from Winnipeg, tells me he had difficulty taking pictures, but as long as he seems cautious while pointing-and-shooting, it has been okay. There is a pause as Westerner-without-camera (also from Winnipeg) stretches out his hand to wipe the spittle remnants from my cheek. “Thanks,” I smile. “That happened because you are a woman with a camera. Sorry, about that,” the fellow photographer explains. “Oh, I see. I wondered about that.” I assert. And we have the usual, “What are you doing in Jerusalem?” exchange and bid farewell to the scene of the crime /spit-shine.

We make our way out of Mea Shearim and back to the city center in time to catch the end of the monstrous block party taking place: crazy costumes, happy dancing, a stage, and about a thousand people celebrating. Here, I take endless photos, and no one bats an eye. In fact, people leap in front of my camera in hopes of becoming part of my Purim memories.

And they will be; but that man in gold, though I have no photo of him, he will be forever memorialized in my mental scrapbook of Purim. Lesson learned: if you really want to go down in history, spit in someone’s face – that is a surefire way to stand out in the crowd.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a spray of saliva must be worth tens of thousands.

Take it from me. I can still feel the drippy, silent words resting on the apples of my cheeks. Gross. And really memorable.

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