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    Posted September 12, 2013 by

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    35 Years in a car

    About 2 years ago, on a colorful and happy Jewish celebration of Purim (similar to Halloween) I went to document this specific celebration to as always my favorite place in Jerusalem, Meah Shearim (100 Gates) which is the most ultra-religious area of Jerusalem where Hasidic Jews still live the way they lived hundreds of years ago in Europe and still keep the old traditions and live by the Torah.

    Now, what interested me to come to the area on this specific holiday, is an interesting mandatory Jewish rule by the teachings and text from the Talmud… generally, religious Jews just like Muslims, are not allowed to drink alcohol… it is absolutely forbidden to drink anything alcoholic apart from the Sabbath Wine that has just few % of alcohol and generally is more a juice than wine.

    However, on Purim, it is mandatory for Hasidic Jews to get drunk! Yes, yes, I’m not joking, by the religious teachings Jewish people must get drunk on Purim… and the reason for it is the passage from Talmud that says that Jews must get drunk to such a level that they won’t be able to tell apart bad from good – Megillah: Rava Said: A person is obligated to drink on Purim until he does not know the difference between “Cursed be Haman” and “Blessed be Mordechai”

    Anyhow, my story is not about Purim, it just happened to be during my visit to Meah Shearim during Purim celebration day.

    While walking through streets of the area, I noticed a man, religious man, not very clean, sad eyes, and a small barbeque grill right next to him with one sausage being grilled on it… that’s about it.

    People are dressed in different costumes, happy, some drunk, some not, but overall very happy day, smiling people walking around and no one, but no one even looks his way… and here I am, standing there, looking at this man sitting there on his own in his dirty clothing, slippers and a mess on the head for the haircut.

    I approached him, and carefully started talking to him and developing conversation, did a few portraits of the man, wished him happy holiday and went on my way… last year I came looking for him again to see if his situation changed or maybe at least improved… but no, nothing changed, nothing improved… but I did spotted him sitting in a car (mini-van) that looks like he is living in it or found himself shelter in that car, and so I started talking to him, asking questions, and he told me that he is living in this car, that some far friend was kind enough to give him some money that was enough to buy this car that is not working but at least provides him shelter.

    I didn’t had much time so I wished him a great day and left… and this year I came back again to the area and went looking for him again, he was gone from his regular spot where the car was parked, so I went asking around and people told me he moved his car to another location and pointed me to that location, I found him, in good health and well, still living in his car, and this time, I asked for his story, and he felt that he can trust me after few years of seeing each other and talking, I guess I gained that friendly trust from him.

    35 years ago, he was a happy man, married, had a job, was an active member of the Hasidic community in his area, but something happened that changed his life forever… he lost his job, and could not support his family anymore, he tried to find something else, but being a Hasidic religious person, there are a handful of options available in terms of work since Hasidic Jews are not educated in terms of profession, but rather just the religious way of life.

    His wife left him, took the children, and moved to another city, he had to sell their apartment and payout debt that he gained while being unemployed, and so he could give some start money to his wife for her new life… and that’s how he was left alone, no place to live and no job to earn, later he got sick and entirely lost ability to work.

    Now the problem is, that in terms of the Government, he belongs to the Hasidic Community, and by the rules, government provides funds to the Community leaders, meaning the main Rabbi of Jerusalem, and his office makes sure the funds are distributed to different Yeshiva’s and Synagogues in Jerusalem and these Yeshiva’s are the ones responsible to provide funds to their members, so Government is not involved in financial support of the Hasidic community directly, only through Social Services, however, when he sold his apartment, somehow the agent or however took care of the sale, did not submit all documents to the registry of property ownership and till this very day this apartment is listed as his own.

    But, in a Hasidic community, divorce is a sin, it is forbidden to separate from your wife or husband, and since he did get divorced, he was banned from the community and they refuse to support him, so when he goes for Social Services, they claim that he still owns a real estate property (which is not true) and that he should turn to his local community Yeshiva for help, and when he does, they refuse to help him because he is no longer a part of the community…

    So, the result is; that Joseph, by the way that’s his name, has been living in a car (mini-van) for the past 35 years… been showering in a nearby Yeshiva that allows him to do so, and using the washrooms of a nearby Synagogue… some people from the neighborhood bring him food and water from time to time, some passersby can drop him a coin or two, even though he doesn’t sits there with a cup to bag for money, he still a deep believer and still prays 3 times a day and worships God above all!

    He told me the last time I visited him “I don’t understand what wrong have I done to all these people who refuse to believe me and help me, I don’t ask much, I only wish to have a tiny roof over my head, and a simple job that will allow me to earn my living, nothing else, nothing more, just be a good part of my community”.
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