Last-Minute in the Sunshine

I’ve described Jerusalem by the shining white stones of its buildings. I’ve tried to capture Jerusalem in words like “intense” and “holy” and “diverse.” I’ve made friends out of the acquaintances on Jerusalem’s buses and in her cafes. And I even introduced a sabra to the Jewish people in the hills of Jerusalem’s Ein Karem (his passport has no country, but we know).

Still, it’s the wee hours before Pesach that showcase quintessential Jerusalem for me (how appropriate, as we near Shavuot). After midnight, the city is dark. The streets are nearly empty (it’s a city that doesn’t fully sleep). Cafes are finishing their final scrub-down before the holiday, sponga water cascading into the gutters. Homes stand empty of leavening for the holiday (or it’s been sold…or so we trust). And the florists…well, the florists are open. Because Jerusalem is in the final throes of preparation for Pesach, and everyone needs flowers. It’s almost the last minute, and the florists don’t close until right before candlelighting.

At least, that’s what I thought.

I first discovered the all-night flower stands in 1993. We were impatient and overtired and walking through the center of Jerusalem, back when Jaffa Road being empty of cars was a middle-of-the-night novelty. Outside the Mashbir on King George Street, there was a flower stand. On Aza Road, heading toward Herzog Street, another stand. And a full-blown flower shop. We were walking from town to our apartments, and we were delighted with our discovery that the florists were open all night. Erev Pesach in Jerusalem — of course! And – what could be better? We didn’t buy any flowers.

Since then, whenever I’ve been able, I’ve made a point to go to the flower stands in the wee hours before Pesach. When my house is scrubbed and empty of leavening (or it’s been sold). I could buy flowers in the sunshine, but I’m excited to go out in the dark. I may be falling down in fatigue (oh, there’s no maybe about it) — but surely the florists are too. If they’re going to make sure Jerusalem can buy flowers all night before Pesach, I’m going to do all I can to honor their sleepless night.

This year, for the first in several, I was determined to pull it off. I bundled my sabra out of sleep and into his shoes without socks in the wee hours. He was thrilled — flowers for Pesach! (We’d been talking about it for a few days). And then…the first florist we came to was closed. I was startled and disappointed and motivated to keep going.

Which we did. And found a full display of bouquets on an empty road in the heart of the daytime bustling busy (intense, holy, diverse) Jerusalem. No, the seller wasn’t surprised to see us. And we ushered in Pesach with an assortment of roses.

Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon

Anne Gordon is the Deputy Editor of Ops & Blogs at The Times of Israel.

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