Saturday, August 23, 2008

Aug 20 - Bukhara

As we walked the 88 meters up a narrow alley past 4 or 5 other hotels and guest houses to the Nasriddin Navruz, our reserved hotel, we passed one of the two active Synagogues in Bukhara. The door was open, women were cooking, and there was a lot of activity. We asked the time of Mincha and were told 7 pm. It was 6 pm, so we checked in, completely unpacked our bags, and settled in.

In Khiva, as we were leaving, Mike noticed that the upper back pocket of his backpack was unzipped. He had remembered placing the SmartMedia card with the 360 or so China photos in that pocket. The SmartMedia card was not there now. As we took inventory of all the items in our bags, we found no SmartMedia card.

At 6:45 we walked the 40 meters to the synagogue. The synagogue opens into a large open-air courtyard with two rooms on either side. This evening it would be open courtyard where things were happening. There were tables and benches set up around a central davening stand. There were large plates of fruit on the tables, and pots of tea. Also on the tables were paddle-like fans for each participant. Mike took a seat at one of the central tables, and Carol placed herself off the side, as she was supposed to do.

It turns out that this was a very important day for the Buxori Community. It was Azkarata (same Hebrew root as Zachor or Yizkor), Memory Day or Memorial Day, where special prayers are said for all the departed. We know of no such day in our practice of Judaism in the month of Av in the middle of Summer. Anyway, 1 and a half hours, many pots of tea, and lots of grapes, figs, peaches, nuts, and hard candies later, we had finished praying.

Carol thinks that individuals sponsored sections of the service in honor of their specific departed. There were kaddishes and el male rahamims during which individual men spoke. Carol heard the words America and Dollar a number of times.

Next to the women's table, there was a table for men who were less able to participate in the service. One was clearly simple and came to the women's table for assistance. The others were somewhat talkative and had to be shushed several times. But of course, they were part of the community. In all, there were about 30 men and teens, but only 2 other women and a young girl. (Other women were obviously participating, in preparing this wonderful meal.)

The prayers finished, it was time to bring out plates of fried fish and large fried bread puffs, along with bottles of vodka, soft drinks, and sparkling water. That was only the appetizer. After that, we washed our hands, had some bread, and then had a plate of tender stewed lamb served over fried potatoes. Afterwards, there were platters of watermelon and a soft white honeydew-like melon.

It was 9:30 or so, and time to go to bed.

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