Baba Sali, aka Rabbi Israel Abuhazera, was one of the prominent leaders in the Moroccan Aliyah movement as well a scion of a leading rabbinical family in Morocco. Over 600,000 visitors pay respect to his grave located in Netivot with 100,00 people flocking on the anniversary of his death, which took place this past Monday. To put that in perspective there is a total of 28,000 residents in the Negev Town of Netivot.
Rumor has it that every year it rains during the Baba Sali Festivities and this year was no different. The Jerusalem Post noted that the rainstorm’s “total precipitation in the central Negev will exceed the entire amount that fell in the past 10 years”. Despite the messy weather, Derek, Shaina, Rachel, Gabby and I headed to the grave for a night of praying and entertainment. With the smells of kebabs wafting through the air, we headed down the muddy walkway lined with ample vendors. I bought a HUGE cotton candy for 5 shekels.
Gabby bought corn on the cob for the same price. Other food choices included candy apples, fresh popped popcorn, pizza, and lots of beef. Other stalls were selling hamsas, Israeli music, house supplies, scarves, and Baba Sali water also known as the popular Israeli liquor, Arak.
For 5 Shekels, you could purchase a box of 20 candles at the gravesite. These candles were not to be used in the traditional way, but rather thrown into a large furnace located near the tomb. People were chucking prelit candles over people’s heads into the fire pit. Each candle signified a wish that hopefully would come true once it was consumed by the fire. Due to my lack of coordination, not all of my candles made it into the fire. Rachel said the Baba is forgiving and that the close to the grave is good enough(…I hope so!)
After hurling our candles into the fire, we walked through the stalls one more time before heading on the 15 minute walk back to the apartment. Never in my life have I experienced anything like tonight and probably won’t again. Here’s to wishing to health and happiness…