Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Everyone is Exotic

I have to say, I am very grateful to Hashem for my job. Being the Zoo Rabbi means that I am able to teach in the most incredible settings. Yesterday, my group came to Zambia. We visited Victoria Falls, also known as "The Smoke That Thunders," which was breathtaking. Somehow, a few of us got separated from the rest of the group. Eventually I noticed them on the other side of the ravine, at the extreme right edge of the falls (which are about a mile wide). Look for them in the following picture, somewhere over the the rainbow:

We spent the night at the magnificent Royal Livingstone Hotel, which is right next to the falls. It's a colonial-style hotel, which means that many of the staff wear British shorts and those funny round hats. There are also staff wearing traditional Zambian dress, which consists of berets and gaudy red dresses - for the men!

The hotel is situated on the banks of the Zambezi river. Electrified wire and sharp rocks had been placed between the hotel and the river, to prevent hippopotami from wandering into the hotel grounds and killing people. There was, however, a near-infinite amount of monkeys in the hotel, although they didn't appear to have started work on their Shakespeare scripts. Here's a photo that I took of one of them, which appears to be an albino:

This morning, I woke up before dawn. Hoping to spot some wildlife, I decided to go for a walk. Upon opening the door to my room, I got quite a shock:

Yup, there was a zebra right outside my room. It didn't seem as surprised to see me as I was to see it.

But the most fascinating experience occurred at shacharis. We made our minyan in our private kosher dining room. The hotel staff, who were setting up breakfast, were absolutely fascinated by our tallesim and tefillin. One of them brought a camera and started shooting pictures of us!

If you're a Zambian man wearing a gaudy red dress, living in the jungle surrounded by monkeys and zebras, then it's Orthodox Jews who look exotic. It was a good lesson in how "normal" is a relative term!


  1. If you're a Zambian man wearing a gaudy red dress, living in the jungle surrounded by monkeys and zebras, then it's Orthodox Jews who look exotic. It was a good lesson in how "normal" is a relative term!

    I had a guest for Shabbos. Across the street from the shul is a group home for handicapped Chassidic boys. They often come to shul. My guest commented "Don't they have enough problems? They should dress them normally instead of in the Chassidic uniform. They wouldn't stand out so."

    I told him that in their circles, people dress Chassidic. Putting these young men in polo shirts and jeans would only serve to distinguish them from their families and caregivers. Normal and exotic are situational.

    This concept probably has application elsewhere ;)

  2. First think in the morning a minyan of tallesim must look an awful lot like a harem of zebras.

  3. You should have omitted the name of the hotel. That way, we could've guessed, "Livingstone, I presume?"

  4. I'm not seeing the missing group but am loving the African trip posts!

  5. OK, I'll be the first to say it:

    "In Zambia, when you hear hoofbeats, think Zebras, not Horses."


  6. You really did get separated from the group. I hope you finally did get reunited. They appear to be the pot of gold under the rainbow.

    Dovid Dov (aka Black Bear)

  7. If only more unaffiliated Jews felt the sense of wonder, curiosity, and exoticness upon seeing someone put on Tefillin and Tallesim as the Africans did, perhaps more Jews would turn to Judaism rather than other spiritual outlets.


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