To start early, let's begin with Thursday. I usually shop right after ulpan ends. I bring my "Granny Cart" (or "the car", as I used to call it before we got Jazzy) to ulpan and stop in the mercaz on the way home. A little of this and a little of that ensues: I go to the fish store for salmon (in Hebrew, the word is the same, but it's pronounced with a very strong "l", which always makes me smile), the greengrocer for fruits and vegetables, to the "lettuce lady", who sits outside at her makeshift store--a folding table with a little cash register and credit card swiper (she's there only Wednesday afternoons and Thursdays until she runs out of herbs and lettuce to sell), and, finally, to the grocery store to get whatever is left on my shopping list. Sometimes I'll go to "HaKol LaShulchan" ("Everything for the Table") to get paper plates (which are surprisingly hard to find at regular stores here--they only sell plastic plates!), or the butcher shop, or the Shabbos takeout place, or one of the other little stores in the mercaz. It's all there, just took me five or six months to figure that out, and learn where every store is (I'm hoping next summer to give a tour for new olim to save them a few months of learning).
Fast forward through a lot of cooking and cleaning and we arrive at Friday afternoon right before candle-lighting time. Shabbos music is blaring from speakers in the mercaz. The stores have all been closed since around 1:30. And then, the big moment: the music stops and is replaced by the Shabbos siren: it's time for lighting Shabbos candles. I wish we could hear this better from our house, because it's....incredible. First, I always feel happy that the siren is not announcing anything scary. Then I think, "wow--so cool that everyone is on the same calendar here and wants to know when to light". Then, invariably, I run around trying to finish up getting ready and actually light :). The custom is for Beit Shemesh to light at the same time as Jerusalem, so we light 40 minutes before sundown, rather than the traditional 18. As I'm running around those final few minutes, the thought always pops into my head that even if Shabbos started at midnight, I'd still be rushing around at 11:50 pm.....
I've walked through the mercaz around candle-lighting time and it's eerily deserted. Not long after, it's hopping, with tons of freshly-washed, well-dressed kids playing in the streets (my favorite is seeing large groups of girls jumping rope. So darn wholesome!), and people rushing to get to shul for services.
The streets are very quiet all through Shabbos. Because our city is "nestled in the Judean foothills", there are sometimes bicyclists who come through. Cars are rare; there are probably about 5 "regular" cars that I see driving on the main street over the course of the entire 25 hours (nothing on the side streets) and a few emergency services vehicles. It is blissfully quiet on the traffic front, and I enjoy walking in the middle of the big streets: because I can.
Shabbos here is a nice mix of things to do and time to rest. I greatly enjoy the spirited singing on Friday nights at our shul, and I enjoy hearing the Rabbi's talk (Friday nights, he switches off between speaking in English one week and Hebrew the next. Shabbos morning is always in English). There is a women's English learning class Shabbos morning at a different shul that I go to if we don't have guests for lunch (so it's kind of rare that I go, but it's nice to know it's there). This past Friday night, Penina went to an oneg at a classmate's house. Now that Shabbos starts early, there is a men's learning class Friday night that Shalom Shachne attends.
Saturday night, after Shabbos is over, Ilana and Shalom Shachne often go to Avos u'Banim, Parent-Child Learning, at yet another shul (there are *9* in my small neighborhood!). This past week, Shalom Shachne and I went to an informational party for a local organization. The night included sushi and a wine tasting and a great talk, titled "From Rock Star to Rabbi: How a Kickboard Changed My Life" it was every bit as enjoyable as we thought it would be (plus I signed up to do some volunteering for the agency). Most Saturday nights are not quite as exciting, and mostly consist of washing a whole lot of dishes :).
This motzei Shabbos promises to be an exciting time. Shalom Shachne is making a siyyum as he has finished learning masechta Shabbos! He's been working almost three years to complete this and we are all so proud of him. (Wikipedia translation: "A siyum (Hebrew: סיום) (“completion”) is the completion of any unit of Torah study, or book of the Mishnah or Talmud in Judaism. A siyum is usually followed by a celebratory meal, or seudat mitzvah, a meal in honor of a mitzvah, or commandment. Siyum also refers to the celebration.")