House of Israel, Ghana: Day 2 (of 5), “I Thought There was a Service”

NOTE: This post is part two of a four part series on the House of Israel, Ghana.

SEFWI WIAWSO, WESTERN REGION, Ghana — Monday, February 17: Alex texted me at 5:56 a.m. “How are you doing? Please I am going to Awaso to present my CV to a company and come meet you soon. See you.”

That’s up-with-the-roosters early, I thought. The plan the evening before was for me to make my own way to the synagogue for an 8:00 a.m. service. I responded immediately asking what time I ought to be ready or shall we just meet at the synagogue as planned.

I wouldn’t hear from Alex again till dinner time when he turned up at my hotel.

So, I took a taxi to Tifereth Israel Synagogue. Just 10 minutes from my hotel, the New Adiembra village is located up and over several verdant hills in a fairly remote area though easily reached by generally good roads. For 1 Ghanian Cedi (about US$0.40), I was able to take one of the frequent shared taxis that cruise up and down the main drag. That road passes whimsically named red dirt lanes such as Psalm 25, Posh, Fruity, Possible, Stand Firm, and the more menacing Lion Lane. Then there’s Zion Lane, though it’s not quite the same as that hill in Jerusalem on which the City of David was built. Despite many of the side lanes lacking pavement, they all seem to be signaled by shiny new street signs poised high atop sturdy poles.

At the synagogue,I met Joseph Nipah, age 42, Alex’s older brother by nine years. They are the only two children in their big family who have accepted Moses as their savior. “They are proud of us,” Joseph told me. “They have their way, we have ours.” That simple comment seemed reasonable enough for me.

Joseph Nipah recites his morning prayers at Tifereth Israel Synagogue.

Joseph Nipah recites his morning prayers at Tifereth Israel Synagogue.

But no one else was to be seen. In fact, it was so quiet, all I could hear was the unnerving hum of giant wasps coming and going from their miniature earthen-like abodes affixed to the walls just inside the window slats.

“I thought there was a service.”

“Yeah, there were some people here about 7:00. But they are all gone to work and school now,” Joseph said. “But I am here for you. Take your time.”

So I did. I photographed the synagogue and the exterior of the adjacent guest house where Alex lives. He offered me a room there, which I declined when he texted me via Facebook, “There is electricity but no running water. The toilet is nearby. Or you can stay in a hotel.”

Hotel, please. Ding!

House of Israel Jewish Community guesthouse, with synagogue adjacent (far right).

House of Israel Jewish Community guesthouse, with synagogue adjacent (far right).

I asked Alex how much money was needed to fix up the guesthouse toilets. “About 4,000 cedi (US$1,600),” he calculated. I was shocked by that number. It’s no wonder buildings like the guesthouse take years to complete. Very few in these parts have that sort of money, a veritable fortune. Joseph earns 150 cedi (US$60) a month from his security job at a local government office (he’s got a wife and 4 kids to look after). Alex is an electrician though he’s currently unemployed (his wife is a teacher at a nearby private school; he has 2 kids from a previous marriage; “She was not a Jew, so we had to quit,” he told me).

As much as I wanted to stay in the community, I just knew that I’d be happier at a hotel with air conditioning and an en suite room, even limited satellite TV which seemed only to receive football (i.e. soccer) and made-on-the-cheap, poorly acted Ghanian and Nigerian dramas in which everyone seems to be either arguing or dying histrionically. Of course, there is always a televangelist on too who’s either screaming at you in measured cadence or somnolently warning you about the fiery pits of hell.

Tifereth Israel Synagogue, House of Israel Jewish Community, Sefwi Wiawso, Western Region, Ghana.

Tifereth Israel Synagogue, House of Israel Jewish Community, Sefwi Wiawso, Western Region, Ghana.

I spent nearly two hours photographing, taking my time as Joseph had instructed me too. We chatted while I worked, and I wondered aloud what the rest of the day would hold in store without Alex around to guide me. I decided to head back to the hotel. I spent the entire afternoon editing the morning’s photos and catching up on my blog.

It rained again around three o’clock.

Twelve hours since his morning text message, Alex called. “Hey, how are you? WHERE are you?” I asked.

“I’m outside your hotel.” I went right down.

We caught up on the day, then I presented Alex with six kosher mezuzah scrolls and mezuzah covers. I noticed that only one of the synagogue’s three doors had a mezuzah and that there weren’t any on the guesthouse. I had intended to hand over the mezuzahs at the morning service so everyone could see them.

Just then, Joseph turned up. I invited them to eat with me. We all ordered, but only Alex and I ate together. To my surprise, Joseph’s meal was served in a styrofoam box and a plastic bag.

NOTE: This post is part two of a four part series on the House of Israel, Ghana.

# end

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