Thursday, October 2, 2008

Happy Holidays!

We're now in the midst of the holiday season in Israel. Strangely for us, it all seems to be sort of low key around here. Let me 'splain. Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur/Sukkot/Simchat Torah-Shmeni Atzeret are huge holidays. Everyone is off for RH, the entire country closes down for YK, and rumour has it that parking lots and open courtyards all over are filled with sukkahs (um, huts basically) for sale, along with all the things that go along with sukkahs (apparently, what in North America we would call xmas lights are very popular for sukkahs here). And nearly everyone is off for holidays for Chol HaMoed (the days between Sukkot and Simchat Torah).

There are sales in the markets, and signs for classes and services everywhere, but what's different is there isn't that frantic feeling of "getting everything taken care of in time" that I always felt in Vancouver. It's probably because we don't have to worry about the stores running out of kosher food! Or buying tickets for services. Here, you pay your membership fee before Rosh Hashana, and that's your "seat." But if you don't pay a membership fee, you can still go to services. Pretty much anywhere.

So we went to services at Aunt Shirley's in Haifa, and had a wonderful time. (Aunt Shirley and Morey's mum are sisters.) It was really nice to spend a holiday with family that didn't involve hundreds of dollars of plane fare, dog boarding and time off from work. It was a simple train ride. Okay, it wasn't so simple. We brought Maimo with us. Dogs are supposed to be muzzled on the train, but we don't really have a muzzle, so we faked it with a little cat collar. They called us on it, though: "Ze lo beseder." That's not okay. However, it was 10:51 and our train was leaving at 10:52, so we yelled a quick "sorry" and ran to the train. We caught it as the doors were closing.

On the way, we discovered every other dog on the train was not muzzled. On the way home from Haifa, we discovered every other dog on the train was... not muzzled. Modi'in must be hard-core because it's such a new station.

Anyway, we ate way too much food at Aunt Shirley's, met lots of people, davened (prayed) with a lovely minyan, said Tashlich (ritually casting off our sins) while overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, were woken up by a torrential downpour, got wiped up by Aunt Shirley at Scrabble, and got to visit with a couple of cousins. Ittai broke his ankle. Last time I spent any significant time with Ittai, I was in a wheelchair from spraining my ankle. I told him I guess we can't relate to each other unless one of us is on crutches.

It truly was a wonderful way to spend Rosh Hashana, but while I can't imagine spending any holidays anywhere but Israel, I missed our Vancouver Shtiebel terribly. I missed Cliff's davening, Michael's torah and shofar blowing*, our tiny Torah, the community participation and how meaningful the tefillot (prayers) are.

But still. I was in Israel for Rosh Hashana. It doesn't get any better than that.

* Here's a video of an amazing display of shofar. You truly get the sense of the "call to arms."


Jess said...

Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwww, you took the J'lem train to Haifa?
Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww...It's like the Israel Transit Authority was "how can we make the trip to Jerusalem as inefficient as humanely possible..."

Alissa Altman said...

Oh my goodness gracious, no! We have our very own express train from Modi'in that goes to Haifa in 1:40. "Express" meaning that it stops 8 or 9 times before Haifa, of course.