Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Times for Joy

"May the Merciful One restore for us the fallen sukkah of David [i.e. the Holy Temple]."

I have always loved that I live in Israel. I love the sunrises and the sunsets. I love the blue skies, and the starry nights. I love seeing Hebrew on road signs, and I love hearing dogs bark in Hebrew (huv huv). I love being able to say Shabbat Shalom, and Erev Tov (good evening) to random strangers as I walk in the neighborhood. I love that I know the geography of the country and that you can travel one hour and not only is the landscape dramatically different, so is the climate.
I love that at holiday time, the supermarkets are full of special foods for the holidays. I love the fact that the day after the Festival of Succot is over, soofganiyot are available everywhere.
All this time, and it never gets old.

There is so much in the Land that is peculiarly Israeli.
The buses say Happy Holiday!.

People sing the national anthem while traveling on the bus. (confession, I tear up each time I see this video. Corny, eh?)

Stores sell these kind of items:

Milk knives

Shoes for Yom Kippur

We are in the middle of the holiday season, here in the Holy Land. This comes with it's own set of challenges, which you wouldn't find in any other country.

This year, because the holidays fall mid week (week after week after week), no work gets done. It's one thing to have to wait until 'after the chagim' to receive the package you are waiting for, or to fix the the drip in your toilet - annoying enough as that is - it's quite another to find that the supermarkets are out of eggs and cucumbers, and lettuce, and chickens, and apples, and bananas, because there was no one to gather the eggs, or shecht enough chickens, or pick the cucumbers and lettuce, or ship the apples and bananas, because EVERYONE was celebrating the holidays. The problem is exacerbated by EVERYONE eating ALL THE TIME, and the stores run out of food.

Special holiday foods are, in fact, sold in most supermarkets throughout the holiday season. Pomegranates and fresh dates dominate the produce sections.  are Stacked next to apples of all colors are jars of different flavored honey - red, green, yellow and pink (that's the honey). And in the freezer section, one can find cuts of meats not always available year round: lamb chops, veal, and even goat meat. This is in addition, of course, to packaged sheep heads.

Courtesy of Rich Tasgal
 I suppose that grocers put the sheep heads into the freezer to kill people's appetites so they won't buy so much and the supermarkets won't run out of food (see above). Devilishly clever that - a yiddishe kop.

Israel is probably the only country in the world that comes to a complete stop on a religious festival. On Yom Kippur, throughout Israel, there are no cars on the road; no buses, taxis, or trucks. This, of course, allows children to ride their bikes, scooters, skates, wagons, Segways, snowmobiles (admittedly rare), horse-drawn sleds, buggies, mopeds, unicycles, broomsticks, chariots, oxcarts, wheelbarrows, and rickshaws, up and down the otherwise empty streets. And down and up and up and down and up again. When one of these adorable, rambunctious children rams his 4000 NIS electric bike right into the empty stomach of an unalert adult walking to prayers, ambulances can't get through, because the road is blocked with discarded skateboards and bamba wrappers.

Even in the relatively secular neighborhood in which we live, there are sukkot in many of the yards. When we sat outside in our sukkot we could hear other families partaking in the holiday meals also. Up and down the road, families were singing, conversing, playing, laughing, arguing, shouting, screaming, slurping soup, and banging on drums till 4 AM.

The holiday of Sukkot is known as זמן שמחתינו - the time of joy. After the somber days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, Sukkot is a time when we sit outside in a modest hut, relying on G-d's graciousness, and delighting in His gifts to us, including the blue skies, the soofganiyot, the lack of eggs, and the neighbors.

Wishing all of Am Yisrael a festive, joyous, warm (but not hot), and wonderful Sukkot!

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