A phrase you quickly learn after moving to Israel is "Achrei haChagim"-- after the holidays. Every fall, national productivity ceases for almost a month for Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah. If you're trying to get a dentist's appointment any time in September, you will almost certainly be told to wait until achrei hachagim. If you want a bank to process your mortgage, wait until achrei hachagim. I even know a pregnant woman who waited until achrei hachagim to give birth, although I suspect that was involuntary. (In this country, you never know!)
These are a few of my favorite moments from the chagim in Israel...
Rosh HaShana: I love how connected this country is to old food traditions... especially our Polish and Romanian relatives. At a Romanian home for the first meal, we ate gefilte fish actually stuffed inside a large carp (gelled carrots for eyes and all), as well as beef aspic (take that, Julia Child!), tsimmes, and pomegranate seeds. The next day, my husband's grandfather was shocked that I knew how to make potato kugel and started telling me stories of his childhood (although I have to admit that my version contained some Osem soup powder).
Yom Kippur: From sundown to sundown, the world sounds and smells like no other day. Nobody drives-- and I mean nobody, except for the occasional emergency vehicle. Instead, the streets fill with kids on bikes (and the occasional roller blades or electric car). Pollution levels in Israel visibly plummet. The sounds from the street are hard to describe... the babble of voices, the echo of laughter, the buzz of the electric cars and the whish of skateboards. At night, our cats watch the fruit bats landing to suck on the dates that hang from the palm tree outside our window; in the morning, I wonder if this many song birds chirp every day. On Yom Kippur everyone takes to the street: parents pushing strollers down by the supermarket, kindergartners on training wheels at a roundabout, teenagers clumping in the middle of Rt. 4, sitting on the highway divider and lobbing twigs at the blinking traffic lights.
Sukkot: My husband was on holiday during Sukkot, so we spent the holiday together. Next year, we'll build our own Sukkah-- this year, the stores had sold out by the time we went to buy. One highlight of the holiday: attending a Renaissance Festival in an actual crusader castle.
Simchat Torah: Chabad rabbis dancing to Klesmer music in the atrium of of our local mall. Enough said. :)
My favorite part of this season: the first rain...
[Picture: A fruit bat hanging from the dates outside our window during one of the first rains. To give a sense of scale: the dates are 2-3 inches long.]
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