shana tova

[Have had this big post stored up for a while, but was prevented from posting it last week by an unforeseen circumstance that I will (hopefully) shortly relay! In the mean time, here we are…]

The High Holidays are over, and I could write a volume of short stories before I could approach describing the surroundings, traditions, histories, and people I encountered over the past 10 days. An enchanted Rosh Hashanah in Jerusalem, a trip north to roommate’s kibbutz, several solitary days setting me excited on a new project, back to Jerusalem, and a Yom Kippur in Tel Aviv.

Instead of summary, I will leave you with an assortment of visual and verbal artifacts from the past two weeks and move on. Shana tova (happy new year!) to all.

Rosh Hashanah

Some of the dreamiest 24 hours of my life I have ever known.  When I returned on the sherut to Tel Aviv, I didn’t know if I was moving up through time or horizontally through space — but whatever the case, I knew I had truly been in another dimension.  It was the closest I’ve been to — Narnia.

Erev Rosh Hashanah by the Wailing Wall, followed by celebratory dinner with friends. The next morning: synagogue. Then, as so often in the past two months, a meal with family of friends of family (not without inadvertently joining another meal after knocking on the wrong family’s door — and being welcomed to sit at the table until my hosts returned from shul).

Throughout, a stillness.  The sheer impossibility of reaching others, all electronics forbidden, as I walked north through hilly Jerusalem, moving in and out of long brilliant limbs of light, and deep cool shoulders of shadow — such a bodily experience, eating sweet dates, blessing bread, walking feet sore, and, like the last time I was in Jerusalem, having the sense I was holding my breath.

Kibbutz in the North

My roommate’s grandfather was an esteemed Israeli sculptor who worked in Kibbutz Cabri. The Saturday after Rosh Hashanah we drove two hours north for an opening of his paintings in his preserved studio.

For anyone who knows my family, you can only imagine that this was a comfortingly familiar sight!

The kibbutz is just a stone’s throw from the border with Lebanon — defined by a big, sweeping ridge with a fence on top. We drove up, parked with the tourists by the [I want to say clam chowder restaurant! It wasn’t that, but something equivalently humorous for the Border With Lebanon], and looked south over Israel. A quarter of this tiny country in a single gaze.

We then visited one of Shemi’s sculptures right on the beach –

and then back to Tel Aviv.

Solitary Days

Because of the chaggim (Holidays), many of the activities that had framed my first days in Israel, came to a halt. I ended up with some real time on my hands, and from the quiet – I embarked on a new project, and I’m pretty excited about it.*

"Not even the new government plows could evaporate the snow fast enough."

*This solitude was something I often yearned for in NYC in the hustle & bustle of NYC. It has been instructive: this is not a condition I want to seek out in life in general, but I genuinely felt the need to scale back the surrounding noise to zero in order to figure out what should come next…

"the kids were out in their shirt sleeves, splashing in their rainboots --"

Back to Jerusalem

A visit to Jerusalem on Thursday evening had me wandering with friends through a haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) neighborhood in the depths of the night to deliver cookies to a friend’s friend, who was guarding sukkah supplies.
In the comparative chill of Jerusalem (several degrees cooler than still summery Tel Aviv), the whole experience felt oddly like Christmas-tree shopping — except in the middle of the night, in the company of white and black garbed Orthodox men.

Those cookies were really good!

As with so much in Jerusalem — a bit magical, a bit eerie.

Yom Kippur

Even though it’s a largely secular city, Tel Aviv shuts down for the day of repentance. And I mean, Shuts Down, post-apocalyptic style. The rare car seen on the streets has to drive at about 5 mph with flashing lights to make it past the hordes of children (in my neighborhood in particular, where the Arab kids treat the day like the fourth of july, sprinting and shouting down the middle of the street). I even saw a man galloping bareback down Sderot Yerushalyim on a white horse.

Saturday morning, I took advantage of the silence and walked straight out Derech Ben Zvi — usually a car-clogged access route to the highway.

Yom Kippur in a puddle!

I plopped myself down in a park and had a rare, uncomplicatedly nice moment with Israel.

I’ll leave it at that.

My conclusion, at the end of these 10 days?
Being in Israel for the chaggim really is an incredible experience —
and the world would be a better place without cars.


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