The Holiday Season

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur have come and gone here, but we are still in the midst of the holiday season, with Sukkot starting Tuesday night. It’s hard to get anything done during this time of year–you’re always getting ready for the next chag plus shabbat too. So there’s a lot of time spent food shopping and cooking if you end up hosting all of the meals (which I didn’t). Even if you don’t host each meal, it’s a very busy time.

Luckily for Rosh Hashana, we were invited for almost every meal by people of Ner Kedoshim, the orthodox shul that we’ve been frequenting here. By the time the chag was over, I was ready to go on a diet!

The shul is very friendly and is about half Israeli and half anglo. Unlike most Israeli shuls people actually chit chat after services. We’ve been getting introduced to people and gotten help from many folks including the Ferzigers, an American family who made aliyah a while ago. The husband is a Rabbi and teaches at Bar Ilan, so fortunately, I will have a ride to campus once school starts.

Most of the folks in the shul are families with older kids, so the young couple scene isn’t so happening. We’ve become friendly with a very nice young couple who joined the community about a year before us. We went hiking with them a few Fridays ago and have been invited to their house for a couple of meals.

We’ve been to the conservative shul a couple of times as well and the people there have been very friendly as well. They don’t have very many young couples either, but the people have been very helpful.

Right now, we’re trying to figure out where we’ll end up in terms of the community we associate with and the style of religious observance. I am admittedly more ideologically aligned with conservative, and I do not subscribe to the entire halachic perspective in orthodoxy. However, I feel more spiritually connected to the orthodox service. Unfortunately, the conservative service lacked a certain umph to it–a problem which I have found in other conservative shuls, and which I should probably devote another blog entry to.

I also want to be in a community with a strong religious commitment and to have a religious component to my own lifestyle here–otherwise why I am putting up with this ridiculous country?

I don’t know if we’ll be able to continue going to both shuls, although I really do like people from both places. I think people tend to associate with a specific community or movement here and don’t cross pollinate so much. I think it’s harder here to simply pick and choose religious practices because people in this country like to put people in categories–and those usually tend to be religous and not religious. Also I think if you belong to an orthodox shul here, the assumption is that you conform to the community.

I really don’t think the secular and religious people hang out with one another either, (unless you go to Pardes) which I think is sad and foolish. I think it’s partly because the religious folks don’t want to associate with the seculars, and partly because secular Israelis can be so intolerant of religion and automatically look at religious people in a negative light. Why does it have to be so black and white? Why can’t I have secular and religious friends? Why can’t I defy these stupid categories that feel constraining at times?

During Yom Kippur, whenever I struggled to get into the liturgy (of which there is a lot), I tried to meditate on things I could relate to. In the past I would usually just focus on my own shortcomings, but that wasn’t doing it for me this time. This year I thought about cultivating mensch-like behavior towards friends and family (whatever that means) and devoted time towards thoughts about communal and collective sin. The general gist of my prayer was: Please G-d please don’t let us screw this up i.e. the State of Israel.

Yes I thought about the conflict with the Palestinians and how we are thoroughly screwing up relations with the Palestinian Israelis who are becoming more isolated and more motivated to take on the struggle of their fellow Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. As I was praying for the preservation of this country, riots broke out in Akko between Jews and Arabs on Erev Yom Kippur.

It all started because an Arab family was driving through a religious area on a day when NOBODY–even the secular Jews–don’t go on the roads. This incited some religious Jews to start stoning the car. It was only a matter of time before the Arabs joined in and started rioting. And things have unravelled from there:

The events in Acco are a worrisome development. With things being at a standstill, the country is a tinderbox waiting to erupt an any moment–the tension is always just underneath the surface. It just need the right match. I feel like some people are just waiting for an excuse to erupt into violence.

I was also praying for the people and government of this country. I was praying that for us not to screw up this Zionist experiment. To put it bluntly, the way they run things here leaves much to be desired. The fact that it took this long for a corrupt Prime Minister to step down, the fact that there is so much more corruption boiling underneath the surface, the fact that schools seem to go on strike all the time here, that there is no concept of long-term and strategic planning, the fact that people are so concerned about getting screwed over by the next person, the fact that you can never get anybody from a government office on the phone and that they work two hours a day (that’s an exaggeration)…The fact that there is no separation between shul and state. the fact that we don’t have a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians or that we haven’t withdrawn from the West Bank…

If this place folds it’s not going to be the fault of the Palestinians. It will be ours and ours alone. That’s not to say that I have warm and fuzzy feelings toward Hamas, which has lovingly revived the old-antisemitic outcry that the Jews were behind the financial crisis. It’s hard not to get cynical here. I’m just saying that this country needs to wake up, stop hobbling along, get some guts and make some unpopular decisions. Otherwise we’re in big trouble.


One response to “The Holiday Season

  1. I don’t feel the tension you said you feel.

    I see a reality of a very complicated problem between the Jews and the Islamic people.

    The decisions that we make we cannot make all by ourselves. For example
    withdrawal from Gush Katif was a terrible mistake without some concrete positive action by the Islamic people in Gaza. It was a tragedy. It only showed how afraid and weak we are. It only encouraged them to act against us.

    That’s my opinion. I don’t say that I know everything to understand our problem. We are talking about two different civilizations.

    Also I point out that this land has been occupied territory since the Roman wars against the Jews. The Jews recently liberated their ancient homeland.

    Have a healthy safe and happy year and Hag Sameah.

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