As I’m sure many of you know, the chaggim in Israel comprise a very special time. The month or so beginning with Rosh Hashana and ending with Simchat Torah marks a period of vacation for many Israelis, with numerous days off from work, ongoing festivities, and a general sense of relaxation and family time.
In the few paragraphs that I have here, I will try to sum up what life in Tel Aviv is like right now, and hopefully, send you all a little taste of the magic that is chaggim in Israel.
The entire country partakes in the holidays.From television commercials and special programs to sales and greeting cards, Israel envelopes itself in the holidays. Grocery stores stock up on holiday-specific treats and ingredients weeks in advance, clothing stores use this opportunity to hold “end of summer” sales and everything from special cooking shows to historical holiday reports are aired on TV.
Moreover, friends send e-mails, text messages and e-cards wishing their loved ones sweet years and easy fasts.
Being the Jewish country that it is, the chaggim inevitably imply food, food and more food. Families gather for lunches and dinners, both within their homes and outside at parks and beaches, enjoying the company of loved ones and the wonderful October weather.
On Yom Kippur, people of all ages come out and spend the day walking, wandering up and down the streets, visiting friends, strolling and relaxing. Not a single car is seen or heard.
Sukkot are erected on apartment balconies, patios and rooftops, and families can be seen enjoying meals together during the cool, breezy nights.
However, of all these activities and occurrences, I would say that the most magical aspect of this time period is the feeling in the air, that indescribable sense of an entire nation sharing in something meaningful.
The chaggim represent a common experience that binds together the diverse mosaic of Jews in Israel –– Russian and Ethiopian immigrants, native-born sabras, Sephardim from the Middle East, Anglos from South Africa and Australia, even Israelis with roots in India.
Unlike in the States, where chaggim imply missed office time and notes written to teachers, there is no sense of “otherness” in Israel during this month.
Obviously, there is no need for explanations or justifications. The holidays are the country, the people, and the rich heritage that Israel embodies.
You feel a part of something larger than yourself, warmly and safely wrapped in traditions and customs that you’ve known since birth.
I guess for me, that’s what the chaggim in Israel –– and life in Tel Aviv right now –– is all about. That sense of belonging and community that can only come from living in the Jewish homeland.
So that, dear reader, is what I send to you from my apartment in Tel Aviv –– a holiday season that provides you with a strong sense of family, identity, culture and of course, a few relaxing days off from work.