Saturday, September 18, 2004

New Years in Israel

With the big news that Madonna was in Israel for Rosh Hashana festivities in Tel Aviv, I was actually feeling sorry for her that she could not enjoy the simple bliss and peace and quiet I enjoyed at our friends' kibbutz in the North. What a simple place it is. I remember celebrating New Years in Toronto 10 years ago. We used to rush out and buy everyone new clothing to wear to synagogue and everyone paraded around in their new, expensive duds - and it felt more like a fashion show than a day of reflection for the year to come. This kibbutz is the only kibbutz which follows the Conservative Judaism movement (others are completely secular, some Orthodox and there a few Reform ones). The service was run by a French female rabbi, at a very informal pace. At one point towards the end we stood in pairs and each one meditating on what we would like for ourselves this year. We had to stand firm so our partner would not be able to push us off from where we stood. People dressed informally, kids ran around in roller skates to talk to their parents briefly then scooted out. Others ran around in beach shoes. Hubby was proud of himself at withstanding the 4 hour morning service and even made it to the afternoon. "I don't know what it is - but I did the entire service." Of course you did, honey, I told him, explaining the mystery of his staying power. "The rabbi is single and female and pretty and French. Why shouldn't you stay for the entire thing?" I'm surprised she even allowed him in the service towards the end because he is a prehistoric caveman. "Why don't you just concentrate on having kids, getting married. Why must you be a rabbi..." But she smiled and I don't think she minded his upfrontness.

We talked about the Kibbutz history. The kibbutz is situated near the Arab city of Kfar Manda with 15,000 people there. The population is composed of 15 families (with about 1,000 in each family). So when the people of the city asked the kibbutz founders how many families were moving in - the kibbutz people told them 15 families. "Oh my, that is just like us!" the Kfar Manda people exclaimed, probably thinking the kibbutz was going to be the size of their vast village. How surprised they must have been to see the families - each with only 4 to 7 members in each family.

Of course when we got to the kibbutz my two youngest kids were complaining. After 1/2 hour by the pool listening to some great South African CDs before the holiday began, the complaints began, and I wondered whether we did the right thing in bringing them. But on the other hand, what does complaining matter. Look at the bigger picture of not cooking the food for 3 days, not cleaning, not shopping for the food beforehand, etc. etc. So what if the kibbutz is poor and doesn't have state-of-the-art rooms. The simple accommodations is what I call "camping". Speaking of camping it really did feel like camping when I couldn't sleep because of the mosquitos buzzing around me on Wednesday night. So I went downstairs to watch a movie on Satellite TV in their lounge. I went upstairs to our room when the sun rose and found a scorpion watching me pee in the bathroom. It was still and small. But I didn't know whether its bite was fatal or just annoying and I didn't want to find out. Hubby was a bit too freaked out and ran outside in his undies trying to find a broom in the offices. He found a squeegee - that window wiper thing used to wash floors and I was given the job of "taking it out." I gingerly killed it and felt guilty at the same time for committing murder during the new year. After that episode I checked under every shoe, bit of clothing left on the floor until I was satisfied no relatives of this scorpion was left behind. I gleefully told our friends that I caught a scorpion for the first time. They hooted like I was some primitive camper. They were so used to these things. "Oh, our son just killed one the other day when it stung him in his bed." "They climb into your bed?" I shrieked thinking they stay put on the floor.

Skipping back to the first night of the holiday, there was a family from Bombay who ran the meal. They cooked some fish in curry for everyone and we kept on taking spices they made for themselves off their table for us to try on our chicken. We made traditional blessings over several foods - leeks, stringbeans, pomegrantes, fish, zucchini, each one bringing its own different blessing for us all. This tradition is basically held by Sephardic Jews, people of Middle-Eastern, North African, Southern European origin. So it was a novelty and a first time thing for me - me of Eastern European origin. Our hosts overdid it on the brandy and wine and bid us an early good night.

The kids found some friends on the kibbutz and would go to the cow sheds and watch the milking. At night, they made friends with the Bedouin watchman- who was actually 18 years old and he drove my daughter around in his tractor, which she loved, telling me she had gone to his nearby village in his tractor. That night the village had a wedding and we heard the music flow onto the kibbutz, after which there were the traditional fireworks. I think he had a bit of a crush on her because he called her on my cellphone and seemed disappointed when she wasn't with me to receive the call.

As much as I love doing nothing, I felt restless today and asked Hubby to drive to Akko to see the refurbished Turkish Hammam (steam room) which had been in use since the mid-18th century. He thankfully obliged and it wasn't in use anymore but turned into an interactive museum of sorts, with a film on the history of the place - with actors playing their parts in the hammam as it looks today. I must remember to post the photos of this wonderful place tomorrow after work. They must have thought I was crazy in that city, but I enjoyed the fact that Jews and Arabs live together peacefully there. I enjoyed the fact that there was no security at any of the seaside restaurants and they were all packed. Israelis filled up the local eating haunts and there was so much life in the marketplace. Everyone was happy and friendly.I took photos of a local father and daughter eating tiny salted fish together, surprised that that girl even looked at fish, never mind enjoying it immensely. We drank freshly squeezed pomegrante juice, in season now. In fact the entire Galilee was filled with pomegrante trees, their fruit so colorful and ripe. I longed to plant a pomegrante tree where I live, but know my garden is way too small for such a lovely fruit tree. I fantasized about retiring up there, with a garden filled with every fruit tree mentioned in the Bible. I was so grateful to be able to spend my holiday there, where Hubby and I did not fight once the entire 4 days.


Anonymous said...

Happy New Year. I discovered your blog only now - if I knew before you come North I would have invited you to our kibbutz, too. Although we are apikorssim... rosh ha shana is always nice here. We have developed our own tradition.

My blog is in German so I don't even bother leaving my url... ;-)))


Anonymous said...

Happy New Year! Thanks for sharing your experiences! Sounds simply wonderful...well, except for the scorpian and misquitos! I am so glad it was a good time for you and hubby...that is a blessing!

We got together with a couple of our friends during the day and ate together and talked and talked of many things...then we had to all get ready to meet with the rest of our group at another house. Where we celebrated a bit more. Tomorrow night 3 couples and one very active toddler are coming over for a "breakfast at night" meal (cause it is easy and I wanted to fix a couple of special things for them) and it is going to be talk, talk, talk some more...maybe sing a bit too.