Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Sukkos Fun in Israel

The holiday of Sukkot is all-out, crazy, over-the-top fun here in Israel.  The kids have off of school (and we have off of ulpan) for over 1.5 weeks.  On the intermediate days of chol hamoed people go on trips and outings.  Since many adults don't work during chol hamoed these tend to be full-family trips, meaning that places are VERY crowded (it's a small country, but, still, when you think of the vast majority of even a small country on vacation at the same time, you can see how places get busy).

We started off at the nearby Biblical Museum of Natural History.  Thank you Elisha and Annabelle for the strong recommendation to go there--all of us had a great time.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves:

They had a very interesting and large shofar collection.  Shalom Shachne, of course, had to try them all :)

How could this not be the last picture of our trip?!
Chana turned 18 the next day, so we celebrated by renting a car and driving 45 minutes to Ikea (here they pronounce it "Ee-Kay-Uh").  What a hoot to be able to *eat* in Ikea!  We spent a LOT of time at the ice cream machine (pareve ice cream for the equivalent of $.50.  Party!), gawking at the prices (which really are MUCH more expensive than we're used to in the US), having fun looking at the furniture (they had a sofa that is quite close to the one we made out of the refrigerator box, but theirs is covered in fabric, so it's nicer than ours was. But not by much) and, of course, buying things.

b'tayavon, the Hebrew equivalent of "Bon Apetit".  What a hoot to be in Ikea and see kosher wine at the cafeteria checkout and a sink for ritual handwashing right nearby

That night, the main city of Beit Shemesh, which is about 15 minutes drive from us, hosted a free concert at the "ampi" (it's not cool to call it an "ampitheater", I guess).  There were several thousand people there and it was an absolutely beautiful cross-section of the greater Beit Shemesh community.  I have a number of mental snapshots of the juxtaposition of people of different types being together there.  My favorite was the older man wearing a tank top undershirt and shorts walking by a Chassidish family where the men were wearing shtreimels and white stockings
something like this, but without the tallises.  (online photo)

We heard some great music, including Lenny Solomon of Shlock Rock (he lives here, so that wasn't too surprising).  We left before the headliner, Lipa Shmeltzer, but had a really fun time.  Even heard Mayor Abutbul (love that name) speak and then he sang!
at the ampi

Happy, happy birthday, Chana!
We also spent time with Penina's dear JGR camp friend Liat
Liat's family made aliyah last summer, and it's so interesting to see how they are doing one year in. When we came in February, Liat was still pretty hesitant about speaking Hebrew.  She would do it with her friends, but was not yet comfortable speaking to adults.  Now she is totally fluent and has transferred to one of the top academic schools (all in Hebrew).  Inspiring!

We did some touring around, including Nobel laureate Shai Agnon's house and to the Promenade near the US Embassy (impressively-large compound!) that is thought to be where Avraham saw Mount Moriah in the distance and began to take Yitzhak there to sacrifice him

There was a concert just up the street from us (heard Mayor Abutbul speak again, but he didn't sing that night!) as the local Lubavitch community had their Simchas Beis HaShoeivah 

 Nefesh b'Nefesh had an outing that was a lot of fun.  We went to Deer-Land Park with Liat's family (and several hundred other Anglo olim.  Plus a lot of Israelis.  Did I mention places get quite crowded during Sukkot?!).

The highlight of the day was the kids going on a 400 meter (about 1/4 mile) zipline, which went over both forest and highway.  Off-road jeeps take the adventurous souls back up the mountain to where the zipline starts (the girls said the ride back [on one-lane dirt roads on the side of cliffs with an Israeli driver who didn't believe in speed limits] was scarier than the zipline.  Listening to them scream the ENTIRE way down the zipline, I'm glad I wasn't in the jeep!)

Penina right before going down the zipline (Liat was of the "bring it on" faction).  I love the look on her face.  She was so unsure yet chose to be SO BRAVE.  And, of course, afterward was bummed out we didn't have time for her to do it again :)

We ended the week by hosting 7 of the 9 girls from Chana's high school graduating class for Shabbos.   They are all at different seminaries for the year, so it was a nice for them to get to see each other and, I hope, to be in a place where they could be relaxed for Shabbos rather than being a guest in a house where they don't know the hosts.  We had a lovely Shabbos!  I especially liked hearing everyone say their biggest chavaya,  or "only in Israel" experience.  There were some really crazy ones, mostly involving their plane flights to get here and/or getting to where they were going from the airport.  While I'm sure the experiences were quite unpleasant while they were happening, they all made for great--and very funny--stories.

Then, yesterday, the last major holiday until Pesach in the spring--Shemini Atzeret/Simchas Torah.  Fun fun fun!  We are used to having these holidays be two days in America, but now that we are living here we only have one day for every holiday except Rosh Hashanah.  It's a lot less work on the cooking-and-hosting front, but we all really liked 2- and 3- day yontifs, so it's definitely something to get used to emotionally.  And it's weird to go from hakafot on Simchas Torah to Yizkor, which we're used to having the day before!

Today, we were up early putting the Sukkah away.  It's interesting to see how most people get their sukkahs put away asap (then again, many people have pergolas which makes the whole thing much simpler).  We have a great view of "Gimmel", the development across the street and up a large hill.  The balconies in many communities here are staggered so that each balcony is open to the sky and, therefore, each apartment can have a sukkah.  Of the 14 balconies, 12 had sukkahs and, as of tonight, I believe that 9 of them have already been taken down.

This is our last day truly off,  so we did a major amount of unpacking.  Penina's room is totally done (whew) and we are working our way through the kitchen and downstairs boxes.  Definitely made more challenging by the fact that our kitchen here is less than half the size of our US kitchen and has about 1/3 of the cabinet/drawer space, and complicated by the fact that I have a deep and abiding love for kitchen gadgets and single-use machines that take up lots of room.....

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