This is the time of year known in Israel as “acherei hehagim” (after the holidays). Starting some time in the early summer Israelis begin to refer to it. Nothing gets done for a couple of months. Everything is put off. You hear people say, “let’s talk acherei hehagim;” “I’ll do it acherei hehagim;” “we’ll begin acherei hehagim.”
Now the holidays are over and all those things I postponed until acherei hehagim are due: new projects, doctor’s appointments and new year’s resolutions.
Suddenly overwhelmed by the amount of items on my ever-increasing list of things to do, I am also appreciative that the events in my life, even those tedious tasks we all postpone doing, are scheduled around the Jewish calendar. This is one of the many benefits of living in a Jewish State that makes me feel at home in this foreign country.
No matter what one’s level of religious observance, Shabbat in Israel is a family time. Israeli children look forward to vacations scheduled around Sukkot, Hanukkah, and Passover. The whole country beats to the rhythm of a calendar and a culture which is Jewish: my calendar; my culture.
Not surprisingly, in this, the land of our ancestors where the milestones of our calendar were cemented, our holidays take on more significance, rooted in their land.
Every year that I live here I am amazed at how many items in our liturgy, our calendar and our ritual become more meaningful in Israel.
One summer when I was visiting America, I looked out the window and saw that it was raining. I instinctively put on a sweater and a coat before going outside. In Israel it only rains in the winter and I forgot that in America there is warm rain. As our liturgy reflects, the rainy season begins with Sukkot and ends with Passover and so it really is in Israel.
Even the mundane reminds me that this is home. In addition to the communal procrastination that the holiday season produces, on Sukkot, for instance, I suffered from a horrible allergy attack. It came right on time. As Sukkot symbolizes, it was the change of the seasons. The summer harvest is finished and we begin to look towards the winter.
Sukkot is also one of the three biblical pilgrimage holidays when our ancestors would come to Jerusalem. Consequently every year during Sukkot, there is a parade that starts outside Jerusalem and continues through its heart. Groups come from all over the country, ranging from the electric company’s employees to youth groups, to make the pilgrimage up to Jerusalem. Every year there are also thousands of Christians who come from all over the world to march in the parade, showing their heartfelt support for Israel and for those of us who live here.
This year I took my son, Shemer, to watch the march up to Jerusalem. As groups from Australia to Zimbabwe passed us, Shemer was thrilled to take the gifts they had brought with them from across the globe. Marching down the streets of Jerusalem, our Christian friends showered those of us standing on the sidelines with candy, flags, toys and even clothing, all the while blessing us with greetings of “Hag Sameach,” “Shalom” and “We are with you!”
Among the adults in the crowd, the feeling of isolation from the world and the loneliness we have been feeling was broken. The hardships of life here became a little easier. Despite the headlines, people had come from all over the world to support us and I could feel it in my heart.
Shemer and I returned home from the parade to have dinner with friends in our sukkah. Over the hedge, we wished our neighbors “hag sameach” (Happy holiday) as they ate in their sukkah echoing a scene that was replaying itself on many streets throughout Israel that week: friends being invited into Sukkot dotting the yards throughout our State, following the rhythm of Jewish life set thousands of years ago.
Life in Israel unites the Jewish past, present and future. Every lifestyle here is a part of our communal Jewish existence, weaving itself into the fabric of Jewish continuity. Each act, even the mundane, helps to shape Jewish society and build the face of Judaism’s future.
This week, when I make my dentist appointment, I will be scheduling it in Jewish time and in Jewish space, supporting members of the Jewish community and of the Jewish State.
In Israel even a visit to the dentist becomes a Jewish ritual.