Monday, October 5, 2015

Another unhappy Jewish holiday

Pomegranates are now in season in Israel and are a prominent part of the Rosh haShana and Sukkot menu.
If you know any Jewish people, you have probably noticed that they have a LOT of holidays. 

This may seem like a lot of fun. Lots of time off from work. Lots of time to relax with friends and family and stuff yourself with amazing food. Happy times all around.

But if you look a bit closer at why all these holidays are celebrated they do not seem all that happy anymore...

Have a look at this list:

Rosh haShana,  the Jewish New Year - A time to reflect on the past year, regret all the bad stuff that you have done and to pray (a LOT) that God will grant you another year and that things will reasonably go well.

Yom Kippur - A 25 hour fast. And not just a 'do not eat food' fast. A fast where you do not eat or drink, brush your teeth or even wear anything made out of leather. This day is basically your final chance to atone yourself and pray for a good new year. Most of the religious Jews spend the entire day in the synagogue.

Hanukka - Celebrating the miracle that the only holy oil left to keep the destroyed Temple's menorah lit, kept on burning for eight days until a fresh batch arrived. The Jews managed to rededicate the Temple after it was vandalized but these times ( 215 BC – 164 BC) were a very difficult time for the Jews in Israel.
Purim - Celebrating the fact that Jews were not annihilated in ancient Persia during their exile from Israel.

Lag Be"Omer - Celebrating the fact that a devastating plague stopped on this day.

Tisha be Av - Another fast day to remember all the bad things that happened to Jews on this date; the first and second temple was destroyed on this date. Jews were also expelled from England and Spain on this date.

Passover - Celebrating the fact that the Hebrews finally managed to get away from a life of slavery in Egypt. Now in modern times, Passover is preceded by an intense and exhausting spring clean and during Passover itself you are not allowed any yeast products. No bread or beer for an entire week!

Just about all of the holidays have the theme of: "Someone tried to annihilate us. Didn't work. Let's eat." or " Pray as lot as you can"

Not exactly a barrel of laughs, is it?

Two of the exceptions are Shavuot (that marks the giving of the Torah, the Jewish bible on Mount Sinai) and Sukkot. Sukkot is basically every Jew's happy holiday. This holiday commemorate the sheltering of the Hebrews in the desert after they fled out of Egypt. And how do they celebrate Sukkot? By building little huts in their yards and on their porches. How cool is that?

All your meals should be eaten in your sukkah (little hut) and adventurous souls even camp out the night there.

Here in Israel Sukkot is also celebrated with art festivals, music shows and activities for children.  A fun time for everyone. Lots of Israelis go on hikes around  the country or even go camping. The days are still nice and sunny but the terrible heat of the summer have turned down a notch or two.

Sukkot is the Jewish holiday were you are SUPPOSED to be happy and have a good time. Just like all the other holy days of all the other religions.

But then terrible things happen.

This Sukkot a young couple, Eitam and Naama Henkinwas gunned down in their car in front of their children in northern Samaria. Their children (ages, 9, 7, 4 and a 4-month old baby) were not physically hurt.

And in Jerusalem a family (two parents, a 2-year old toddler and a baby) was attacked with a knife. The father and a Jewish bystander who came to their help were killed. The mother was also stabbed and as she pleaded for help for her two small children, she was spat on and told to die.

The terrorist was eventually shot dead by security forces.

In two separate attacks, a 5-year old boy and a 16-year old girl were shot at while they were in their sukkah.

A full list (and hopefully final list) of the terror attacks against Jews the last few days can be seen here.

Every Sukkot now, these victims will be remembered. Instead of enjoying a happy carefree Sukkot, every Jew all over the world will enter this happy holiday sadly, with a touch of apprehension, but  still with determination to celebrate the holiday. In spite of everything.

So the next time you know that a Jewish person is celebrating his or her holidays, don't wish wish them "Happy Holidays".

Instead, wish them a PEACEFULL holiday.

Israel, 5 October 2015

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Stepping back in time in Ajami, Tel Aviv

In a not-so-recent photo walk I was privileged to explore the beautiful, yet shabby neighbourbood of Ajami.

This old neighbourhood in Tel Aviv is probably the best contender elegant shabby chic that I have ever seen. Various photo and tourists group often meet up to explore this old neighbourhood and if you are one of them, I highly recommend that you come equipped with a camera or even sketch book!

The neighbourhood was established by Maronite Christians at the end of the 19th century. Many of these residents made their fortunes in trade and built lovely decorated mansions surrounding hidden courtyards. It was also the first neighbourhood in Israel by the way to be connected to the electric grid in 1923.

Today the old mansions are still standing but they are neglected and run-down. And it is now known as one of the lowest-income neighbourhoods in Tel Aviv-Jaffa. Ownership of the many old mansions are in dispute, leading to even more neglect.

Most of the old mansions have been neglected.

You can read a bit more of the history of this once elegant spot here.

But let's explore Ajami a bit more with these photos:
A smiling lady. Note the drying garlic and the amulet against the evil eye.

A porch made to give shade from the hot Israeli sun.
The Lion of Zion grinning above the entrance of a door.
Friday morning shopping
Symmetry in Ajami

Window decoration
Ma'agen David window

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Queen for a Day - Thoughts in the middle of the 2015 Gay Pride parade

I never thought that I would ever be part of a gay pride parade. I am on the shy side and also prefer to hang out in smaller groups.... not dance in the street with 100, 000 people!

Sometimes one has to wave a flag too.
And as my mom has taught me, everybody should be treated as a human being and be given a kind word. Isn't it better to treat people normal everyday instead of just partying with them once a year and waving a pretty flag around?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Sahlab - An ethnic Middle-Eastern winter pudding

It seems strange to think that the winters here in Israel can be cold, sometimes even freezing.

We are so used to reading (and writing!) about the hot summer sun, camels, deserts and sand. And how one cannot survive the excruciating heat without drinking gallons of water or eating buckets of ice cream.

Israelis CAN and do basically eat ice cream throughout the winter months but there is a special warm, very local, very Middle-Eastern pudding called sahlab that should definitely be tasted.
A cup of warm sahlab topped with cinnamon on a cold winter's day

Thursday, March 12, 2015

10 things to see and do in Acco, the ancient harbour city in Israel

The fascinating old city of Acco is found in the northern part of Israel, about half an hour's ride north from Haifa. The modern city of Acco, that surrounds it, is actually a bit boring ..or maybe it just seems a bit watered down against the historical old city.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tisha be'Av - A historical mourning day

Another year, another war.

It has been awhile, but once again we find ourselves in another war. The IDF (Israel Defence Force) and Israeli nation are standing strong but it is still a sad time here in the holy land. Not only are we vilified in the international press for protecting ourselves, but too many young soldiers are dying defending us.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

To Cry and Pray together

The three mothers of the kidnapped teenagers comforting each other.

Living in Israel is just waiting for for an argument to erupt.

Not only are the Israelis VERY vocal in sharing their opinions, they also never seem to agree about anything.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Ode to the Israeli bus drivers and other lessons from the Universe

"Coming home" -  an Israeli Egged bus
Coming from South Africa, a country with a very dismal public transportation system, I was happy to discover the wonderful public busses here in Israel. As Au Pairs, none or my friends nor I owned a car but we managed to criss-cross the country by bus. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Counting the Omer


 The period right after Pesach (Passover) and just before the height of the summer is lovely in Israel. The days are nice and sunny though the evenings can be quite cool and one can still snuggle under a duvet at night.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Ten tips for photographing wild flowers in Israel

Israel may be a tiny country but you would not guess it by the amazing large range of wild flowers found here in the Holy Land.

The wild flowers bloom in the short period of time between the winter rains and the heat of the summer, or the short-lived spring time. Depending on the winter rain and the weather, this can be anytime from mid- February to April.
The shy Cyclamen usual opens the wild flower season