A belated Hag Same’ah from our new home!

The hardest part of celebrating holidays in a new country is being away from your family and friends.

November 5, 2017 13:52
3 minute read.
Decorating a Sukkah

Decorating a Sukkah . (photo credit: ILLUSTRATIVE: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)


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APPLES AND honey, shofars and sukka dwellings were a part of life for millions of Jewish families around the world for a few weeks in October as we experienced Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and finally Sukkot. One can’t help but be struck by the fact that customs and traditions are marked in much the same way wherever you are. But, there also are some stark differences in Israel. Here are some, as seen through the eyes of an olah hadasha (new immigrant).

Why are there no cars?

One often associates street closures with an accident, protest or festive parade. So, the empty streets in Israel during Yom Kippur seemed surprising. Yom Kippur in South Africa was the one holiday when young children stayed home, leaving the adults time to focus and reflect in the synagogue. Here, children of all ages are out in droves, making the most of this time ‒ from sunset to sunset ‒ by walking, cycling, rollerblading or riding scooters in the roads. Teenagers even walk on highways to nearby cities. It feels like the country has come to a standstill – no cars, buses or taxis. Just thousands of people either in shuls or spending time outdoors.

What is causing this traffic jam?
A friend sent an SMS to advise us to avoid parts of the main road in Ra’anana. He wasn’t sure why there was a traffic backlog on Ahuza Street. Was it a bumper bashing? Maybe road works? No. Palm leaves were being cut off trees in the middle of the road, and residents had come out in droves to collect skhakh (fronds) for their sukkot. These outdoor dwellings range in size from small ones on tiny balconies with two chairs to the larger kind that extend into gardens and cater to several families. It feels as though everyone is somehow connected during Sukkot, regardless of their level of observance.


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