Casting about for water

Finding a place to perform "tashlich" on the edge of the desert requires some ingenuity.

hezekiahs tunnel 311 (photo credit: Gil Zohar)
hezekiahs tunnel 311
(photo credit: Gil Zohar)
For people who grew up in countries blessed with water and rain such as Canada, Britain or much of the United States, performing the tashlich ritual in the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashana was no problem. One would head over to the nearest stream, river, beach or harbor to empty one’s pockets of crumbs, thus symbolically “casting off” one’s sins to begin a new year blameless, in accordance with the biblical verse “You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). The bread represents sins committed by the person reciting the prayer; and by throwing those sins to the fish, one absolves oneself.
But where does one go to perform this absolution custom in Jerusalem – a city on the edge of the desert with no such bodies of water? Traditionally, Jews have gone to the Gihon Spring and the Siloam Pool in the City of David. As these are now part of the Jerusalem National Park operated by the City of David Foundation, one must buy an admission ticket for NIS 45 to reach the Gihon Spring. But for NIS 12, you can approach the water near the Siloam Pool. While the City of David is closed for the two days of Rosh Hashana, as well as Yom Kippur and Shabbat, the site is still an option, since traditionally one may recite tashlich until Hoshana Rabba, which falls on September 29 this year.
Another natural source of water frequented for tashlich is the spring in the abandoned Palestinian village of Lifta, also known as Mei Neftoah, just west of the Central Bus Station.
Farther afield but relatively close to the residents of Ma’aleh Adumim is Ain Fawwar/Ain Mabua in Nahal Prat. Being developed by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, the site is currently free. Higher up the canyon to the west near the settlement of Almon is Ain Fara/Ain Prat, a nature preserve that charges an entrance fee of NIS 22. Ain Kelt, the third of the springs in this picturesque valley, is close to Mitzpe Yeriho and is currently free.
But what to do if you live in the city proper and don’t want to make a hike on a hot day to gain absolution? Some Jerusalemites recite tashlich by fountains, fish tanks or even dry reservoirs.
One popular site is the new fountain in Kikar Tzarfat not far from the Prime Minister’s Residence.
The neighborhood of Har Nof overlooks the Beit Zayit reservoir. Residents there habitually recite tashlich on porches or other areas from which this view can be seen.
David Attias, the sexton of the historic Ohel Yitzhak synagogue in Nahalat Shiva, explains that the abandoned cisterns in all the city’s late 19th- and early 20th-century neighborhoods are still used for tashlich.
One new immigrant posted the following question at “How will we do tashlich this year? What do you all do when you’re far from water? I’ve always lived a mile or less from a body of water, so I never had an issue before.”
The Internet responsa was: “Where do you go for tashlich? The mikve! You stand outside the building. Or if there’s a keilim mikve (for immersing new dishes), you can open it up and actually see some water.”
Another link at stated: “I went to friends for Rosh Hashana, and the neighbors had a lovely pond that even had lovely big goldfish inside just for tashlich.”
Another string of questions and answers recommended a dairy sink for performing the custom, as well as some other examples.
“When I was in seminary, my hosts (and their shul) said tashlich by an empty swimming pool.”
“The Belzers say it in the courtyard of the Belzer shul (near Mahaneh Yehuda) – they have a well there. It is amazing and beautiful to watch.”
If you find these options don’t fulfill your psychological and ritual need to symbolically cast away your sins on the water, then head to a Mediterranean beach or Lake Kinneret.