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Tags - holidays
During the holiday of Lag BaOmer in Israel every open space is filled with enormous bonfires, boisterous kids, sizzling food, and energetic conversation and laughter. My apartment, or flat as they call it here, is right on the border of civilization and acres of sprawling farmland. I enjoy having the option of going out of my parking lot and choosing either coffee to the left or fresh orange pickings from the orchards to the right.
Last night it seemed that all of Ra'anana decided to camp to the right of my flat. I never cease to be amazed at how holidays seems to pop-up around every corner of the calendar here in Israel. I still don't really understand Lag BaOmer, but it is rather impressive to see massive camp fires throughout densely populated areas. When I say "massive camp-fires" I don't think you can really appreciate it without seeing it. (photos below)
For a few weeks before the holiday school kids are strolling around local grocery store carts on a scavenger hunt for anything that will burn. They dumpster dive for old picture frames and doors, limbs cut from trees to clear roadways and large card board boxes cast off from newly purchased appliances.
After the sun sets on Lag Ba'Omer kids, teachers and parents fill open lots around the city and kindle the fires. I read that during the Middle Ages, Lag BaOmer was called the "scholar's festival" and it became customary to rejoice on this day through various kinds of merrymaking.
In the Talmud it says that 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva died from a plague sent by God to punish them for not showing proper respect to one another. Lag BaOmer was supposedly the day the plague ended.
I think for most Israeli's it is simply a chance to celebrate, and in this highly pressurized country it seems everyone is always ready for another reason to eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow is always uncertain.
Israeli's live with a lot of gusto! It seems almost everything is done to the extreme. I laugh with my husband, Yuval, about the crowded stores when Shabbat comes to a close. On Saturday night, I think every Israeli rejoices in the end of the 24-hour Sabbath rest. I think the fourth commandment is kept through gritted teeth for many Israelis.
Yuval joked that every Saturday night, after the end of Shabbat, is like Black Friday in the U.S. Black Friday being the day after Thanksgiving and the biggest shopping day in the entire year. It's true, there are literally huge lines outside of grocery stores, malls, cinemas and restaurants. How do I know? Well, we usually find ourselves right in the middle of it.
I do things here in Israel that I would never do in the U.S. It just somehow comes naturally to stand in crowded lines, talk to strangers and rush out get a glimpse at any new attraction no matter how many people have the same inclination. Israel's live out the adage well: "Don't put off till tomorrow what you can do today."
Back to BaOmer - besides the rowdy teens singing and yelling outside our window till around 3am, I found it a really neat expression of life, community and joy. I still don't know how all the cities in Israel don't go up in flames, but the holiday is truly bigger than life and I can only imagine the magic of the evening in the eyes of children. I love the family-oriented culture here in Israel and the effervescent holiday spirit that seems to permeate every month of the Jewish calendar.
Autumn has always held a special charm for me - the changing leaves, brisk breezes and warm drinks! It induces a rather festive feeling that excites the senses and makes one feel like a child again. Here in Israel it is slightly different being that there is no real feel to the change is season, but there is a difference in the air. And the fruits of the harvest are very much part of the celebration - though it will take some getting used to, substituting pomegranates for pumpkins!
Last year in my Hebrew class I learned songs for the holidays, and just yesterday as I was shopping for groceries I heard them being played throughout the store. I noticed that I was actually singing along to them and that my pace was much livelier and my shopping much happier. It was then that I realized that this year I really feet part of the holidays in a very keen way.
We are entering the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. It is a beautiful time of year when families come together for feasting and fasting. I appreciate how Rosh Hashanah is celebrated with apples and honey to bring in a sweet new year (as it is the beginning of the Jewish New Year) and how it is then followed by 10 days of repentance leading into the Day of Atonement of Yom Kippur when most of Israel spends a day of fasting and prayer. Then comes Sukkot which is a week where God commands celebration and joy. It is also a very international celebration as the prophet Zechariah speaks of a day when ALL nations will come up to Jerusalem and worship the God of Israel.
All through Jerusalem you can see people of different nations and tribes coming to the city in anticipation of that day. One year I was at the Garden Tomb with a group and we were singing a worship song in English. We were soon joined by people singing in many different languages the same song, the same tune, in multiple languages. It was a moment when I really felt the power of God's word to transcend and envelop every culture and creed. It was stunning and I really felt that it was a small glimpse of the Kingdom to come.
I love the Holy Days and am reminded yet again of the privilege of living here in Israel and in sharing such rich traditions that strengthen my own Christian faith.
Living life in the Holy Land