Tonight begins Rosh Hashana, the new year. I’m excited for my first holiday here, for a relaxing break from work, and to “feel” the holiday here. Yesterday at work, the office got together for a “Ramat Koseet”, literally a “raising of the glass” or something to that effect. Our department director made a toast and we enjoyed apples and honey and some cakes. I had never heard of this ceremony before but it was my third one of the week, following one at our main office in Jerusalem and another in Holon where the Year Course kids in my department are based, thrown by the city’s education department.
I’ve wondered what people do on Rosh Hashana here; the truth is, there’s no one answer and you’ll find very different answers in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Most of my friends here don’t go to synagogue on Rosh Hashana because after all…why would they? (in their words) You don’t have to be observant here to be or feel Jewish; you feel Jewish just by being here. That’s not necessarily the way I personally feel. Everything they say is true but I am curious to explore synagogue life here, if not in the next couple of days, then soon. It’s true that you don’t have to work as hard to be Jewish here but ironically, I’ll probably have to work harder to be a synagogue-going Jew because it’s so easy to not go and to not feel guilty about it. Apparently even secular Jews go on Yom Kippur here although I’m not sure many of them make it out of the parking lot.
It’s fairly weird for an American Jew the first time they experience the chagim here, as I did when I was 18. I remember not going to shul that day (I think I actually went for about 30 minutes and was almost bored to death) and strangely, not feeling overwhelmingly bad about it, to my surprise. Last year I spent the holiday with my friend Shirly at her family’s house, eating, relaxing, and eating more. It was really nice and warm in the way that Thanksgiving is a family-oriented day. I’ll be spending the first day with my friend Rani who I worked with for the last 2 years when he lived in LA. The second day, with my friend Noga. It should be fun.
Last night, I had dinner with my first visitors! My friend Itai from college, Atlanta, AND New York was here for his cousin’s wedding along with his wife, Eden. We walked from his brother’s apartment to the sea (it’s shocking how small this city really is) and ate dinner on the boardwalk. It was great to catch up with old and familiar friends. A couple of hours into dinner, I had completely forgotten that I was in Israel. We could have just as easily been at Mellow Mushroom in Atlanta or Cafe Orlin in the East Village. Like when I lived in NY, it’s nice to know that people will always be passing through here. Come visit!
Remember when I said Israel is a small place? As we were walking along the boardwalk, who did we run into but the king of Tel Aviv himself (and the other guy in this site’s main picture), Ziv!
To my friends and family, have a sweet and happy new year, and may all your dreams come true!