2nd Report from Israel – 24 October 2022
Hi, I’m back for another Israel Tidbit.
Succos in Israel is amazing. There was no rain to speak of at all, no discussions about braving it and keeping the roof open, or shutting it halfway and just letting the men get soaked. Just plain yet brilliantly pure blue skies. Plus there was the extra day of Chol Hamoed, giving me more time to tour Israel.
But anyways I am rushing ahead of myself, although as I was told to only write my next tidbit after Succos, you can’t blame me for being all excited:)
So backtracking and starting again through the awesome month of Tishrei. After Rosh Hashona and my last message home, it was straight back to lessons. Although as it was a fast day, it was only a half day of learning. But our hunger certainly did not stop us enjoying our lessons. That day will always stand out in my head as ‘the day I learnt pie’; the maths one that is, not the delicious ones. If there is one thing I wasn’t expecting in seminary it was to learn maths; but here I was learning circle theorem and pie. When I mentioned this to Daddy, his immediate response was, “Oh, you’re learning the Talmud Tractate of Succah!” Yes Talmud (Gemara) does include maths! (Now why GCSEs can’t have this kind of fun maths is beyond me, but I think I’m going off topic).
The Aseres Yemei Teshuva (the week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) flew by quickly, filled with learning, a Shabbaton in Achziv, a town right near the border with Lebanon, which included a singing session on the beach at sunset, and more lessons.
I think I need to put a “trigger warning” here, as on Erev Yom Kippur I did the unimaginable. By Kaporos, I. Held. A. Chicken! A real live chicken. I became quite attached to it, even giving it a name, “pargiyot”! I never thought that would happen, or that I would be brave enough to actually touch it in the first place, but hey, it’s all part of the experience!
Yom Kippur itself was just incredible, so inspiring! The Tefilos, the singing, the whole atmosphere. It was just incredible, and I feel that mere words won’t do it justice, so I will leave it to your imagination.
Then before I could stop to breathe came Succos. This was when I finally experienced what Israel is famous for – busses. The slow ones, the delayed ones, and the ones which just come with stories. Each one is a ‘Mini Israel on Wheels” But the busses only made up part of the experiences. Everywhere I went, there were Succos, and Lulovim. You could taste in the air that it was Succos!
On Chol Hamoed I went touring, beginning with an awesome experience at the “Museum for the Deaf” in Cholon. It is a sister to the “Museum for the Blind” which I visited with my parents back in 2019 and wrote my poem ‘Painting in Darkness’ . I absolutely recommend visiting both. The next day began with the world famous “Mass Birchas Kohanim” at the Kotel. The entire Old City of Jerusalem is reorientated to accommodate the vast numbers of people all streaming to the Kotel to receive the Kohen’s blessing. The pedestrianised areas are all one way. Daddy who knows the Old City off by heart had given me directions: they were useless. But truth be told they were also superfluous, as the human wave simply carried everyone straight to the Kotel. When I arrived, the atmosphere was electric, thousands of Kohanim of all ages, blessing tens of thousands of other Jews from all walks of life, that experience will never leave me.
We followed this with a specially organised 8 hour walking tour of the Old City, including the famous “Water Tunnels” from the time of the first Bet Hamikdash, over 2500 years ago during the reign of King Hezekiah. Plus of course there were the Simchas Beis Hashoeva parties every night: it was an experience to remember.
Then came the grand finale: Simchas Torah. In Israel, Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah are all bundled up in one day, so it was straight into the dancing. And it didn’t stop for a full 36 hours: as even though Yom Tov was over there was a there was a full blown concert to coincide with the Hakofos being danced by all the Jews outside of Israel. I heard all about this year’s Hakofos in Bowdon, but I think I one upped you: I got Hakofos with a singer and a band! The incredible energy there is indescribable, the place was pumping. And I even met some famous politicians, or wannabes, Bibi Netanyahu, Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz, so that was very cool- although I didn’t get to meet them personally though so:(.
Now I have to calm down from it all and get back into real life and lessons again: this is certainly helped by experiencing my first Israeli thunderstorm crashing over my head, or shall I say, the roof 6 floors above me:) as I write this – a small reminder of Manchester!!
Well bye for now, see you again soon.