The Jewish New Year ראש השנה Rosh HaShanah was on September 17 followed by the Day of Atonement יום כיפור Yom Kippur on September 26. All Jewish holidays always start the sundown before the day of the actual holiday for those who are not aware. Tonight, September 30 the holiday called סוכות Sukkot began at sundown. It was amazing to walk around my neighborhood and other nearby areas and see these decorated sukkot (booths) everywhere. In front and behind apartment buildings, on balconies, on rooftops and even in front of businesses on a commercial street. I'm off from school for about a week and a half for the Sukkot break- vacation!
Tonight I also experienced rain for the first time in Israel. It was quite powerful to feel the rain drops through the beautifully decorated top of the סוכה sukkah, covered in date palm branches, other local leafy plants, a few strings of little apple lights and home-made paper balls and chains. It is a beautiful harvest holiday that lasts seven days in which it is a mitzvah to "dwell" in your sukkah, eating meals with invited guests and shaking the four species ארבע מינים arbah minim, see left. Although we had a festive feast of salad, hummus, challah, dolmas, roasted chicken, and kugels, my highlight of the meal was eating lots of pomegranate seeds for dessert, along with some chocolate cake of course. Throughout the meal the rain drops fell upon my plate, head and into my cup.
Earlier in the evening I sat out on my balcony with a friend of mine from my cohort, the group with whom I will be studying for two years- there are six of us all together. We chatted about our weekend trips away- he visited the kibbutz in the south he used to work at for two years and I vacationed with four friends from Pardes at a hotel in Tiberias the north. As we sat there above the two sukkot standing below us in the back of my apartment building, we saw two bunnies jump through the area, one brown and one white. Sometimes I have moments here, well really every day, when I think to myself, "Where am I?" and I remember that I am actually living here... in Jerusalem, in Israel, in the Middle East... half way around the world from Oregon.
It happened also today when I walked on Emek Refaim, a main street nearby, to go to the bank and I passed about seven different tables of young Israeli boys selling the four species: etrog (אתרוג) – the fruit of a citron tree (and smells amazing), lulav (לולב) – a ripe, green, closed frond from a date palm tree, hadass (הדס) – boughs with leaves from the myrtle tree, and aravah (ערבה) – branches with leaves from the willow tree. There are also happy holiday חג שמח chag samayeah decorations all over. The bus reader boards have added חג שמח to their number and destination. There is a festive feeling :)
Now I will share a few random visual highlights of the past two month. In the next blog post I will explain all of my courses that I am taking at Pardes- Sunday-Thursday, 8:30am-5pm, sometimes 8pm, sometimes 9pm, sometimes 7pm... basically I'm spending many hours learning at Pardes!
Left: One of the most beautiful times of day, about 7pm, walking behind my apartment building and looking up and listening to the green parrots.
Right: I discovered organic tofu that is made in Israel in my new favorite store called זמורה אורגני zamora organi. I love this store so much... guess what else they have?!
Julie's Organic Sorbet made in Eugene, Oregon! So cool, huh?!
Obviously it was very exciting to find this cooler tucked in the back corner by all the goat milks and yogurts that are organic and of course, from the bountiful Israeli dairy industry. Foodie friends, Israeli food is amazing in general but this specialty store of health food, including organic produce, bulk items, mindful cleaning supplies, toiletries, vitamins, supplements and more, is out of this world- I love it! There are two locations, one very close to Pardes and the other near my apartment. I have a club membership there which gives me specials deals and credit back after a certain amount spent.
These two pictures were taken as the sun was setting in Tel Aviv, off a one of three balconies at an apartment Abra has been subletting in a funky area called Florentine. I love visiting her and exploring this diverse and thriving city. Even though going to Tel Aviv is a nice get-away from the holy city, I still love living in Jerusalem.
Abra is from Eugene and we are becoming good friends. She and I are both lucky to have cool brothers who are also good friends. While in Tel Aviv she and I have rented bikes and ridden along the beach, watching the glistening Mediterranean waters and all the people out worshiping the sun.
We ourselves have worshiped the sun with heavy doses of sunscreen and shade breaks, of course. We have also gone shopping in the shuk, visited a Friday arts and crafts fair and ventured into home goods stores in the area where I bought long coral curtains and a small woven rug to brighten my bedroom.
In a few days I will travel to briefly visit Abra again in Tel Aviv, go wine tasting in Zichron Yaacov and then visit a family who used to live in Eugene, who live in Ein Hod, an artists' village in the north.
See you later