Days 17 & 18: Rosh HaShana in Jerusalem

So this will be yet another blog post without any pictures. I mean, if there were any blog post where it was acceptable to be lacking photos, I think it’d be this one. So as you can see by the title of this post, I spent Rosh HaShana, or for those of you unfamiliar with Jewish holidays, the Jewish New Year, in Jerusalem with my mom’s cousin Cindy and her family. I will explain more in detail as the blog goes on. Enjoy!

Day 17: Wednesday, 9/24/2014

My morning got off to a lot earlier of a start than I would have hoped, considering I didn’t get to bed until 6am. So I woke up, ate some lunch with my roommates, and set off for Jerusalem. It only cost 19 shekels to take a bus to Jerusalem, which is around $5.50. Due to traffic, it took about an hour and a half to get there, but no problems. I arrived and my cousin Yaniv picked me up and drove me to their house. Yaniv is 20 years old and is currently in the IDF. He was lucky enough to get 4 days off to spend the holiday and Shabbat at home.

I arrived to warm smiles and hugs from the whole family. Cindy and her husband Ariel were extremely welcoming as always. When I did my semester in Israel in high school, I spent quite a few Shabbats at their home. Although it had been a few years since I had seen them, it was like no time had passed. Their two daughters, Liron (22) and Rinat (13) were also great to see.

Dinner that night was delicious. Before we actually ate, though, there was a seder, similar to that of a Passover seder, just with a lot more food. Cindy mentioned to me the the seder was typical of Sephardic Jews, and Ariel is of Sephardic Jewish origin. Growing up in an Ashkenazi household, I had never been exposed to anything like this. It was actually very fascinating. Ariel and Yaniv lead the seder, with every song followed by a prayer to eat another food. I can’t remember every food we ate, but among the few were pomegranate, carrot, meat, and beets. After the seder, we got to eat dinner, which was a mix of both Sephardic and Ashkenazi dishes. Completely delicious.

Most of the people who joined us for dinner were Ariel’s family. I especially enjoyed talking to his sister, Victoria. She only spoke Hebrew, so I was able to practice a little, but she was a very sweet lady with a wonderful sense of humor (from what I was able to understand, that is). There was also a friend of Cindy’s, Nicky, there with her son, Saul. Nicky was originally from South Africa, and as most of you know I just returned from my safari, we had a lot of discuss. Plus, she spoke English, so it was a nice break for my brain to just focus on English.

After eating more than my fair share, I tucked in early(ish) to try to get a good night’s rest before shul (synagogue) in the morning!

Day 18: Thursday, 9/25/2014

I woke up at 9am to go to Cindy and Ariel’s shul. I believe it was called “Kol HaNeshama,” which means “All of the Soul,” and it was a reform synagogue made up of mostly English families. I feel it important to note that this is the first time I’ve spent the High Holidays outside of the state of California. Ever. Seriously. LA, SLO, SF. Always in good ol’ Cali. But I was definitely excited to spend it in Israel, that’s for sure.

On our way to shul, we stopped to pick up some other people. To my surprise, we were related! It was my Grandma Sharon’s first cousins Shirley and Bob! They all grew up together in Sioux City, Iowa. They moved to Israel less than a year ago, and were so sweet and friendly. Shirley even showed me a picture from 1964 of her parents alongside my great-grandparents, Tiny and Leon. It was an incredible family moment.

The service was all in Hebrew, unsurprisingly. Although I do remember a funny story that my Grandma Sharon told me about how she went to a reform service in Israel and was shocked that it was all in Hebrew…until she remembered that she was in Israel. Moving on now, the service was not too long. As a cantor’s daughter, I’ve definitely sat through my fair share of not-so-exciting services. While I couldn’t quite understand everything, there were a few interesting sermons given by the younger members of the community about their time in the army. It was very moving, from what I could understand. Ariel’s sister Victoria helped to summarize things for me.

When the service was over, we headed back to their house for a holiday lunch. It was a parve meal, meaning there was no meat, and once again it was delicious (I feel like I’ve used delicious too much in this blog post, but I honestly can’t think of a better word. Delectable? Tasty? Scrumptious? I’m just going to stick with delicious and you’re going to have to deal with it). I ended up taking a 2-hour nap after lunch because I was so exhausted.

When I finally woke up, Liron invited me to hang out with 2 of her friends, and I obliged. We went to a wine bar called “Talbiye.” We all ordered small things and shared, and I triumphantly did not need to ask for an English menu. I’ll count that as a win. We drank some Pinot Noir (didn’t get the maker. Sorry, dad!) and ate and I tried my best to keep up with their conversation.

Afterwards, we went back to one of her friend’s houses and talked. Well, mostly they talked. Her two friends are currently on leave from the army, and I can’t really blame them for wanting to relax and not wanting to speak in English (even if they have American parents and can speak fluently if they wanted). So I somewhat awkwardly sat there, every so often trying to insert myself into the conversation. My brain started to hurt from listening and translating in my head. I ended up calling it an early night and went back to my cousins’ house.

Overall, I had a wonderful few days in Jerusalem. It was great to catch up with my family, whom I haven’t spent more than a few hours with since I was 15, and it was cool to be in another city in Israel. I will say this about Jerusalem: the weather is WAY nicer than in Tel Aviv. No humidity, and it is much cooler. If only I could mash the two together and have Tel Aviv with Jerusalem weather. THAT would be the perfect city. Still trying to tie down my Yom Kippur plans. I don’t think I’ll be spending it with my family again, but I’m sure I will have plenty of stories to tell!

-Girl in Israel 🙂

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