Thursday, September 9, 2010

Rosh Hashanah

September 8, 2010

First of all, today is HEATHER RIPLEY’S BIRTHDAY. So, obviously, it’s the best day in the whole entire world. Obviously.

Also, pictures from the trip thus far are now on facebook! They are visible to friends of friends, so even if you and I aren’t friends, you should be able to see them! Enjoy!

This morning I woke up, wrote a birthday song for Ripley, then hung around the apartment until Hannah, Nate, Stephanie, and I went out to the ATM and bought wine for our host dinners. Then Hannah and I went back out (after dropping off money and wine in our apartments) and wandered around all of Yafo for about 4 hours. We went to the Old City, the Flea Market, up and down the big streets, then down to the port and along the beach and back through Ajamai (one of the poorest neighborhoods of Yafo). It was really awesome. Every part of it is different, but there is so much cool stuff to see everywhere. There is a lot of whale and water imagery since Yafo is, apparently, the port Jonah took off from when he got swallowed by the whale. Which is pretty damn cool. Oh, plus, we had the best couscous of my life! It was amazing! Everyone should come here and eat this couscous!

Also, we didn’t get lost once. It was MIRACULOUS. We were SO PROUD of ourselves. You have no idea.

Then after the most freezing and refreshing shower of my life, Hannah and I went to our Rosh Hashanah dinner at Esi Lillianthal’s house. She lives in a super nice part of Tel Aviv. We split a cab with another girl from the program so we walked for about 20 minutes to get to the apartment, and it was such a difference from Yafo, and especially Ajamai. So incredibly nice. But anyway, Esi is basically the nicest person in the entire world. We got off the elevator and she gave us huge hugs, and said “Welcome, welcome, l’shona tova!” She is the matriarch of the family, and her children and grandchildren were all there, about 18 people total I think. Luckily one of her daughters and her three kids lived in Miami for a long time, so her two daughters speak perfect English. They are 21 and 15, and Esi sat us with them, so that was nice. The third child is actually taking a class at SMC right now! Hilarious. And, of course, the food was incredible. I am STUFFED.

First there was schmoozing (we tried to help in the kitchen, but were rejected, as I expected), then we gathered around the table. Two quick prayers, one kiddish, and then eating time – just the way I like it. Esi was really great about explaining everything to make sure I knew what was happening all the time, and everyone spoke English and translated anything that was said in Hebrew for us. First we had apples and honey and pomegranate seeds (supposedly there are 613 seeds in a pomegranate, like the 613 mitzvahs) and then gefilte fish (sorry Tash.) Then we had latkes made out of leeks (AMAZING) and egg salad, a recipe passed down from Esi’s grandmother. Oh, also the candlestick (which they adorably called a candle holder) belonged to Esi’s grandmother. Then we started the “real meal” of fish, beef, salad, mashed potatoes, and more I can’t even remember. Topped off with cake (amazing) and fruit salad. I never want to eat again. However, if I didn’t feel that way after Rosh Hashanah there would be something seriously wrong. Then the Miami granddaughter drove us home (score!) and we exchanged numbers with her so we can see her again if we want. When we left, Esi was like “sometimes, give me a call! Come over! I cook for you!” and Hannah and I were like YES PLEASE. It was a really great experience; I’m so glad I went.

Apparently in Israel, Rosh Hashanah is all about family dinner, and Yom Kippur is the much more religious holiday. It’s like that at home too, but I think the difference is more exaggerated here. It was crazy when we were walking around – almost every single store was closed, and the streets were dead. Every single pedestrian we saw in Tel Aviv (less in Yafo because of the high Muslim and Christian population) was dressed up and carrying a bottle of wine. It was crazy to see so much going on for a Jewish holiday. There was even a giant display next to City Hall that said “L’shona tova” and “Chag Sameach” in Christmas lights on our way home. Everyone says that the whole country shuts down, and will be basically shut down until Sunday morning. That’s obviously not completely true because when we drove back into Yafo we saw all the Arab restaurants were open. But everything run by Jews was done around 3 or 4pm today. It’s really fun being somewhere that everyone knows about the holidays I celebrate. I enjoyed it quite a bit. But the great thing about living in Yafo is that I can’t think that everyone is celebrating, that everything is shut down. I can see the truth on my own street, in my own neighborhood. I’m really glad to be living in such a mixed area because it keeps me from being carried away with the “I’m surrounded by Jews!” mentality. It’s a great reality check.

Tomorrow we are going to have a New Years beach day with a bunch of people from the Tel Aviv track, as well as our Yafo friends. It’s only been a day and half since we haven’t seen them, but I feel like it’s been forever. I miss them!

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