Big transitions! On Tuesday, it rained for the first time since I've been in Israel. Wednesday was the last day of Ulpan, on Thursday we took our final Hebrew exams, Friday I started moving into my new apartment, yesterday I finally got my apartment keys before hopping on a bus to Tel Aviv and a train to Binyamina, where my uncle and aunt picked me up and drove me to their house in Zichron Ya'akov. Tonight we're driving to my uncle's wife's sister's house for a huge dinner, to celebrate the eve of the 5769th anniversary of the day that God created Man.
I hate to sound like an Aliyah recruiter, but I have to admit that the weeks leading up to Rosh Hashana have never felt as special out there in the diaspora as they do here. It's like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's all rolled up in one, except that it's surprisingly uncommericialized, and it's Jewish. The media's buzzing with retrospectives and excitement about the future, the roads are clogged with cars headed to family reunions, the supermarkets are stocked with holiday food like pomogranates and honey cakes, and everyone greets everyone with well-wishes for the new year. ("A sweet and rainy year!" is one I've heard more than once.)
I've had a mix of very good and very bad luck leading into the holiday. The good news is that I'm getting to celebrate with both sides of the family. I'm having dinner with my mom's family tonight, which means I'm missing my dad's family's R.H. Eve dinner in Mode'in (near Jerusalem). But tomorrow, on the first day of Rosh Hashana, my uncle's driving me to Jerusalem to visit his father (my grandfather) — and then I'll spend the rest of the holiday with my dad's side of the family. A stunt like that would normally be impossible to pull off, since public transportation doesn't run during the holiday. (Classic.)
Another really cool detail in this plan is that I'll get to see both a religious and a secular take on the holiday. My aunt's sister, who's hosting tonight's dinner, is a formerly-secular now-Orthodox Jew (i.e. חוזרת בתשובה). So tonight we'll be ushering in the new year by The Book, with candles and kiddush and prayers and everything, whereas tomorrow's dinner will be more mainstream Israeli. Other than gefilte fish, I'm not really sure what to expect from either one.
The bad news is that I managed to hit my first serious bout of food poisoning just as I got on the bus to Zichron yesterday. So I arrived here a few pounds lighter, trembling a little, whereas my breakfast, lunch, and previous night's dinner didn't make it as far as Binyamina. My aunt graciously sent me to bed early with a mug of boullion-chicken-soup. (Chicken soup for stomachaches must be an American thing, cause my aunt was puzzled by the idea. "Really? Whatever you want, but I'd never eat that stuff. You know it has no nutritional value, right?") I woke up in the wee hours, when my digestive system decided to side with her, against me and the soup. "Don't worry, metuka," said Noam, on the phone from Jerusalem. "Your body is getting rid of all the bad stuff in preparation for the new year. Next year you'll feel much better." "Next year," I said, "we'll sit on the porch and count the migrating birds." "Isn't it great to talk about next year, knowing that it starts tomorrow?"
Anyway, ה'תשס"ט hasn't rolled in yet, and I'm already feeling much better. Today, I've been taking it easy, trying to get rehydrated. This Israeli household, like every other, is equipped with Wissotzky tea to the exception of any other brand. But I have to admit — Wissotzky Bedouin Chai? With soy milk? Delicious.
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