life in Israel
We are home. The Jewish people have returned to our ancient homeland after a two thousand year exile. We have learned a tragic lesson from our bitter history. It is only when we are a free and safe people in Eretz (the land of) Israel that can we can truly enjoy and celebrate our faith. The journey became thousands of years ago in the Sinai Desert.
For forty years, as our ancestors traversed the Sinai Desert, following the Exodus from Egypt, we were sheltered by a cover of miraculous "clouds of glory" shielding us from the dangers and discomforts of the desert. We remember G-d's kindness and reaffirmation of our trust in His providence by dwelling in a sukkah--a hut of temporary construction. It has a roof covering of branches and can be located anywhere that we choose. For the seven days and nights of the holiday we eat all our meals in the sukkah and otherwise regard it as our home. Some celebrants choose to sleep in the temporary dwelling.
Sukkot is also called The Time of Our Joy. There is a special joy that pervades the festival which includes a nightly Water-Drawing Celebrations, reminiscent of the evening-to-dawn festivities held in the Holy Temple Jerusalem housed our most revered sites three thousand years before the rebirth of the Jewish homeland in 1948. People fill the synagogues and streets with song, music and dance until the wee hours of the morning.
I celebrated Sukkot this year at the main Orthodox Synagogue in my community. The Sukkah was built by our local Chabad community, but visitors came from all streams of Judaism. There were also a few visiting European Christians who stopped by to share in our joy. We ate Hummus and Pita, Burekas, Falafel, and drank a bit of Vodka. There was a lot of singing, dancing and kids running about. Our group of roughly fifty celebrants included old friends and a few new ones. My favorite visitors were the Rabbi Levey’s six children aged one to eleven years old.
This is my seventh year in Haifa. As an Oleh Chadash or new immigrant to Haifa, many challenges exist to succeeding in building a new life. There is the need to learn a new language, understand a different culture, make new friends and find employment. However, the joys of celebrating my faith in this wonderful city have make it all worthwhile.