Friday, May 13, 2011

Springtime In the Holy Land: Part 1

Spring really is a beautiful time in Israel. There is really no need to check the daily weather report in Israel during Spring. But if you did, it would just say “perfect” everyday.

Spring is also one of two holiday seasons in Israel. Beginning with Purim in March through Passover in April and ending with Holocaust Memorial Day, National Memorial Day and Independence Day in May.

Purim is a festive holiday to celebrate Queen Esther who helped defeat Haman’s plot to destroy the Jewish people. Much like it’s American cousin, Halloween, children dress up in costumes and grown-ups get drunk. No, seriously, the Talmud states one should drink wine until you cannot tell the difference between "cursed is Haman" and "blessed is Mordechai." Sometimes the Jews really know how to celebrate. Mishloach manot, or delivered gifts, are a traditional custom of Purim as well. DH and I nibbled for weeks on the baked goods and candies we got from the family. Amongst the drunken adults in fairy costumes and the hamentashen covered children in fairy costumes, DH, my brother in law and I spent a very untraditional Purim by waking up at 3 am to climb Masada at dawn. Nonetheless, it was a wonderful holiday.

Next up was Passover, by far my all time favorite Jewish holiday.  I have always enjoyed Passover seder no matter if I spend it with our ultra-Orthodox friends or our ultra-Reform friends, either way I have a grand time. This Passover was certainly one for the books for two reasons. First last year at the end of seder we proudly lifted our glasses and said the traditional “Next year in Jerusalem” knowing that in fact next year we would celebrate Passover in the Holy Land. Second, for nearly 9 years I have heard about the Israeli family’s Passover traditions from DH.

I finally experienced the traditional family Passover I’ve heard so much about. Well, I use the term “traditional” very lightly. This was actually one of the least traditional Passovers I’ve ever had. DH’s family usually holds a huge barbecue and karaoke night a few days prior to the first night of seder. Word of advice, if you are ever invited to this event I highly suggest arriving late as DH and I did. I was immediately placed at a table and served bbq chicken, lamb, beef, kabob and Israeli salad until I had to beg them to stop filling my plate. At one point, a cousin just placed a giant pan of chicken wings in front of me until I got my fill and only until she was reassured I couldn’t possibly eat anymore did she pass it along to the rest of the family. Then the karaoke began. Oh the karaoke. Thankfully, I also come from a karaoke loving family so I knew what I was in for. For the rest of the night, traditional Hebrew songs lovingly sang several notes off key pierced the night sky.

A few nights later the family gathered once again for the first night of seder. Although I cannot say this was the most religious or tradition laden seder I’ve ever been to, I can say it was one of the most satisfying. The next day at lunch, DH and my youngest bro-in-law taught the Israeli cousins how to play American football. Needless to say, I don’t think it will catch on amongst the Israelis.

During the seven days of Passover, one is forbidden to eat leavened breads and grains. In the States, this was always a difficult week for us. But in Israel, the supermarkets cover the aisles of chametz (foods not kosher for Passover) with large plastic tarps and don’t sell anything that isn’t kosher and restaurants only serve kosher for Passover foods. Apparently it is much easier to observe Jewish holidays in the Jewish state. Huh, who’d a thunk it?
Photo credit: The IsReal World

Easter was at the end of Passover this year and I observed it by reflecting on the blessings I’ve encountered in God’s land. He has given me so much to be thankful for and I can honestly say I will look back on my life and always say these were some of my best days.

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