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Gentiles Do Rosh Hashana

September 29, 2011 Leave a comment

I love that my son has such an adventuresome spirit. We’ve dragged him halfway around the world and he is embracing each new day with spunk and enthusiasm. On Friday he learned that Rosh Hashana, the New Year by the Jewish calendar,  is celebrated by eating apples dipped in honey. He came home insisting that Rosh Hashana started on Saturday. (It actually started on Wednesday.) All weekend he begged for apples and honey, so on Sunday I finally relented. I let him have apples and honey for breakfast… and lunch, and he convinced our nanny, Tami, to fix them for snack as well. He loudly proclaimed, “This is the Best. Rosh Hashana. Ever.”

On Monday night we witnessed an interesting spectacle. There was a car decorated with blinking lights, like a parade float,

It was too dark to get a good picture, but it looked a lot like this picture from the Telegraph.

driving through the neighborhood blaring music. Behind it marched some people carrying a red (velvet?) canopy trimmed in gold and someone carrying something golden and ornate. Other people joined in the mini parade. Liam said, “Look! A choo choo train!” It was very fun to watch. Everyone was out on the balconies. A grandmotherly neighbor waved to us from her balcony and said something in Hebrew I didn’t understand. I just said layla tov (good evening) to her for lack of anything better to say.

We asked around to find out if this was in preparation for Rosh Hashana. My friend, Clara, thinks a neighborhood synagogue was celebrating the installation of a new Torah. She says that it takes about a year for a calligrapher to copy a Torah. They are extremely expensive so a new one is a big deal. It seems we probably witnessed  a once-in-a-lifetime  experience.

On Wednesday we were invited to Clara’s home in Haifa  for a traditional family Rosh Hashana Dinner. It is traditional to bring a gift, so after asking around several shops for ideas I settled on a bottle of Rimon Pomegranate Port for the dinner, a game for her sons, and a lavender sachet for her mother.

We shared in a wonderful dinner that opened with the blessing of the wine and a toast. Next we ate apples dipped in honey to sweeten the new year. A sweet challah was shared around the table. Then a fish course was served (symbolically as a fish head to celebrate the head, or beginning, of the year). After that was a wonderful soup with carrot and chicken dumplings. Next came a buffet of all sorts of salads, meats, and vegetables. Later in the evening we enjoyed fruit salad, mango and orange cake, honey cake, and a cinnamon cake. Clara’s husband and sons made most of the food and it was just wonderful.  Her sons gave Liam a Maccabi Haifa Football Club flag and we were invited to attend a game with them sometime. English, Hebrew, Russian, and Arabic were spoken at the meal. It was wonderful to hear everyone’s stories and thoughts about everything from the existence of Big Foot to the socioeconomic state of the US and Israel.