Already holidays again. Just when I had gotten used to being back to everyday life, the kids have another four days off school and Tel Aviv is dressed in white. It’s Rosh Hashanah aka Jewish New Year. I’m not that into holidays but I like the contemplative mood currently hovering over the city.
Drown sins in water
I spent the last hour of the old year at the beach with my soulmate friend Gloria, barefoot in shallow seawater. In the bay of Mezizim Beach, which is geographically closest to my home. Until now, I’d always had to give Gloria a ride on my e-bike luggage rack through the city. At the turn of the year however she became bold and now rides my old e-bike, Esther (named after Esther the Wonderpig). Hesitantly, slightly shakily, yet resolutely to the beach. There’s no better place to wrap up the year.
Religious Jews have the custom Tashlikh. On the first New Year’s Day, shortly before sunset, they go to a place where there’s a body of water, shake out their clothes and empty all the crumbs in their pockets into the water. In doing so, they symbolically drown their sins. Maybe I’ve subconsciously adopted this custom. For, ever since I’ve lived in Tel Aviv, I’m magically attracted to the sea during Rosh Hashanah. Ok, well in general, I love the luxury of having beach sand and waves at my doorstep.
Snapshot of Tel Aviv 2017
Yesterday, shortly before sunset, I was provided with a snapshot of Tel Aviv 2017. A couple of tanned children in the waves, a Muslim mother, fully clothed, wading into the water after her boys. A sporty, wiry grandfather (Ben-Gurion style, founding generation) playing with his flaxen-haired baby grandchild. A young Israeli practicing a Yogi handstand, a group of Russian men meeting for a beer. On the way back along Nordau, a French immigrant almost charmingly knocks me over with his bike. At an Espresso-Kiosk two women are still sipping their hafuch coffee. The streets are becoming empty. I only see the occasional car. From open windows wafts the smell of chicken soup.
Babylon in my garden
We have to hurry up, as nothing is cooked yet and in two hours, 12 hungry guests will be standing on our doormat. We celebrate as a patchwork family. My children, Gloria’s daughter Lee and her son Joel who arrives with a charming couple in tow. A handsome Sikh Indian with a turban and endlessly long eyelashes and his young French wife. As well as a few other friends. It’s multicultural, just the way I love it. We speak all languages, Babylon in my garden. Only my mother is missing, she’s celebrating with her siblings in Paris.
Food crumbs and Indian caste system
After improvising a prayer and dipping Swiss apple pieces (which Gloria’s son brought from the Alps) in bee and pear honey, we wish each other a sweet, healthy, fulfilling year. Jewish holidays revolve around the stomach. Honey symbolizes a sweet new year. Joya lies under the long table, waiting for leftovers to fall. After the last piece of cake has been polished off, we lounge on the couches in the living room. Gloria falls asleep while I converse animatedly with her son and his Indian friend. He’s lived with his wife in Jerusalem for a year and is writing his doctoral thesis on the relevance and significance of the caste system in today’s India. Now that’s what I call an interesting conversation on Rosh Hashana. Happy 5778!
translation: Catherine Bradshaw