Tel Aviv Diary - September 4-8, 2013 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - September 4-8, 2013 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

September 4, 2013

As my back aches more and more from cooking and polishing for the new year, I begin to think about the concept of tradition. Some of us go far to follow tradition.

Apple in honey has been a big thing in the past years, but they're not part of the rules. We made it up sometime a while ago.

I myself go back and forth - this year I'm concentrating on the idea of newness and old and putting things together - recreating. And of course there's always family. That's always important. But all our variations depend on the fact that someone has actually made some rules from which we vary. Whether we believe in rules or not, they seem to mean something to us.

September 5, 2013

From our niece's balcony we could hear the shofar from the big synagogue in Ramataim. There were about 30 of us, although it is hard to count with all the kiddies running around. Family unions are a kind of prayer in themselves, I think.

September 6, 2013

The Mount Sinai monastery has closed its doors, the Guardian has announced, due to increasing security problems. Jihad is threatening every part of the Sinai desert but who could have imagined that St Catherine's would be endangered? Fifty years ago I heard a lecture on the then-impossible-to-reach monastery, built by the emperor Justinian over fifteen hundred years ago. The lecture was so fascinating because of it's exotic, remote subject, a subject that we refer to almost daily when we talk about the ten commandments.

Instead of casting them away
I recycled my sins this year.
Scarlet to me, they yet may be
To another,
White as snow.

September 7, 2013

today is called "Shabbat Shuva," the Sabbath of return, because the reading in the haftora begins, "shuva yisrael" and because this is the sabbath you can actually return to former purity. So today we went to the beach, after a long time away, and it was wonderful to return. This is the best time of year for the sea - the weather is less extreme and the water is wonderful and clean. We swam out. A fish nibbled at Orit's foot as we swam with Omer and I remembered that when I was Omer's age, three, a woman took me into the water - Lake Ontario - and promised me we wouldn't go farther than my knees.

Who would want to return to former purity? When we would get to the part of the service where we pray, "Chadesh yamenu kekedem," "renew our days as of old", my mother used to say, "who would want to return to the old days? They were much worse than today."

September 8, 2013

Why is everyone so busy the day after the new year? the phone hasn't stopped ringing, as if everyone was just holding in their efforts to make contact. As much as I really appreciate the wonderful atmosphere of the holiday, I kind of missed the busyness of the usual chaos.

What of the gas, the genocide going on north of here, the impending war, what of all that, you ask? It's here, waiting for us under the busyness. We keep our minds on today when we can't control tomorrow.

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