I am definitely not the right person to explain about Mimouna. Wikipedia has a much better explanation than I could give, starting with:
Mimouna … is a traditional Maghrebi Jewish celebration dinner, that currently takes place in Morocco, Israel, France, Canada, and other places around the world where Jews of Maghrebi heritage live. It is held the day after Passover, marking the return to eating hametz (leavened bread, etc.), which is forbidden throughout the week of Passover.
Unfortunately, the celebration in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park was rather a washout, this year, as thunderstorms lasted for most of the day. However, we were invited to the dry quarters of our next-door neighbours, who served muflettas and all sorts of sweet things, and also dressed up for the occasion.
Years ago, some visitors to this blog asked me to write more about living in Israel. This worried me. I thought there would be aspects of living here that would be hard to explain. But I decided there must be a few “normal” parts that I could expand on.
So, under the category of Israel, I created a sub-category called Everyday life. I posted a few things I thought would be universally understood. Then, one day, I wanted to post about an unusual occurrence. So I created another sub-category called Extraordinary events. We’ve had many of those, over the years, although I usually don’t mention them here.
Fast forward to the present. I tend to post more on Facebook than on the blog. What have I posted about recently?
A video of folk dancing taken ten years ago
Holiday greetings to all
Cake and other food I made for Pesach – Passover
A memory from my sadly defunct writing group
A video from last year’s trip to South Africa
The discovery that Google translate can now read out text in Hebrew
Finally, as I scroll down, I get to something more serious: my one and only share about the current wave of protests in Israel. The current government is trying to bring in a law that would give less power to the Supreme Court and more to the politicians. In one of the photos in the post, author Etgar Keret holds a sign that reads: “Once I wrote books; today I write signs.”
It’s sad to realise how split this country is – not that we didn’t know before, but now the situation seems worse than ever.
However, one thing that’s guaranteed to bring the Jews together is when terror strikes, as it has done several times recently. When two sisters, aged sixteen and twenty, are murdered and their mother is fighting for her life in hospital, it feels as if this is our family. Yes, we still go out for trips in nature, or to dance, or do whatever else we enjoy, but part of us is grieving for those girls and for the other victims.
Sometimes, we’re split as a country. Other times, we’re split inside. That’s what living in Israel is like, and always has been. Hopefully, it won’t always be like this.
Update: Sadly, the mother of the two girls succumbed to her wounds.
My job was to announce the occasion on social media and respond to well-wishers, as well as sharing various guest posts that bloggers had kindly posted for me.
I did just that – in the morning. And then, after lunch, I went to Tel-Aviv. Why on earth…?
The publication date had been fixed for 27th October when our musician daughter asked if we’d like to go to a birthday performance by singer Ronit Shachar, held in a garden in Tel-Aviv. We couldn’t turn that down – we knew it would be good. Besides, I reckoned that after spending the day with my novel, it would be all right to go out in the evening.
Daughter got the tickets for the four of us. Then there was a suggestion that as we were all going to be in Tel-Aviv, we could meet earlier and do other things. We ended up meeting in Yarkon Park, where we went for a longish walk, then walking by the sea around sunset and eating some delicious vegan food in a restaurant called J17.
The concert, which also included other performers like Corinne Allal, was excellent and even worth the cramped seating on damp fake grass. And the proceeds went to an animal sanctuary.
After the performance, we had to collect a rather large electric piano which was hard to fit in our van. It was after 2 a.m. when we returned home.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to do the driving, and I spent the journeys trying to catch up with all the kind posts and comments about my book launch.
Today, 23rd March, is a day for going out and for celebrating coming out.
I, together with the rest of the citizens of this country (hopefully) will be going out to vote. It’s only a year since we last voted and we all hope the next government will last for longer. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the election results will give a better advantage to any party.
Today is also an anniversary. Twelve years ago, I began this blog, tentatively, anonymously, scared to own up to having social anxiety, even though I knew it was obvious. Optimistcally, I called the blog and myself “An’ de walls came tumblin’ down.” They haven’t tumbled, but they have some large chinks.
Nevertheless, a lot has happened in that time. It could all be summed up in the words “I came out.” It’s made a big difference to me that I can write about having social anxiety and give presentations about it, even though it’s still hard to talk about.
Where were you, twelve years ago? Have you changed over the years?
I read an article recently. I don’t have the link any more, but it was headed something like: I’m Jewish. Please wish me Merry Christmas. The article went on to explain that although in the author’s family Christmas wasn’t celebrated, the day was meaningful to him as a day off – a day when they, as a family, did joyful things together that were out or the ordinary.
I get it. I remember, all through my childhood, spending Christmas Day in the home of my aunt, uncle and cousins, eating different foods, doing different things. So when I changed schools at the age of eleven and was introduced to Christmas carols, drawing Christmas trees and exchanging Christmas cards, I joined in. In any case, my aim at school was always to fit in, even though I never succeeded.
The trend continued to university and work. Christmas was always a special time, so it seemed natural to exchange Christmas greetings with everyone.
Then I moved to Israel and, for the first time, Christmas didn’t exist, apart from a few cards I still sent to and received from friends abroad. Christmas Day was spent at work. That’s been the case for most of my time here. Recently, with social media and the ability to listen to BBC Radio 4, the prominence of Christmas has again increased, but it’s still not part of my life. That’s the difference between me and the author of that linkless article. He lives in the US while I live in Israel. Like him, I’m not offended when someone wishes me Merry Christmas, but for me it’s meaningless.
“Yes, but even if you don’t celebrate it, you do something special on that day,” people say.
However, this year, I will be celebrating Chanuka at the same time as Christmas, lighting candles and eating doughnuts at home and at folk dancing.
But Chanuka isn’t time off, except for schoolchildren and teachers. And us, last year:
Whatever you do, enjoy the next few days, the whole of 2020 and every other year. May whatever you wish for come to fruition.
Today, instead of Letters from Elsewhere, here’s a post about me, to catch up with some of the things I’ve done since… whenever.
The other day, I wrote two new verses to an old song. They’re inspired by a strange phenomenon: rain.
Look what they’ve done to my June, Ma
Look what they’ve done to my June, Ma. Look what they’ve done to my June. Well it’s the only thing they could do half right, And it’s turning out all wrong, Ma. Look what they’ve done to my June.
Look what they’ve done to my sun, Ma. Look what they’ve done to my sun. Well, they took some clouds and made them black And covered up the sun, Ma. Look what they’ve done to my sun.
Yes, it’s been raining heavily in various parts of the country, but not so heavily in Jerusalem. There has been flooding. One of the most afflicted towns was Sderot. You’d think they’ve had enough to contend with without the weather joining in.
It never rains in June in Israel. Don’t they know that?
If you don’t know the original song, I’m sure you can find it on Youtube. “Look what they’ve done to my song.”
I’m in the middle of writing and editing and preparing and more, but yesterday we had an opportunity to attend a public rehearsal of Don Giovanni and we took it.
After the performance, we had a bite to eat at the nearby Sarona Market, where we saw this seat. It plays love songs. Well, there’s probably a loudspeaker hidden behind it, but you can sit on the bench and listen to love songs. Isn’t that sweet.
After that, we enjoyed an evening walk by the sea in un-sea-sonably warm weather.
But the strangest things happened during the performance. Really, they both happened. I’m not making this up.
Maybe because it was a rehearsal, a few members of the audience thought it was all right to talk to each other or to use their smart phones – silently. Some people up in the gallery were talking quite loudly. Eventually, the disturbance was dealt with somehow and the talking stopped. Just then the translated text of the opera, displayed above and next to the stage said:
We’ve finally got rid of that fool.
Later, the man directly in front of me was using his phone, holding it so that its light shone in my eyes. I put my hand up in front of me to block the light and again looked at the text of the opera. It said:
He dazzled me for a moment.
I kid you not.
It’s good to get out sometimes and experience life outside the computer.
The Monster (Hebrew: Mifletzet) sculpted in 1971 by French artist Niki de Saint Phalle, is a well-known landmark in Jerusalem and one that is enjoyed by children, who love to slide down its three-pronged tongue.
When I walked past it, yesterday evening, it looked different – a bit sad and funny.
I posted the picture on Instagram with the caption: What have they done to the monster? And to the English language?
Har Herzl (Mount Herzl) has been Israel’s official national cemetery since 1951. It is the final resting place of presidents, prime ministers and other leaders. It is also a military cemetery for many soldiers who gave their lives for the country.
I’ve visited Har Herzl many times over the past forty years, but never on a guided tour, and there were many things I didn’t know about it. So when I saw a request by Tali Tarlow for “test drivers” of this chapter of the book she’s been writing, I jumped at the chance. Tali is well known for her fun and informative scavenger hunts. I’ve been on three of them, all in Jerusalem: the Old City, Nachlaot and Yemin Moshe.
“We know how to do memorials,” said Erika, who joined me on Friday for the visit. It’s true. Unfortunately, this small, young country has had plenty of experience. And designers have created some innovative symbols. As well as the graves I mentioned above, we saw the memorials for passengers and crews of sunken ships and submarines, and for Ethiopian Jews who died trying to reach the Land of Israel. In Tali’s chapter, we read sad and uplifting stories, knowing that without the people buried in this place, we wouldn’t be living here.
At the top of a hill, we saw the tomb of Benjamin Ze’ev (Theodor) Herzl, the visionary of the State of Israel, after whom the place is named.
Har Herzl is also a lovely park, well laid out with trees, flowers and grass.
Although we enjoyed our morning on the mountain, Erika and I decided that next time we meet, it will be at a happier location.
Hello, lovely readers. I hope you’ve been happily occupied while I was away.
Yes, I’m back from a delightful nine-day trip to the UK, my almost-home. We visited friends and family, attended the book launch of The May Queen by fellow Crooked Cat author, Helen Irene Young, at Waterstones in Richmond, and did lots of walking.
I also attended a meeting of Crooked Cat authors. Although we’re all in regular contact online, it’s always good to meet up for an informal chat.
I returned yesterday morning to two special annual days and something that, I believe, is unique to Israel. Today is Remembrance Day: ‘Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism’. Yesterday evening and this morning, the nation stood still to mourn, and ceremonies are being held throughout the day. And tomorrow, starting this evening, is Independence Day and a day for rejoicing. Tonight, we’ll stand on our balcony and watch the fireworks that mark the beginning of Independence Day.
UPDATE (2 May): Here’s a photo from last night’s fireworks.