Friday, September 18, 2009

Finally after three years I can say - Shana Tova from Israel

Sights and Sounds before the beginning of Rosh HaShannah - Here on the kibbutz the slowdown of life as Shabbat approaches is well underway as I write this. On the roads outside of the kibbutz there is the traffic and bustle of people racing, or trying to race if the traffic allows them, to their sanctuary for the holiday. On the roads the slowdown comes later towards evening and darkness approaching.

As I walked back to our apartment I heard the muzzein from the neighboring Arab village - Jezr El Zarka. The village is poor and has expanded immensely in the last 20 years. So too have the acoustics of the muzzein. Once he could not be heard except sometimes in the evening when sound travels better. Now he can be heard each time they pray. The reverebating voice with the guttural sounds (probably what a non-Jew would say upon hearing Jews pray) is much more up close and personal than it was 20 years ago. That change reflects technology, but also the size of the town whose borders are much closer to ours than they used to be. We don't have much contact between the two communities, but as I hear the echoing voice I wonder what is his message for Rosh HaShanah? Does he wonder what my message is for Ramadan? Do I know?

Tonight after dinner the kibbutz celebrates Rosh HaShanah as a community. There will be hundreds of people, elderly, middle aged, youth and kids on the grassy area next to the dining room. We will spread out our blankets and sit together to welcome the new year as we have done for so many years. There are the traditional songs and singers, there are the blessings of the various officials and there is the dance of the months which is the annual highlight. The dance was created and choreographed by a veteran member of Maagan Michael. She is a unique combination of creative presence and drill sargent personality. Probably every child under the age of 40 on the kibbutz has appeared in the dance at some point in his or her life.

There is a tradition. There is a sense of continuity and community. There is also the moment of collective creation where they flash on the screen pictures of every baby born here during the year. This year there are 24, over the last few years there have been aroujnd thrity. There are no prayers except for rain.

One of the phrases in secular life in Israel, and particularly on kibbutz, is the phrase to create tradition. It is an interesting semantic combination. On one hand it is clear that tradition is the on-going continuation of practice, thought and ritual. The idea of creation, on the other hand, implies an altering of the traditional. But for the kibbutz the idea was to re-examine the traditional Judaic practicess and to replace with different Jewish concepts, rituals and practices. In some ways this has led to a creative outpouring and wonderful local traditions. On the other hand, much of the creations are disconnected from Jewish traditions and therefore do not influence others nor serve as a segue into a larger Jewish world. We have already created two generations of Jews who do not really understand the rejection of the Jewish tradition that they have inherited. For now, I intend to enjoy the evening and the dance - I think that our niece is participating.

It has been a very special day as people flow by wishing each other "Shana Tova". The holiday is in the air. I know that I have had little to do with the creation of that atmosphere. It feels comforting to not have to make the effort, and yet I know instinctively that my Jewish identity is a function of the effort that I make and it is not sufficient to rely on the contributions of others as I have today. Tomorrow we will go to services in Zichron Yaakov.

שבת שלום - שנה טובה וגמר חתימה טובה - Shabbat Shalom - Have a wonderful Rosh HaShana.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice Micha, thanks for sharing your reflections. I'd like to link this to our webpage. Is that OK with you?