The Megilat Ta’anit lists the days in the Jewish calendar on which it is forbidden to fast. But there are a couple of relatively new Israeli holidays that seldom come which bring joy and good will to the people of the land.
These are the beloved Chag HaSnow (Snow Day) and Chag HaBchirot (Israeli Election Day) – my two new favourite holidays. (Did I say Yom Kippur was my fave? I’m such a fickle blogger.)
We have been lucky enough, here in Jerusalem, and in a few other areas of Israel, to experience both of these irregular holidays within one season. And it’s been absolutely lovely.
But what is it about these days that brings out such happiness in the native peoples’ hearts?
Only One Mitzva (Commandment)
Firstly, there aren’t too many mitzvas on either of these days.
On Snow Day one must play in the snow for at least a few minutes. The hiddur of this mitzva (doing it in an exemplary fashion) is if you actually build a snowman or have a snowball fight.
On Election Day, you must vote. In Israel, voting carries the same level of importance as fasting on Yom Kippur. You are expected to do it and if you don’t, you will not receive a punishment from above since your fellow Israelis will stone you properly themselves.
The bonding and the chillin’
On both of these days the streets are filled with shining happy people holding hands.
On Snow Day the streets and parks are full of people of all ages and backgrounds frolicking.
On Election Day, people can be seen roaming the streets with their spouses and families, enjoying the national holiday (and this year the blessed perfect weather), hanging out in the beautiful areas that our country has to offer us.
Half as a joke, you can wish others a “Chag sameach” on Election Day. You are sure to receive a smiley “Chag sameach” back.
And on both of these days, there is a feeling of connectedness. People are more friendly than usual, smiling at each other and generally more relaxed.
The meaning behind these days
I think that one of the things that makes these days so special is that they are meaningful. This is difficult to understand for people who live in naturally snowy areas with lots of precipitation but in Israel, when liquid falls from the sky, it’s a special occasion. For some of us it is literally spiritual, experiencing the rain here (even if we’re freezing our little toes off in our apartments). And then give us snow and it’s a whole other level of spirituality.
What’s not to get excited about! It’s beautiful white fluff falling from the heavens. It feels like a blessing from above (I suppose because God knew we’d all be good boys and girls and vote a couple of weeks later). The excitement as we wait to see if it will stick… As we listen to the reports about whether or not schools will be closed… As we secretly decide that even if schools aren’t closed, of course our children aren’t going to school.
Snow in Israel is an extremely special experience and that’s why people will pile into Jerusalem in order to see it with their own Israeli eyes.
And then there is Israeli Election Day. The day on which we celebrate that although sometimes it’s close to impossible to choose which politician is the lesser of available evils, we are celebrating a miracle. As opposed to the conventional holidays when we celebrate something that happened in the past, on Israeli Election Day, we celebrate a miracle that is happening right now, constantly. And not only is it current, but every one of us here in Israel is an integral part of this amazing miracle. We have a Jewish land that we govern ourselves and it continues to exist because we choose to be here.
We are free to vote and so are all other Israelis, including those who don’t believe in the country. It brings tears to my eyes when I go to my voting station and walk behind the blocked-off area to place my vote. I look at all the options, choose the party I’m putting a small amount of faith in, and seal it in my own personal envelope of democracy. And I can feel from the buzz in the air from the others at my voting station that I’m not the only one who is deeply touched by the miraculous nature of an election day in the Jewish country, the only democracy in the Middle East.
And, by the way, you know why Israeli election day always comes out on a Tuesday? Because it was on the third day of the creation of the world that God said “Ki tov” (and it was good) twice (He only said it once on the other days) and so it’s considered a day with particularly good luck.
So that’s why the Israeli political system is so unstable!
All this makes me wonder if we really could use a little more vacation – maybe Sundays off every 2-3 months. Those days would serves no other purpose than to allow families and friends to relax and enjoy each other and our country.
But meanwhile, I have finally come to understand why the Israeli political system is purposely structured in a way that governments are prone to collapsing – we all just want a day off without having to wait another four years.