It’s that time of year again!
It’s been my custom the last few years to post something I love about Israel every day of the week of Parshat Shelach. This is part of an effort to atone for the sin of the spies.
One of my favorite moments was when I had the opportunity to walk among a flock of sheep at Sartaba, which is an ancient hilltop fortress constructed by the Hasmoneans on a mountain over the Jordan Valley. As a native New Yorker, this was a unique experience for me. Now I am blessed to see this kind of thing often (although I still get as excited as a child every single time).
Yesterday, I expressed my love for Sartaba and the flock of sheep that enveloped us as we experienced biblical history and the spectacular views of the site.
It’s amazing that one can experience realities like that so close to home. What makes it even more amazing is places like Mishor Adumim, where, oftentimes, one will see sheep and camels, but also see D-City, a super-mall that opened last year. It is one of the biggest malls in the Mideast. Modeled after the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas, it boasts luxurious furniture stores, fine eateries, and a luxury hotel!
It’s amazing that in Israel, we can mix the ancient and the modern in this unique way.
Hanukkah anywhere in the world can be a delightful holiday. However, experiencing it in Israel adds a whole new dimension of spiritual meaning and earthly pleasure for me.
When I lived in the America, we lit the Hanukkah candles in our front window. I knew I was supposed to feel hopeful that a small light can go far in a dark world, but I still felt sadness gnawing at me. When I made aliyah and took on the custom to light outside in front of my house and sing Haneirot Hallallu into the starlit sky, I felt overcome with emotion. I had finally realized my lifelong dream of living in the Promised Land, where I felt I belonged.
Going outside and lighting candles felt metaphorically right. I now can walk out my door and engage in Jewish activity without fear and with pride, knowing I’m in my homeland surrounded by my people.
One of the greatest perks is the delicious doughnuts that are found everywhere during the month of Chanukah. Even if you don’t eat them (which might just be a crime), they are gorgeous to look at. I love seeing the insanely fantabulous new flavors that come out each year!
How low can you go?
Lemme tell ya cuz that’s how far I went.
The Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth.
The Dead Sea mud and waters are rich in 21 minerals that draw out toxins, exfoliate, soothe stress, reduce swelling, and help the body heal. It’s beyond relaxing floating in the Dead Sea for the water is so dense that you simply position yourself and it carries you!
People travel far and wide for this experience.
My first trip to Israel is one of my favorite memories from childhood. I could not wait to see what the promised land was like. In addition, I was so excited to find out I had distant cousins my age who wanted to meet me. They were super friendly and we hit it off right away.
We played Shesh Besh (Backgammon) and Chamesh Avanim (Kugelach/5 Stones) for hours. They introduced me to the puffed peanut butter snack, Bamba (which they did not sell in America yet), and it was love at first bite!
Bamba made by Osem has been sold in Israel for over 60 years and is widely popular. Apparently, many Israeli parents feed it to their toddlers! This seems odd to Westerners like myself, who are taught to keep our kids away from anything peanut until they reach an older age. Peanut allergies seem less prevalent in Israel than in other Western countries. Could the reason for this be that kids here are exposed to Bamba as babies, thus developing a tolerance for peanuts? Makes sense to me, but either way, I love Bamba, and now it comes in many flavors, which are hard to resist.
One of my favorite things to do when I want to spoil myself Erev Shabbat is to go shopping for special treats that I would not ordinarily indulge in. Every once in a while, in honor of Shabbat, I visit my favorite store in all of Israel, Pyup. It is known as a liquor store, but it is so much more!!
The Ramat Eshkol branch has all sorts of food items, tons of fun candy and snacks, gourmet chocolate, and much more! On Friday, they even have really appealing challah and baked goods! I can spend hours there trying to decide what to buy (damn that budget!).
Pyup has in part been responsible for my newfound custom to make a L’chaim an hour or so before Shabbat. It relaxes me and makes my smile a bit wider as I light the Shabbat candles.
Shabbat Shalom from Maaleh Adumim, Israel.