September 20, 2007

Postcards from Israel – A Passion for Pomegranates

Shana Tova from Israel. Celebrating the Jewish new year in Israel is a feast for the senses and the soul. For me it all begins with that pomegranate tree outside my kitchen window. By August, which is Elul, the fruit is already deep red and full, its 613 seeds ready to burst forth. And as Elul ends, I see more rimonim (pomegranates) appearing.

In the china section of department stores, clay, glass and plastic serving plates, candy bowls and honey pots are proudly displayed, all crafted in the signature style of rimonim. On the sidewalk, gift shops sell baskets filled with rimonim and candies, already wrapped in cellophane and tied with a bow. The corner store and the stationary store also get into the spirit, displaying their own gift baskets stuffed with chocolates, jars of honey and cookies. I see pots of honey and rimonim pop up on billboards and adorn flyers stuffed into my mail box. Accompanying them all are Shana Tova greetings.

As for shopping, the grocery stores are packed with people mulling over the produce section, filling their carts with fresh pomegranantes, red and green apples, plump dates and spindly branches dotted with date palms. And of course, oversized jars of honey are on special, proudly sitting at the entrance of the store. In the baking isle, I ran into a woman pushing a cart of Osem cakes. My daughter was crying because I would not let her push our overloaded cart (after it collided into a stack of pickle cans, I took away her 'agala' licence for the day). This lady, a perfect stranger, wiped Talya's tears away and said, "Ma kara, metuka? Have some honey cake." She then told me that if I buy two cakes, the third one is free and then continued down the aisle peddling her produce.

And so we celebrated the New Year. On Rosh Hashana afternoon, as I was sitting in my garden, I heard a shofar blowing in the distance. Tekiya, Teruah. The notes pierced the afternoon with clarity and resolve. My daughter then walked in and said she saw a man with his young son walking up and down the street blowing shofar to all who had not heard – and in our neighbourhood, that meant many. He stopped joggers in their tracks, people out for a stroll with their dogs. I bet he even found people in their cars, on their cell phones and listening to their ipods. But all took the time to stop, listen and reconnect with that deep resonant sound – a still small voice that was with us at Sinai and is, Baruch Hashem, with us today. Let it awaken our souls and inspire us for a meaningful, fulfilling, safe and healthy new year.

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