August 30, 2016


Tzfat during the Klezmer Festival.
Summertime in Israel….the living may not be ‘easy’ but it’s sure packed with fun.

The summer cycle in Israel is unique, especially from a religious perspective. For most,  summertime conjures up exploring exotic destinations, water skiing across pristine, sparkling lakes, canoe trips and cranking up the barbecue. For the religious Israeli, summer can mean time to hunker down.

First we have the “Three Weeks,” kicked off with a fast day. This is a reflective time when there are no weddings, parties or concerts. At the end of this period, we move into the Nine Days when there is no swimming, no meat or wine enjoyed on weekdays and a host of other restrictions designed to ensure that life stays somber. This culminates in a fast day called Tisha B’Av, the fast I personally dread the most.

So you can only imagine what happens in Israel when thousands of cooped up, restricted people can finally do fun stuff.

Israelis will not lose a minute of potential fun time. The day after the fast is over, they pack their huge families into minivans, or pile onto buses and head somewhere – always with a portable barbecue in tow. 

At any time of day, in any random place, one can detect that distinct ‘mangal’ waft. It could be from high above on a tiny apartment balcony or in a park filled with hundreds of itinerant barbecuers, pincers in hand, attending to their sizzling ‘pergiyot.’

Many Israelis head north to the cool mountain breezes. I am in Tsfat now and I could swear that the entire town of B’nei Brak has deposited itself here. The ultra religious just love this place; they dress in their finest garb, wander the streets, stay up late with their many children eating out, strolling, taking pictures. Mini buses transport what looks like a whole city block at a time, with room for black fur hats to sit comfortably on travellers’ heads.

Back in Jerusalem, we were able to capture another style of Israeli summer fun. We saw a production of Macbeth outdoors in the park just beside Yemin Moshe. Hundreds of people sat on the grass in this gorgeous setting and watched Shakespeare unfold thanks to Theater in the Rough

The performance was ‘in motion,’ so the audience was invited to move along from scene to scene with the actors  (one of whom was my younger daughter, a Shakespeare fan at heart).

To feel relaxed, entertained and culturally enlightened in the midst of a huge metropolis that has been under siege from random acts of terror for months was surreal. And to be in a diverse audience of Anglo Israelis, Hebrew speakers, religious and secular, all united in the unraveling of this plot, was inspiring.

After the play, we headed down the steps to the Sultan’s Pool for the international art show (Hutzot HaYotzer) where artists from all over the world set up booths and displayed their colorful wares. 

There was live music, dancing, lots of food, wine tasting and at nine o’clock, a concert.

The outdoor ampitheater of Sultan’s Pool was packed as Eviatar Banai belted his songs from the stage. 

People of all ages and religious persuasions were singing along with this charismatic musician, demonstrating that Jerusalem is alive and well, throbbing with energy and soul.

In a few days, the kids all go back to school. They will be bringing home crafts of pomegranates and bees in their backpacks…..because guess what is next? The Jewish New Year.  

Does that mean I now have to think about baking honey cake?

Here in Israel, the pace never slows down. Ever. No wonder there aren’t a multitude of large crystal lakes perfect for barefooting. There just isn’t enough time here for such pursuits!

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