Slice of Life

Fun In Jerusalem

Niney-three million miles. That’s the distance between planet Earth and the sun. This fact is on...

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They’re baaack. Again!  The Israeli national elections are upon us. Normally I wouldn’t write about this particular topic.  Besides trying to stay clear of politics, I also like to write about occurrences that are somewhat rare and unusual.  Israeli elections no longer fall into that category.  We are heading to the polls for the fifth time in a little over three-and-a-half years, putting Israel in first place in the world in terms of the frequency of elections.  This is a trophy we can do without.  And there is no guarantee that this election will help us break the political deadlock that has been afflicting us for the last few years.  But since elections have become so prevalent, I thought I would give you a taste of what goes on here.

The day before Erev Yom Kippur, I was privileged to take part in a women’s trip to Chevron.  I honestly can’t understand what came over me, but I did not feel uncomfortable walking around Chevron in a big group of women without a guard, not even one without a gun.  I didn’t even think about it.  Of course, maybe that had to do with the soldiers who were ubiquitous in the Israeli-controlled part of Chevron that we visited. As we traveled in our bulletproof bus, Mrs. Esti Kimche, a tour guide from Ramat Beit Shemesh, crystallized our appreciation for the holy city - not that any of us needed to be convinced.

The period of the chagim is one of the most beautiful times of year here in Israel.  Judging by the large number of visitors converging on the country at this time, it seems that many would agree.  The holiday spirit permeates the air for weeks before, and not just for the frum among us.  Those who mark the holidays in some shape or form are in sync with the country.  For better and for worse, non-urgent matters are put off until the period of “Acharei Hachagim,” after the holidays. In fact, on the day after Simchat Torah, the newspapers announce that “Acharei Hachagim” has arrived.

One of the many wonderful things I love about living in Ramat Beit Shemesh is that I’m able to meet Jews from all over the world who have made aliyah and often have many interesting experiences to share.  Rabbi Nosson Sachs, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, served as a chaplain in the United States Army before his aliyah eight years ago.  In 2006, when Rabbi Sachs was working as a reserve chaplain, he received a phone call from Washington asking if he would be willing to travel to Afghanistan for the High Holy Days and Sukkos. Thinking about the huge opportunity for kiruv to be had in such a mission, Rabbi Sachs was thrilled.  I was privileged to sit with Rabbi Sachs in his home while he told me his story, one that is filled with hashgachah pratis.

During Elul and Aseres Y’mei T’shuvah, there are so many types of gatherings available to help people get into the mood of the Yamim Nora’im. From the street, I can hear the beautiful music and singing of kumsitzes. Thousands join together to say S’lichos at the Kosel. Maybe I don’t remember, but I don’t recall this sort of thing from when I was growing up. It seems to me that while the t’filos are the same, much has changed over the years, at least for me. These are positive and inspiring developments that meet the needs of our generation.

Beit Shemesh is gearing up for the chagim, both physically and spiritually. Every year, Beit Shemesh hosts a race that is open to men, women, and children. It’s a major local event with lots of fanfare. But some women are not comfortable running together with men. To accommodate these women and enable them to address the issue of health in a way that is comfortable for them, last week the municipality of Beit Shemesh hosted its first all-women’s race. I went to the gathering to check out the event.