On the first of the intermediate days we took a trip to Shiloh. Shiloh is an ancient Bibilical city that was the religious center of Israel for several hundred years before Jerusalem. It was about a 50 minute drive and is quite scenic. Mostly rocky hillsides dotted with occasional herds of animals and not so occasional large red signs. The large red signs were at the entrances to Palestinian towns and inform you that the road leads to "Area A" and is forbidden for Israeli citizens and that it is not only against Israeli law to enter but also dangerous to your life. Sadly, there was an Israeli man who was murdered that week when he agreed to share a ride home with his Palestinian co-worker. His colleague did not take him home but instead kidnapped and murdered him. We work really hard to teach our children not to generalize about groups of people and I think it is an important value, but that story does give pause when it comes to considering danger to you and your family.
Anyway, Shiloh is a really interesting place to visit. Unfortunately, we were slightly late for the English tour, so we went on a Hebrew tour. At this point I guess it's really only unfortunate for me as everybody else's Hebrew is coming along nicely. You walk along the paths and they perform reenactments of different historical events and try to bring a lot of history/religion to life. The path of the tour leads up a hill where you watch a movie that is on panoramic screens and it fades in and out of the real life background that you see through the large windows/movie screens to the scenery in the background which is breathtaking. Naturally since we had tickets to the English movie which had already been shown, we had to scramble for some tickets to this one. Luckily one of the families that had gone with the group had extra tickets though when we got in there were at least 20 of us who had to stand so I'm not even certain why they had the tickets. Just comparing our family position this Sukkot to last year, it is phenomenal that my kids can listen to what they are hearing. After the movie we visited different booths where the kids did various thematic art projects, including drawing, mosaics, grinding spices, and making grape juice.
The next day we went to a small village nearby that teaches agriculture and farming. They had turned the farm into a big exhibit for kids. This is the true organic experience with real dirt and mess and not the kind brought to you by Johnson and Johnson. Though even there, they didn't allow the kids to eat the goat cheese that they made because it was in unpasteurized form. And it's Israel so you don't have pony rides, you have camel rides. I thought it would be fun to ride along with the kids. And it was, until it was time to get off. To any who would criticize my performance, all I can say is that you should try doing that in a skirt. Oy vay! I also wouldn't recommend it to anyone with a hip replacement.
We weren't sure what to do the next day, when lo and behold a neighbor told us about the annual circus in Modiin. Yes, dear readers, our amazing city has a circus every year during Chol Hamoed Sukkot. We went to an acrobat show which was an urban-funk type performance. Performers way, way fitter than anybody we know (and we know some very fit people!), scampering up and down twenty foot poles like squirrels, swinging from a trapeze upside down while holding another performer with one hand, balancing on a board on top of a rolling cylinder on top of another board, on top of a cylinder moving the other direction, on top of a small table, etc. Apparently the shows at night involve light shows and all kinds of fun but we already had plans by the time we heard about it, so it's something to look forward to next year.
After Sukkot, there is another holiday called Shemini Atzeret. The Rabbis compare this to an after party. Sort of like Sukkot was so much fun let's just spend another day together. The holiday coincides with Simchat Torah, a celebration marking the end of the annual cycle of Torah reading.
The day after a holiday is still considered a day off (i.e. no school). I think this is to give everyone a day to travel back and recuperate, and because of a strong teacher's union. We used the day to go to the beach with friends who were visiting from the U.S., which we followed with lunch at nearby IKEA's very impressive cafeteria. The Mediterranean is always beautiful, and the waves were great. There were, surprisingly, still a few jelly-fish, but they were small enough and few enough to not be a bother.
Speaking of jelly, Sukkot brought hints of Chanukah already, with sufganiyot (Israeli jelly-filled donuts, a Chanukah staple) already making their appearance at the local bakeries.
I had expected that with the wrap up of the holiday season, I would start my "observation period" in the Emergency Department. Apparently there is a bit more paperwork that I had previously been unaware of so it will likely be a few months before I actually start. That's OK-- our space needs some serious organization. I can't say that I have ever been a good homemaker, but hope springs eternal and I do like to cook. And from what little I understand of chaos theory (and it is very little) as soon as I start organizing around here, someone else's life is about to get rather crazy.