There are festivals across the country geared to a whole range of different demographic groups, from children's music to wine and beer festivals. A quick glance at the newspaper shows a Yemenite Culture festival in one city (B'nei Ayish), a wine and beer festival in Ashdod, an Uzi Hittman sing-a-long event in Tel-Aviv and many other events in towns and cities all over Israel. Many are free, city sponsored events. For example, Israeli singer Eli Botner performed a free concert at the city centre stage (Yad L'Banim) in Ra'anana last night. We dropped in to watch some of it.
Students of all ages have lengthy school breaks. Many go on camping or hiking trips with different youth movements. Two of our children participate in Noam (the youth movement affiliated with Conservative Judaism - "Masorti" in Israel). This year, they are on a two day trip to the Negev - camping, hiking along or through rivers and enjoying the outdoors - in terrific weather conditions.
Before the tiyulim began, we managed to squeeze in a five family sukkah hop starting on shabbat afternoon, which was quite fun. Each family was charged with preparing one course of the meal. All of the sukkot were located in Ra'anana though in some cases the walk from one sukkah to the next was more than a half hour. While many families try to put these events together in other countries, the conditions are often less than ideal. (We once spent the night in our Sukkah in Toronto when it was close to 0 C). Here in Israel, the weather was perfect for this type of event. The families were close enough to each other to allow for walking from one place to the next and the atmosphere all over Ra'anana was quite conducive to this type of celebration. As we walked from stop to stop, we passed by hundreds of sukkot all over the city.
During Sukkot, many people also travel to other places around the country for visits to all kinds of different attractions, including national parks, wineries, nature reserves and other tourist spots. We decided to visit the Tulip Winery yesterday. Tulip is in Kiryat Tivon, about an hour north of Ra'anana.
Tulip is one of my favourite Israeli wine producers. It was founded in 2003 by the Yitzhaki family. The winery was built in Kfar Tikvah ( the "village of hope"), a community for special needs adults. The winery employs many residents of Kfar Tikvah and helps integrate them into the community. Tulip has an annual production of approximately 220,000 bottles. The Tulip visitor centre also features a range of products that were made by Kfar Tikvah residents.
Tulip does not offer a daily tour though arrangements can be made in advance for groups. But the winery really does offer a unique mix of social responsibility and excellent wine, which makes it a very highly regarded and popular institution and one that seems to me to deserve support. The wine is certified kosher by the circle K organization as well as several Israeli kashruth authorities. (The story of the process the winery underwent to receive kosher certification in a fascinating story by itself but one for another time).
The holiday of Sukkot continues for two more days in Israel before culminating with the joyous festival of Simchat Torah. That will bring the holiday season to a close as well as the annual cycle of Torah reading. Sukkot marks the official start of rainy season in Israel (in theory, at least), just after harvest season ends.
So we have two more days to enjoy eating meals in the Sukkah, waving the lulav and etrog and, of course, sharing the appropriate mid-Sukkot greeting - "mo'adim l'simchah" - (Times of happiness), to which the little known but proper response is "chaggim u'zmanim l'sasson" (Festivals and times of joy).
A happy and healthy new year to all and - "moadim l'simcha"...