Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas in Israel

My parents’ first and only visit to Israel—as participants in an American Jewish Committee mission for academicians—was during the Christmas season in 1987, right at the beginning of the first intifada. It was the first time they left my sister, a college senior home on winter break, and me, a live-at-home young professional, “home alone.” All was well except for the State Department’s travel advisories and warnings about which we read every day in the New York Times.

When they finally called to wish us a happy new year, we were—in classic parent-child role reversal—nearly frantic with worry. They laughed, I recall. Giddy with delight in their whereabouts, my mother exclaimed, “We’re perfectly fine…we’ve nowhere near the violence and we've never felt safer. And, with all the menorahs in the windows, I forgot all about Christmas!”

I was reminded of this exchange this morning when, as I do each day, I perused Facebook to see what my friends are up to. This week, many of them are in Israel and here’s what they’ve got to say:
A young colleague from the Union: just arrived in Jerusalem and completely exhausted. Kotel for shabbat! Completely forgot it was Christmas . . .

A rabbi from the Midwest: We are going to Tel Aviv beach to meet Talia and Moti and Lihi. It will be Lihi's first visit to the beach.

A colleague visiting his newly engaged son: is looking forward to our big simcha today. The engagement party is in a few hours and we're really excited. Thanks to all for your kind words and congratulations. Shabbat shalom to everyone!

A rabbi from Westchester: Thursday was: Pioneers' Cemetery on the Galilee; Synagogue mosaic floor at Beit Alpha; lunch at Beit Shean; arrival into Jerusalem.

A first-year HUC student: had an AMAZING Christmas eve - midnight mass at the Church of Dormition right outside of the Old City, and a trip to Bethlehem with Amanda with an incredible taxi driver who was born and raised in Bethlehem - truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Merry Christmas!!

Another first-year HUC rabbinic student: Spending erev Christmas in Bethlehem. Merry X-Mas from Israel!

And finally this from a nearly finished rabbinic student: Thought I would avoid the American Christmas day shutdown by being in Israel. Forgot to factor in Shabbat in Jerusalem. Nothing open!
There've been no Facebook updates from Debbie Bravo and the Temple Emanu-El confirmation class, but no doubt they’re having such a fabulous time that they're just too busy to share their adventures in real time. No worries...I look forward to hearing about their trip once they’re back.

In the meantime, to all of you lucky enough to be in Israel at this season: eat a falafel for me.

Safe travels, my friends.


  1. Just a little while ago, this message appeared on Facebook from Debbie Bravo:

    Greetings from Jerusalem and Shavua Tov! I am here with a group of teens from our Temple. We have been North, Massada and Ein Gedi, and now we have some time in Jerusalem. We have great weather, and are having a terrific time. I've seen several colleagues and friends, so if you are here, let me know. Love from Jerusalem!!

  2. The one Christmas I was in Israel, I was massively disappointed that I ran into what must have been every Christian tourist in Jerusalem, all of whom felt compelled to wish me a Merry Christmas.