I never know how to start off "blogging." My first inclination is always to say, "I love it here!" But that gets boring for you, I'm sure. The only problem is - I really, really love it here!!!"
Succos in Israel is simply indescribable. Everyone has always told me that, but this is our first experience. And to be here as an Israeli and not a tourist - there are no words.
But I'll try.
Let's see. One day Yom Tov. 6 days Chol Hamoed. Sitting in our beautiful sukkah the first night with our friends, Ellen and Kalmon and their son, Moshe. Hearing everybody else in their sukkahs all around us. Shabbos lunch going upstairs to our neighbors on the top floor and eating with them (originally South Africans but have lived here 18 years) and listening to the beautiful harmonizing voices of Shimon and his 4 sons and 1 son-in-law and laughing when people in other sukkahs started applauding, going to a motzei Shabbos simcha bais hashoeva (sukkah party) at our shul where we saw many of our new friends and heard Rav Avraham Twersky speak about simcha (happiness). The first day of Chol Hamoed taking it easy and then having the former Donna Wethington (now Dvora Lowenthal) and her husband Azriel and their 4 very (very, very, very, very, very) active and cute children for dinner (they took the bus from Beitar, an extremely hareidi, religious, town which isn't too far from us). Yesterday (Monday) we went with the Turners to Ne'ot Kedumim, an interesting place not far from Modi'in and Ben Gurion airport. We joined a tour group of Chabad of the Cardo (from the Old City) who had come by bus. We were blessed to have actually ridden in real live cars! What a treat! Chabad provided a lunch, and then we divided into 2 groups to tour the gardens, which were really forests that grew the 4 Species, plus other trees that were candidates for one of the species but were ruled out for whatever reason (I kind of tuned out the tour guide for a lot of it and just enjoyed the scenery). And then we saw about 30 different kinds of sukkahs, with signs by each telling if they were kosher or not. That was pretty cool! There were double decker sukkahs and teeny tiny ones and one that was about 3 stories high! At one point a bunch of guys got a mincha minyan together in one of the larger sukkahs. There was a treehouse sukkah and one in the back of a donkey cart. It was pretty interesting. There was also arts and crafts for the kids, and a lot of ponds which you don't see very often.
Traffic on the highways was unbelievable, but probably common for this time of year. Chanoch drove his car with David and Eric and Josh, and I was in Yocheved's mini-van with the girls. We drove home a back way and had no problems.
Then - began the vigil waiting for Avital and Rivki to arrive from Yerushalayim. They finally got in late, and then we (and my friend, Ellen - David opted out) took a cab to the concert in Beit Shemesh. Let me tell you about this concert. There is probably no where else in the world where a bunch (we're talking 1000's) of frum kids and even old people like me and Ellen) can go to a rock concert. I felt like I was back at Southern Illinois University where we used to go to outdoor concerts about 30 (oh my G-d, 30?!) years ago. Except there wasn't any of that funny smelling stuff, just kids screaming and singing along and waving their arms. Shlock Rock started the concert off, but we didn't get there until way later, when the hard rock music was playing. The bass sounds vibrated right through you. Old hippies in payes were sitting on blankets in the back with their tots while the younger generation was down in front. They had 2 huge projector screens on either side of the stage so you could see the band if you weren't close enough. You haven't lived until you see a young kid singing Sholom Aleichem to booming rock music. It totally freaked me out, man!
Now it's Tuesday morning and we're all davened, breakfasted and ready to check out Beit Shemesh. We were supposed to go to a Kite Festival in Gush Etzion and we even got places on the bus, but we have to be at the Turners at 3 for a St. Louis BBQ. I'll write more later in the week when we have some pictures of all the sukkahs.
Chag Sameach and Gut moed!