Tuesday, December 27, 2011

It must be wonderful to be in the Holy Land for Christmas

Thanks to Facebook many of my old friends know that I live in Israel. Most of them are not Jewish and have never been to Israel -- yet they have an idealized vision of Israel at Christmas.

It's actually very funny because most people who have never been to Israel (predominantly non-Jews) seem to think that you are going to get shot by a sniper the minute you exit the plane at Ben Gurion airport.... unless, of course, it is Christmas!!!! And then for a few days, I guess they just figure that we are all walking around (safely) singing Christmas carols, hugging our fellow man and waiting for the three wise men to show up, hot on the tail of a really big star. Does anyone out there see the flaw in this logic?

Bad news for you non-Jews out there who have never been to Israel: you are sadly deluded. This past Sunday, December 25th, while you were all home waiting for Santa and turkey, we in Israel were experiencing a regular old Sunday.

Sorry about that. There's just no nice way to deliver bad news.

This past Sunday I got up, walked the dog, did a few errands, visited with a friend from Canada, cleaned my house a bit, did a load of laundry, and so went the day.

Now it strikes me that somewhere in the Holy Land someone must have been celebrating Christmas. It all started here and I am sure there are some stragglers who want to recreate that time and all the special feelings that supposedly went with it. I mean, it is possible. I have seen the odd Christmas tree in Haifa in previous years and I am sure if you hiked to the top of Mount Tavor, the Greek Orthodox church up there must have been preparing for something, but the truth is that Bethlehem and Nazareth are Arab cities and rest assured they don't buy the whole Jesus thing. Well actually, in terms of tourist dollars, I am sure they can fake it, but when have you known Islam to be tolerant of people with different beliefs? Exactly.

According to the website www.ajc.com there were almost 100,000 visitors to Bethlehem this Christmas Eve. As for Nazareth, my Google check didn't up much although there are more Christians living in Nazareth then you will ever find in Bet Lechem (Bethlehem to you).

Here's what Wikipedia (my favourite source for miscellany) says: "Christians are the smallest religious group of the Abrahamic religions in Israel. Most Christians living permanently in Israel are Arabs or have come from other countries to live and work mainly in churches or monasteries, which have long histories in the land...

"According to historical and traditional sources, Jesus lived in the Land of Israel, and died and was buried on the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, making the land a Holy Land for Christianity. However, few Christians now live in the area, compared to Muslims and Jews. This is because Islam displaced Christianity in almost all of the Middle East, and the rise of modern Zionism and the establishment of the State of Israel has seen millions of Jews migrate to Israel..."

So, there you have it. Jesus was Jew so of course he lived here. All the Jews lived here way back when ... Jesus was knee high to a grasshopper!

I hate to disappoint my old friends. Particularly the one who wrote to me on Facebook last Sunday after I sent him a merry Christmas message: "It must be wonderful to be in the Holy Land for Christmas."

Actually, it's wonderful to be here everyday.

November in December

For the first eight years we lived here, the weather ran like clockwork. Okay, some years had more rain, some had hotter summers, so had surprise flooding, but overall, I was prepared to bet my last dollar that, come the first week of November, the weather would become fall-like. I was so confident that the weather wouod reliably change in November that one day I said to David Mexicali, "you watch, come November, the weather will change." And lo and behold it did.

I think we were both impressed with my weather forecasting skills. And that should have reminded me, that he/she who gloats first .... ultimately gets a reminder from the heavens above that we have no control over our weather destiny.

This October 31st I started to mentally prepare for the change of season that was en route the coming week. Good bye flip flops in the morning. Get out the lightweight sweaters for late afternoons. Fall in Israel was about to begin. And I was excited because I love fall here. Cool mornings, but midday warmth, followed by cool evenings. Except this year it didn't happen that way.

Instead of November gradually preparing us for what I now consider the bloody cold of an Israeli winter (14 C/X F), God choose to skip my beloved transition phase and go straight into the rain and cold of December -- IN NOVEMBER!!!

I had to avoid David for a month on the off chance that he remembered my over-confident forecast from the previous year. And worse than that, I had to find my rain boots and my heavy sweaters a month earlier than anticipated. Oh the pain of it all. Yael's new rain boots weren't scheduled to arrive until the end of the month, with my sister. I'm telling you, life was upside down.

I had guests arriving from Canada at the end of the month and they were all expecting the great weather I had been bragging about for years.

And then something strange happened. As the last week of November arrived, so did the November weather. The sun shone, the days were warm. And it continued through most of December, which made me realize, November did come, but it was lost in December.