Pictured from left to right:
Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon,
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi - Rabbi David Lau,
Sephardic Chief Rabbi - Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef,
Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Places - Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz,
Sephardic Cantor Moshe Habusha.
After a year of living outside of Israel for so long, every visit to Israel brings me to experience Israel a little differently. Things that seemed utterly trivial to me became special and appreciated. On the last visit, it was the time. And no, I'm not talking about the time zone, even though it's different, but the Jewish calendar and all its derivatives.
I have noticed how different the times of this nation are. The days of the week are counted to Shabbat. The holidays greeting is "Mo'adim LeSimcha" (occasions for joy) and the response to that is "Hagim uZmanim LeSason" (Holidays and times for Joy).
In the holiday prayers, the Jews bless G-D, who sanctifies Israel and the times.
I was in Israel for only eight days, but they were full of simchas; Yom Kippur, Shabbat and the first holiday of Sukkot, fantastic opportunities to feel the uniqueness of Israeli time.
The night before Yom Kippur, the last night of Slichot, all three major TV channels had a special broadcast on the occasion of the last night of Slichot - a popular event that is usually attended by tens of thousands of people. Despite the low attendance this year, only 8,000 people were allowed to enter the Western Wall plaza due to the epidemic; the singing was loud even at two in the morning!
A team of reporters sat on the roof of the "Aish HaTorah" yeshiva above the Western Wall and televised the Slichot service. The service was held with the participation of the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi and the Sephardi Chief Rabbi, who also has the title "HaRishon LeZion." Next to them stood the Chief Rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Places (yes, there is a position and title especially for that). The service has been said in the Sephardi version, led by the Sephardi cantor Moshe Habusha. Beside the rabbis and the cantor stood the mayor of Jerusalem, Mr Moshe Leon - also a Sephardic cantor - who himself led part of the "Slichot" service in a powerful and impressive voice.
Less than 24 hours later it was Yom Kippur and utter silence had fallen on the entire country. It's incredible to think of a whole country entirely out of work (other than the security forces etc.). Ben Gurion International Airport without any take-offs and landings ,only medical staff travel on the roads, and many people take advantage of this day for long bike rides on urban and interurban roads.
In the first news release after Yom Kippur, they always report on the number of injuries in bicycle accidents and the number of people who needed medical treatment during the fast.
Before Sukkot, there was a shortage of milk, and the dairy farms were justified in saying that there were too few working days during the holiday month this year which had led to the shortages. The consumers who had to settle for three litres of milk per customer were not convinced.
Many people dislike the absolute control of the Hebrew calendar over life in Israel. Many others will say that this is precisely why the Jewish state was established.
My wish for Jewish students is that the academic calendar would be more in line with the Hebrew calendar. At the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the school year begins only on the tenth of October this year. It saves a lot of trouble and calls to the chaplains.
Dovi Weider is a UJS and JAFI Shaliach working to bring positive Israel engagement to UK campuses