From Messianic to Haredi, How Israelis Celebrate Rosh Hashanah 5777

In the seventh month on the first of the month you shall have a rest, a reminder by blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall not do any laborious work, but you shall present an offering by fire to the Lord.” Leviticus 23:24-25

Over the centuries the Day of Remembrance (Yom HaZikaron) became the Day of Trumpets (Yom Teruah, Numbers 29:1) before settling on Rosh Hashanah (Head of the Year), as the common name for the holiday.

This feast is now known globally as the Jewish New Year, and when the moon makes its appearance tonight, year 5776 will be left behind and celebrating will commence!

What will this look like in Israel? In a random survey, conducted both online and out in the field, KNI asked Israelis how they would be spending the holiday, what their traditions are and their favorite and least favorite parts of the celebration.

This year, the two-day holiday falls just after the regular Sabbath creating a default long weekend. With special deals on Groupon, many Israelis have taken this opportunity to travel. But, typical for everyone, regardless of their background, there will be at least one get-together with family and friends for traditional ceremonies or at the very least, to share their favorite foods!

A TRADITIONAL FAMILY

Tehillah from Ashdod will spend the holiday with her husband, children and extended family. She explained that they are traditional and their emphasis is not on any religious rituals – only food.

“We will have kneidlach soup, challah, fried fish, mock crayfish, gefilte fish, sushi cake, salads, hot chicken, roast veggies, fruit salad, sorbet and meringues. I love being with family even though I see them all the time. I don’t enjoy feeling so full, but otherwise I don’t dislike anything about Rosh HaShanah.”

A MOROCCAN FAMILY

Miri, a mother of two from Rishon LeZion, said that for their family, every Friday is a huge, noisy gathering with lots of food and Rosh Hashanah will be no different than a regular Shabbat.

“We are Moroccan and we have the same special foods every time we get together. We will possibly have sheep brain cooked with lots of hot spices. That’s the way my grandmother cooks it and her mother cooked it and my mother too. We don’t do any blessings or anything. We are secular.”

A MESSIANIC FAMILY

Leah, a Messianic believer wrote, “I will blow the shofar and celebrate a new beginning in many things. Then ‘consider my ways….and set my heart on Hashem’s ways.’ I’m grateful for Yom Kippur more so because my sins are far removed from me.”

A TRADITIONAL CONSERVATIVE FAMILY

Septuagenarian twin sisters Chava and Malka from Zichron Yakov were out with their husbands shopping in preparation for the holiday. In true twin form they completed each other’s sentences.

“Of course we will be together with our combined extended families. Brachot (blessings) will be said. Each family brings something though the host is doing most of the cooking. We will have lunch both days at Malka’s. We all chip in with the cooking. We will have chicken soup, stuffed artichokes, chicken, brisket, salads and vegetables. Our favorite thing is being together and eating. We have the usual veggies for the blessings and then we’re filled up, so no place for more food – that’s our least favorite thing,” they laughed.

Their husbands just smiled knowingly, and didn’t contribute to the conversation aside from nodding.

A TRADITIONAL SECULAR FAMILY

Shira from Eilat shared their menu too: Chicken kneidelach soup, liver pate, Grandma’s gefilte fish and lettuce salad, stewed meat, Brussels sprouts, mousse au chocolate, black and white nut cake, Grandma’s honey cake with warm custard, coffee or mint tea.

She loves setting up the table, passing on Grandma’s traditions and always hosts one or more ushpizin (Aramaic for ‘guest’) to share their fare. The only part she’s not thrilled about: washing dishes afterwards!

A HAREDI FAMILY

Dina, a Haredi mother of nine married children kindly stopped to answer our questions before rushing off to help one of her daughters with five children under the age of seven.

Their family members take turns, meeting in different homes, but will probably not gather altogether for this year’s celebration. They do all the minhagim (customs) like candle lighting, kiddush (blessing over the wine), eating round challah, performing tashlich (a casting off sin ceremony) and listening to the blasting of the shofar (ram’s horn trumpet).

The cleaning up afterwards doesn’t thrill her. Some of her friends have booked their whole families into hotels for the long weekend which sounds quite appealing in retrospect, Dina contemplates.

She says the traditional greeting Hag Sameach (Happy Holiday) followed by the Talmudic expression, g’mar chatima tova (a good sealing) – a reference to being inscribed in the ‘Book of life’ and the upcoming Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) the second of the Fall feasts commanded by God.

AN ARAB FAMILY

And lest one assume only Jews in Israel have holiday plans, Dorothy, an Israeli Arab from Jaffa, was leaving for Taba, Egypt with a large contingent of other Israeli Arab friends – both Christian and Muslim. The holidays worked out really well this year for them go away from Thursday evening, she said. Their children only return to school on Wednesday.

After the long, hot summer, the change of season is most welcome and Israelis enjoy the cooler weather. Seasonal fruits such as apples, pomegranates, figs and dates are ready for harvest.

pomegranateDuring the holiday, apple slices are symbolically dipped in honey willing sweetness on the year ahead. They will be eaten as well as various cakes made from these ingredients. Pomegranates, available at this time of the year have, become symbolic for Rosh HaShanah and will grace tables in one form or another.

Ben, a Messianic Jew eschews the traditional greeting in favor of this: May you have blessings as numerous as the seeds in a pomegranate as you celebrate the year 5777 and L’Shanah Tova uMetuka – To a good and sweet year!

All the staff at Kehila News Israel and their kids want to wish you a Sweet New Year!

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Dee Catz
Israeli-born Dee Catz is a Jewish believer in Yeshua, happily married with children. She has an interest in cooking and baking and all things Biblical. History, Geography, and Archaeology are some of her favorite hobbies, as well as touring Israel's national parks and landmark sites with her family and friends. She has been contributing to Kehila News Israel since December 2015.