greeting the new year


There are no firecrackers on the Jewish new year, nor do we drink to abandon. The New Year is a two day holiday. There are banquets, and formal get togethers with friends and family. People wear their best clothes, and eat their favorite foods. The observant visit the synagogue, for the prayers, for the familiar songs, and for the social interaction. The traditional calls of the ram’s horn inspire thoughts of life and death, and are meant to awaken us from the routine… and taking things for granted. Some folks come just to hear these calls which have been part of the new year’s celebration for over 3000 years.


Those who would like to read more about the holiday, might find it interesting to read what I posted last year:


We start the meal by dipping pieces of bread into honey. May it be a sweet year. For an appetizer, we may eat a slice of cold fish with a sauce based on horse radish and beets. And there are usually more items offered than I have the strength to try. By the time we finish with one of these banquets, it is sometimes difficult to get on our feet again. So it is also quite customary to take a walk after the feast. After the evening meal, it often happens that everyone finishes at about the same time, and you see the whole neighborhood out on the street in their finest clothes, walking up and down the streets just to limber up. And after the walk, we’re back at home… and wouldn’t you know it… there’s a fruit salad. Because we didn’t have room for it earlier.

a giant puppet that amused the children

But this holiday is not just about celebration. A lot of attention is devoted to soul searching, and repentance for the things we’ve done wrong. The ten days from New Year’s to the day of Atonement, are called ‘the terrible days’ because they are dedicated to self examination (but they’re not really so terrible). We ask our friends to forgive us before we ask that of God. And it is a time of renewal in the country. After the hot summer, we have some cool breezes blowing through, and in the evening it is just perfect for walking. Soon, the rains will come (we hope).


As I wrote earlier, we started this week with a beautiful celebration in one of the fine neighborhoods of our city. The summer is almost over. The main street was cordoned off, and there was an arts and crafts fair, all kinds of delicacies were sold to passers by, and there were four musical stages where one performance followed another as afternoon grew into evening. Israeli music, folk, and Jazz. And there were delicious smells in the air, as the local restaurants were joined by some enterprising stalls, set up just for this event, and the offerings were varied. You could eat traditional food, and barbeque… all the way to Thai and Asian foods. There was an array of Israeli beers. And of course there was cotton candy, and popcorn. The children were all enjoying themselves, and many people were buying new and beautiful objects… some of which we’d never seen till that very day.

two dear friends who brightened my evening

I had the pleasure of getting together with dear friends that I just do not see enough. Including a couple who had a stall at the fair. Though I got a little tired before I left, there was a constant stream of new entertainment that I enjoyed so much, it was hard for me to leave. I had a miniature hamburger, just to keep on going… and then finally said my goodbyes, walked back to my car, and went home.

the food never stopped coming

I would like to wish all my friends and readers, a beautiful sweet new year. May it be a year of learning and growth, health and financial security, and friendship and love. And peace…



78 responses to “greeting the new year

  1. What an enjoyable post. What strikes me is the homogeneity of your culture – something to envy! A sweet new year indeed to you, Shimon.

    • Thank you very much, Gill. As you probably know, when you’re very close to someone, brothers and sisters… a mate… you become aware of even very subtle differences. And at times they can bother you even more than the great differences you might have with strangers. In certain ways, we are homogenous. But unfortunately, this doesn’t guarantee that we don’t get on each other’s nerves.

  2. may you have a peaceful and happy year Shimon, I love the sound of the celebrations for Jewish New Year.

  3. A peaceful, blessed, and happy New Year to you, your friends, and your family! Thanks for sharing the joys of your tradition!

  4. I think I prefer the way you celebrate to the way we do Shimon. Too much alcohol at the centre of the way we do things here unfortunately. A very happy, healthy and peaceful New Year to you. Thanks for posting.

    • Well, we do have a holiday which celebrates drinking too. Though it’s not connected to a new year. Thank you for your good wishes, Chillbrook.

      • WordsFallFromMyEyes

        You have a holiday that celebrates drinking? ! Now I don’t know what to think!!

        I guess, hmm, I guess that if you celebrate it not hide it in the closet, it becomes normal then not extreme, and then not overindulged for the love of overindulging in something “wrong”.

        Thinking too much! Happy New Year to you, Shimon 🙂

    • WordsFallFromMyEyes

      Agreed! Agreed!
      How alcohol ever came to be such a focus, I don’t quite know, yet can only imagine that whenever there was a reason to go out or celebrate, it became an excuse to ‘let your hair down’/release your frustration about life/numb yourself.

  5. Happy New Year, Shimon! May your year be sweet and your days be filled with times with friends and family. Thank you so much for giving me some insight into your life through your writing and your pictures.

  6. What wonderful pictures and nice to look back at last year’s post too.Wishing you and yours love and a peaceful,joyful New Year feast.
    and hope the Days of Awe are not too hard.

  7. I do love listening to you talk about your celebrations and customs, I reaaly enjoyed this, so vibrant and alive.
    Wishing you and yours a beautiful sweet New year filled with love and joy.xxxxx

  8. I just loved reading this: what a beautiful and rich celebration, Shimon. I love the blending and depth of forgiveness and reconciliation, of ending and beginning, death and renewal…and good food all the way through! Blessings and peace in your new year…

  9. And a sweet New Year to you too. Let’s hope it’s a peaceful one for all.

  10. A great description, Shimon! The arts and crafts fair, the food and the music remind me of similar events here. They are not related to Rosh Hashana though. This min’hag of strolling after the meal, sounds great. Never used to do it. For some reason in CA. we dip apples in honey. I’m not sure how it started, and there are songs that accompany it: “Apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah…” May your year, Shimon, my new friend, be sweet as honey”. Shalom.

    • Yes, the dipping of apples in honey is very popular here too, and an old custom. On the second evening, we usually eat pomegranates. Thank you, Rachel for your sweet wishes, and mine to you. May this year be filled with joy.

  11. A wonderful post Shimon. A very Happy and healthy New Year to you and your family. Shana Tova!

  12. Shanah tovah to you and the whole world!

  13. Wishing you a sweet and peaceful New Year Shimon. A wonderful insight into your new year celebrations – I remember that feeling of not being able to eat anymore an dneeding a walk around to make room for pudding at Christmas 🙂 But you described it so beautifully and delicately !

  14. My dearest Shimon, Happy New Year!!
    I especially loved the part where you ask forgiveness from your friends before asking from God. What a meaningful practice. Thank you for showing me the richness of life, culture and tradition you come from. You captured the atmosphere and mood so well, I felt the great togetherness. And what is a celebration without music and good food!! I wish you and your family good health, happiness and may the new year indeed be a sweet, peaceful one. Yuen

  15. L’shana tovah Shimon..wishing you a year of good health, abundant happiness, and always love.

  16. What a beautiful celebration – peace and happiness to you and yours.

  17. You sound very happy and relaxed and I wish you a Very Happy New Year – you and yours seem to really know how to enjoy and celebrate life, which is lovely!

  18. I love these windows into your world Shimon! It is wonderful that the New Year is welcomed with both introspection and celebration, and that it seems to be very family and community oriented. Here in the west so many holidays have lost sight of their traditions and become just another excuse for drunken revelry. I wish you a healthy and happy New Year, with wonderful new experiences to share with us!

  19. Happy New Year Shimon. Lovely details of your New Year and photos.

  20. It sounds and looks like a beautiful and very meaningful celebration. Thanks for the post, Shimon.

  21. This is why you are such a glorious people, society, and civilization.

  22. I cherish your guided tours into your world, ShimonZ. I will most likely never get to visit Israel, much to my disappointment. When I read your words, I feel like I’ve had a few moments there. Thank you providing a window into your culture.

    • I am so glad that you enjoy these visits. There is so much in this world… so much more than one person could possibly see or know, all the more reason to praise this miracle of internet, which allows us, much as books did in previous generations, to have a taste of alien worlds. I too love a peek at other worlds.

  23. Wishing you and your family a happy and peaceful new year, Shimon.

  24. Happy Rosh Hashanah, Shimon. All the best to you and your family.

  25. Wishing you a very Happy New Year Shimon! It’s actually quite overwhelming how much food is on offer on these special occasions. I’m glad that you indulged!

    • Thank you very much. And yes, you’re quite right, Marina. And I do try to taste a bit of everything… but not being young anymore, I can only eat modest portions. Still, it is great fun.

  26. Happy New Year dear Shimon, Blessing and Happiness to you, to you family and to your country. Love, nia

  27. Happy New Year Shimon. Thank you for such a beautiful and secriptive post. Sounds like you have a lot of fun amidst the introspection 🙂

    • Thank you very much, islandscribbler. It is a very strange combination, actually, the celebration, and the self examination… at the same time, more or less. But in fact, the self examination goes on for another ten days until it reaches a peak on the day of atonement, when we fast for 25 hours, not eating nor drinking water; just praying and meditating on human limitations, and what it is that takes us off the path or tempts us. We then have a short break before the start of another holiday which is called ‘tabernacles’, which is another happy time. We are now in the longest and most continuous ‘holiday season’ of the year.

  28. Thank you for sharing your insights and photos. I particularly like the notion of focusing on personal reflection rather than celebration.

    • It is a very interesting combination of those two elements, winsomebella, as I was just trying to explain to islandscribbler, above. And I believe that the braiding of different thoughts and emotions is very similar to something that happens to us all when we are in the process of self examination. We distract ourselves with other thoughts… enjoy ourselves… and at the same time, the more serious questions wait for those quiet moments, and emerge again and again, demanding answers. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  29. In my phenomenal ignorance, I missed the New Year! I got out of bed this morning resolved to send an email to discover if you were well. I had not heard from you, and when I visited your blog last, I saw a New Year’s post … and thought it was a re-post! Naturally, as old folk are wont to do, I thought something was amiss! I am happy to discover that what is amiss is my old brain. 🙂
    This is a beautiful post. Happy New Year, dear Shimon!

    • No, George. My impression is that your old brain is doing just fine… and I can well imagine that seeing a New Year’s post would bring thoughts of old news at this time. Different peoples are often so caught up in their own rhythm, that they are barely aware of what’s going on in the other’s back yard, and on the whole, I think that’s good. I thank you for your concern, and am very happy to share with you my good spirits, and wishes for your own happiness, and continued learning and growth, which characterizes you. Many thanks for your good wishes.

  30. Happy New Year to you Shimon.
    For me, the self examination would be pretty violent…but I’ve survived it so far. I would like to hear this horn you mentioned. I would like to try this horseradish and beet mixture. Would you share the…receipe? (sp) We have so little of that type of gathering here. Art and music, and food, bring us together all over the world.
    I’m just back from seeing my 99 yr old Dad. Much to catch up.

    • Glad to hear that you are safely back from the visit to your Dad, Bob. We both know how challenging such visits can be at times. How I wish I could share with you, both the sounds of the ram’s horn, and the wonderful things we’ve been eating in recent days. It’s a bit hard for me to give recipes, because when I cook or prepare meals, it is sort of like playing music by ear… I know so well how they’re supposed to taste, that I taste as I prepare, and don’t ever work with a printed recipe. Now, in my older age, the young folks pamper me… and I don’t do much work at all… just share a few thoughts, and grab another helping. The horseradish and beets are joined by vinegar and a bit of sugar and salt… all of it ground up, of course. Thank you for your good wishes.

  31. What a lovely post, Shimon. Thank you for sharing your celebration with us. A very Happy New Year to you!

  32. Gentle friend…thank you, again, for sharing the glimpse into your life…and thank you, too, for the well-wishes for the sweet year…and I hope the same for you, Shimon.

  33. I love seeing the pictures of your celebration. I like that you couple the soul-searching with the celebrating – seeking forgiveness and then spending time together enjoying life and looking toward the new year.

    • Thank you yearstricken. Soul searching is a difficult occupation. We don’t want to get obsessive about it, but it comes like the drip from a faucet… one has to spend some time with it, till any water that matters amasses. So we usually do it while we’re doing something else as well. The new year is a time for joy and celebration. We give our hearts to that. But all the time the soul searching and self examination is continuing… like a storm brewing… until we get to the day of atonement. Then we’re fasting and focusing on the problem. Usually we get through the day feeling much better, and lighter too.

  34. Wonderfully uplifting to read this..there seems like a wonderful sense of time to these traditions, time to think, to be together, to change..I don’t know if it is actually like that but I can feel something of this from your descriptions..

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the read, Cath. Of course, there are many faces to a society… and to traditions too. When I was young, I traveled the world, trying to understand different people, and different cultures. Now, in my old age, I take advantage of this wonderful invention (the internet) to offer a look at my own culture, which is not at all widely understood.

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