in the holiday spirit

three of my grandchildren eating matzot (unleavened bread)

I’ve no idea if this happens in any other country, but for a week here, everyone is off for a holiday. We visit friends and relatives, go off to commune with nature… and because all of the nature reserves, the beaches, and the usual holiday sites are full to overflowing… some take off and travel abroad. But wherever you go, you find your fellow countrymen enjoying the holiday.


Walking down the main street of my new neighborhood, I saw a few stores that were exhibiting portable barbeques. It is quite common for families to go out to nature for a picnic. And in that context, we have been hearing good news this week. According to reports heard on the radio, campers and picnickers have been taking their garbage home with them, leaving the public camps and forests cleaner than they were in years gone by. In the past, at the end of the holiday we would always learn how many tons of garbage were gathered in recreation sites, left behind by lazy tourists.

Hillel plays us a Passover song

All the major highways are filled with vacationers. Those with little children visit the amusement parks. And there are festivals, and musical get togethers. Only the restaurants suffer. Because of the restricted diet, many eateries close for the holiday. Others provide food that is fitting. But even so, there are less people who eat out… especially here in Jerusalem, where the dietary rules are very strictly observed. The bakeries offer special cookies prepared just for this holiday, which are made of peanuts and coconuts, and cakes made of potato flour, because flour made of grain is not used.

cookies prepared especially for the holiday

Spring is in the air. All the fields are decorated with flowers. It brought me such joy to see large patches of wild mustard flowers in the nature preserve where we visited last week.

wild mustard

When I was younger, I often planned a photography expedition for this particular time. But as it happens, the change of seasons usually brings with it a haze, or winds from the east or south which stir up sand and dust, resulting in poor visibility. I had many disappointments on that score, but learned to appreciate some of the unique possibilities even if landscape photography wasn’t always possible.

Hagit and Tamar

I’ve been going to bed late this week. There is so much happening every day. But I do take a nap in the afternoon. And I’ve been reading a really fine book that I picked up at a bus stop. Yes, picked up… I didn’t buy it. In Chana’s village, they’ve started a program of voluntary book donations. And every bus stop has a couple of shelves filled with a wide selection of books. The passer by is encouraged to take some reading with him. I found one that was just to my taste, and have been reading it all week.

playing cards

This Sabbath Passover will be a very special day, offering the special holiness of the Sabbath, and the joy that is characteristic of this holiday of freedom. My best wishes to all my friends and readers. It is my hope that you will be able taste something of the holiday spirit from the photos offered here.

the grandchildren’s cat, jinjit


57 responses to “in the holiday spirit

  1. Hi Dear Shimon, I don’t know why but I can’t see your photographs!!!! Is there anyone who can see the photographs, maybe it is something in here being technical problem or…?

    Wonderful writing, Thank you, have a nice weekend, love, nia

    • Dear Nia, I just open the link on another computer, and I see them fine. Please try again a little later, because there is a cat here, that I know you will love. Thanks so much for letting me know of the problem, though. I hope it’ll get solved soon.

  2. Gorgeous children. Enjoy, Happy Passover.

    • Thank you so much, Lisa. I’m late in replying this time, but I think I can still wish you a happy holiday, because I know that it’s a day longer in the diaspora. Appreciate your comment.

  3. Beautiful photo! Chag sameach.
    I live in Italy where Jews skip work on yom tov whether we are required to work or not- after all serving G-d over a Pharoah is a decision we made long ago!

    • Yes, it was a wonderful decision, animalizard. And I’m happy to know that on these holidays, we reconnect with all our brothers and sisters in all parts of the world, while celebrating our common holy days. Thanks so much for your comment.

  4. What a wonderful post, I certainly have had a taste of this wonderful holiday. I’m pleased to hear all the rubbish has been collected this year as well, litter can be lethal to wildlife.
    I loved the photos, the children are beautiful! And I loved the cat, what a fantastic name!
    I have just come home from walking the dogs on the beach, the sun is shining and people, children and dogs are everywhere, so I really feel connected to your holiday at this moment in time….we stopped off for a beer and Sam has been mauled by babies, he seems to love them, but then he loves everyone and everything!
    May your Sabbath Passover be filled with peace and

    • How wonderful that Sam can accept the mauling of babies with love. I’m sure he has a very big heart. And thanks to you too, Dina, for joining us in spirit. It is a wonderful time of year, so filled with promise and rebirth. It was a great holiday, and though we’re going back to normal now, normal includes the inspiration of spring. Thanks so much for your wishes of peace and love… what could be better than that, my dear friend. xxx

  5. This looks to have been a very nice holiday for you, Shimon. Your granddaughters are lovely! All the photos bring that sense of leisure and happiness that you must be enjoying. And all with naps and a good book that was free. What could be better?

  6. I can’t even imagine an entire group of people taking a week off and enjoying it with their family and friends. Sounds impossible in today’s busy world. Thanks for sharing your family experiences.

    • Yes Bev, it’s a wonderful thing when we can take a serious break from the routine. We have the pleasure of seeing an ‘alternative universe’. And of course, it allows us to reconsider what we really want out of our lives. Thanks for your comment.

  7. I love these photos of your beautiful grandchildren. Our Easter holiday is very similar here, for those of us who are Christian: people have time off work, families get together, and of course the shops are full of Easter eggs. A blessed Passover, Shimon.

    • Thank you very much, Gill. I was thinking of you on Easter, and was wishing you a beautiful holiday. I remember seeing families going together to church on that holiday, when I was abroad. It reflected the sanctity of the occasion.

  8. I too, enjoy your photos. Those grandchildren are wonderful. I’ve eaten Matzat at Jewish friends houses but don’t remember the holiday. Those cookies look yummy, but why not with wheat? We have here a plant they call Rape (sp) and it is bright yellow and very dense. Always makes for a nice image. Have the happiest of holidays Shimon!

    • Hi Bob, I mentioned the issue in my previous post. Because the Hebrews of that time had to pick up and leave Egypt suddenly in their quest for freedom, they did not wait for the bread to rise. And since that time, whenever the holiday rolls around, we do not use grain for fear that it will ferment. So we have a week of an alternative diet. It’s good. It helps us appreciate bread and ordinary cookies the rest of the year. The matzas are made of wheat though, but they are prepared in only 18 minutes, making sure that there is no fermentation.

  9. Lovely post, Shimon. Blessings on you and all your beautiful family.

  10. Beautiful children; love all the pictures and your description of the holiday. My husband and I will have Sedar Saturday evening. Looking forward to it. Sunday we will celebrate Christ’s resurrection. Thanks for a lovely post.

    • That seems very charming, Vasca, that you have the advantage of enjoying both of the holidays. Here in Israel, our weekend is Friday and Saturday, because the Moslems look at Friday as their holy day. I always used to tell my friends that we should honor the Christians too, and have each weekend contain Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Of course, now that I am retired, I enjoy an occasional day of work… and don’t think about the weekends that much…

  11. Just lovely. Your grandchildren are beautiful. Enjoy the holidays!

  12. What a lovely treasure of photos and stories to illustrate your Passover holiday. Thank you for sharing these bits of your holiday with your readers.

    Living in the United States, I can’t imagine what it would be like for an entire group of people to have the opportunity to blend holiday and community by taking off work for an entire week collectively, although that does seem how it should be done, and is a lovely concept. Here in American, an individual might request a week of vacation time from their employer, but because so many people would like to be off from work during the same time, usually only those that have the highest seniority are allowed to have the holiday time off. Most people end up having to work through the holiday, unless the holiday happens to fall on one of their regularly scheduled days off. Your version sounds much more reasonable and family-friendly, although here in the United States, I suppose we could never hope for such a thing because of all the laws that have been written regarding diversity and the separation of church and state.

    It still baffles me how an entire country can agree to remove God from schools and public places. Well, not to infer that the entire country agrees (millions do not), but that a law was allowed to pass that became the cornerstone for what seems like more division than inclusion … well, it’s just very sad and I still shake my head and wonder how it all happened.

    Sorry to stray off-topic. The idea of a voluntary borrowing library is wonderful, and I’m glad you managed to find a lovely book to explore. I do hope your holiday continues to be enjoyable, and that you and yours receive an abundance of blessings throughout the holiday, and after. Best wishes.

    • It was a very beautiful holiday, N. And the only problem was that it seemed to go by too quickly. It seems to me that the western world is still suffering in certain ways from some of the mistakes of the industrial revolution. But at the same time, we are seeing signs of some serious changes. Because of the possibility of doing work on the computer, and group meetings by way of skype, more and more people are able to work from their homes, at least for part of the time. And I see that my children already have more flexibility than my generation had when it comes to work. I hope that flexibility will grow. And hope too, that people won’t think of work as the only important part of their lives. It seems that even in hi-tech, where there is a lot of flexibility, a lot of people have become so focused on work, that they miss out on a lot of life. Well, every age comes with advantages and disadvantages. Thank you very much for your comment.

  13. Hope you’re having a wonderful Passover Shimon. No, businesses don’t close for the week but Jewish day schools do and any other Jewish organizations. In the diaspora we have 2 Seder’s (but you probably know that) so last weekend involved a lot of cooking and preparation. You’re grandchildren are lovely.

    • I had the opportunity to see the double seder once. And though I don’t think I would choose it if I could, I did get the impression that the second seder was much more relaxed, so maybe there’s an advantage in that system. Maybe just being far away from the home country necessitates the added emphasis. Hope you had a very fine holiday, and you’re getting closer to your visit to Israel all the time.

  14. Shimon, We just returned from our first Sedar and it was very interesting, very lovely. Enjoy your holiday…

  15. It is wonderful that you get to spend Passover with your family and friends, Shimon. Thank you for sharing these moments.

  16. It’s lovely to see images of your family Shimon, and read your stories.

    • Very glad you enjoyed the post, Andy. As you know too, it is wonderful to have a break in the routine, no matter how much we love what we ordinarily do.

  17. What a fabulous idea Shimon, the book exchange in the bus stop. Lovely to see your family enjoying the holidays. I hope that you continue to enjoy your holiday season. My best wishes to you and your family!

    • Thank you so much for your holiday wishes, Chillbrook. A very good time was had by all. And yes, it was very interesting to see this book exchange coming into being, just as we’re beginning to notice the influence of the digital books. One of the things that bothers me about the Kindle, is that it’s harder to loan a book than it used to be. But I’m not sure things will stay that way. I have a friend to whom I recommend books, and she has managed to find most of them available for free on the internet…

  18. Your photos are filled with light and joy, Shimon, and those beautiful, beautiful children fill my heart with hope…thank you, and great blessings as your gathering and celebrating conclude.

    • Thank you very much for your blessings, Kitty. Yes, I am very grateful for the way my life has worked out, and appreciate all the good I’ve received. It’s been a wonderful holiday, and now that it’s over, we’re feeling the joy of springtime, and enjoying the longer days.

  19. Sounds like you’ve had a wonderful holiday, Shimon. Nice photos and words again…seeing life through your eyes. Thank you.

    • Yes, it has been a very good time. My grandchildren wanted to visit the Sea of Galilee on the holiday, and my son tried to take them there. But it was so crowded, it didn’t look like a good time. But all the same, they enjoyed themselves. They just went a little further, and found a place that wasn’t that popular, and had a great time camping. Turns out that whatever we try to do in life, the most important thing is attitude.

  20. I so enjoy all your posts … but particularly those centered around a particular festival or holiday. Somehow I feel like I’m right there sharing the occasion.

    And this post offered two wonderfully inspirational … even if secular …. … moments. The careful gathering up of garbage at the picnic spots … people finally becoming aware. I wish we did as well here iin Hawaii. And best of all … the books offered at bus stops. I am a bibliophile from childhood .The prospect of finding a new book would have me cruising all the bus stops in Honolulu. I’d probably sell my car and get a bus pass.

    • Well, I do have a car, Nikki. But I can tell you that as time goes on, the city becomes so congested, that I find it more advantageous to take public transportation. I leave the car for those road trips when it’s necessary. And in doing so, I’ve found a lot of charming bits of life that I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. We’re constantly exposed to change. Thanks so much for your beautiful comment.

  21. What beautiful grandchildren…..and I love the photograph of Jinjit and the name. I hope you enjoyed a wonderful holiday and love the bus stop library idea….we are beginning to do the same over here. Sounds like you are settling now and that life is good:)x

    • Yes, you’re right Janet… I’m beginning to settle down and enjoy the changes, and this has been a very good time. It took a while just to get used to some of the new conditions… but part of my holiday time included walks with Nehama in the park behind my new home. It was a delight. As you always say, it’s amazing what life has in store for us. Thanks so much for your comment. xxx

  22. What a great idea to have free books available at bus stops. You’ve reminded me of two things. One was that when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras in 1968 and 1969, each of was provided with what was called a book locker, i.e. a large box of books. Many of the volunteers were in small towns and isolated places, so the books were welcome. The Peace Corps headquarters in Tegucigalpa also had a large selection of books that volunteers could take whenever they visited the capital.

    The other thing I remember is that in around 1973 I took some boxes of books to a local community college, set them on a low wall, and put up a sign saying “Free Books.” Then I hung around to see who took what and to talk with some of the people.

    • I loved reading about your contribution of the books to the college. We used to have places here in Jerusalem, where people would leave piles of books that they no longer needed. But what fun to watch who would take what book. That sounds interesting. I used to carry books with me wherever I’d go, in a backpack that was always with me. I can’t stand waiting… so if I’d have to wait, or I just had some free time… I would pull out a book and enjoy reading. Now I have a very little computer that fits in the same backpack. It provides both reading and takes the place of the block of paper I used to carry with me for occasional writing. But ultimately, it’s much the same. Thanks for the comment, Steve.

  23. Hello, and thank you for your ‘like’ on my About page. After reading yours as well, I feel we have a few things in common. I also like this post very much & find it overlaps with things we did here in Toronto on Sunday April 20. Some friends came to breakfast, both Jewish & non-Jewish, each bringing some special treats for the season from their own tradition. Several are musicians, and played guitar & mandolin for the rest of us. I like the voluntary free book offerings you mention — do you know about the Little Free Library movement ( Anyone who wishes to participate simply puts up a little shelter in their front yard, put in some books, and invite others to take a book, leave a book… Just yesterday I both left and took a book from one here in my neighbourhood. How encouraging to see that many good ideas are acted upon, around the world.

    • Hi there Iceland Penny. No I never heard of the free Library movement, but I’ve been a library user all my life, and often saw the library as a home away from home. I visited your blog and was very favorably impressed by your walks. Yes, the internet is giving us access to a lot of good ideas, and a window to a many beautiful people who can inspire us and teach us. I am grateful to be living in this time. Thanks for your comment.

  24. Thank you for introducing your grandchildren, Mr. Shimon. They are lovely! Love the idea of having free books available at bus stops. I have miss a few of your posts from my reader. Will be back tomorrow to read the rest.

    • Thank you very much for coming by, Amy, and for taking the time to read the posts. Yes, the books at the bus stops offer us an adventure within an adventure… and it’s a lot of fun.

  25. Shimon, thank you for sharing your photographs and thoughts. You have a beautiful family, and I hope your Passover was as wonderful as it looks and sounds in this post.

    • It’s a pleasure sharing a bit of what goes on here in this country, and my beloved home town. Thank you for coming by, Charles… and forgive me for being so slow in my response. I guess my life has been just a bit too busy recently, but I do enjoy hearing from you. Passover was wonderful, and now… part of the past, as we continue along the path.

  26. What lovely grandchildren you have, Shimon. What gifts they are.

    • Thanks so much, yearstricken. I do enjoy them, though sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the differences between us. I hardly know the world they take for granted…

  27. Wow…a week off for holidays — the whole country closed — sounds better than our Melbourne Cup Day, when the nation stops for three minutes on that day! LOL. Wish I lived there! 😉

    • Yes, it’s one of the sweet aspects of our life here. But as good as an invention may be, there will always be something better that’ll come up. You probably know that our culture invented the ‘day of rest’ a few thousand years ago. And that was improved with the weekend. I have the feeling that it won’t be too long before people will have a lot more leisure time. Best wishes to you, Janina.

  28. Every culture has its festivities to commemorate, it”s always so special that you can grasp the meaning of what surrounds us, of distant peoples… and you know that my curiosity for your people is deeply felt!
    The cat Jinjit appears not to be touched by all this party… they don’t let themselves be decomposed by our fast-paced lives… they are blissfully lulled by the passage of time (and they have nine lives, the cats).
    I also find delicious the idea of ​​being able to borrow books, as well, with ease, at a bus station. Every now and then, I borrow books from the library of the city of Locarno, but in fact I prefer to “own” the books I read… I like to make notes in the margins, underline what strikes me most, and this is not possible on books that are not yours…
    I wish you a lovely week :-)claudine

    • I agree with you Claudine. There is a great pleasure and advantages too, in owning books. Unfortunately, I had just about run out of space for my books in my old house. It made me welcome the ebook with greater enthusiasm. But now, in my new house, I seem to have a little more space… You’re right about cats too… they live a parallel life to our own. They’re aware of what’s happening in our lives. But live in a different world as well. I think the cats here are very aware of the holidays, because they know there is always special food around… and they especially appreciate the fish and meat. Jinhit was on her way to somewhere else when I snapped that picture. It seemed as if she was oblivious to us at the moment…

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