Seven years have swiftly passed since my husband and made aliyah from Washington, D.C. When we arrived it was the beginning of the seven year cycle of a “Shemitah” year, the time when, according to a commandment in the Bible, the soil in the land of Israel should rest, so that its fertility can be restored, it having been sapped during the previous six years.
We are now in another “Shemitah” year and we can scarcely believe it because of the diverse panorama of events that occurred during this period. And so, now we pause – to review this interval with much satisfaction.
We went up to Israel in the wake of the miraculous victory of the Six Day War. This stunning triumph awakened Jews in all corners of the earth to proudly proclaim their Jewish identity. Many came to help, and a considerable number decided to settle in the newly found homeland. The Israelis basked in the image of the victorious David, who defeated the insolent Goliath.
The economy flourished and everyone shared in it. The lira was then about four to the dollar. Basic foods were heavily subsidized by the Government as was bus transportation. The cultural segment of our lives was meaningful. To be able to attend public events without fear of going and returning home at any hour added greatly to our enjoyment. Memorable are innumerable occasions, such as, the first time we rose from our seats to hear the Israel hilharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta, play “Hatikva” at the opening of the season and the Israel Symphony Orchestra, conducted bythe local Gary Bertini, do likewise.
Of course, there were various kinds of adjustments, but none that could not be overcome with the proper perspective. Importantly, we felt at home. It took about a year to get settled and to learn how to function with an archaic banking system, a telephone company whose employees inevitably reply to requests with the Hebrew version of “manyana,” a bureaucracy protected by the Histradrut, recurrent labor strikes and a most interesting, diverse population of Jews.
But all this is cushioned by the incredible fact that most everyone is Jewish – the bus drivers, the policemen, the nurses, the tour guides, the banking personnel, as well as the government.
Many factors more than offset initial frustrations. Living in Israel makes the Bible a reality. For example, “Shemitah” a theoretical subject, discussed by Talmudic scholars in the Diaspora, is widely adhered to in Israel by observant Jews. All year they are careful to use only agricultural products which are permissible according to the interpretation of the “Shemitah” laws by rabbinical authorities. Much is expressed in the media concerning “Shemitah” and a five star hotel in Jerusalem even notes on its menus its observance of the Sabbatical year of the soil.
Shabbat is a joy that can hardly be duplicated elsewhere and all the holidays assume an incomparable charisma, each beaming its own personality. You can feel the holiness of Yom Kippur and the exultation on Simchat Torah. Sukkoth is a week long holiday, celebrated by everyone. All the schools are closed and most offices and shops are either closed or functioning with a skeleton force. Immediately after Yom Kippur “schach” is made available in the cities for the “sukkah” and the streets and terraces are dotted with them. Linked with
It is noteworthy that there is in Israel a considerable percentage of natives, for
Notwithstanding the present political and economic situation, we look forward
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