Jewish Journal

The best holiday of them all

by Noga Gur-Arieh

September 19, 2012 | 10:30 am

Happy Jewish Year everyone!

Rosh Hashana is my favorite holiday. But more than the food and the family-time, what makes this holiday my favorite is the atmosphere. It's this something I feel inside of me, in my house, in my town and nationwide. It is a one of a kind holiday spirit. As I said before, a Jewish holiday in Israel is not like the ones in the States: it is felt e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. The stores are decorated, the people are smiling, and holiday songs are played on the radio. In Israel, every holiday carries the entire nation on a swirl of a joyful spirit. But Rosh Hashana's swirl is the best of them all. From the moment I wake up to the second I fall asleep, I feel like I'm in heaven. Ask anyone that knows me well enough and they'll tell you- in Rosh Hashana I am less cynical than ever. In the name of the holiday spirit, I will make an attempt to show you what it is that I see in the beginning of the Hebrew year…

First of all, I want to point out I am not religious, and so when I talk about a "spiritual experience", I am not referring to anything God-ish. My spiritual holiday experience does exist, but in a different way. It's that something in the air that gives me the feeling life is too good to be true, and I have every reason to celebrate it. Here are the three things I love about Rosh Hashana:

The first thing I love about Rosh Hashana is the radio. Every Rosh Hashana eve, from noon to 4pm, the biggest radio station, Galgalatz, ranks the best Hebrew songs of the year, and hands out awards for the best female singer, best male singer, best musical group and the "breakthrough" of the year.  It's just like Billboard, only it happens once a year on such a scale. During those four hours, I am wearing my headphones. I usually work out during the first hour, and do some holiday shopping for my family at the mall at the second hour. In the next hour I walk down the streets, soaking in the holiday atmosphere as I greet my neighbors with a "happy holiday" greeting, and watch the people get ready for their big family dinners. The fourth hour is my quality time with my mother. Every year, we rank the songs together, and then listen to the top ten songs (the last hour) together, while cooking for the holiday dinner. This is most definitely my favorite time of the day, and my favorite type of mother-daughter time.

The second thing I love about Rosh Hashana is the optimism. In every holiday people feel slightly elevated, but Rosh Hashana makes everyone fly high in the sky. First of all, for three days, there is almost no bad news. The newspapers are filled with special interviews and very optimistic summaries of the year. Almost as if all that's wrong in the world faded away. Moreover, the people themselves seem to be less angry and anxious. It's almost as if we live in a Disney movie for the three days of holiday. The usually rude, easily triggered Israelis seem to forget their stereotypes, and appreciate their friends, family, neighbors and strangers more than the usual. I love that nationwide optimism. It's nice to know the world is not only crime, nuclear weapons and diplomatic issues. In a "regular" day, we sometimes tend to forget the good, and make more room for the bad. We take our loved ones for granted, we pay no attention to our attitude towards strangers, and we read mostly negative stories in the papers. One of the outcomes of this bursting optimism, and another thing that makes me love holidays, is the fact that this is the only time of year I almost enjoy traffic. During Rosh Hashana eve, the roads of Israel are packed with families trying to get to their dinner in time. I may not know this for a fact, but I have a pretty solid feeling every single car plays the same station, and in that way, all of Israel shares a moment. The songs playing on the radio, along with the atmosphere in the air, makes the record-breaking traffic bearable and almost nice. So bearable that it's the only time you hear almost no honks and curse words. Rosh Hashana is also a time of giving. It is the time when we put our own problems aside and open our wallets and our hearts for the ones in need, in order for them to have a decent holiday dinner as well. This, to me, is simply beautiful, and Israel at its best. The fact Rosh Hashana is ten days prior to Yom Kippur, along with it being the first holiday to open the longest holiday period of the year after five months of drought- makes our thoughts and interactions extra positive.

The third thing I love about Rosh Hashana is the family-time. During this holiday, I almost never leave the house, and neither do my brothers. The result is the best family time you could ever think of. Unlike the average Friday dinner, where we are all anxious to meet up with our friends, the Rosh Hashana dinner always takes longer. Everyone seems to have all the time in the world, so we sit together in the living room and sing as my father and brother play the guitar. Our Rosh Hashana dinners are also in a very big scale. Usually, there are about 80 of us staying at my aunt's, which makes this holiday dinner extra special for all of us.  During the two days of holiday, the family-time continues, as we go for lunch at another aunt's house, and spend some time at home together, sometimes watching old family videos.

I hope you all find what you love most about this special holiday, and may you have the best of times during the upcoming Hebrew Year. חג שמח!


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My name is Noga Gur-Arieh, and I’m an Israeli Journalist, currently studying for my B.A degree in Media and Political Science, at Tel Aviv University.

I am very socially...

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