The ferocity of celebration

When my aunt sent me a beautiful blog post from The Times of Israel written by a woman named Alli Magidsohn, who, after 93 months in Israel, is returning to Los Angeles, I was struck by something she wrote. Called “The little things I’ll miss about Israel”, the writer lists things, both tangible and intangible, that she will miss once she returns home. Some made me smile like funky menu translations and the sweet labor of getting to the heart of a pomelo fruit, which, if you’ve ever attempted to eat one, is so true. But one item she listed leapt out at me: the ferocity of celebration. My blog post for the week was already partially written but the fact that Ms. Magidsohn acknowledged the same thing as me affirms my observations and makes me realize that the festive culture is neither limited to the Anglo population nor to Raanana. In Israel, everything is cause for celebration: a birthday, a bar and bat mitzvah, a departure for the army, a wedding anniversary. And Philippe and I are partaking; as of the first week of summer, we were invited to three parties within seven days.

The first was last Thursday night, the unofficial start of a typical weekend for most people who work a Sunday-Thursday week. It was for a male friend’s 50th, the theme was Aloha/Hawaiian and the evite said to bring a bathing suit to swim in their pool. Since neither of us had any Hawaiian shirts or accessories and even though the sun had set, we went in beachwear with board shorts and our swim suits. As soon as we walked in the door, I knew we were under dressed and could easily be targeted as party poopers. People take dress up and themed parties very seriously here, and everyone, especially the Brits and the Aussies it seemed, had something authentically Hawaiian: a lei, a hula skirt, a colorful and flimsy shirt or sundress with themes of flip flops, sunglasses and straw hats. Streamers were hung all over the house and garden and tiki torches dotted the perimeter of the pool.

When I asked the birthday boy if it was indeed his special day, I learned that it is not for another month but since they will be away—in Hawaii—and since they had wanted to throw a party in the summer, they moved up his birthday to celebrate. For the next few hours, we swam and ate and danced and mingled until close to midnight, enjoying our Raanana social life, knowing we would be doing almost the same thing the next day only at a different venue.

Friday afternoon, we were invited to the beach in Herziliya for a male friend’s 42nd birthday. A beach bum of sorts, his family invited a number of other families to the seashore where they were renting a dozen chairs and umbrellas by the water and setting up tables with bagels and spreads. We were to BYOD as in Bring Your Own Drinks to stay hydrated in the height of the heat and be ready for a sandcastle competition.

Dan, the birthday boy, and his wife Carmel, party planner extraordinaire

Kid-less, Philippe and I left for the beach at 1:30 equipped with our sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, towels and liters of water. The meeting place, the green umbrellas below the Dan Accadia Hotel just before the marina, was easy to find and slowly the group grew in numbers. For the most part, it was the same faces as the party the previous night but I also managed to meet two new families. Every time I think I have met all the Anglos of Raanana, someone new appears.

For two and half hours, the most intense time of the day when dermatologists tell fair-skinned me to never be outside, I sat in the shade under a green umbrella and talked with whomever approached or sat next to me. Philippe and a friend played matkot, the popular paddle game, until they had to take cover. Some of the kids brought their sand toys to dig while others flew kites. At some point, everyone, including me, went in the water to cool off.

Taking cover

In less than a week, next Thursday night, we’re invited to a July 4th party one day late, which comes out on Thursday night so that people can sleep in the next morning. It’s at an American family’s house and the invite clearly states that we are to come in our party dress and dancing shoes ready to “drink and dance into oblivia***”.

Two parties down, one to go and who knows how many more might take place. People thrive on last-minute planning and spontaneous invitations here. In an effort to adapt to my surroundings, I have stopped carrying my Filofax in my purse.

After I’ve finished reading Ms. Magidsohn’s list of things she’ll miss here, I return to the top. My aunt has asked me to translate some of the Hebrew, so I make a feeble attempt. I tell her that a limonana barad is a lemon ice with mint and that aharei hahagim means after the month-long holidays, an expression everyone uses starting late August/early September to mean that schoolwork and extra-curriculars and the like will start after the fact. As I am re-reading the post, I stop at one I missed first time around because it resonates so deeply: The romantic, yet lonely, feeling of being thousands of miles from home – and realizing what a powerful concept “home” is.  And I wonder to myself if I were to leave now, or in another 83 months from now, if I would miss that too. Because I know I would miss the peeling of pomelos and the feeble attempt to translate menus along with the ferocity of celebrations.


Leave a Comment

18 Responses to “The ferocity of celebration”

  1. Doris Fankhauser July 1, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

    Glad you are having lots of fun – cheers to more parties!

    • Jennifer Lang July 2, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

      Thanks, Doris. It’s all good!

  2. Lauren July 2, 2012 at 3:48 am #

    Yet another reason to be OPEN TO ISRAEL…enjoy dear!

    • Jennifer Lang July 2, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

      Do you also party hearty (or is it hardy) in Jerusalem?

  3. Mom/Grandma Marianne July 2, 2012 at 5:34 am #

    I second what Lauren wrote! Being Open to Israel is sure allowing you to avail yourself and your family of the best Israel has to offer. Love, Mom

    • Jennifer Lang July 2, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

      Merci, mom! Love too.

  4. Jill July 2, 2012 at 10:13 am #

    Dear cuz
    Beautifully written as usual- might that aunt be Ma mere?
    One new fact I learned today: I didn’t know that they still made and sold Filofax calendar systems – good to know that someone still uses a paper calendar
    The heat here is oppressive – about 100 and humid for the past week
    Yuck! I wish I could drive to the beach to escape .
    Love to all
    Xoxox Jill

    • Jennifer Lang July 2, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

      Yes, that aunt was your mom. So you were actually with me when I bought my orange leather Filofax in NYC, some stationary store off of 5th Ave. I get the new calendar every December… call me out of touch with reality all you want.

  5. Auntie Mona July 2, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    Speaking of coincidences, we went to a “Neighbor’s Night” here at our Canandaigua Lake community on Sat eve where folks also BYOD and a dish to pass. Had only attended one such in many years and when we walked in to a house and porch full of people early all in Hawaiian shirts and floral clothing and were greeted by our host who put paper leis on each of us, we suddenly realized we hadn’t read the memo!!!

    But your theme which captured some of the blogger’s most poignant observations, made for a very festive read indeed!

    Keep up that ferocity any which way! It seems a worthy companion to the heat of summer anyway!!!

    Auntie Em

    • Jennifer Lang July 2, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

      I love those coincidences, what I call synchronicity. They make for great stories anyhow, or at least ones that you and I appreciate and tell.

  6. lori July 2, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    so true, you’ve beautifully captured the zeitgeist of a Raanana summer: Pomelos and parties!

    • Jennifer Lang July 2, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

      I like that word zeitgeist and now know it is German and means the spirit of the times according to Wikipedia. Thanks!

  7. Sharon July 3, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    Loved these stories and observations. When I see pomelos at the market in San Francisco, I bring one home and Abby and I have what we call a “pomelo party”– a big messy kitchen table pomelo feast. Xxx

    • Jennifer Lang July 3, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

      Aren’t they just the most fabulous fruit? Enjoy any JUly 4 parties you might be going to, friend. xo

  8. Jeanette Lerner July 3, 2012 at 11:28 pm #

    Love a good party, so many graduation parties here, the Indain community puts on the best yet. Enjoy. Sorry we will miss you in Israel, we arrive July 22nd for 2 weeks, when will you be back in Israel?

    • Jennifer Lang July 9, 2012 at 5:19 am #

      Your dates are crazy. I leave the 19th and back after you leave. What a total bummer! What is the occasion? What is the itinerary?

  9. Barbara Liss July 7, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

    Impressive, but hardly surprising, that you are so busy socially. I wish we were more spontaneous around here.

    • Jennifer Lang July 9, 2012 at 5:19 am #

      Yes, the spontaneity really adds to the whole thing. See you soon.

Leave a Reply