After blowing hot, then cold, then hot, then cold again, the weather in Israel seems finally to have settled down to the appropriate behaviour for this time of the year. Yes, I know that for a while last week it was warmer and sunnier in London than here, but at present the barometer seems to have swung back to its normal state. In England one can expect April to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb, but that is not what one expects here.
Though, of course, with all the current climate warming anxiety we can no longer be sure what is or isn’t ‘normal’ any more. Because of the abundant rainfall here this winter the display of wild flowers that are to be found on open spaces all over the country was more abundant and lasted longer than is usually the case, providing balm for the soul whenever one happened to catch sight of another clump of wild cyclamen on a hillside as we made our way to Jerusalem, or to see the fields of red poppies in the south.
The flowers in our garden have also jumped to the conclusion that spring is finally here, so that while the winter-growing pansies and cyclamen are still blooming, the roses have also started to produce flowers, causing me to fear a night-time frost, though fortunately so far we’ve been spared that particular trauma.
Spring in Israel coincides with the Passover festival that marks the exodus from Egypt thousands of years ago by the enslaved Children of Israel, and their forty-year journey through the wilderness to become a free nation. The notion of freedom assumes a pivotal role in the traditional retelling of the exodus story which is the focus of the Seder, the Passover meal that marks the beginning of the eight-day ‘festival’ of eating Matza (unleavened bread).
And spring also means spring-cleaning. Some folk consider themselves duty-bound to follow the religious requirement of not eating bread and not even having it in the house to extravagant lengths, hunting for recalcitrant breadcrumbs in every nook and cranny of their homes. I long ago gave up the belief that the non-existent deity is concerned with the minute observance of rules and regulations set down at a time and place that has absolutely no relevance in today’s world. I won’t go out of my way to eat bread, like some acquaintances who stock their freezer with bread before the rules of the festival are imposed on the entire country, but I refuse to bow to those restrictions willy-nilly.
As far as I’m concerned, the Seder constitutes an opportunity for the family to get together for a festive meal, something akin to Thanksgiving in America. I remember the Seder at my late parents’ home, to which sundry friends and acquaintances were always invited as well as the small family unit, and where my mother would serve all manner of delicacies over which she had toiled for long hours in the kitchen. I won’t deny that I did my own fair share of toiling in the kitchen, aided and abetted by my OH and, in the home strait, by my two big granddaughters, bless them. I just hope that my efforts came somewhere near the delicious food my mother used to provide.
At the meal itself, everyone helped and did their bit to make the evening enjoyable. Even our youngest member, just three years old, provided the occasional diversion, concerning herself mainly with keeping her parents occupied in order to keep an eye on her. We were privileged to enjoy the presence of three grandchildren who are serving members of the IDF, as well as others older and younger than them, as well as our own offspring with additional relatives.
And so now we can get down to the serious business of getting ready for our very own Independence Day, which we celebrate in a very different way, devoid of any religious significance. It is an occasion on which we note our relief and joy at finally having a country of our own and the freedom for which our people have waited for over two thousand years.