I always laugh at my dad when he takes a vacation at home. When you've got time off from work, most people go somewhere with that time. My dad, instead, often uses his time off to relax, read and enjoy life around his house. I realized last week that I've been laughing at him - and doing exactly the same thing! During Sukkot, which we enjoyed all of last week, there isn't anywhere in the world that I'd rather have a vacation than at home.
It never ceases to amaze me how many fantastic things there are to do around our house, in Israel. The kids were off for the last 8 days, as were Josh and I, in order to enjoy the Sukkot holiday. We created a fantastic sukkah, and the kids were very eager to begin sleeping in it.
During Sukkot, the Torah commands that you are to live in your sukkah - this means that we eat every meal there and that we sleep in the sukkah, baring rain (more of that to come later). This temporary dwelling reminds us of our collective experience of leaving Egypt and it shows us how much our lives are in Gd's hands.
Our sukkah was a very busy place during the holiday. Along with eating every meal there, the four older boys all slept together, under the stars, with their daddy during the entire week. They couldn't wait to get into the sukkah each night (and even requested to take naps a few times during the day!) They were accompanied two nights by our adoptive soldier, Jeff, making it quite a cozy sleeping arrangement for the six of them. On the first night that Jeff slept out there with the gang, it poured at about 1:00 in the morning! Everyone fled inside, of course. Josh recounted afterward that the rain was really a great lesson. Since he was forced back into his bed in the middle of the week for half a night, it served as a great reminder of how much more comfortable the bed really is - and of how important the mitzvah of sleeping in the sukkah is, even if it's not the most comfortable endeaver. While I didn't sleep in the sukkah, I enjoyed movie night with the gang each night. Each evening, we rented a movie and cuddled up together in the sukkah to watch it on Josh's computer!
During the days, we were swamped with fantastic activities, enjoying the chance to explore our own homeland, without having to leave on vacation. We went to a cute farm and petting zoo at Kibbutz Chefetz Chaim.
The next day, we accompanied our friends, the Jacobsons, to pick onions for a very worthy organization called Table to Table.
They have hordes of volunteers who pick leftover produce from the fields around Israel and distribute the food to needy families. What a great activity in the midst of our holiday to remind us of our gratitude and our ability to help others.
We enjoyed a delicious meal at Pinati in Jerusalem one day and then played for hours at a park in Har Homa.
The next day, we explored Shiloh, a yishuv that we had never been to before, where the Mishkan was located in ancient times. They offered tours of ancient Shiloh and also had oodles of activities for the kids.
Finally, to top it all off, on Thursday night, we went to the Tel Aviv Port, where there were jugglers, bands, great food, and other activities.
While admiring the Port I was thinking to myself how cosmopolitan this area of Israel looks. The Port has been completely redone and offers beautiful, high-end boutiques, restaurants, and activities for people of all ages. It's breathtakingly beautiful there;
if only people around the world could see this image of Israel, it would be a great way to banish the misconceptions of Israel as a backwards place, or as one that is only interested in fighting wars, etc.
Yes, we are tired from our fantastic stay-cation, but what an adventure we had right in our very own homeland - all within a one hour drive of our house! We are truly blessed to be able to celebrate major holidays such as Sukkot here in Israel, and to enjoy so much of what our land has to offer each day.