But holiday festivities make me sad these days

By Leanne Gale

Rosh Hashanah

Today when the shofar blew, I imagined hundreds of Jews wearing tallitot, blowing the shofar at Qalandia checkpoint. And then thousands of Jews marching through Jerusalem, blowing tekiah andtruah and shvarim in protest of occupation.

If it happened in my imagination, it could happen, right?

If you will it, it is no dream, right?


Yom Kippur
My friend and fellow Jewish day school alumni leaned over. “It’s unbelievable that compared to that [Kol Nidrei] service last night, this place is filled with warmongers.”

Then he glanced at the Israeli flag waving next to the American flag at the front of the sanctuary. “Do you think having the Israeli flag at the front of the sanctuary is avodah zarah [idol worship]?”


Sukkot

We sat in a makeshift shelter in Texas and ate fried chicken with mac and cheese. In the middle of the service, a child shouted out, “You’re wrong!” The rabbi chuckled and swiftly responded, “On this holiday, there is a commandment, ‘thou shalt not heckle the rabbi.’” The congregation laughed.

We were safe.

We did not mention the occupation.


Simchat Torah

On Simchat Torah, my grandmother’s Iraqi car driver, Jeff, drove us to synagogue.

“Do you think I could travel to Israel with a Canadian passport?”

“I think you could, but you would be questioned.”

“But I could go there?”

“Honestly, I wouldn’t advise it.”

My phone was buzzing with the latest extrajudicial killings, violent mobs, calls for revenge. My very dear Palestinian friend had just been chased by settlers in East Jerusalem. When I saw her texts I nearly fell off my chair.

Jeff brought us to the door of the synagogue and took photos, over and over until we had the perfect shot.

When we entered, the children carried stuffed pillows in the shape of Torah scrolls. The adults prepared paper bags to fill with candy. It wish it had felt comfortable and joyful, but holiday festivities make me sad these days. In Palestine, Jewish holiday celebrations mean closed checkpoints, and settler attacks, and when alcohol is involved…

My grandmother and I made our way slowly to the second row, stopping frequently to catch up with her old friends. “Your grandmother used to be babysit me!” one woman remarked. It was pleasant and sweet.

A young girl politely approached to offer us Israeli flags. All of the children were waving them, giddy in the innocent excitement. I looked down at her precious face and forced a smile. Jerusalem Day flashbacks and Kahana stickers flashed through my mind. My grandmother took a flag and placed it in her walker.