Our recent Sukkot holiday found us in one of the most beautiful areas of Israel. In the foothills of the Golan a series of rivers snake through the cliffs and canyons providing welcome relief to the searing heat in the summer and dramatic deluges in the winter and spring. The Hermon is Israel’s highest mountain, bordering Syria and at the edge of Lebanon. It’s hard to believe that this beauty and majesty is the backdrop to wars and terror. The fields in this area are fenced and signs warn of unexploded mines from past conflicts. Disused buildings are peppered with bullet holes and the army presence is hard to ignore. But on a beautiful day, when the sky is blue the colours are alive and fish and crabs that live in the clear waters swim peacefully it is good to take a breath, drink in the scenery and try to forget man’s cruelty and the sadness it brings and let nature do the talking.
October in Israel brings Rosh Hashannah, Yom Kippur and my favourite of all the holidays, Sukkot. You may remember my ramblings about the Sukkah (Succah, Sukka?) that we build in the garden every year. Where we eat, where I spend my evenings quaffing vino and where the kids play. This year, true to form we decorated with what I can only refer to as Christmas decorations, the kids drew pictures and I, true to form, drank more than my fair share of grape juice.
This time of year in my opinion is when Israel is at its most beautiful. As the terrible heat and humidity of the summer months begins to lift, the skies become clearer and you can actually see the hills of the neighbouring West Bank as opposed to the heat haze which covers them for 60% of the year. Beautiful. The colours of the spring and summer are hard to beat, spring flowers followed by the garish borganvillia and the stunning purple of the jacaranda. But for me, Autumn tops them all as the trees begin to show their wares. Olives, oranges, lemons and carob laden the branches and the long awaited ability to get out and about without a) overheating b) seeking refuge under a shady tree or c) wishing we’d gone to the pool instead.
In the nearby Judean Hills is Park Britannia, a history or nature buffs dream. As a wedding present some of my old friends bought us some trees in this park and ever since my first visit (to see(!) our trees) it has held a special place in my heart. A favourite pastime of ours is to head up there on a Saturday, find a quiet spot with friends, explore with the childers and picnic with the ants.
With Sukkot comes the rain, light at first followed by a couple of blustery storms. The mosquitoes go crazy as the puddles turn into frantic spawning grounds for the little blighters, the childers insist on donning wellies despite it being 30 degrees outside (little blighters) and finally my lawn (the scrappy grass in my garden) becomes green again.
On a shallow note I should add that the joy of being able to wear more clothes and pull a pair of jeans on again also has its benefits, no more podgy white thighs or burnt shoulders on show. But maybe that’s just me. Welcome Autumn you have been missed.