Elkan’s view from Netanya


To the considerable relief of parents and grandparents, an emotion not shared in the main by the students, the Chofesh Hagadol, the long summer holiday in Israeli schools, comes to an end next week. This summer has been hotter than most, and although I normally like August in Israel this year has been an exception. Living on the top of the cliff overlooking the Mediterranean I rarely use the air conditioning because a strong breeze comes in from the sea, but to my horror I discovered when I most needed it that the air conditioning was not working. The air conditioning engineer of course was severely in demand. It was quite some time before the gas was replaced and the flat became habitably cool, by which time the very hot winds had disappeared and the breeze had begun again to flood in from the sea.

Rosh Hashanah is just over two weeks away, and the supermarkets are full of the goods of the season. Honey of course is plentiful, but for some reason in this country the consumption of gefilte fish is particularly high at this time of year, a culinary tradition of which Anglo Jewry is unaware. The shops also fill with weird and wonderful fruits, although you can find many of them in Israel for most of the year anyway. Special offers abound on everything, with the slogan “Rosh Hashanah kemo shetzarich – Rosh Hashanah as it should be”.

But Rosh Hashanah is also a time for refurnishing and redecoration, much as it is in December in Britain. The Ikea catalogue landed in my mailbox this morning, with all sorts of wonderful ideas for refurbishing my life. There are now three branches of the store in Israel, and since Israelis love shopping the Netanya branch is among the busiest in the world. They also sell the usual Ikea restaurant food, but Glatt Kosher for the Charedi clientele who eat there, and there is even a shul. I once went there wanting to know what a flat pack Aron Kodesh looked like, but to my disappointment the furniture appeared to have been bought in!

Yet another amazing experience in this amazing country!