It’s hard to believe, but here we are gearing up for the High Holidays season. After many months of lockdown, home quarantine, isolation and all other forms of social distancing courtesy of the coronavirus crisis, it really is quite weird that Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot are already around the corner.

What’s even more disturbing is that here in Israel we’ll most likely experience the holiday season in another lockdown, due to start on Friday.

That’s why at ISRAEL21c we thought to compile a definitive list of all the signs that it truly is holiday (chag) season here in Israel. You know, to keep us connected.

  1. There’s honey. Absolutely everywhere

Don’t like honey? That’s just too bad. Because in the weeks leading up to Rosh Hashana it’s absolutely everywhere – in cakes, salads, chicken dishes, body lotions and your holiday gift from work. Let’s just say we won’t be surprised to see honey-scented hand sanitizer making a festive appearance at the pharmacy checkout this year.

Even if you don’t enjoy honey, there’s no escaping eating far too many sweet dishes any time soon. Only in Israel, the honey isn’t always from bees – it is often from dates.

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  1. Newspapers get fatter

If you’ve ever picked up a weekend newspaper in Israel around chag, you must have noticed that it’s a weighty tome. Endless supplements, magazines and pages upon pages of advertisements – these are all the hallmarks of the newspaper business in the run-up to the holiday.

The best way to spend a holiday morning, in our opinion, is to sit outside and enjoy the great weather (more on that soon) and leisurely go through the papers, enjoying the articles and making a mental note of all the furniture, dishes and cars you’d like for the new year. Enjoy it while it lasts, for immediately after the holidays the papers turn miserably slim.

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  1. Books make a comeback

This is a great one, considering how glued to our screens we’ve all been these past few months. Since there’s no radio, TV or films in Israel on Yom Kippur, many locals – both those who are fasting and those who are not – opt to spend the day in the company of that great book they’ve been meaning to get round to all year.

In the leadup to the day, many people stop by the bookstore or check out the latest recommendations, happily proving that even in this age of Netflix and chill, sometimes all we crave is to lose ourselves in a really good read.

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  1. Your kids bring home mediocre artwork

The festival of Sukkot is really great, with all that hospitality and alfresco dining going on. Perhaps its only downside is that you need to pretend to be enthralled by the dodgy decorations your children worked so hard to create in school — or, worse, by the creations of young humans unrelated to you. Be sure to admire those paper chains hanging in your friend’s sukkah.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin decorating his sukkah with local children in 2019. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90
  1. It gets very slightly cooler

We haven’t noticed it yet this year, but the fall festivals usually mark the end of summer in Israel, and with it the soaring temperatures we’ve had to endure for a good few months (not that we’re complaining; it’s amazing to be able to go outside again). We’re hoping that it won’t be long before shawls, long trousers and even the odd cardigan or two begin to make an appearance, particularly if you live outside of balmy Tel Aviv.  Flipflops, bikinis and tiny tops will soon be stowed away until next summer. Global pandemic permitting, of course.

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  1. Family feuds over holiday dinners were in vain

The never-ending argument about which side of the family to celebrate Rosh Hashana with always somewhat dampens the atmosphere come September. This year the discussion was particularly heated due to the fact that we all missed Passover together, making the upcoming dinner even more important than usual. Unfortunately, it would seem that we’ve all mortally offended our in-laws in vain considering that the lockdown is more or less final and we aren’t going anywhere again. With tensions running so high, we can only hope that a Covid-19 vaccine will be found before Passover next year – for we plan on celebrating it on a desert island far, far away.

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  1. All white clothes disappear from the stores

In Israel, it’s customary to wear white for the holiday celebrations. And if you haven’t bought your festive outfit before the end of August, there’s very little chance that you’ll be able to do so now. Extreme shopaholics at the very best of times, many Israelis are left with a terrible urge to spend some cash after months of lockdown.

Never mind that the coronavirus crisis led to soaring unemployment rates, financial instability and overall fiscal gloom. That brand-new shining white shirt is already making us feel so much better.

Patrons of a Tel Aviv White Night Dinner, May 15, 2019. Photo by FLASH90
  1. People are stocking up like it’s the end of the world

Even those with more modest aims than finding themselves a nice white outfit are having a difficult time, for the shopping frenzy outlined above is far from restricted to superfluous items such as clothes. Basic grocery shopping is now an absolute nightmare as people flock to the supermarket and hoard countless items ahead of the endless round of meals that awaits us. Needless to say, all while being less than stringent about keeping at least 2 meters apart.

Israelis buying food for Rosh Hashana at a Jerusalem supermarket. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90
  1. After the holidays, anyone?

Perhaps the phrase most associated with this time of year is “after the holidays,” i.e. the time when no holiday abruptly (and wonderfully) breaks up the working week and things return to a slightly more normal routine. It would seem that this year’s “after the holidays” tasks include simple little things such as finding a cure for Covid-19, having a functioning government and enabling elderly people to take part in society again. No biggie.

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  1. Surprisingly, everyone’s still here

If this were a pandemic-free year, the No. 1 sign of holiday season would be the heaving airport and many Israelis’ burning desire to be as far away from home as possible. While that burning desire is most definitely still there, the coronavirus crisis means that for the second time in a year we’ll all be celebrating the holidays at home.

Sure, dipping your apple in honey on a sandy white beach on a remote Greek island sounds nice, but what can we do. We’re all here, and we’re going to make the most of it.

Happy holidays!