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Lesson Transcript

Shira: Welcome back to HebrewPod101.com. I'm Shira. Welcome to All About Lesson 9 – Top Five Important Dates During The Israeli Calendar Year.
Amir: And I'm Amir again.
Shira: There's a big bonus to making Israel your adopted culture, because you get to celebrate so many great holidays.
Amir: That's right. There are a lot of exciting celebrations in Israel. In this lesson we're going to learn about five important dates that are very important days for Israelis.
Shira: Our first set of important dates are two days that are related to the statehood of Israel.
Amir: So the most important date for Israel is [יום העצמאות] (Yom ha'ats'ma'ut), the Israeli Independence Day.
Shira: And it's preceded by [יום הזכרון] (Yom ha'zi'ka'ron), Remembrance Day, another extremely important date for Israelis.
Amir: And because these two dates complement each other, we've paired them together.
Shira: It's so special to remember those who died for our country, and then, the next day, celebrate the birthday of this amazing country.
Amir: [יום העצמאות] (Yom ha'ats'ma'ut) falls on or around the fifth day of the Jewish month of [אייר] (I'yar), which is usually in April or May. Some years it's moved around a bit so that it doesn't fall on [שבת] (Shabat). [יום הזכרון] (Yom ha'zi'ka'ron) begins the preceding evening with the siren and special remembrance services.
Shira: The sounding of the siren is such a powerful moment. When it happens, everyone stops what they're doing, stands up until the siren stops and remembers those who died for Israel's freedom.
Amir: Even on busy highways you'll see people pull over, get out of their cars and stand in remembrance. The siren is sounded again the next day as well.
Shira: For me it's one of the most powerful moments of the whole year.
Amir: And that is why it's so fitting that [יום הזכרון] (Yom ha'zi'ka'ron) will follow it. It's a natural progression from remembering to celebrating our independence.
Shira: The evening of [יום העצמאות] (Yom ha'ats'ma'ut) is very fun. Many towns have celebrations with music and traditional folk dancing. Some host concerts with famous Israeli musicians and there are plenty of fun things to eat like hot corn and cotton candy.
Amir: On the day [יום העצמאות] (Yom ha'ats'ma'ut), most people will do picnics with barbequed meat, hummus, salads and pita, of course.
Shira: [על האש] (Al ha'esh). That's Hebrew for barbeque. So what's next?
Amir: Ok, the second most important day in Israel is [פסח] (Pe'sakh) or Passover, which is the celebration of the Israelites exodus from Egypt. It lasts for seven days. It's celebrated in March or April, and has a special holiday meal called the [סדר] (Seder) to open and close it.
Shira: The word [סדר] (Seder) means "order" in Hebrew. And the meal is called this because there's a lot of ceremony that goes along with it.
Amir: There's even a special book called the [הגדה] (Hagada) that tells you what to sing, when to recite, what to read, when to drink, and of course, when to eat. So everything you do during [סדר] (Seder) is in remembrance of God's faithfulness in bringing the Israelites out of slavery.
Shira: It's a lot of fun. And the [סדר] (Seder) can take a long time, especially if you go through the entire [הגדה] (Hagada).
Amir: Some families chose to do only their favorite or most meaningful parts of the [סדר] (Seder), but traditional families will go through the whole thing.
Shira: My favorite part is the songs.
Amir: And the best song, I think, is [מה נשתנה הלילה הזה] (Ma nish'tana ha'lay'la ha'ze), which is traditionally sung by the youngest child at the [סדר] (Seder). This song asks the question "What is different about this night from all other nights?"
Shira: Another great part of the [סדר] (Seder) for children is the search for the [אפיקומן] (Afi'ko'man). [אפיקומן] (Afi'ko'man) is a word that comes from Greek that typically means dessert, but in the [סדר] (Seder) it's called this because it's the last thing to be eaten.
Amir: And many parents use this to try to keep the kids awake through the whole long [סדר] (Seder). One of the adults takes the middle of the three ceremonial [מצה] (Matsah), breaks it half, hides it in a cloth and hides it somewhere in the house.
Shira: Then the kids are allowed to go and search for the [אפיקומן] (Afi'ko'man), and the one who finds it can ask for a reward.
Amir: We should also mention that during the entire [פסח] (Pe'sakh) holiday, you're only allowed to eat [מצה] (Matsah), which are these big square or circular pieces of unleavened bread.
Shira: This is to remember that when the Israelites left Egypt, that had to do so quickly.
Amir: Yes. And they weren't allowed to let their bread rise. So God told us that during [פסח] (Pe'sakh), we're not to use [חמץ] (Kha'mets) in bread, and that we must clean our houses from all of it.
Shira: Many Israelis use this as an opportunity for spring cleaning. They clean the house from top to bottom, making sure that not even a crumb of bread can be found anywhere.
Amir: So there's no bread to be found anywhere during [פסח] (Pe'sakh), unless you really try to go out of your way to find some.
Shira: Supermarkets block off all the sections in the store that have anything that's not [כשר] (Ka'sher) for [פסח] (Pe'sakh). Sometimes I end up traveling around the entire supermarket looking for something I want, only to find out that it's been covered up.
Amir: Man… Speaking of traveling, most people have the entire week of [פסח] (Pe'sakh) off, so they use this long vacation to travel within Israel or abroad.
Shira: Yes, and it's the best time during the year to get stuck for hours in [פסח] (Pe'sakh) traffic.
Amir: Indeed, people love to go hiking or camping during [פסח] (Pe'sakh), because it's such a long holiday and the weather is usually quite nice. Unfortunately, most of Israel goes to the north of the country, which makes traffic a frustrating side effect of this holiday.
Shira: Yeah, there are only so many roads you can travel on in Israel, so we all get stuck in the same traffic jam.
Amir: But we're not stuck here, so let's move on to number three. The third most important day in Israel is [יום כיפור] (Yom Ki'pur), the holiest day for Jewish people.
Shira: [יום כיפור] (Yom Ki'pur) is definitely an important day. And religious Jews would consider [יום כיפור] (Yom Ki'pur) the most important day of the year.
Amir: But since we're taking into consideration all of Israel's population, we place it at number three.
Shira: [יום כיפור] (Yom Ki'pur) can also be called the Day of Atonement in English. It's a 25 hour period of fasting and praying, where you have your chance to make your last appeal to God before he seals your fate for that year.
Amir: According to Jewish tradition, God decides whether you're righteous or wicked at [ראש השנה] (Rosh Hashana), the Jewish New Year. And you have until [יום כיפור] (Yom Ki'pur) to repent of your sins and get your life straight with God.
Shira: Many Israelis take part in [יום כיפור] (Yom Ki'pur) in one way or another, even if they're not religious. Some will fast and others may attend services at their local synagogue.
Amir: The religious Jews take [יום כיפור] (Yom Ki'pur) very seriously. They'll fast from everything, even water, and they'll spend most of the day in the synagogue, praying and repenting of their sins.
Shira: They'll also wear white to symbolize purity.
Amir: Just like on [שבת] (Shabat), work is strictly forbidden on [יום כיפור] (Yom Ki'pur). Almost all Israel shuts down from [יום כיפור] (Yom Ki'pur) evening to sundown the next day.
Shira: Yes, there are no cars driving on the roads and no shops are open.
Amir: And because there are no cars on the road, secular Israelis take advantage of this by going out on the streets to walk or rollerblade or ride their bicycles. It's quite an experience.
Shira: I love going out for a walk on [יום כיפור] (Yom Ki'pur). It's surprisingly quiet because of the lack of cars and the pensive atmosphere. And yet there's so much activity throughout the city.
Amir: But you won't see any food outside.
Shira: No, definitely not. You don't want to offend anyone who is fasting. And for that reason, we also don't cook on [יום כיפור] (Yom Ki'pur). It wouldn't be nice for those who are fasting to smell other people cooking food all day long.
Amir: Ok, moving on to the last two most important holidays in Israel.
Shira: Which one is number four?
Amir: So coming in at fourth place, we have [ראש השנה] (Rosh Hashana), which we've already mentioned. It's celebrated on the first two days of the Jewish month of [תשרי] (Tish're'i).
Shira: This is usually sometime in September.
Amir: This is the day when the Jewish calendar starts a new year.
Shira: So, Amir, what are the traditions associated with [ראש השנה] (Rosh Hashana)?
Amir: Well, first of all, it's a very family-oriented holiday, much like [פסח] (Pe'sakh). One of the traditional thing to do at the family feast is to dip apples in honey.
Shira: Now, I'm guessing that symbolizes something.
Amir: Of course it does. It's supposed to symbolize our wish for a sweet new year.
Shira: Aw, that's sweet.
Amir: I guess it is, in more ways than one. Another tradition is going down to a place where there's flowing water and emptying out your pockets. This is a symbol of casting off your sins.
Shira: That's a custom I've never heard of.
Amir: Probably because it's hard to find running water in Israel.
Shira: Yeah, probably. Ok, I think we should move on to number five now.
Amir: Sure. So in fifth place we have [סוכות] (Sukot). This is celebrated on the 15th day of the Jewish month of [תשרי] (Tish're'i).
Shira: And it's the last of the High Holidays.
Amir: That's right. [ראש השנה,יום כיפור וסוכות] (Rosh Hashana, yom ki'pur ve'su'kot) are called the Jewish High Holidays.
Shira: [סוכות] (Sukot) is another 7-day holiday, and a joyful one at that.
Amir: It's often called the feast of [booths] or Feast of Tabernacles in English.
Shira: The whole holiday is centered on the [סוכה] (Suka) or [booths].
Amir: Indeed, we're commanded to live in these [booths] for the entire holiday to remember what life was like for the Israelites when they were in the wilderness for 40 years.
Shira: Do people actually live in the [סוכה] (Suka)?
Amir: Some do. Some will eat and sleep in the [סוכה] (Suka).
Shira: I've noticed that these booths all look very similar and are decorated really beautifully inside.
Amir: Well, [סוכות] (Sukot) is supposed to be a very joyful holiday, so we decorate the inside of the [סוכה] (Suka) with lots of fall colors and fall fruits.
Shira: Well we hope our holiday rundown was interesting for you. This was just a sampling of all the holidays and important days Israel has in store…