So here we are in Tel Aviv, Holy Land Central (HLC) and it’s Christmas. Ya wouldn’t know it from the windows, homes and shops barren of the hype and hoopla so commonly connected with this time of year…But fear not! We here at Stefanella’s Drive Thru created a holiday all our own in our little enclave (nope, not a manger)
No, I haven’t been reading up on joining the Abbey and I haven’t embarked upon a Seven Sacrament Mission… As it happens, Tonny is not a member “of the tribe” so wouldn’t it be sad and unfair to ignore his holiday needs?
Yes indeed. So Christmas Eve (yesterday) at our house looked like this:
Steph slaving away over the stove all day to prepare traditional, Danish menu items (hint: Tonny hails from a Scandinavian country):
– Apricot/honey glazed Roasted Duck
– Boiled Potatoes with Bechamel Sauce
– Mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette
– Dessert of Rice Pudding topped with cherry sauce
– Red wine – the cheap stuff not from Vintner Steph’s Reserve Collection
– Sorry, no Acquavit schnapps
I jest – the preparation was surprisingly easy. But here’s a tip, my culinary pals: you think latkes are greasy? Try duck on for size. Once a year is quite sufficient for this INCREDIBLY fatty bird.
So our day was a lazy one what with the wind and pouring rain outside. We cranked up the heat, piped in Internet, radio Christmas tunes and connected the fairy lights left up since Rapha’s November birthday and VOILA! It was like being in Christian-dome if you looked at the room through squeezed eyelids and ignored the menorah on the shelf and the Hannuka decorations on the walls.
After eating our fill, we rested, anointed ourselves in bathtub ritual and then headed up to Jaffa where all the churches in these parts live, for a “Christmas Choral Event”…
Allow me to interject: The only point in 11+ years of living in HLC that I’ve come close to attending any type of religious ceremony was way back in ’95. Scene: Bethlehem Manger Square. Background: The first year of non-Israeli occupation in decades. Mission: I was a journalist covering a story that was pure bedlam and masses of jubilant participants. Recurring thought the entire evening: How in the heck will the taxi get me out of here with all these people in the streets? It didn’t count as quiet, observational time.
Last night did. Immanuel Church is small and extremely modest – About 140 Germans, Israelis, Ghanains, Scandinavians and other assorteds showed up despite the downpour to sing organ accompanied Silent Night, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem and so on and partake of cake and coffee in the anteroom after the collection plate made its rounds. The pastor – Jan Mortensen, hailing from the same Scandinavian country as Tonny – was warm and looked kinda cute in his white, pastor’s housedress with hood.
I admit that I was taken aback by parishioners reading snippets of Old Testament in HEBREW at the dais, by New Testament, messianic scripture on the pulpit wall in HEBREW and mostly by Pastor Mortensen delivering his sermon in HEBREW (cryptic, difficult to follow and a tenuous thread relating to Jesus as the messiah).
What’s with all the Hebrew? Aren’t these Lutherans from Europe with bleach, blonde children running between the pews? How did Hebrew get into the mix? You’re associating the language with the religion, my father later commented when we discussed the issue. Perhaps. But it was most bizarre for me to hear Hebrew used while explaining Jesus as a savior…
But I had my fun. I would have to, no? I sang “Frankenstein” instead of “Frankincense” and did the off-key on purpose during hymnals…See, ma? I don’t just do that stuff to embarrass you in front of Mrs. Goldfarb and Rabbi Greenfield.
To my friends, family and everyone everywhere: Whatever you celebrate, Do it Up!
I’m going downstairs to get a donut for Hannuka!