Hebrew-speaking dogs.

I’m sitting on my couch and I hear a scratch at the door. My first thought is, did a jackal from the forest across the street come all the way upstairs to haunt me?

My second thought is, it does, however, sound like a dog.

After peeping through the door, I realized it was a dog. A big, fluffy, yellow, gentle, wet and smelly dog. And it was indeed ‘knocking’ at my door.

This is the second time a dog has confused our apartment with their owner’s. Tzur Hadassah is filled with domestic dogs who are sent to roam free and come home whenever they please.

We tried to shoo it away but it insisted on coming inside. He probably lost track of the scent of his trail since it’s really the first or second big rain we’ve had here.

But I felt sorry for him, probably wanting to be home curling up in his pillow. I realized we could send him home with a few key words.

Shev. The dog sat and I checked his collar for a house number. Nope.

Bo. We made him come towards the steps to go downstairs.

L’mata. I tried to encourage him to go downstairs but he needed more, he needed company, so we bo‘d him all the way down, until he started wandering over to the apartment building next door, which looks exactly like ours.

Hebrew-speaking dogs. There’s no place like home.

Birkat Kohanim at the kotel.

I had never seen it, and my dad is of the priestly persuasion, so the three of us went down to the kotel in the Old City yesterday to hear/see/be present at the ginormous Birkat Kohanim for chol hamoed Sukkot.

Birkat Kohanim – known as ‘duchaning’ in Ashkenaz circles – is like a representation of the old days, when the kohanim would bless the people of Israel. On the 3 regalim – Pessach, Shavuot and Sukkot – it got more intense, since those were pilgrimage holidays. Jews from all over Israel would travel to Jerusalem, to the Beit Hamikdash, to deliver their sacrifices and be blessed.

So this was a mini pilgrimage of sorts – a traveling to the Old City, which I very rarely do anymore.

It was bursting with people, and it was the first time I’ve ever gotten a sense for what it must have been like back in the old days, when Jews would pack themselves in to even smaller spaces. It felt crowded, it stank and it was incredible to behold.

Originally, when I was considering going, I thought I was going for the view – hundreds of Kohanim gathering under their tallitot at the front of the wall. But the scene wasn’t spectacular like I thought. It was actually what I heard – the sounds of the blessings, the voices of the Kohanim, the amens of the Jewish crowd.

Take a peek (or more, take a listen) of the service here.

And the diversity, of course, can always be described in the photos:

And a happy 'queer rite of Jews' to you.

Because I already have posted my past homemade sukkot, New York and ghetto Israeli style, I figured I’d post my first own semi-respectable Tzur Hadassah sukka:

Spacious because we have a decent-sized mirpeset. Sturdy, because we have paychecks that can buy metal poles. And fun, because I did a search for ‘sukkot’ on Google Images and got some pretty interesting results (which I hung up).

If you’re lost, perhaps you’d like to read up on the holiday from this old and inaccurate description from an early 20th century American newspaper article:

Ella Valley winery.

My father’s in town, and as I got my habit of fermented grape-consumption from somewhere, we took him over to Ella Valley winery.

The Ella Valley is just about my backyard, nestled in Matte Yehuda. It’s lush, it’s green, and according to the winery’s 6-minute propaganda video, it’s the perfect place to grow the right grapes to create premium, first class wine.

It was an excellent experience. We paid twenty shekel each for a thirty-minute tour (available in English) and then the wine-tasting. You get the twenty shekel back if you buy a bottle at the end.

The wine was excellent. Their products include red and white wines from two lines, Ella Valley (regular) and Vineyard Choice (upscale). My personal favorite? Probably the proprietary RR blend, although their dessert wine was probably the best Muscat I’ve ever had.

(And their website is the best I’ve seen in Israel so far…)