October 6, 2005: Shana Tova

I used to have an interesting ornament on my Shabbos table in Maryland. Actually, it wasn’t really an ornament, and everyone had one. Between October and January, there was no avoiding it. We would gather in each other’s homes for Shabbat meals, and invariably, someone would make a comment about the two liter Coke bottle with Santa Claus on the label.

Now, I have nothing personal against Santa. He does bring lots of joy to many, many children the world over. I understand that he symbolizes peace and goodwill and lots of other good stuff. The problem is—he’s not mine. He represents another faith, another culture. Despite the beard, he’s just not Jewish.

We visited friends the first night of Rosh Hashana. There on the table, among the Pomegranates and fish heads, was a sight that made me proud. There was a bottle of Coke, bli Santa. Instead “Shana Tova” was written on the label. Yes, you can say I’m a sucker for whatever marketing professionals thought they would sell more cola in Israel by putting a new year sticker on it. But you know, I’m in Israel. Even the crass commercial messages are welcome because they are aimed at me.

Everywhere, I went this week, I felt enveloped by Rosh Hashana. New Year’s greetings were expressed in the newspapers, on the radio, and on television. Every supermarket and the Jerusalem shuk was packed with people looking for the best fruits, vegetables, and cuts of meat for their Rosh Hashana Dinners. (I still don’t know how every butcher can provide every single customer with a “first cut” brisket.) For a treat, the zoo here fed the bears Pomegranates. Even my phone bill had News Year’s greetings scrawled right above the line telling me if I didn’t pay the bill on time my phone would be cut off.

The past week, I have wished many, many people a Shana Tova. Soldiers, bus drivers, merchants in the shuk. I enjoyed just driving round Jerusalem yelling it out the window. And many, many people have wished me a sweet new year in return. And you know, getting a new year’s greeting from the guy who delivers juice makes one feel the same way a “Shana Tova” coke bottle does – at home.

Shana Tova from our blessed nation.

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