Israel's Good Name

Rosh HaShana

In Galilee, Israel on October 3, 2011 at 6:13 PM

This post is one that differs slightly from the norm. But, I hope everyone enjoys it nonetheless.

This past week and weekend contained the two days of Rosh HaShana (New Year) on Thursday and Friday and the subsequent Shabbat. During this stretch of holy days I prayed mostly at the Hesder Yeshiva of Ma’alot along with family and friends. The beauty of praying at the Yeshiva lie in the choices of so-called ethnic forms of prayer. Within the walls of the Yeshiva there were three choices; Ashkenazi (European with heavy German influences), Sephardi (Middle Eastern and North African) and Temani (Yemenite). I stuck to the Sephardi one but ventured into the room of the Yemenites to both bask in the ancient traditions brought straight from Yemen and to say “hi” to my Yemenite friends.

Yeshivat Hesder Ma'alot

What makes the Yemenite prayers so special is the unique pronunciation of the words as well as the traditional form of prayer which has been chanted out for thousands of years. To give a taste of how Yemenite pronunciation of the Hebrew words differs from the pronunciations of the Ashkenazi and Sephardi worlds here is a video that I found on YouTube of a 6 year old boy living in Israel who has learnt from his parents and teachers the traditional method of reading Hebrew:

The sounds of the Yemenite pronunciation is only made better when the one reading it is a hardcore Yemenite. There was one member of the congregation who was dressed in clothing of yesteryear, remarkably similar to the dress of this Yemenite Jew from the late 1800s, mini-turban and all.

Yemenite Jew from the late 1800s

The most vocal of all the members has already been mentioned in my blog in the “An Israeli Wedding” post. He is the soldier in fatigues dancing “The Special Yemenite Dance” (as can be seen here: ). Just recently he also moved into the house next to ours making us neighbours as well.

Here are some more YouTube videos of the unique Yemenite tongue:

Religious school in Yemen:

Yemenite chazan (cantor) reading prayers:

Now, not only was my holiday made special by the Yemenites whom I fraternised with I was also fortunate to stumble upon a local Ma’alot tradition of doing tashlich by the fountain across from the Iriya (City Hall). Tashlich is, for lack of better words, a symbolic approach to ridding oneself of sins by casting them into the water. Usually, or preferably, done on Rosh HaShana itself the residents of Ma’alot who live within walking distance sojourn together to meet in a large crowd to cast sins into the cascading waters. In the two years I have lived here I had not known of this event and just happened to go there while walking and talking with friends. Hidden gems, I say.

The fountain by the Iriya

On a side note, the dolphins in the centre of the fountain are none other than results of the Ma’alot Stone in the Galilee Symposium which I have wrote about before (see and from TouristIsrael who published a slightly edited version of my blog post

  1. This is a great post. Listening to the young boy read from the Torah was quite interesting. I wasn’t aware that there was an enclave of Yeminites in Ma’alot.

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