Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Religious holidays, driving in Tiberias and learning the language

This week the Jewish community is celebrating the Feast of Sukkot (or Tabernacles), which lasts for roughly a week. It is a traditional holiday time, so Tiberias is full of holiday makers, mostly religious Jews, who like to come to Tiberias as one of the 4 ‘Holy’ cities in Judaism. Sukkot is a time for families to build booths in their gardens, where they will eat and even sleep. It commemorates the time the Israelites wandered in the Wilderness, and so needed to travel light and with structures that were easily dismantled and put up again in another location. For a Christian, I feel it speaks to us about how we clutter our lives with unnecessary possessions, habits, etc and need to learn to ‘travel light’.

I have now begun to drive. After having a pick-up in Africa, I find the Peugeot here both lower and lighter. I am getting used to both the automatic transmission and also driving on the right. Israelis also have a bad name for aggressive driving, but after 7 years of Lusaka driving, I am used to anything.

I have also found a good supermarket, though Israelis seem to do their week’s shopping in one go, so have their trolleys piled up, which is frustrating if you only have a few things. Most of the packaging is in Hebrew, so it is often a lottery whether you choose the right thing. Certainly, I bought what looked like a butter spread, only to find it was something else completely. Anyway, that should be remedied in the near future, as I start my language lessons at the Ulpan. With so many immigrants, everyone learns the language together, so everything is in Hebrew. You either sink or swim! As Tiberias is a predominately Jewish town (and with my background in Biblical Hebrew), I felt it might be easier to learn Hebrew first, and try to pick up Arabic as I go on (although the alphabets are different, the two languages are related). It is vitally important, not least to converse with the staff.


  1. interesting. Hope that I could see some photos of Tiberias especially during this period of celebration. Best wishes. Teddy Sakupapa

  2. Hi Colin, Glad to hear that you are settling in to Tiberias. I have many fond memories of my time there as a volunteer 15 years ago! I see that my parents, Nan and Arrick Wilkinson have beaten me to a welcoming message, but I hope that your time out in Tiberias is enjoyeble and that you feel God's richest blessings. I hope one day to return to Tiberias, as I have not been back since I left in April 1996. Seems both like yesterday and like a long time ago....Anyway, may God be close to you in your time in Tiberias, Israel is often in my thoughts and prayers.
    Take Care
    Anne Wilkinson (member of Avendale Old, Strathaven)

  3. Hi Colin, it's great to have the blog to keep in touch with what you are doing - so much more immediate. I wish you well with the language training. Many years ago at Uni I briefly entertained the ludicrous notion that I might be able to do Biblical Hebrew. Hah! I lasted three weeks!
    Look forward to hearing (and seeing) more of your work.

  4. Hi Colin. Pleased to read your blog. Am learning things I didn't know. Have a great Christmas.