Sukkot Pt. 1 of 3: Ashdod

Starting last Wednesday evening (Oct. 8) was Sukkot, meaning yet ANOTHER vacation from school. This time, a whole week long. It seemed to come up really fast after our other two holidays, and I struggled to figure out my vacation plans. No offense to Ashdod, but there’s not much to do here for a week that I couldn’t get done on a normal weekend, and this would be my last vacation before Chanukah in December.

There were a few nights spent flailing at my keyboard, wondering if I should try travelling in the Desert, working on an organic farm (WWOOFing), or take my chances finding accommodations to explore other cities. In the end, my plans worked out beautifully, and though I still have a few days left, I’m very happy with my past week.

On Wednesday evening, Paul had a family from his school (Rabin) offer to host him and Emily C, the other fellow at Rabin, for a holiday dinner. Emily was going to be away in Jerusalem, so I jumped in the car with Paul and we went to  their house, just next to the “Star Mall.”

Our host, Maya, warned us in the car that her family was, well, Israeli, meaning loud and a little in your face. When we arrived, we were welcomed just as such, and were whisked about the house, the yard and the big outdoor sukkah to meet everyone.

Paul and I take our seats in the sukkah

Paul and I take our seats in the sukkah

More than a few people asked me about my  vegan diet – most concerned was Lili, a tall woman with curly, blonde hair, who was scared to death that I would have nothing to eat – but even the questions that challenged my choices most were in good and curious spirit. Lili came to check on me multiple times during the meal to put more food on my plate (and afterwards we had great, long conversations with everyone, I really like her).

And oh, I had much more than plenty to eat.

Like most large Israeli meals, there were big courses of bread, salads, small plates of hummus and tahina and various veggie spreads, vegetable and grain dishes, and the main meat courses. I feasted pretty hardcore, and ate at least one full plateful of probably the best roasted vegetables I’ve ever had in my life – and that’s saying a lot, if you consider how many times I’ve probably eaten those.

Paul, all the way to the right, and I had a blast talking with the family before and after the meals

Paul, all the way to the right, and I had a blast talking with the family before and after the meals

After the meal, Paul and I entertained the four young girls who are still learning English. We all shared music videos on youtube. We danced in their bedroom. They taught me the cup thing from Pitch Perfect. It was really cute and fun.

As the night wore on, the family insisted that we come back the next day for their BBQ. Paul and I absolutely accepted – we were having the time of our lives!

The next day, we were picked up again and driven to their home. This time around, Paul and I spent a long time talking with Hadar, a prospective Interior Design student our age, and her brother Tamir, who is at the end of his high school career. It was great to get to know some people our age, and we exchanged phone numbers to keep in touch.

A quick glimpse of the delicious and fresh salads brought to the table

A quick glimpse of the delicious and fresh salads brought to the table

I’m not sure if I ate more at the dinner or the BBQ, but I was certainly just as delightfully overwhelmed by delicious food and good company. This time around, I made vegan double chocolate chip cookies to bring for the dessert table. I received many compliments, which made me feel really good – Hadar was especially happy that she could eat them, as they contained no dairy after the meat meal. When I told others that the secret ingredient was avocado, they couldn’t believe it and passed around the plate, making everyone try the tasty, magically vegan cookies.

Hadar and Tamir invited us back to their house today for our final celebratory meal of Sukkot. I asked Hadar if Emily C, the original guest, and Todd, who has no other invitation, could join, and she assured me they could. She will pick us all up at 1pm today, and I’m very excited to go spend more time with this wonderful, welcoming family in Ashdod.

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