December 20, 2010

Christmas longing from Israel to Mandawa

 A painted door at Desert Resort Mandawa

Women painting wall decorations 
in Desert Resort Mandawa

By Hagar Arnon Elbaz of Gilgulim
Here in Israel, we do not celebrate Christmas nor is it our vacation period. But growing up in Jerusalem (a ten minute drive from Bethlehem) made Christmas difficult to ignore. My German grandmother who immigrated to Israel on 1939 had school friends in Germany who used to send her Christmas cards and presents during this period of the year. The shiny cards scattered with gold and glittering with "diamonds" were given to me. I treasured these cards and was sure these were the most beautiful gifts in the entire world. Christmas was like a far away dream. 
Later on, my mother who was a Hebrew teacher was invited on Christmas Eve to the Finnish mission where two of her students served. Oh, this was an unforgettable evening. One should remember that Israel during the sixties of the last century was sort of a grayish place due to its poverty. Those fabulous green, red and gold colors at the mission were so bright and the choir sang as if coming straight from heaven.  We children could hardly breathe from amazement. When I grew up I came to know every church in the old Jerusalem and went to listen to the midnight mass.

 View of Mandawa palaces

For the last ten years I have gone to visit the neighboring Franciscan women's monastery situated on the hill opposite my house. The Mass is sung in Hebrew and Arabic as well as in all the languages spoken by the nuns who come from all over the world.

 Street Routine on Mandawa

But, last year I was in India.  It breaks my heart with longing to think about it, I miss India so much! On Christmas Eve we came back to Delhi from Mandawa.  I want to go back there so much and I will surely will!

Sewing class

This year we are going down to Eilat by the Red Sea. It has nothing to do with Christmas.  I am sure we will meet thousands of tourists who come to Eilat searching for sun in the middle of winter. I feel peculiar not being on the Franciscan monastery for one more Christmas Eve. I promise to send postcards from Eilat.


  1. Wonderful post! I loved reading it and feeling the atmosphere you so masterfully described, it is so amazing to see Christmas in somebody else's eyes, in the eyes of someone who has met its traditions in such a different way from what I'm used to. Really enlightening post, thank you so much for sharing, Hagar.

  2. Yes, a wonderful post my dear friend!

  3. What a beautiful post, Hagar! What places full of spirit and beauty - Jersalem and Mandawa. Thanks for sharing them with us, and hope you enjoyed Eilat, despite those sun-seekers. Happy New Year, everyone!

  4. You see, we live 5 minutes apart and I never knew all this about your life. Thanks for sharing. It's nice to get to know you better.


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