It was another year’s chagim spent abroad, away from Israel where Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipur (and Simcha Torah and Shemini Atzeret and Succot…) are a matter of course; where in a spiritual analog of the Soviet agents who once visited America and pointing in any direction were astonished to be taken to a supermarket stuffed with food, so in Israel in any direction that can be pointed to a synagogue lies; where the Days of Awe do not require instructions on the packaging: It was another year for me away from those kinds of comfort.
This year’s Yom Kipur found me in Australia. The year before was South Africa. The year before that the south of France, and the year before that Central America. (Yes, I get around.) In all these places, the chagim are an issue — of security, of buying tickets, in other words of potentially being turned away by a shul packed to capacity and made nervous by all too recent experiences of bombings, stabbings, riots, and various other attacks.
Three years ago in Honduras, where I traveled from Nicaragua since the Sandanistas had burned that country’s last synagogue and no Torah scroll survived, a coup erupted and I had to flee the country at 4 in the morning when the 24 hour-a-day military curfew was lifted for a few hours so people could buy food.
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