During whirlwind holiday, ultra-Orthodox pour into segregated Israeli beaches

The Sea of ​​Galilee Authority and the Ministry of the Interior opened an additional beach in the north for a period of three weeks. The beach will offer separate swimming times for women and men to accommodate ultra-Orthodox holidaymakers.

August 8 marked the beginning of “bein ha-zmanim,” “between times,” or semester break for yeshiva students. Hundreds of thousands of yeshiva students, who during “zman” (literally “time”, what they call semester in the yeshiva world) dutifully poring over the Talmud, closing their books and venture out during their brief summer vacation, which lasts exactly three weeks.

Contrary to its studious image, the yeshiva world takes vacations seriously. Danny, an American studying at the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem, told Al-Monitor: “I planned my vacation well in advance. A group of us have gathered and we will be walking large parts of the Israel Trail, visiting nature reserves and beaches, and my goal is to complete bein ha-zmanim with a deep familiarity with the sites of the Land of Israel, North and South.”

Danny said he was considered a prodigy in his yeshiva and did not give up his Talmud. “We study in the morning, but from 1 p.m. every day we go on a day trip. Yesterday we visited Masada and the Dead Sea, today Nahal Dragot and Ein Gedi and tomorrow we will be in the north. Just as we strive to study during zman, we strive to study bein ha-zmanim, which we consider to be a zman in itself.

He explained, “I think a young man who expends his energy during bein ha-zmanim comes back refreshed and can study better during zman itself. Thus says the verse of Isaiah [40:31]: ‘But those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. They will ascend with wings like eagles.

Danny and his peers flocked to single-sex nature reserves, beaches and swimming parks, ultra-Orthodox families picnicked, and took over city parks in Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Raanana, Kiryat Shmona and Rosh Pina.

However, many places are not accessible to the ultra-Orthodox public. They can only visit places where modesty is respected, and many also ensure that the site does not violate the Sabbath. Then, of course, there are budget limits. The ultra-Orthodox community, along with Israeli Arabs, is the poorest group in Israeli society, and many families have multiple children. In the few places they can visit, there are huge crowds.

Take beaches, for example. “In Israel, there are no less than 115 bathing beaches,” Knesset member Rabbi Uri Maklev of the United Torah Judaism party told Al-Monitor. “But only 14 separate beaches are available to the ultra-Orthodox. Since on each of these beaches the lifeguard can only monitor a limited area of ​​150 meters, the masses have to pile up in small pieces of sand and sea, and it is no wonder that they are full to the brim.

On all of Israel’s segregated beaches, whether in Ashdod, Tel Aviv Sheraton Beach or Ashkelon, the crowds are like nowhere else. On the separate beach of Ashkelon, tens of thousands of people gather, arriving by public and organized buses from all over the country. Black waves of swimmers rise and fall with the water, while on the beach there is not an inch of free sand. Everything is occupied by people or bags of clothes, because there are not enough changing rooms for the many bathers.

The Jerusalem Shepherd family was sitting on the beach. They arrived in Ashdod by public transport in the morning, and the boys went to the beach while the girls and their mother went to nearby Ashdod Yam Park. “It’s interesting here,” said the children, delighted to have met cousins ​​and friends from all over the country. In the evening, the two halves of the family get together and grill dinner in one of the area’s parks, which is likely full of ultra-Orthodox day trippers from across the country to the southern city.

People from Ashdod, on the other hand, can be found in Jerusalem. There is a very common practice among the ultra-Orthodox of changing apartments during these weeks. Many residents of seaside towns swap their apartments with residents of Jerusalem or Zafed to enjoy a refreshing change of scenery. In any case, in any ultra-Orthodox city, be it Modiin, Beitar, Beit Shemesh and of course the pretty seaside towns of Ashdod or Netanya, local kiosks and synagogues are full of people from outside .

Beaches and parks are not the only places for recreation. In recent years, ultra-Orthodox leadership has allowed greater investment in culture, and bein ha-zmanim has also become a time for ultra-Orthodox filmmakers to fill screening rooms just for women and girls who have purchased tickets in advance and are arriving with family. and friends. These activities are often subsidized by the municipalities via budgets which increase from year to year.

Of course, there are those who go abroad. In recent years, quite a few ultra-Orthodox Israelis have discovered the joys of travel. The destinations are mainly in Europe, especially Switzerland and Austria. However, only a small fraction of the community can afford to travel with the whole family. Several chief rabbis even spend their three-week vacations in posh kosher hotels in Davos.

Although holidays abroad have become more accessible for the ultra-Orthodox – there are a number of companies that offer kosher holiday packages in hotels abroad – most of the ultra-Orthodox community, in especially young people, have never seen the inside of a plane, and vacation for them means somewhere Israel, the Golan Heights in Dimona and Ofakim (Eilat is still out of the question for the ultra-Orthodox, considered too sinful).

Then the beaches, parks and nature reserves empty. On the first day of Elul (August 28 this year), when the shofar is blown in preparation for the Jewish New Year and the cry “Elul!” is heard from the heads of yeshiva, everything is back to normal. The beaches that were crowded the day before are abandoned and desolate.

On this day, Elul zman begins in yeshivas, as well as elementary boys’ schools (girls’ schools coincide with the secular school year, September 1), and the sounds of study resume in classrooms. full class. T-shirts, sun hats and backpacks are stored with sweet holiday souvenirs, until the next bein ha-zmanim.

About Joan Dow

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