Jewish Culture

Almonds

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Written by: Erin Parfet
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The end of January and early February tend to be a beautiful time in Israel, with a kaleidoscope of pink and white blossoms peppering the otherwise barren, bronze Israeli hills and valleys characteristic of wintertime, thanks to the abundance of winter rains.

For Israelis, the first almond blossoms tend to impart hope that winter will soon be over and that warmer springtime days are visible on the horizon in the Holy Land. Other flowers also start to bloom with the emergence of springtime, like cyclamens, red anemones, and various wildflowers and grasses, but the almond trees characteristically bloom first. The picturesque flowers will linger for a narrow time frame—2–3 weeks—but then the petals start to fall to the ground as the almond fruits begin to appear and ripen into green almond shells. These almonds are abundant in Israel and the Middle East and are often sold by vendors on street corners and in marketplaces, especially during this late winter season.

Star of David

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Written by: Erin Parfet
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star of davidThe Star of David (also known as the Shield of David or Magen David) is an internationally recognized emblem of both Israel and the Jewish people, though the symbol itself predates being adopted by the world’s oldest monotheistic religion by thousands of years. Found on various synagogues near the Ark containing the Torah scrolls, as well as jewelry, tombstones, coffins, creative art expressions, sculptures, and so forth, the Star of David symbolism helps remind the Jewish people that God will be with them, just as God was with King David and helped him conquer armies of superior military prowess.

Tikkun Olam

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Written by: Erin Parfet
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tool 1957451 1280Tikkun Olam is a Jewish phrase found in the Mishnah, a collection of rabbinic teachings and oral Jewish traditions dating back to the writings of Judah the Prince in the 3rd century, which characterizes social action performed to perfect or repair the world and help those who may be disadvantaged. In the Jewish faith, this moral responsibility to repair the world falls on each individual. Judaism views the mitzvot as defined in the Torah as a means to engage in Tikkun Olam. The practice of Tikkun Olam, an important but not central tenet of Judaism, has also profoundly come to shape Jewish identity and is an undercurrent in modern-day Jewish social and political movements.

Yiddish

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Written by: Erin Parfet
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The Yiddish (“Jewish”) language, derived from medieval west High German but also intermingled with Hebrew, Aramaic, and different Slavic and Romance languages, became the vernacular of the Ashkenazi Jews (Jewish people of German or Eastern European origin). The language has evolved over the centuries, richly influencing Jewish literature, theater, and music.