The beach was lovely this morning, as I went through my friend's manuscript and learned quite a lot more about Haifa from it. Apparently the city is known as Little Odessa, which doesn't surprise me at all.
The home help is from one of the warmer parts of the former Soviet Union and was cold in the appartment. It must be about 10-15 degrees warmer outside than in at present. She asked for next Tuesday off because of New Year. This isn't because she'll be celebrating it, but because her children will be learning about secular New Year as part of their lessons about ABROAD and will be enacting gift-giving and other typical occurrences of January 1st (let's hope that the drink doesn't get too out of hand). A bit like children in Britain learn about Divali, I suppose.
Then, this evening, we heard the soloists practising the wonderful Ramirez Nativity Cycle - and walked in as they were embarking on my favourite bit, entitled 'Pilgrimage', which is all about the dangerous journey of Mary and Joseph, but sounds more like a very romantic love song to me - South American style!
And after our own choral rehearsal of Borodin in impossible Russian (luckily the girl next to me explained some of the words), out came two huge boxes of chocolates, in honour of the holiday period. The chocolates were Russian and the conductor checked with an expert that they were kosher, before also producing some chocolate Father Christmases, which he assured us were actually Russian babushkas.
In the much-needed break, I asked a religious member of the choir what he felt about singing a Nativity Cycle in a public performance. He said that as it was in Spanish he didn't understand it, but that he didn't feel 100% right about it. I also asked about the celebration of Christmas and he said that some of the choir were Christians and that doughnuts had been consumed at Chanukah two weeks earlier (when I couldn't attend, as I'd lost my voice).
The guy also pointed out that in diaspora what defines being Jewish is keeping apart from other religious groups, whereas here being Jewish means being Israeli, which often leads to the religious aspect becomes diluted. He also said that he was concerned with the Bahai Temple and Gardens being so aesthetically pleasing. He had watched volunteers slaving away there, he said, and practically worshipping the fruit of their endeavours.
I'm sure there's more to the Bahai Faith than that, but all I know is that although our choir is mainly secular in character and I'm sure the music is chosen purely for its great sound and singability, the result is pure magic. And for me, the chocolates were the icing on the cake!
Meanwhile, if you are keen on a bit of a joke, read this article from today's Guardian (where else) by a disgruntled Muslim:
I'm still waiting to hear if Tony and Cherie (from my home town of Liverpool) will be attending our gorgeous concert, by the way. Will keep you posted.