A tradition it has become – to gather the members of the different kehillot during Sukkot in order to celebrate together and give thanks.

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About 150 members of the different Hebrew and Russian speaking Catholic communities in Israel came together on Saturday, October 15, 2011, for a day of thanksgiving, celebration, prayer and fun at the Church of Our Lady Ark of the Covenant in Kiryat Yearim. All ages were represented but a special joy was to have a number of members who experienced their first Sukkot, having been born in the past year.

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The day began with a joyful celebration of the Eucharist. All the priests of the kehillot and a number of others concelebrated with Father David, Vicar of the communities. The readings were especially chosen for this mass on the occasion of Sukkot, Leviticus 23:39-44, Psalm 122, Colossians 1:12-20, John 7:37-39. Father David focused in his homily on the reasons why Sukkot is a day of celebration for us, as Hebrew speaking Catholics in Israel. Not only is this feast a feast celebrated by the Jewish people and as such a feast that Jesus celebrated. It also has a profound significance for us. It celebrates the memory of forty years in the Wilderness, when Israel experienced that everything was from God – food, drink, clothes, shoes – and the sukkah was a sign of this dependence on God. However, Sukkot is also the feast on which it is commanded to be happy (cf. Leviticus 23:40). This reminds us of our vocation as disciples of Christ: to be happy. We might find a thousand reasons to be sad but Christ is risen and so we must rejoice. Finally, Sukkot is an eschatological feast. In the Book of Zachariah, Sukkot becomes the feast at the end of time when all nations go up to Jerusalem together with the people of Israel. Our kehillot are already a sign of this reality of the unity of humanity going up to worship God. This reality is still a promise but looking around us, at the diversity of the members of our kehillot, we can see the promise is already beginning to be fulfilled.

The Eucharistic celebration continued with a procession of the children bringing the gifts to the altar. One boy read a blessing over the harvest and prayed that the fruits of the next year might be plentiful. The entire mass was celebrated in an out pouring of joy, accompanied by the wonderful singing of a group that brought together members of the kehillot from Jerusalem, Haifa and Beer Sheba. Special mention might be made of the director the music, Benny, and the soloists: Magali from Jerusalem, Myriam from Haifa and Lena, Luda and Olga also from Haifa.

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There was the opportunity to thank God for new blessings in our communities: new priests who have joined us (Fathers Sergey, Olivier and Nicola), new babies born since last year, new musicians who have joined us, a renewed youth group, a new parish community in Tiberias….

At the end of mass, all present raised a glass of wine in blessing and toasted the new year. Then there was a time to enjoy the picnic lunch that had been prepared by each family.

The afternoon began with dividing up into groups (6 in number) and sharing on the experience of the Holy Spirit. Texts were meditated upon in order to inspire the sharing. Meanwhile, the young people who had come, animated activities for the children and their spirits ran high as children who knew each other from the summer camp were able to recapture some moments of fun.

At the end of the day, the young people came together as a group, 8 members of “Wild Flower”, in order to share some photos and some experiences from the World Youth Day trip to Spain. Six of the young people took turns in recalling moments of the trip and then affirming together their determination to continue together as a group.

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This wonderful day together ended with prayer animated by Father Gioele accompanied by a song from the youth group. However, the final singer was a young boy who suddenly overcame his shyness and sang out loud and clear: “Whoever believes has no need to fear”.