On Saturday, during the Feast of Sukkot, October 6, 2012, a meeting of all the Hebrew speaking Catholic communities in Israel took place at Deir Rafat, near Beit Shemesh.

About 200 members of all the various Hebrew and Russian speaking Catholic communities gathered at Deir Rafat, near Beit Shemesh, for a day of the kehillot. This day is the occasion to come together and sing the praises of God and so it was this year too. Our thanks go to all who helped to prepare, especially to prepare the wonderful music that accompanied the day, Benny, Father Rafic and Christina from Jerusalem, Myriam, Luda and Lena from Haifa and all the others who helped in a myriad of ways.


The day began with mass – an especially festive prayer this year because during the course of the prayer a new member joined the Body of Christ. Marian and Daniel from the Beer Sheba community asked baptism for their little baby son, Michael, on this day. The parents and godparents, Mariana and Raful, they too members of the Beer Sheba kehilla, were received at the beginning of the mass and formally asked that little Michael be baptized.


Father David focused his homily on the commandment to be joyful on the Feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles). Joy is the fruit of faith – the one who believes knows that he is not alone in the world and the One who stands with him grants him live and all good. He mentioned that in just a few days the "Year of Faith" will begin in the Church and that we are all invited to deepen our faith in the course of this coming year. At the same time, we celebrate the 50th anniversary since the convening of the Second Vatican Council, which opened the Church to the modern world and also brought about a new relationship with the Jewish people.

Immediately after the homily, the baptism ceremony took place. Michael behaved like a model angel and the congregation participated in the prayer with enthusiasm. Michael was baptized, dressed in white, and his godfather received the light of Christ for him.


At the offering of the gifts, children brought candles, a basket of fruit and also symbols of the work of the Vicariate – a copy of the Kol Rina review, the third volume of the religious education book, "Get to Know the Feasts" and the CD of the kehilla's music – all these fruits of this year's harvest.

Towards the end of the prayer, Father David called Daniele and Matti to come and receive the blessing of those being enlisted in the army. Around them stood their companions from the youth group "Desert Flower" and all those from the kehillot who had been enlisted over the past year were mentioned. After that Father David blessed a painting that had been brought from Warsaw as a contribution to the Haifa community – "Our Mother of the Ghetto". The painting is of a statue of Mary looking over Warsaw Ghetto, a symbol of the victory of good over evil. The painting had been brought by a priest from Warsaw, who serves in a church in which the statue of Mary stands – a statue that stood in one of the churches in the Warsaw Ghetto frequented by Catholic Jews (about the Catholic Jews in Warsaw Ghetto see here). At the end, to the words of a poem by Shoshana, Father David blessed Marian and Daniel, the parents of Michael.


After the prayer, those present toasted the new year with the hope that it would be a year of faith according to the spirit of the Church. Those present then dispersed throughout the courtyard and in the refectory to eat the lunches they had brought with them. This was a time to move around, to catch up on the latest news, to chat, to renew friendships and make new ones.

At 14.00, again everyone gathered and divided up into two groups for the following hour. While one group played a variety of games, animated by Fathers Apolinary and Piotr, the other group went into a small hall in order to hear about the Gertrude Luckner Home in Nahariyah – an old folks' home founded by Elisheva Hemker of the Haifa kehilla (for information on the Home see here)– from Martha, the present director, who is also a member of the Haifa kehilla. In addition, those present could hear a report back about the Youth Group "Desert Flower" regarding their trip to the Taize monastery in France during the summer.

The final prayer focused on the painting "Our Mother of the Ghetto", which had been brought especially from Poland for the occasion. Father Roman, from the Haifa kehilla, told a little of the history of the painting – the churches in the Warsaw Ghetto in which the Catholic Jews prayed until they, like all the Jews in the Ghetto, were exterminated by the Nazis. Father Josef, from Saint Catherine's Church in Warsaw, read a prayer to Mary in front of the painting.


The faithful left the place as evening approached. This place, consecrated to Mary is a sanctuary in which to pray for peace. It is well known to the children of the kehillot as here they have spent the days of the Easter and summer camps. Thanks to the nuns who received us so warmly on this their feast day, of Saint Bruno.

Once again, the kehillot spent a moving day together – a day of joy that strengthens and encourages the members of the kehillot to be witnesses to the joy of the resurrection.