1157590_punica The chagim can be a wonderful break from routine; an opportunity to spend time with family, eat good food, take a look back at the year gone past and look forward to the year to come. 

 Of course, it is not always and for everyone the celebratory experience we would hope for.  Dr Darnel, a Psychiatrist at the Asaf Harofeh hospital, comments on the many families in Israel who find the chagim particularly difficult. In addition to the stress and balagan of preparation and entertaining and the sometimes overwhelming combination of personalities at the dinner table, for families who have experienced difficulties, the chagim can be extremely challenging. How do you react to your recently divorced cousin? Do you sit in the empty chair of your lost family member? Do you ask your long-term looking-for-work brother-in-law if he has any leads? How do you cope with the difficulties you experience with your family in this concentrated environment?

 Dr Darnel writes that it is important in these situations we remember that such intense family get-togethers are rare and temporary. He encourages the reader to come to the chag with empathy, respect and patience and, very importantly, to think before speaking.

 But what about those without family in Israel? Chagim can be an especially difficult time for olim and other foreigners living here. Even if family occasions weren’t always perfect back home, suddenly being far away from them and with new traditions and new ways of doing things, they can seem very nostalgic or ‘right’. A chag can become a very lonely time, particularly when you look around and everyone else seems so busy and happy.

 If the chagim are tough for you there are a few things that may help. Firstly, try not to be alone as much as possible. Take advantage of the famous Israeli hospitality and if you have been offered a dinner invitation, try to accept. If this is not an option, you could try to arrange to be with other people who are alone for chag, perhaps seeing friends who are olim chadashim, or going to something organised for the community through one of the olim organisations or religious groups.

 It is important to make sure you have plans, even if they are simply to finish that book you keep meaning to, and to be in touch with those that you miss. If you find yourself extremely upset over the chagim and you become concerned about yourself, then give Eran (the hotline for emotional support) a call.

 However you spend your chag I hope it is a chag sameach and a shana tova!

 

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