Our calendar consists of twelve months – the amount of time it takes the Earth to complete one full cycle around the sun. The 365 days of the year are divided into four different seasons, each of which complements another: winter and summer, spring and autumn. Each season is characterized by its own typical weather, changes in the animals and plants and by its designated songs. Every season creates a certain type of atmosphere. In Israel the transitional seasons –autumn and spring – are short and often bring surprising weather changes.
Leah Naor and Moshe Wilensky wrote the theme song for the children's television program Carousel, which described the seasons of the year:
"So come whirl round on the carousel
Down and up and all around,
So come whirl round on the carousel
In summer, winter, autumn and spring..."
The Hebrew calendar year begins in the autumn. The year opens with the Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah festivals. There is a feeling of change in the air. Summer is over. The weather is unstable. There are windy and rainy days but also hot, dry, dusty days. The fields are arid and colorless after the heat of summer.
Most of the numerous songs that have been written about the autumn are sad. Falling leaves, grey weather. It is a romantic season of lovers.
"Don't be embarrassed, be sad, don't be sorry if you're sorry, it's that kind of season, it's just the autumn and it will pass" wrote Yehiel Mohar in his poem "Autumn Wind".
But autumn is also a time of new beginnings. Autumn flowers bloom everywhere and the skies fill with birds.
"With the autumn the birds returned, from beyond the desert, beyond the mountains" wrote Yoram Taharlev of the migrating birds, some of which pass through the skies of Israel on their way south to warmer climates while others remain here throughout the winter.
"The chill of morning, the shriek of the crow, awakened me. And I know not why holiday joy suddenly came upon me " wrote poet Haim Nachman Bialik (from Songs of Winter). Winter is the coldest season, and it brings the rain. Each year we wait and hope for abundant winter rains and look forward to using our warm blankets, boots, umbrellas and coats. "Come rain!" sang the IDF Nachal entertainment troupe, lyrics by Tirza Atar and melody by Alona Turel.
Snow falls in Jerusalem and on the high mountain peaks. Water gushes in the rivers and even in the previously dry riverbeds. The Israeli landscape turns from dry grey to bright green. The green orchards are dotted with orange and yellow citrus fruit.
The days grow shorter as the nights lengthen. But we still enjoy clear warm days, as opposed to countries far to the north where the sun barely shines at all during the winter months.
Good visibility, clear crisp air, the "smell of rain" – and the green landscape fills with flowers: Shoshana Damari sang "Anemones, anemones, reddish red-haired anemones, graceful anemones" in the wonderful song by Natan Alterman and Moshe Wilensky.
Spring symbolizes blooming and renewal. In Jewish tradition, spring is also connected to the exodus from Egypt, the Jews' liberation from slavery, as we celebrate Passover, which is also known in Hebrew as the Festival of Spring. There is an atmosphere of awakening, new clothes, new shoes. Winter is over and a new season is here. "Great joy, great joy, spring has arrived and Passover is here", wrote children's poet Levin Kipnis.
The wildflowers that began to bloom in the winter and came into full blossom in the spring are joined by the wonderful blossoming of almond trees, as well as deciduous fruit trees and more. Israel is filled with the sweet scent of its citrus trees.
Israel's first modern city, Tel Aviv, was named for the spring ("aviv" in Hebrew). This is a brilliant translation by Nachum Sokolov of the name of Theodor Herzl's book Altneuland (old-new land), in which Herzl foresees the development and renewal of the Jewish people in Eretz Israel.
"Here the spring is two days old, here the spring shall die young. Anyone who remains indoors is either disabled or a monk", sang Naomi Shemer lovingly of our brief spring.
Summer is the driest and hottest season of the year. The days are longer. The green and colorful landscapes give way to grey hues and dryness after the first heat waves of summer.
But in the fields crops ripen and summer fruit appears in orchards, a celebration of flavors and colors. Naomi Shemer describes the fruit stalls in the "Market Song": "There are mountains of watermelons next to hills of apples".
Summer is children's favorite season. They are finally on holiday, there is time for hiking, trips and having fun. Lots of free time. Summer means going to the beach, taking a dip in the cool blue water and building castles in the sand.
Author, translator and poet