As Israel begins the New Year 5772, Israel is positioned in the nexus of the world. Our tiny nation is not only in the geographical heart of the globe and at the epi-center of international attention, but also at the very core of innovation, a leader in global commerce and technology. Israel is also at the very apex of indifference by the nations of the world to historical memory and truth, so vividly expressed in recent weeks at the United Nations. Yet despite the almost presumed trouncing and defeat that Israel was forewarned she would endure, we the Jewish nation, the homeland of the Jewish people emerged on the eve of Rosh Hashanah unscathed while successfully sharing with those willing to listen and appreciate our existential needs as a sovereign Jewish state.
For anyone paying attention during the tenuous days at the UN to the actual words spoken, the evidence of indifference to historical truth was never more evident than in Muhammad Abbas’s speech. His people, he declared, have been suffering for 63 years. What exactly happened 63 years ago? The state of Israel was established and came into being. So what Abbas was saying was that the absence of a state called Palestine was not the problem. The problem for him and for supporters everywhere was the very existence of the state of Israel.This seemingly innocent omission about 63 years of suffering enabled even the most ardent critics of Israel to question and reject the Arab narrative as propagated by Abbas.
So as we move beyond the news reports and headlines that emanated from New York, we can once again focus on our preparations for this very special period in the Jewish calendar. Below the surface, away from the limelight, far away from the headlines, amazing forces are to be found within our nation as reported by the author Avi Rath. Those who live amid our people know that below the surface one discovers immense forces of mercy, kindness and goodness. Those who toured Jerusalem in recent days, or more accurately in recent nights, near the Kotel, could not but be moved by the tens of thousands of Jews arriving at all hours of the evening: Ranging from military units to young children, from longtime citizens to new immigrants. Members of all ages, ethnic groups, religious streams, professions and styles gathering every night near the Temple’s remnants. Tens of thousands of visitors, who arrived in order to connect, communicate, safeguard their heritage and tradition. They came to pray and reinforce their identity based on a deep, inner Jewish instinct, out of a desire to connect to something eternal, significant and spiritual.
Avi Rath continues with his observations; We have been inundated in recent days with stories of how much compassion there is around . The Israeli taxi driver, who makes sure to offer at least one free ride every day. He seeks out an elderly man or woman at poor neighborhoods and offers them a ride. Or at a kiosk serving falafel the seller mentions that he feeds several passersby every day; people who appear hungry and poor. You also hear about I.D.F. commanders who visit their lone or poor soldiers in their homes and fill their refrigerators with food, or host them, or arrange medical care for them. You hear about doctors who arrive to hospital at night, on their time off, in order to see how a patient is doing. You hear about mechanics who converted their garages into a warehouse for food distribution to the poor. These people are all around us all the time. Suddenly, you realize how much genuine goodness exists just below the surface, all typical untold headlines. So, this Rosh Hashana, when we seek to be judged favorably, we must first say favorable things about the people of Israel. It is this inheritance that belongs to everyone. Whether we live in Five Towns, or in Seattle, or in Cleveland, or in Jerusalem, we remain faithful to our sense of community, remaining united, strengthening one another. We are called upon at this time to account for our actions and our failures to act and to improve our faithfulness to our people, to our laws and to God.
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is a kind of clarion call, a summons to the Ten Days of Penitence which culminate in the Day of Atonement... Yom Kippur is the supreme moment of Jewish time, a day of fasting and prayer, introspection and self-judgement. At no other time are we so sharply conscious of standing before God, of being known. Jewish liturgy tells us that the fate of all human beings is decided during these Days of Awe but it also says that teshuva (repentance), tefilla (prayer) and tzedaka (acts of justice and charity) may avert the severe decree. In that spirit of reflection and dedication, I reach out to my readers and wish us all a G'mar Chatima Tova