Thursday, September 21

Rosh Hashanah Thoughts

While everybody sits with their families on Rosh Hashanah eve, there may be time to even think about the significance of Rosh Hashanah 1 for many of us. Rosh Hashanah and the Ten Days of Repentance 2 afterwards until Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement - the day of fasting) is a time of reflection.

It is a time when we should be thinking of all the incidents that have occurred over the past year to the detriment of mankind with an emphasis on where we can improve matters that will be beneficial to all mankind irrespective of race, colour or creed. During the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, everyone gets a chance to put things right with other people before asking God's forgiveness 3.

Here in Israel, we view ourselves as “a Light unto the Nations” or as in Hebrew “אור לגוים”. In many respects within Israel itself, apart from the amazing contributions to medicine, computer chips, science and technology as well as token missions to countries, who have suffered from wars and natural disasters, we have failed in our relationships with our own population within Israel.

If we look at the way Israel has treated the refugees, who have fled their countries of origin, because of severe persecution by despotic regimes that threaten their lives and that of their offspring. Israel has not shown them the mercy that they deserve. They are viewed as and referred to as “infiltrators” which is so derogatory. When Jews fled Nazi Germany and were refused entry into many countries in the West, this was viewed by Jews living in the free world as disgraceful and correctly so. Much lobbying was carried out by Jewish leaders in the free world to get these Jewish refugees entry permits to allow them entry into countries that restricted immigration of Jews. Can one imagine the outcry if these people were referred to as “infiltrators”? Why in Israel, where much of the population’s parents including parents of some members of the present Knesset had to flee their countries of origin for similar reasons, there is such lack of sensitivity towards Sudanese and Eritrean refugees?  Draconian laws are introduced to prevent them from seeking shelter so that their lives could be saved 4. We in Israel have forgotten where we have come from and that we were once refugees in the Diaspora.

There is also a trend of increased racism and intolerance towards those who are different from mainstream (or what is accepted as such). There is the concept of “Sinat Hinam”(שנאת חינם) or “Unjustifiable Hatred” This is most visible in Israel’s society of today. The lack of tolerance for those who do not conform to the present government line, whether it is culture, Judaism (used by the various religious parties as an instrument of blackmailing the government for their own narrow religious political interests and agendas). The hatred of non-Orthodox streams in Judaism (Reform and Conservative) by the establishment Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Rabbinate is deplorable.

These streams are not recognized as legitimate and their rabbis cannot marry couples according to their interpretation of Judaism. They have not been allotted a place at the Western Wall, where they can have egalitarian prayer services, despite promises by PM Netanyahu, who reneged on the agreement to give non-Orthodox streams of Judaism a place to pray at the Western Wall 5.  It is a disgrace that the Government of Israel with all its blah-blah about Israel “being the only democracy in the Middle East” denies non-Orthodox streams in Judaism to practice in total freedom and not recognizing their rabbis to perform marriages. Members of Reform 6 and Conservative 7 congregations in the Diaspora applying to marry in Israel must find an Orthodox rabbi to vouch for them since the Chief Rabbinate does not accept letters of certification from non-Orthodox rabbis 8.

The hypocrisy and double standards of the Chief Rabbinate is a disgrace and is far from the spirit of Judaism in its widest possible interpretation according to the School of Hillel. They have “blacklists” of rabbis that they do not recognize from the Diaspora 9. Many are Orthodox and of course Reform and Conservative. The Chief Rabbinate denies this but can one believe them 10. ?

This is estranging many Jews from the US, the majority of who are Reform and Conservative. However, when it comes to money that these non-Orthodox streams donate to causes in Israel, that is “Kosher” of course.

Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians in the occupied territories also adds some moral questions as to whether the treatment they receive is fair and reasonable 11. Nobody denies that this is a very problematic issue and it is very difficult if not impossible to examine this emotional issue without getting into some argument in an attempt to be unbiased and objective. There are security issues involved and in order to maintain the safety of both Israelis and Palestinians in the shadow of Palestinian terrorist attacks on innocent people within the Green-line and beyond is a tremendous challenge that involves many moral issues as well. However, the question remains as to whether it is morally acceptable to rule over a people and keep them disenfranchised under Israeli rule.  It is morally unacceptable no less than the desire of Hamas to destroy Israel and not to recognize Israel’s right to exist. If there are no negotiating partners on both sides of the conflict with no genuine desire to end it, there is no real answer. The only option from Israel’s side is to treat the Palestinian People as humanely as possible at checkpoints until both sides reach their senses and are prepared to negotiate a just and lasting peace that satisfies both sides to the conflict.

  1. "Rosh Hashanah - Wikipedia." Accessed 20 Sep. 2017. 
  2. "Ten Days of Repentance - Wikipedia." Accessed 20 Sep. 2017.
  3. Accessed 20 Sep. 2017.
  4.  "Israel: Drop City Ban on Released Eritreans, Sudanese | Human ...." 31 Aug. 2015, Accessed 20 Sep. 2017.
  5. "Chief Rabbinate of Israel | The Times of Israel." Accessed 20 Sep. 2017.
  6. "Reform Judaism - Wikipedia." Accessed 20 Sep. 2017.
  7. "Conservative Judaism - Wikipedia." Accessed 20 Sep. 2017.9 Jul. 2017, 
  8. Accessed 20 Sep. 2017.
  9.    "Israeli Chief Rabbinate blacklists 160 Diaspora rabbis - Israel News ...." 9 Jul. 2017, Accessed 20 Sep. 2017.
  10. "Chief Rabbinate says list of rabbis not a 'blacklist' | The Times of Israel." Accessed 20 Sep. 2017.
  11. "Israel's Treatment of the Arabs in the Occupied Territories | The ...." Accessed 20 Sep. 2017.

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