Saturday, September 18, 2010

Yom Kippur

From Fred & Gloria Strickert           

Silence. Rest. Peace. That’s Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. A time to end quarrels. A time to make amends. A time for fasting and asking forgiveness at the beginning of the Jewish year, now ten days old after Rosh Hashanah.

This year Yom Kippur falls on a Saturday, Shabbat. So it’s a day of rest squared, or, more likely, the day of rest to the seventh power. Though a poll taken last week by Haaertz newspaper confirms that by far the majority of Israeli Jews are secular, Israelis take this day seriously, for many the one day of the year to attend synagogue, to hear the blowing of the Shofar, and to recite the Kol Nidre. For the die-hard secularists, the long weekend provides a good excuse to get out of town for a trip to the Mediterranean seacoast.

In Jerusalem, the significance of the day is obvious for all—Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike. No TV. No radio. Driving is forbidden. The streets are barricaded. Even where we are in East Jerusalem, shops are closed and only an occasional taxi passes by. In the more secular coastal city Acre a riot broke out two years ago when an Arab drove his car through a Jewish neighborhood. So for us, it’s a quiet day at home alone reading.

In the traditional spirit of “building a fence around the law” buses stopped running at mid-afternoon Friday, shopkeepers closed up at noon, tour groups made the rounds on Thursday to head north to Galilee, and check-points from the West Bank were closed already the previous midnight. One of our church staff traveled an extra ten miles out of his way to reach work on Friday, others could not make it at all.

The sun set at 5:38 p.m. Friday night, beginning the fast--now that daylight savings time has ended—seeming so early for mid-September. Sitting outside and observing the city from our Mount of Olives perch, we noticed the high-rise office buildings of West Jerusalem off in the distance shrouded in darkness. Closer down the valley, we spotted red and green traffic signals now flashing amber. Gazing to the northwest, and down upon “Settler highway # 1” that tunnels under the Mount of Olives to the mega-settlement Ma'ale Adumim, not a car or truck was in sight. And looking southwest toward the old city below and the lighted Dome of the Rock upon the mammoth remains of the Herodian temple platform, we could only imagine what it must have been like two thousand years ago, and earlier, when the high priest donned his special robes, and, for that one day only, entered the Holy of Holies, while the crowds filled with awe stood by in sacred silence.

24 hours of silence, 24 hours of rest, 24 hours of peace.
So why not peace for the entire year?

Fred & Gloria Strickert