The Days Of Awe…Al Chait Shechatanu

The Days of Awe…Al Chait Shechatanu

by Gerald A. Honigman

Jews began the “Ten Days of Awe” this year on Wednesday evening, September 28th (days are counted Biblically, a la the evening and the morning were the first day ). Due to the lunar nature of the Hebrew calendar, the dates fall out differently each year on the Western calendar.

The High Holy Days start with Rosh Hashanah and end with Yom Kippur each new year, with a confession of sins (Al Chait Shechatanu) committed in the eyes of G_d. Additionally, it is required that transgressions committed against fellow human beings be addressed separately as well. Without a true turning of the heart in attempts to rectify both (t’shuvah), the confessions and fasts associated with the High Holy Days remain meaningless.

In terms of Arab-Israeli politics, Jews have been accused of countless sins by much of the rest of the world. As is noted in terms of yet another Jewish holiday–Passover–Jews consider it regrettable that any hardship has to be suffered by anyone–even enemies sworn to their destruction.

Yet, even as they symbolically remove drops of wine from their cups at the Passover Seder dinner to diminish the joy of deliverance from bondage, they must take care not to offer apologies for wanting to put an end to their own two thousand year-old nightmare. Too many Jews indeed so indulge…

The rebirth of Israel represents the wish to finally put an end to the horrors of massacres, demonization, forced conversions, expulsions, ghettoization, pogroms, dehumanization, inquisitions, dhimmitude, and such culminating in the Holocaust. Jews finally became weary of being labeled either killers of G_d by the Christian West or kilab yahud (“Jew Dog”) killers of Prophets in the Muslim East and did what was necessary for their own survival in their quest for a small slice of relative justice for themselves…working, with G_d’s timely help, for the resurrection of the Jewish State.

Now, when discussing the Jews’ sometimes flawed struggles to rid themselves of their perpetual scapegoat, victim, and whipping post par exellence status, there is no shortage of critics pointing out such imperfections. Yet, Arabs and their supporters elsewhere offer no confessions and ask no forgiveness from neither G_d nor man for blowing up buses, restaurants, schools, and such–nor beheading infants and slitting the throats of other children and parents in their sleep. On the contrary, they are proclaimed heroes for doing such things.

Indeed, the same folks who loudly proclaim Israel’s “original sin” show no signs of remorse for deliberately targeting innocents, subjugating, enslaving, and/or massacring millions of non-Arab peoples–just in the last half century alone. Furthermore, too often the world at large has generally granted them a free pass. Jews, on the other hand, can honestly say they have repeatedly tried to reach an honorable and just solution to their problems with Arabs.

While wanting to put an end to their own perpetual nakba (as Arabs like to refer to the rebirth of Israel–“the catastrophe”), Jews nevertheless agreed to one compromise after another over the past century so that Arabs could gain their 22nd state ( and second, not first, in “Palestine”). That Arabs want their new, additional state to exist in place of Israel, not along side of it, has always been the problem.

This issue has always involved Arabs not granting anyone else (not only Jews) but themselves political rights in the region…with the possible exception of some of those whom they successfully Arabized and/or Islamized centuries earlier. While this holds true for Turks, Afghanis, Pakistanis and Iranians, for example, this is not the case with Kurds, Black African (Muslim and non-Muslim) Sudanese, and Imazighen/Berbers. For the latter peoples, the issue becomes more of a clash of nationalisms than of religion.

The ongoing forced Arabization process is thus still under way centuries after Arabs burst out of the Arabian Peninsula in their imperial conquests of the region. And while they demand that Jews confess and address their own alleged transgressions, Arabs see their own subjugation, enslavement, forced Arabization, colonization, and/or settlement of other peoples and lands (including in the Mandate of Palestine, where most Arabs were newcomers themselves in the last century) simply in terms of their own alleged just dues.

So, as Rosh Hashanah, the New Year 5772, begins, Jews indeed have a lot–both individually and collectively–to work on and to deal with before G_d and man. The latter will include continuing to try to find an honorable solution to problems involving Arabs. But to do this, they must have true partners for peace–ones who recognize the rights of Jews as well as their own, and understand that others besides Arabs are entitled to a share of justice in the region.

Unfortunately, this is not how Arabs are used to dealing with any of their own competitors. Furthermore, everything that Arabs say, write, teach and preach to their own people works against this ever happening. Under such circumstances, no amount of Israeli concessions will ever be enough.

Until such a day arrives, however, Israel must do what it must do to thrive, not just survive. And one of the demands of this requires Israel to stand up firmly for its own just demands. It was promised, after the attempt on its life in June 1967, that it would never have to return to the suicidal armistice lines imposed upon it in 1949 again…regardless of what President Obama and a perpetually hostile State Department now threaten.

Before the United Nations decides to act to create that 22nd Arab state Mahmoud Abbas recently officially petitioned for, Israel must insist on the UN honoring its own earlier Security Council Resolution (242) from 1967 which promised Israel secure and real borders to replace those fragile lines. A territorial compromise in the disputed territories is thus a must–regardless of what the Arabs and their supporters demand.

This is not to say that all hope must be given up regarding a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israel conflict. But it is to say that deceiving ourselves will only lead to even more serious problems ahead.

Of all of the real sins that Jews must strike their chests and seek forgiveness for during this Holy season, they must remind themselves that the rebirth of the Jewish State and their struggle to survive and live in dignity are not to be counted amongst them. As another Jewish leader whose teachings would later give rise to another religion taught, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

By any reasonable, objective standard, any fair comparison of the Jews’ own imperfections in these regards with those of the very Arabs, Turks, and Iranians who take them to task on such issues is nauseatingly laughable, indeed.

May we all be blessed with a New Year in which all peoples will reach out to find better, more equitable ways to live with each other…

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