Vancouver Sun Editorial, Sept. 4, 2013
SFSC Note: This editorial has been removed from the Vancouver Sun website.
At sundown Wednesday, Jews began to celebrate the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, although celebrate might not be quite the right word. The Jewish new year marks the beginning of a 10-day period of introspection, reflection and contemplation known as the Days of Awe which ends with the fast of Yom Kippur. While it is not a sad time, solemnity is the flavour of the festival. Rosh Hashanah and the days that follow are about atonement, asking forgiveness for transgressions against God and fellow human beings and seeking spiritual renewal.
Other than the weekly Sabbath, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are considered the holiest days on the Jewish calendar and a majority of Jews, even those who rarely set foot in a synagogue and are otherwise unaffiliated, feel the need to come home to their faith and join their community in prayer.
This year, it might be more difficult than usual to concentrate on the holiday’s themes of sovereignty of God, remembrance of the Covenant at Sinai and redemption. European Jewry is facing increasing anti-Semitism; one recent survey found more than 150 million citizens of the European Union hold anti-Semitic views. The situation has become so dire that some observers are warning Jews to leave Europe now. Others are urging restraint, noting that the litmus test the EU uses for anti-Semitism is a demonic view of Israel.
According to Robert Wistrich, a leading authority on anti-Semitism: “A person who says (that Israel is waging a war of extermination against Palestinians) is a) a complete idiot, b) doesn’t know what a war of extermination looks like and c) doesn’t know the first thing about the Holocaust or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It doesn’t tell me he’s an anti-Semite; it tells me he’s a bloody fool and a complete ignoramus. And I can well believe that there are 150 million idiots in the European Union. But I don’t necessarily assume they’re all anti-Semites.”
Wistrich’s analysis may be small comfort to Vancouver’s Jews who, thanks to TransLink, can’t avoid confronting a malicious, offensive and fallacious ad campaign that does demonize Israel, denies its right to exist and dishonestly implies ethnic cleansing. [One] spokeswoman for seven Vancouver-based groups calling themselves the Palestine Awareness Coalition, which sponsored the ads, is a self-professed Communist, is an ardent supporter of Hamas and has declared Israeli schoolchildren legitimate targets for suicide bombers. One needs to ask if TransLink did its due diligence.
Meanwhile, Israel finds itself surrounded by conflict in which it played no part. And, worse, there is no positive outcome regardless of what happens in Syria, Egypt or other Arab countries.
Demographic studies show that the Jewish population growth rate is zero, with more than 80 per cent living in North America or Israel. According to researchers at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, sometime between 2030 or 2040, the majority of Jews will be living in Israel.
If Israel is the future of the Jewish people, as demographics suggest, then demonizing Israel is demonizing Jews — and that is anti-Semitism.
So Rosh Hashanah contains some important messages in this context. One, from the afternoon prayer on Rosh Hashanah (the Musaf Amida), says Israel must teach fundamental morality and ethical monotheism to the world; another is that the interrupted slaughter of Isaac symbolizes the survival of the Jewish people despite persecution, exile and threats to its existence; and that they must survive to serve as a light unto the nations, as set out in the Book of Isaiah.
There is a tradition on Rosh Hashanah of dipping apple into honey in hopes for a sweet year. That is our hope for the State of Israel and the Jewish people.