image Photo: Flash90

Israel celebrates Jewish New Year

Israelis are joining Jews around the world in preparing for the start of the High Holy Days, which begin at sundown this evening. 

By Erin Viner

The occasion begins with observance of the beginning of “Days of Awe” and celebration the Rosh Hashanah Jewish New Year of 5782, falling on the first day of the month of Tishrei according to the Hebrew calendar.

The focus of the two-day New Year commemoration is recognition of God as King. Traditional activities include sounding of a ram’s horn, known as a “Shofar” in Hebrew, 100 times. Families gather for festive meals featuring the consumption of symbolic foods, such as apples dipped in honey to represent a “sweet” coming year. Pomegranates are also a holiday favorite, as they are considered one of the Seven Species that are native to Israel, and mentioned many times in the Bible.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog issued a special video holiday greeting to Diaspora Jewry that was subtitled in six languages: English, French, Spanish, Russian, German and Portuguese.

“Dear friends, as we approach the new year, 5782, I would like to extend my warmest wishes on behalf of the State of Israel and its people for a Shanah Tovah, Happy New Year, to you and your loved ones,” said President in the message recorded at his official residence in Jerusalem.

“The cyclical nature of Judaism allows us, the Jewish People, the opportunity to connect to our collective soul and to start anew. Each of us has the privilege to chart our own individual course, and yet at the same time, we depend on each other: on our community, on our congregation, on the power of each of our tefillot, prayers,” he said, underscoring, “So on this Rosh HaShanah, and as we are heading into Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, I will be praying for the wellbeing of my immediate family as well as my extended family: the people of Israel and the Jewish People at large.”

After expressing his wish that, “you all, dear brothers and sisters from around the world, a year of health and of coming together,” President Herzog added, “Take care of each other and know that Israel is your home away from home and we are all looking forward to seeing you in our beloved country, Israel. May you all be inscribed in the Book of Life, and may you all enjoy a happy, healthy, and joyous new year. Shanah Tovah U’Metukah (the Hebrew salutation for wishing a “good and sweet coming year”).

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also issued a special message for the Jewish New Year, in which he underscored “many good reasons to be proud this Rosh Hashanah.”

In recognition of the formation of his diverse coalition of left-wing, centrist, right-wing and Arab parties in June after 4 divisive national elections in 2 years, Bennett expressed pride in “our ability as a people to unite and join hands.

“I am very proud of our new government – a government of much goodwill, a government that cooperates and is coordinated and balanced, that works only for the benefit of the people, and in which ministers do not bear grudges against each other,” he said.

In contrast to last year’s observance of the New Year under the second of three nationwide lockdowns to prevent spread of the coronavirus, Bennett said he was also proud that, “we fought for the livelihoods of the citizens of Israel and have reached the beginning of this year without lockdowns, in contrast to the previous waves in which the country was in lockdown. This was not easy, neither was it perfect, but with G-d’s help, we succeeded. You can go to work or relax at home, in a hotel or restaurant, or arrange to go out with friends according to the directives. The country is open and this was not a given. It is still too early to celebrate, we have a long campaign ahead of us, but we take each step and deal with it.”

Bennett also used the occasion to commend his government’s ability “to safeguard our education system and cultivate the future generation of the State of Israel” by creating conditions that permitted the return of 2.5 million students and preschoolers to class on 1 September.

Other achievements highlighted by the Israeli leader included the formulation of a new state budget following years without one; strengthening links with the United States and President Joe Biden, in particular, and of existing alliances, as well as the “laying the foundations for new alliances.”

“I am proud of the soldiers of the IDF and the personnel of the security services who work near and far so that the miracle called ‘the State of Israel’ may continue to radiate strength, and will continue to defend and protect the citizens of our country,” emphasized Bennett, adding, “And mainly, I am proud of you, citizens, for placing confidence in this government and giving it your backing. I have also seen you on the issue of vaccines, going to get vaccinated because you know that the third dose will give you health and protection, and will allow us to open the economy. I very much appreciate this.”

Prime Minister Bennett also stressed importance of observing governmental guidelines against COVID during his remarks at the start of his weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday.

“We are on the threshold of a new year. We hope that it will be a better and calmer year than its predecessor. We will welcome it together, everyone with their family,” he said.

After pointing out that “2.5 million Israelis have already received the third dose of the vaccine” while “the world has yet to decide what it is doing and is still deliberating,” he went on to caution against complacency.

“It is precisely now that, in this period that is so close, we need to be even stricter about masks and distancing and to uphold the directives of the education system,” said the Israeli leader, urging the pubic to carry out “several specific emphases ahead of the holiday.” These include self-testing if children under 12 who are not vaccinated attend synagogue services or extended family meals alongside their grandparents, and observance of all “Green Pass” restrictions at houses of worship and other venues.

“Friends, a very challenging year has ended. A new year is beginning that I hope will be calmer and a little more conciliatory,” said Bennett, stressing, “From here, I would like to send to the people of Israel greetings for the New Year, a year in which we will see what unites, not what divides, and in which we will emphasize what we have in common and always remember that beyond all disagreements – we are brothers.”

“May we have a good and sweet year,” Israel Prime Minister wished the public.