Watching Israel reflect and atone

This coming Sunday, Jews around the world begin a 25 hour fast. The holiest day in the calendar, The Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur, is a sombre occasion.

In Israel, the country effectively closes down. And as often happens, the day coincides closely with the end of the month of Ramadan, when Muslims fasted during the hours of daylight.

This is a period for deep inner soul searching. In Judaism, the New Year festival is when you ask for forgiveness from your friends and family. Once that has been done, verbally, you try to scratch a deal with The Higher Authority on Yom Kippur.

No easy task. As my rabbi pointed recently, there are some inherent logical contradictions in the theological process. So it gets complicated.

Specifically, in the Holyland itself, we are a country that has a lot to rethink. Leave aside shaky business decisions for the moment. And despite what Goldstone may believe, neither the Israeli establishment nor overall electorate is out “to get” the Palestinians.

No: I am referring to Israel’s two most former senior statesmen; President Katsav and Prime Minister Olmert. They have both left office through resignation and both are now facing prosecution by the very offices they represented.

For the record, Katsaz is suspected of a series of incidents relating to sexual harassment. Olmert faces 3 sets of charges, related to bribery. With some irony, his trial begun today. Both had considerable support in their day from the non-Jewish sector as well.

Israelis do not have to take responsibility for the alledged crimes. They can blame the individuals or the system or whatever. But then I recall that old phrase: “The people get the politicians they deserve”.

And when you internalise those 7 words, you begin to ask yourself some very painful questions. How did we let the system of strict proportional representation carry on for so long? Why did allow ourselves to accept these people, who clearly had untold background issues. (No – I am not prejudging their present trials)? Why have we been so lazy?  

And of course, there is an underlying implication. Until the country takes it upon themselves to be more ethical, responsive, sincere – or as the same rabbi put it, to be more genuinely empathetic towards others – then we can expect to be served more of the same. Surely not? But there again, in the past month, two former cabinet ministers commenced prison terms.

Matt Rees once wrote that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not and cannot be resolved fully until each society atones for and handles some of its own internal inequities. Inactivity is often just a big a sin and as dangerous as the deed itself!

Now there is something to reflect upon, as your tummy is rumbling with hunger.

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