It's not long now till the festival of Yom Kippur: 2 hours to be exact.
I've been invited next door to eat the last meal before the fast and they have also given me some special powder to put in drinks beforehand which apparently makes the fasting all the easier.
I'm eating at 4.00, whilst my daughter in Tel Aviv will be starting as early as 3.00 pm.
With the clocks having been changed last week to accommodate Yom Kippur, it gets dark here at around 6.00 pm, much earlier than in Britain.
Last night, I happened to tune into a programme about the fast on Channel 1. To my utter astonishment, there was Israel's bete noire, former Knesset Speaker
holding forth on all manner of issues, as if he still lived here and were not being accused of betraying the country with some of his more extreme views.
Titbits from him were that Yom Kippur is like a
battery for the whole year
and that (wait for it) he is actually a
I loved this. Just when the Church of England is waking up at long last (having been battered and bullied into it by people like me, I'm afraid) to its roots in Judaism, here comes a rather famous (some would say infamous) Jew from Israel, determined to define himself in terms of Christianity.
What he probably means is that there is no-one between him and his God. But that is a Jewish view in any case, and he does seem to have forgotten the slight problem of Jesus. Maybe he regards Protestants merely as people of the book, much as the Muslims regard us and the Christians.
I suppose that you might call this good interfaith relations, or maybe multiculturalism. I would say, personally, that he is somewhat muddled, and not just about his faith. But, no-one can accuse the media here of being in the hands of the government, or the good and the great.
For as part of the programme, bits of tonight and tomorrow's liturgy appeared on the screen, and to the accompaniment of some very loud and typically Israeli music, various figures from the past year were thrown up on and their sins highlighted in big black letters.
We had former
Haim Ramon MK
and also I think (there were no captions)
former Chief Rabbi, Ovadia Yosef
who, if you remember, had blamed Israeli deaths in last years Lebanon War on the fact that the soldiers concerned hadn't been religious. The caption produced for this one was
'Desecrating God's Name
But what the former Chief Rabbi said wasn't even true. Everyone I know in Haifa has someone in the army and 70% of these friends at least are religious.
Then a famous writer was interviewed about his views on Yom Kippur.. I think it was
And yes, I've just checked the photo on the above link and it is he. For him, only living in Israel, ensures the survival of the Jewish people, whether they are religious or not.
He mentioned the importance of including the Palestinians and the Druze in our thoughts and said he didn't go to synagogue, but that the day still meant something to him.
And then we had a broadcast by
Chief Rabbi Metzger
a bit like the Queen's Christmas Message, I suppose. He gave us a parable of the 'soft' and the 'hard' and said that we should always be 'soft' and not 'hard'. Does this mean, I wonder, that the rabbinic establishment will try to ease the plight of
and deal with all the other matters of a purely internal social nature in the coming year?
He then personally apologized for the fate of the three kidnapped Israeli soldiers, who he mentioned by name, and ended with an apology for the 800,000 Israeli children, who he said lived below the poverty line. When you think the whole country is only 7 million strong, that's an awful lot of children. According to the Jerusalem Post, it's actually 35%, which is unbelievable!
Oh, and he was apparently born in Haifa!
But my favourite comment on Yom Kippur came in a
Jerusalem Post article by Alex Berlyne.
Alex looks very much like a dear friend of mine who is his cousin and lives in Manchester. They also share the same sense of humour. This is how it goes in his Yom Kippur article, entitled
The Holocaust and its post-war aftermath in Kielce and other Polish hellholes was the main motivation for my decision to settle in the newly founded State of Israel, a country which, from the moment I stepped ashore seemed strangely familiar.
Know what he means.
I was bothered for months by a nagging sense of deja vu.
Then the penny dropped.
I had once come across a letter written by James Fenimore Cooper to his friend Horatio Greenough as long ago as 1820. "You are in a country n which every man swaggers and talks, knowledge or no knowledge, brain or no brains, taste or not taste," he wrote. "They are all ex nato connoissuers, politicians, religionists, and every man's equal and all men's betters."
James Fenimore Cooper was, of course, castigating the rude inhabitants of the infant United States.
Couldn't describe Israel better myself. When you realise that 98% of what you are told, hear, receive by e-mail, or in the post should be completely disregarded; that people say things that they mean at the time, but don't follow up on; that Israel is abrupt, because Hebrew is abrupt (no wonder the Russians find it difficult - their language is so much more convoluted than Hebrew) and that apart from the good Lord you are completely on your own, then your own resilience comes into play.
And with that realization, you can allow yourself to be gracious to people who have insulted you a second ago, because they probably didn't really mean it. They just wanted to let off steam after all! For Israel is still a young country, not yet 60. And the young are both fickle and seeking for affection. Which is why they tend to let their words run away with them, some of the time.
So on that note, have a good fast!
Chatima Tova to all my Jewish readers.