Following the recent celebration of the Jewish New Year, Israel begun very disturbing preparations for Yom Kippur, the Atonement Day. This is a much more special date than New Year; after all, Israel recognizes four different New Year’s Eves and in fact conducts its civil life as per a fifth one, the Christian one. In 2012, the holiest day in Jewish life will take place on September 25, exactly ten days after New Year. According to Jewish tradition, God writes each person’s fate for the coming year in the Book of Life on New Year’s Eve, and then waits until Yom Kippur to seal His verdict. This period is called “Yamim Noraim,” the “Frightening Days.” This atonement period and the subsequent verdict of God have nothing to do with similar terms in Christianity and Islam. Jews don’t want to be absolved by God in order to reach Heaven; they hope for another year on Earth, Hell’s Upper Neighborhood. Special traditions have developed along the years, and one of them is directly related to the State of Israel, the Six-Day War, and a very odd religious interpretation.
Yom Kippur War
Yom Kippur in Israel is rightfully placed at the end of the Frightening Days; those seeing it for the first time are invariably scared by the violent military undertone of the event. Following the surprise Egyptian and Syrian attack on Israel on the eve of Yom Kippur 1973, many changes were made on the way the State of Israel operates during this day. The scariest is the radio’s silent mode. All radio stations belonging to the army and state do not work. The same is true for all other media; don’t even expect to find new content on the Hebrew internet. Scanning the electromagnetic spectrum, one can hear the usual white noise between stations; however, when reaching the frequency of the state’s official stations, the white noise disappears. These stations broadcast silence. This is so for the case of an emergency; then a system active during the entire year is activated. During a surprise attack, an “open-call” may be broadcast. In such an event, the Minister of Defense will openly call for the reserve army to reach immediately the meeting points. Another option is what is known as “IDF QUIZ.” In this case, a two-word code alerts the reservists that a call is being made; the second part for the message includes a simple system specifying which units are being called. A third option is the “quiet call,” which relies on the phone system. The last two are used when the government doesn’t want to alert its own citizens that a war has begun. However, there are more military scares on that day.
A never dying topic in Israel is “How did Israel survive the Yom Kippur War?” Many explanations exist and are the government’s favorite way to scare people on this day. The Jewish orthodoxy and the Military Rabbinate work hard to convince the people it was God’s finger. I won’t expand on the different theories, but will comment on the IDF official (and basically unpublished) one. Even within the IDF, one can hear many conjectures. After searching for an answer while still a young officer, I found an official paper explaining the event. It had all the marks showing that it was the real thing, including descriptions of the undeniable clumsiness of the Israeli side during the war. Maybe that’s why it is still kept away from the public. In this war, the Egyptian front was less relevant, because the Sinai Desert separated between the Egyptian Army and the IDF. It allowed the IDF time to call the reserve. On the Syrian front the situation was different. One can travel from the Sea of Galilee (actually a lake), to Haifa—Israel’s main city and industrial complex in the north—in less than an hour. I am factoring in a coffee break along the way; Israel is tiny. In 1973, by the end of the first day of war, the Syrian army had conquered the Golan Heights and was looking at the Galilee from above. Its pointmen could have reached Haifa in less than two hours, since there were no active IDF units between them and the Mediterranean Sea. Syria had won. Unluckily, the Syrian units involved were no trained for moving or fighting at night. Thus they waited until the next morning. Frenetic, Israel recruited the reserve and blocked the Golani Junction with cannon fodder. This saved Israel; yet, the military rabbinate dislikes the explanation. The Finger of God Theory is preferred by them.
At first sight, the Six-Day War is not related in any way to Yom Kippur. The war took place on June, while Atonement Day takes place in September or October. However, the Israeli Administration had found a disturbing way of linking the two events. During this war, Israel occupied Jerusalem’s Old City, including the Western Wall. In the aftermath, the Palestinian neighborhood placed next to it was illegally destroyed; along the years a large esplanade was constructed. As of now, this is the main temple of Judaism and to some extent, the epitome of Jewish idolatry. They pray there to old stones, sticking prayer notes among them. Sometimes, they pull out notes placed by others in order to make room for their own prayers. All prophets warned of praying to dead idols; we are the living sons and daughters of a living God; we should not reduce Him into heaps of natural resources. Yet, this was a handy symbol for the State of Israel; it was shamelessly adopted. The result is that nowadays a new practice has been created. During the Frightening Days, the rabbi in charge of the Western Wall cleans out with great pompousness all the prayer notes accumulated during the previous year. After all, God already took a decision on the prayers, and is about to announce sentence. Why keep the notes? An amusing side of this practice is that nowadays several companies accept emails and faxes, sticking them among the stones for the sake of those out of Jerusalem. The Western Wall is seen as an odd communication’s device.
In this simple event of cleansing of the Western Wall, all the spiritual sadness of modern days Judaism is exemplified. God doesn’t care about our praying within magnificent temples. He cares about our prayers being sincere and worthy. God doesn’t care about printed notes placed on a special place. He cares about our soul wherever we are, and regardless which government abuses us. He will protect us even from the Zionists; they don’t get special treatment. God doesn’t care about our fasting while hungry homeless fill up the streets. God doesn’t care about our conquering or owning land; all land belongs to him, no matter how good our lawyer is. Israel, you can’t redeem yourself by frightening your people into obedience. Jews claim that at the end of the “Frightening Days” a verdict would be issued on them. Let me tell them that there is no reason for them to be anxious; God’s verdict on idolaters who do not respect the rights of others to live is set. They are guilty. God cares about your inner cleansing; and truth is that no matter how many times a day they take a shower, the Israeli culture is filthy. You may live another year on Hell’s Upper Neighborhood, but you will not enjoy entrance to Upper Jerusalem, His city, where “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” “Ashamnu,” (“we have sinned” in Hebrew) is the name of one of the confessionals sung in the synagogues during Yom Kippur. You are correct on this; despite all your knowledge and history you are still unable to perform a worthy atonement. Israel is un-redeemed, and we, the people, will suffer its violence for another year.