Friday, September 17, 2010

Yom Kippur –day of…

GS Don Morris, Ph.D.

I am privileged to once again be living in Israel as Yom Kippur arrives at dusk today. “Yom Kippur is a Happy Jewish Holiday, replacing vindictiveness and rage with peace-of-mind and peaceful co-existence between God and human-beings, as well as among human-beings. It highlights forgiveness, pre-conditioned upon genuine repentance.” It is unique within humanity.

Today’s reflections focus on observed human behavior beginning with this morning. We live in a city, Netanya-approximately 180,000 people. Our citizens are average Israelis in terms of income and the society is shifting. We are one of the homes for Ethiopians, we serve as a center of sorts for French Jews, and our Russian population is growing as well. We have a substantial “religious section” and our remaining population consists of the standard Israeli demography.

Knowing that the stores are open only until 2 pm and some close even sooner, the morning began with lots of rushing around-particularly acute was the driving behavior. As an outsider from California I can say that the drivers today were harried. The number of those running red lights was substantial; after all, the stores would be crowded so people must arrive early. Forget about taking turns forming an exit line and the “sneaking into lines” drivers seemed to escalate, particularly as we approached 12 noon.

Stores were full but not crowded, yet one could sense the urgency to get in, find the products, get out asap. The parking lots, wow-you know today for sure the parking white lines were suggestions only for those from the states! The need for speed increased as we approached 2 pm.

Now 2 pm is a qualifying time in Israel this day. Imagine sitting at home watching a movie or a show and as the clock struck 2 pm, your screen went to black. Well, there is a message, in Hebrew, that says it is Yom Kippur and the programs will return tomorrow night at 8 pm. All across this country entertainment ceased at 2 pm. This includes the radio stations. The country has gone silent.

For me the amazing experience is what occurs between 2 pm and dusk. Step outside and listen…the country slowly comes to a point of serenity. You can actually feel the mood shifting, slowing and in truth transcending all that is man.

The country is not all that religious. What I mean is that over 60% of the population has defined itself as secular, the remaining 40% contains the many levels of Judaism as performed here, Christians and other faiths. Over 1.2 million of Israelis are Arabs and most are Muslims. Why do I mention this? If you lived here you would understand the significance of this demography. For some, the last meal for 26 plus hours begins around 4:30 pm, traditional food is served and then at dusk lights out, electricity not used and the fast begins. For others, they honor the traditions, they do not drive, and they do not turn on their DVD players or anything of the like.

However, many Israelis have rented movies, downloaded shows and/or movies from the Internet, and have mapped out their entertainment logistics for the coming 26 plus hours. These are the same folks who have stocked up on all THE foods to get through until tomorrow when once again the stores re-open. Now, that’s a story unto itself.
The children appear from nowhere and everywhere with their bicycles, skateboards, roller blades and/or skates and join the thousands, yes, thousands of others who walk the roads of Israel-including the main highways and freeways. This continues throughout the evening. Junctions serve as the local meeting places. People young and old, single and in partnership are enjoying the “freedom of the road”. Youngsters and teenagers have a night out on the town. Parents do not worry at all about this evening-again I am amazed each year.

Many people put away their cell phones, iphones, Blackberry’s and the like, at least for a few hours. Still, many folks addicted to phone talk walk the streets sharing their conversations with anyone in earshot whose hearing may be trampled upon.
Tomorrow, during the day, the quiet is delightful-well, at least for those of us who like delightful. Many will read, sleep, rest, pray, do absolutely no house work, will eat pre-planned meals and wait for dusk to return. Ah, but the Day is not over until the first stars appear in the sky. Each year I write down the time I think when the first vehicle will “break the silence”. I will not divulge the time I have written down this time!

Amidst all of this there is a more remarkable human event occurring. You know Israel is a small country, fitting inside New Jersey, with 7.6 plus million citizens. Most are Jews, of these some are religious, most are not and then we have 1.2 million Arab citizens most of whom are Muslims. On our northern border, two hour drive for me, sits an enemy with 80,000 rockets of destruction aimed at all of our cities. On our SW border we have Gaza; need I say more? To our East we have Syria, Jordan and Iraq. Yes, the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria are also to our East. We have a treaty with only Jordan; the others are our enemy. I live near the sea, 9 miles to my East is our enemy. On our Southern border is Egypt the only other Arab nation we have a peace treaty agreement. Here is what amazes me each year.

We go dark for 26 plus hours and most of the millions of peoples in and outside of Israel, especially those on our borders honor, in their own way, our most precious day by their behavior. Yes I remember 1973! Yes, I lived through and live through internal disturbances near some Arab communities yet nowhere on earth does this event occur year after year in a “normal” manner-and to top it off, we live in the Middle East. For a moment in time each year, we are reminded of hope and we are given a splinter of behavior that joins humankind as one.

May you each find your own peace during this day-wishes from don

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