God of Abraham, and of Iran, and of Aleppo, on this, the dawn of Rosh Hashanah, a new year, we say these words to leave an old year behind, Tichleh Shanah V'kil'loteha: May this year finally end, and with it, all of its curses.
Every year, we make the same wish. And every year, the tragic colors of that year make the substance of the wish entirely different.
This year, for example. For Israelis, a year of feeling caught in the cross-hairs of one potential genocide, and helpless in the face of an actual genocide being practiced just to the north.
But there's more. Much more. The curses we have brought on ourselves.
In Israel, this has been a year of shocking expressions of hatred and acts of terror, of Jews against non-Jews. And in all too many of these, though the victims were innocents, the assailants believed themselves to be defending a godly purpose, or acting according to a wholly worthy principle.
As this Rosh Hashanah nears, this season of moral bookkeeping, of human debt, of the foreclosure of conscience, many of the perpetrators seem to see no need to ask forgiveness. Perhaps worse, some may believe that asking forgiveness of their non-Jewish victims is wrong, a blasphemous kowtow, a betrayal of the faith.
All of which makes this year one in which we, as Jews, will need to ask forgiveness on behalf of those who will not ask.
God of all of us, you may well be as sick of this year as we are. May we, before this New Year begins, before we finish the blessing, ask the forgiveness of all of Your children whom we have harmed.
Our God is the God of Latrun. The God of the Trappist monastery where someone, angry at the Israeli government for forcing Jews out of an illegal outpost, set fire to the doors and wrote "Jesus is a monkey" in Hebrew on its walls.
We, the rest of us, beg forgiveness.
Our God is the God of Zion Square and a pasture south of Hebron. In two separate attacks last month, Palestinians causing no harm to anyone, were beaten unconscious. Our God is the God of the Hassan family of the West Bank, whose car was firebombed, injuring five members of the family, among them two four year olds. Three boys from a settlement have been arrested in connection with the bombing. No one suspected of participating has expressed regret.
We apologize in shame, and ask for pardon.
Our God is the God of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam (Oasis of Peace), an Arab-Jewish village in Israel which promotes co-existence. Earlier this year, the tires of 16 cars were slashed in the village, and slogans such as "Death to Arabs" were sprayed on vehicles and on the walls of its bilingual, bicultural elementary school.
Our God is the God of the villagers of Burim, near the West Bank settlement of Yizhar. This week, dozens of olive trees belonging to the village were hacked apart, shortly before harvest season.
Our God is the God of the refugees from Africa, the people of the fences, those who have made it in, and those trapped outside. Those who are slated for internment camps after Yom Kippur, and those who, though they are children who have never known another country, may be deported anyway.
As our God is the God, also, of the Jewish victims of the Jews. The God of eight-year-old Naama Margolis of Beit Shemesh, spat upon and cursed for dressing not to the liking of a certain yeshiva. And the God of Hagit Ofran of Peace Now, whose home was repeatedly sprayed with death threats.
All of these, the victims, they are our heroes. All of these, the assailants, they are our curse.
We know those people who were caught between the fences, far from homes they cannot return to, vulnerable. We were these people. We know those people attacked for their religion, scapegoats for misplaced rage. We were those people. And not long ago.
On Rosh Hashanah, when we sit down to the festive meal, when we raise colorful foods and say the blessings and the wishes of the victimized, the powerless, the persecuted, those who bear the scars of pogrom, of hatred, of institutional poverty, of ingrained, fiery prejudice, when we ask that we be spared, we must now include among ourselves, those whom our own people have victimized.
God of all of us, we have failed You this year. You are likely sick of us as well. Grant us the strength and the wisdom, this year, this day, to recognize the curses we bring upon ourselves, and stop them before they come true. Then, perhaps only then, we will truly merit the end of the blessing:
Tachel Shanah U'virko'teha. Let the New Year begin, with all of its blessings.
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