Opinion |

Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot - All Part of a Black October

It’s hard to decide what in this October line-up alienates me more.

Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher
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An Israeli walks down one of Tel Aviv's main streets during Yom Kippur, when the city grinds to a halt. 2015.
An Israeli walks down one of Tel Aviv's main streets during Yom Kippur, when the city grinds to a halt. 2015. Credit: Ofer Vaknin, Haaretz
Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher

Good morning and happy holiday. October 2016 is a magnificent Jewish month in Israel. It started with Rosh Hashanah, and right afterward came the Fast of Gedaliah. There were very few ordinary days in holy October. At the end of the 10 “Days of Awe,” steeped in religious significance, came Yom Kippur. And here we are Sunday morning, only three days after that, one of which was the holy Sabbath, on the eve of Sukkot. Ten days of vacation in which there are no less than two holiday eves, which will culminate with dancing with the Torah on Simhat Torah and the traditional extra vacation day, “Isru Hag,” added on for the kids to stay home at a logical time right between the end of summer vacation and the beginning of Hanukkah vacation. It’s self-evident.

The festive month ends with a memorial day for slain Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi. What could be more fitting. October 2016 is the kind of month that makes clear to Israelis that if they are not nationalistic, Jewish and religious they have no chance of enjoying a routine daily life that reflects their worldview.

It’s hard to decide what in this October line-up alienates me more. My year begins on January 1. I don’t know what the Hebrew date is today. I don’t know what year it is according to the Hebrew calendar, what year it was that begins on October 3. My Rosh Hashanah doesn’t fall on October 3. I have no idea why my social media feed is filled with requests for forgiveness from a herd of ideologically corrupt secular people, their posts always couched in very general terms – apologies to anyone they hurt, accompanied by a declaration of love. It’s pathetic.

I didn’t devote a single second (no, not even one second) to any particular soul-searching on Yom Kippur. I didn’t ask anyone’s forgiveness specifically on that day; that’s a stupid custom. A secular person does soul-searching every day, and asks forgiveness whenever necessary.

I didn’t wish anyone that he be “inscribed in the Book of Life.” There is no God and he doesn’t inscribe. When people said to me: “May you be inscribed in the Book of Life,” I didn’t answer. In any case, nobody close to me offers that hollow blessing and I prefer honesty to a fake blessing. I didn’t go to synagogue. I treat words seriously. And so I can’t seriously chant prayers.

I didn’t decorate a sukkah. I didn’t build a sukkah. I consider the children’s song “Shlomit Builds a Sukkah of Peace” the most depressing song in the Hebrew language. I have no intention of being hosted in a sukkah and certainly not to sleep in one. I didn’t buy any of the Four Species and I don’t remember what they mean. I learned about it once. I forgot. It didn’t interest me.

Sometimes I read the Torah and other books of the Bible. I love the Bible. It’s an excellent book. But I don’t read the portion of the week on the appropriate dates and I feel no joy on Simhat Torah. The concept of the “Holy Ark” is ridiculous to me. Rehavam Ze’evi was a racist who called for the transfer of Arabs and, according to the investigative journalism program “Fact,” broadcast in April, he also had links to the underworld, threatened journalists, attacked women and shot Bedouin to death. I don’t want to remember him.

This is black October. I don’t say this as a self-hating Jew but rather as an Israeli of Jewish extraction, on whom all this religious Jewish liturgy is forced. In October my life is snatched away from me in a truly violent way.

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