High Holidays – 25

Note: This lesson is divided into two unrelated sections, one quite light-hearted and the other very somber – it’s up to the facilitator to decide on the order of the sections.

Symbolic foods: One of the striking things about Israel is the fact that although a majority of the citizens share their Jewish nationality, religion, ethnicity, culture and customs, their traditions are surprisingly different due to their diverse lands of origin. While in the initial years of the state, the declared goal was a melting pot in which all people would assimilate  into one big Jewish-Israeli collective, in recent years the rich variation and diverse backgrounds have come to be appreciated, and efforts are made to celebrate and preserve the different ethnic cultures (or “edot”, as they are called in Hebrew). In this lesson we will examine this issue by looking at the various symbolic foods eaten by the people of different edot on Rosh Hashanah.

The Yom Kippur war: For Israelis, Yom Kippur, in addition to being the Day of Atonement, has taken on a new and somber meaning since the 1973 Yom Kippur war. The war was one of the bloodiest Israel has known, and for some it brought the euphoria and messianic fervor which emerged after the 1967 Six Day war to an abrupt halt. For a few days, Israelis felt unsure of their survival, personally and as a state; 3000 soldiers were killed – about 0.1 percent of the population; the government considered using Israel’s atomic weapons to avert the catastrophe; the last-minute aerial shipment of arms and ammunition from the US helped Israel stem the tide. In the lesson we will watch and discuss a (30 min.) video about kibbutz Beit Hashita, which lost 11 of its members during the war. The kibbutz commissioned composer Yair Rosenblum to compose a new melody for the U’Netaneh Tokef prayer of Yom Kippur to commemorate the fallen soldiers. This melody is sung by chazzanim (cantors) in many Israeli synagogues today during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

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