- Written by Young Ambassadors School /Rachel Amrani.
On August 31st, a delegation of youth leaders from Rachel Amrani’s Young Ambassadors School returned from a diplomatic mission to NY, NJ and Massachusetts, where they visited the UN and met with local Jewish communities along with a number of other unique site visits.
The Young Ambassadors delegation included 20 high school students from Petah Tikva and Tel Aviv. Their itinerary included the requisite tourist stops: Times Square, Central Park, Chinatown, Statue of Liberty, 9/11 Memorial, along with some visits unique to a diplomatic trip: briefings at the UN, meeting with American and Israeli diplomats at the American and Israeli Missions to the UN and the Israeli Consulate and AIPAC in Boston.
As part of the delegation’s focus on strengthening ties between Israeli and American communities and bolstering Jewish heritage, the group visited Kehilah Kedosha Janina, the only Romaniote synagogue in the Western Hemisphere, the Spanish-Portuguese Shearith Israel, the oldest Jewish congregation in America, and NYC’s Holocaust Museum. They also met with Hazon, a Jewish environmentalist organization, to discuss how Judaism relates to sustainability. In Massachusetts the group was hosted by families from the Youth2Israel (Y2I) program overseen by Debbie Coltin, Congregation Sha’arei Tefilah, and a local Israeli-American family.
Another key goal for the delegation was building bridges with non-Jewish communities. The group partnered with Manhattan’s Brotherhood Synagogue and the Interfaith Encounters Association to host an event with local Muslim activists on Jewish-Muslim relations and how Israel is perceived in different Muslim communities. The Young Ambassadors got to see a Sufi prayer ceremony with the Nur Ashki Jerahhi community and talk to the group’s spiritual leader. In Boston, a professor of biblical studies talked to the group about Evangelical Christian support for Israel.
After ten days abroad, the Young Ambassadors delegation returned to Israel with many ideas and greater motivation to continue their path of people to people diplomacy.
Photos credit Young Ambassadors School /Rachel Amrani.
- Written by GPO News Department
Several Jewish holidays – some of which are full legal holidays in Israel – will take place this year between 24 September and 16 October. The Government Press Office would like to provide the following brief summary.
Preparations for the Jewish New Year
The period preceding the Jewish New Year is marked by special penitential prayers, recited before the regular morning prayers, and the blowing of the ram's horn (shofar in Hebrew) after the morning prayer service. Jews of North African and Middle Eastern origin began to recite these special prayers on 28 August; Jews of European origin began to recite them very early this morning (21 September). These special prayers are said daily (except on the New Year holiday itself and the Sabbath) until the day before Yom Kippur (3 October).
Rosh Hashanah (the two-day Jewish new year), the observance of which is mandated by Leviticus 23:23-25, will begin at sunset on Wednesday, 24 September and conclude at nightfall on Friday, 26 September. Both days are marked by special prayers and scriptural readings.
The centerpiece of the Rosh Hashanah service is the blowing of the shofar during morning prayers. (The shofar is not sounded on the Sabbath should either of the two days fall on Saturday.) Both days are full public holidays and, as on the Sabbath, there will be no public transportation or newspapers. In addition, many businesses, museums and other institutions, which are normally open on the Sabbath, will be closed over the holiday. The GPO will be closed on Wednesday-Thursday, 24-25 September, inclusive.
Rosh Hashanah is also characterized by two special customs. The first is the eating of apple slices dipped in honey, symbolizing the hope that the coming year will be "sweet." The second involves going to a natural source of flowing water (such as an ocean, river, or spring), reading a selection of scriptural verses and casting pieces of bread into the water – to symbolize the "casting off" of the previous year's sins; this practice derives from Micah 7:19 ("...and You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.") This ceremony takes place on the first day of Rosh Hashanah (or on the second, if the first day falls on the Sabbath).
The Period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
The ten days between New Year and Yom Kippur (inclusive) are known as "The Ten Days of Repentance". Jewish tradition maintains that this is a time of judgment when all people and nations are called to account for their deeds of the past year, and when their particular fates for the coming year are decided.
A single Sabbath, known as the "Sabbath of Repentance", always occurs between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This Sabbath (27 September this year) is marked by a special reading from Hosea 14:2-10, beginning with, "Return, Israel, to the Lord your God."
The day after the New Year holiday is a day of fasting known as the Fast of Gedaliah, and commemorates the murder of Gedaliah, the Jewish governor of Judea, who was appointed by the Babylonians after they captured Jerusalem in 586 BCE; the episode is recounted in II Kings 25:22-25. When the day after Rosh Hashanah is a Saturday, as it is this year, the fast is postponed by one day. Accordingly, the fast will extend from sunrise on Sunday, 28 September until nightfall the same day. Special scriptural readings are recited, but the day is not a public holiday.
Yom Kippur (Hebrew for "The Day of Atonement") begins at sunset on Friday, 3 October, and concludes at nightfall on Saturday, 4 October. Its observance is mandated by Leviticus 16:29-31 and 23:27-32. The holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur is the day on which, according to Jewish tradition, our fates for the coming year are sealed. Synagogue services – centering on the penitential prayers – will continue for most of the day and include special scriptural readings (including the Book of Jonah in the afternoon). Memorial prayers for the deceased, said four times a year, are recited on Yom Kippur. At nightfall, the shofar is sounded once to mark the end of Yom Kippur.
Yom Kippur is a full public holiday in Israel and almost all establishments (including the GPO) will be closed. There will be no radio or television broadcasts. Since Yom Kippur is a day of introspection, completely separate from the normal course of daily life – the physical aspects of our lives are sublimated while we concentrate on our spiritual concerns – the day is marked by a full (sunset to nightfall) fast. The wearing of leather, the use of cosmetics, bathing and marital relations are likewise forbidden.
The seven-day Sukkot festival, mandated by Leviticus 23:34-35 and 23:39-43, begins at sunset on Wednesday, 8 October and concludes at nightfall on Wednesday, 15 October. The first day, from sunset on Wednesday, 8 October, until nightfall on Thursday, 9 October, is a full public holiday. All seven days of the holiday are marked by special prayers and scriptural readings – including the Book of Ecclesiastes, which is read on Saturday, 11 October. Sukkot is a joyful, family oriented holiday, which follows – and provides a contrast to – the somber, introspective and private character of Yom Kippur. Many businesses and institutions will either close or operate on a reduced basis. The GPO will be closed from 8-16 October, inclusive, and will reopen on Sunday, 19 October.
Sukkot is characterized by two main practices. Jews are enjoined to build, take all of their meals in, and (if possible) sleep in, temporary huts topped with thatch or palm fronds during the festival. These huts (sukkot in Hebrew) commemorate the temporary, portable dwellings in which the Jewish people lived during their 40-year sojourn in the wilderness that followed their liberation from slavery in Egypt. The second main Sukkot observance is the special bouquet – consisting of a closed palm frond, a citron, a myrtle branch and a willow branch – that is held during morning prayers on each of the seven days (except the Sabbath); its origins derive from Leviticus 23:40, many traditional explanations of its symbolism have been cited.
Shemini Atzeret (Simhat Torah)
The Shemini Atzeret (literally "The Eighth Day of Assembly" in Hebrew) holiday immediately follows the last day of Sukkot, beginning at sunset on Wednesday, 15 October and concluding at nightfall on Thursday, 16 October. Its observance is mandated by Leviticus 23:36. It is a full public holiday. (Even though it follows the seven-day Sukkot festival and is often considered part of Sukkot, it is, in fact, a separate holiday. The special bouquet is not used and the obligation to sit in the sukkot no longer applies.) The day's prayer services include the memorial prayers for the deceased, as well as the prayer for plentiful rainfall during the coming winter.
Shemini Atzeret, however, centers around its special scriptural readings. On Shemini Atzeret, the yearly cycle of Torah (the first five books of the Bible, i.e. Genesis to Deuteronomy, one section of which is read on each Sabbath during the year) readings is both completed and begun anew. This event is accompanied by dancing and singing, sometimes continuing for several hours; in religious neighborhoods, these celebrations often spill out into the streets. Thus, the holiday is also referred to as Simhat Torah ("Rejoicing of the Torah" in Hebrew).
Photo by: Moshe Milner, GPO
- Written by Silvia G Golan
Christmas & New Year greetings from Diplomacy
- Written by Sima Lahat
Hundreds of people arrived last night to Rafi and Ofra Elul's house in Mazkeret- Batya, for the "Grand Finale'" of the Mimouna celebrations. This event is taking place at the Elul's house for the last 29 years.
On the house's lawn, balconies and living room, gathered for a toast, hundreds of men and women. Among them came to honor the President, Shimon Peres, the candidates for presidency Fuad Ben Eliezer and Rubi Rivlin, Minister for Aliya Sofa Landver, The Mayor of Holon Motti Sason, Rani and Hila Rahav and many others from the political, business and society fields. The gathering - which was accompanied with good music with Einat Saruf , Moti, Kaya Schwartz and other musicians, good food and drinks – was heart warming.
President Peres said:
This is a holiday of love among all tribes of Israel, who gathered here in spite of their differences. A Jew is a man or woman who holds a child in one hand and the holy Tora in the other... a symbol for continuity and dedication to our moral faith. In my last visit to China, their leaders wanted to know the reason for the large percentage of Jews among Nobel Prize winners. I said that it all depends on the Jewish mother, who devotes her life to her children, which are our most precious treasure. Even though we left Egypt from slavery to freedom, our exodus is not finished until there is no hungry child left in our country, and peace will prevail.
About the holiday source...
The Mimouna was brought by the immigrants from Morocco during the 50's. It was celebrated in Morocco for hundreds of years. Mimouna – luck in Arabic – was the spring celebrations in the Atlas Mountains. The holiday was identified with nature and scenery celebrations and people used to visit holy man graves. The essence of the holiday is peace, friendship and good neighborhood between Jews and Muslims. The Muslims used to bring the Jews the first bread after the Passover, and the Jews used to prepare pastries and Mufletas – food that symbols the transfer from the holy to regular times. From Matzo to bread.
Photos Silvia G Golan
- Written by KKL