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Celebrating a Jewish Holiday in a Time of Strife

Ellen Levitt

Posted on May 16, 2021 15:19

1 user

The Jewish holiday of Shavuot arrives this year amidst turmoil in Israel.

The Jewish holiday of Shavuot is celebrated in 2021 on May 17 and 18 (6 and 7 Sivan in the Jewish calendar). Admittedly it's not nearly as well known to the general public as holidays such as Hanukkah, Passover and Rosh HaShana. It commemorates receiving the Torah and is also a harvest holiday, coming 50 days after Passover. It's a joyous holiday, typically celebrated with flowers and eating dairy foods. 

I have a special fondness for this holiday for a few special reasons: when I was 16, friends and I took part in a special "Rededication" ceremony at synagogue, and participated in aspects of the holiday service. At the kiddush-party afterward, we each received an individualized cake! (Mine had pineapple filling.) I also admire the story of Ruth, which we read aloud during the holiday. There's also a difficult prayer we recite during the holiday called the Akdamut, but I've always liked the pretty melody that accompanies it.

But this year Shavuot is tinged with fear and sadness because of the escalating battles taking place in Israel. Israelis and Palestinians are fighting, and the causes are complex and deeply rooted. Unfortunately, on social media many people are looking to oversimplify the situation. As my younger daughter says, "do research beyond Instagram if you actually care." 

Here am I in the United States, where it is relatively safe right now, and I can easily celebrate the holiday. I can attend synagogue and participate in the service (both days I'll be reading a section of the Torah portion at my synagogue, and on the second day I will read a part from the prophet Habakkuk). I won't have to worry about having stones thrown at me, bombs being aimed at my house, listening to the shrill wailing of warning sirens. 

I am angry and hurt that people are being killed on both sides of the conflict. But I am also disgusted by people who have scant knowledge of the history here, who write blithely that this is a "genocide", when it is not. And while Israel's government has many problems, it is a democracy which includes non-Jews in its Knesset (Parliament). It is NOT an apartheid state. More than half of Israel's Jewish population is made up of people with roots in Middle Eastern and North African nations and Ethiopia; it is not a "European" nation, not a "colonizer" nation.

I'm fed up with people who react to the current conflict with anti-Semitic comments such as "Hitler should have finished off the Jews" and "Jews have no right to live here." Jewish people DO people have ancient ties to this sliver of land. Israel does have a right to protect its citizens.

I know people who live in Israel now, and I ache for their suffering. I'm aware of groups of Jews and Palestinians who are bonding together for peace efforts. This gives me hope.

I hope my essay will inspire you to read more about what's going on. 

 

Ellen Levitt

Posted on May 16, 2021 15:19

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Source: Upworthy

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