Tuesday, September 22, 2020 -
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Courage & unity: lessons from and for Yom Kippur

yom-kippur-warTomorrow marks the fortieth anniversary of the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War. And while Israel continues to face threats on all sides, in one significant way, Israel’s reality is very different to what it was in 1973.

Yes Syria threatens from the north, Iran from the east, and Egypt, teetering on the brink, poses serious concern in the south; but these, Israel’s enemies, are no longer united. On the occasion of Israel’s 65th birthday earlier this year we posted the following:

Think back to 1973. It was the year of the Yom Kippur War, when Israel was attacked by a solid and united Arab front from all directions. Fast forward to 2013. The Arab-Israeli conflict – in its classical form – no longer really exists. Instead of an Israel versus the Arab world model, the paradigm has shifted: Israel now conducts its neighborhood foreign policy on a largely bilateral basis. The experiment of Nasser-style Arab nationalism failed miserably, and the Arab world, especially considering the current fissures, no longer even feigns a sense of unity.

The ten years since the Iraq war, and the last two since the Arab Spring, have witnessed an unimaginable splintering of the Arab world. In a strange way, Israel is the beneficiary. Not only are its enemies no longer united, but they cannot fixate on Israel as much as they perhaps would want. Their internal problems are simply too overwhelming.

United we stand, divided we fall. It may be a cliché, but like most clichés it does contain wisdom. And there’s a lesson for us as a Jewish community to learn from the shambles of the Arab one. The more united we become, the stronger we will be. That’s the idea behind the four species of Sukkot explains Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth of Israel’s Beit Hillel. To fulfill the commandment of bentching Lulav, or waving the four species, one must hold all four together. The etrog (citron) is the most beautiful, representing according to Neuwirth, the pious among us, yet on its own, the etrog cannot fulfill the mitzvah. It must be joined with all its fellow Jews, whether ‘beautiful’ or not.

On this Yom Kippur, let’s remember the courage of the Jewish nation forty years ago, and be thankful for Israel’s increased stability and world standing. And let us endeavor to become a more unified nation, coming together in prayer and spirit.

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