(Reposting in part from last year)
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is upon us once again, beginning in a few hours time here in Israel, when we will be entering a 25-hour fast with day-long prayer services, composed of beautiful, spiritual and emotional prayers and songs, being held in shuls and community centers throughout the Jewish world. It is a day when we must ask forgiveness from our fellow man if we have wronged them, forgive those who have wronged us if they ask to be forgiven, and pray that Hashem will seal us in the Book of Life.
In Israel, traffic comes to a complete halt throughout the country, even in the most secular towns, and a serene and holy calmness pervades throughout the land. Even the international airport and public transport close down for the day, starting from a few hours before the fast until an hour or so after the fast ends.
You can read more about Yom Kippur at Aish.com who have a great Yom Kippur info-graphic.
This year, Yom Kippur and the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha coincide on Shabbat, giving cause for concern to the security forces. This has led to the rather unfair decision to close the Cave of the Patriarchs (Me’arat HaMachpela) to Jews, and to allow access solely to Muslims. Hevron’s Jewish community – as well as Jews everywhere – are very upset, saying “they expected better treatment“:
The Directorate of the Cave of the Patriarchs announced Thursday that Yitzchak Hall will be closed off to Jews throughout Yom Kippur, and that Jews will only be allowed in on Yom Kippur Eve – the day before Yom Kippur – from about 5:30 p.m. to the end of the service. The reason for the limitations is the Muslim “Feast of the Sacrifice” that will be marked on the same day as Yom Kippur this year.
On Yom Kippur, the Yitzchak Hall will be closed off to Jews, and the Cave area will be open according to the usual pattern. On Sunday, no Jews will be allowed into the Cave of the Patriarchs, also known as the Cave of Machpela, because of the Muslim holiday.
Jews would most likely not have been allowed into the Cave on Yom Kippur Eve, either, were it not for Jewish Home Minister Uri Ariel, who intervened in the matter. “I was shocked to hear that the central part of the Cave of the Patriarchs will remain closed on Yom Kippur, and I congratulate the Minister of Defense on finding the formula that will allow Jewish worshipers to say at least some of the prayers in the Yitzchak Hall as well,” he said.
“The Cave of the Patriarchs is the cradle of the Jewish people’s existence,” said Ariel. “Buried inside it are the Patriarchs and Matriarchs of the nation, and in our generation, we are fortunate to see it being filled again with tens of thousands of Jews who come to pray there,” added Minister Ariel.
The Jewish residents of Hevron remember that when the Cave of the Patriarchs was under Muslim control, the Jews were not allowed to enter any part of it. “We take a different approach and also respect other religions,” said a resident. “We are pleased that the Cave of the Patriarchs is a magnet for the representatives of all religions. We expect that the sanctity of the Jewish holidays, and especially Yom Kippur, be properly respected. It’s too bad that this was not done, but we will overcome.”
The pusillanimous response of the police to the perceived threat is disgraceful, but in the light of their ongoing caving in to Arab pressure, nothing surprises me any more.
The police have made preparations in other locations of potential trouble too:
Authorities have also come to agreements with the Jewish and Muslim communities in mixed Israeli cities on the timing of celebrations.
The clash of festivals has not occurred for 33 years, because the two faiths use different lunar calendars.
In East Jerusalem, additional police officers will be deployed around the flash-point al-Aqsa mosque compound on the Temple Mount, police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP.
The site — the third holiest place in Islam, and the holiest in Judaism — is the scene of frequent confrontations between police and stone-throwing Palestinian youths. [Those are no “youth” – they are terrorists, and not all are particularly youthful either. -Ed.]
In Acre, which saw riots on Yom Kippur in 2008 when an Arab resident drove through an observant Jewish neighborhood blaring music from his car stereo, local Muslim official Abbas Zakur said an agreement had been reached between the two communities on the timing of celebrations. Muslims would celebrate and feast on Sunday, but from Saturday small electric cars will be provided for those wishing to go to the mosque to pray.
In other cities, including the mixed neighborhood of Jaffa in Greater Tel Aviv, Muslim celebrations will be permitted from Saturday evening, just as the Jewish fast is due to end, Samri said.
I hope the peace can be preserved not only during Yom Kippur but also when it ends, as the Jews return home from the synagogue and when the potential for clashes is at its greatest.
To end this post on a more upbeat note, an archaeological dig under the Western Wall Plaza (the huge square in front of the Kotel) revealed structures dating back to Herod, from the time of the Second Temple:
Israeli archaeologists recently dug up an ancient subterranean structure, parts of which date back to Roman times, just meters from the Temple Mount, Channel 10 reported Sunday.
“It’s one of the [most] impressive, beautiful and grand places found recently in Jerusalem,” Israel Antiquities Authority Jerusalem Region Archaeologist Yuval Baruch told the station.
“It is one of the most significant remains” found in Jerusalem in the last generation,” he said.
The ongoing excavations, which are taking place beneath the Western Wall plaza in the former Mughrabi Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, feature a Mamluk-era caravansary dating to the Middle Ages and remains of lavish public buildings from the Herodian period, over 2,000 years ago, some 20 meters (65 feet) from the Temple Mount.
Baruch explained that when digging began, the earthen fill reached the ceiling of the now-restored caravansary, and that archaeologists had no idea how large the structure was.
“We understood that there was something else here, in terms of size, in terms of grandeur,” he said.
The IAA has conducted the “most extensive preservation work ever done in Jerusalem” to restore the Mamluk building ahead of its intended opening to the public.
This is wonderful good news, especially in its timing before Yom Kippur, when in Temple times the main “action” of the day took place right there in the Temple. I very much look forward to the site being opened to the public so that we can visit and see and touch our history.
Returning to present times, in the spirit of the day, I would like to ask forgiveness from anyone whom I might have offended or hurt.
To those who are fasting I wish an easy and meaningful fast.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish my family, friends and readers Gmar Hatima Tova – May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life.
גמר חתימה טובה