We are in the midst of Succoth commonly known in English as the Feast of Tabernacles…writes Michael Kuttner.
This is one of the three Pilgrim Festivals dating from the time when Jewish pilgrims from Israel and beyond
made the journey to Jerusalem in order to pray at the Temple. It attracts an increasing number of visitors every year. Last year numbers were down because of the Gaza conflict but it seems that this year record numbers of overseas tourists are making the trip.
There are two aspects to this Festival which have assumed greater importance over recent years.
The first is an increasing awareness by Jews that Succoth is much more than temporary dwellings, four species and good food, important as all these aspects may be. Since the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967 and with access to the core of Judaism’s holiest site now possible the historical and future focus of this religious Festival has come more to the fore. What can be more meaningful than to walk in the footsteps of our ancestors who made the same trek to Israel’s Capital in order to pray and give thanks? That is what is so exciting these days for any Jewish person, young and old and what gives living or even visiting Israel such a sense of purpose.
To witness planeloads of Jews from all parts of the world making their way here cannot but resonate with anyone who has a sense of history. Treading the same paths that our people took in ancient times is awesome especially when one reflects on the past two thousand years of exile and dispersion. Living here we have seen how over the last few years in particular, increasing numbers of hitherto estranged or disconnected Jews are finding their lost roots. This time of the year is an ideal opportunity to reconnect and this is what seems to be happening.
During the intermediate days of Succoth thousands flock to the Western Wall to take part in the Birkat HaCohanim – the Priestly Blessings. Direct descendants of the Priestly tribe bless the assembled multitudes in a ceremony as old as Judaism itself. According to our prophetic teachings we know that in the future the restored Temple will become a place to which all the nations of the world will make a pilgrimage. It will also herald a belated but inevitable acknowledgement of the Jewish People’s rightful place in the Land promised to them at the dawn of their history. It is this vision which especially during current chaotic times resonates so strongly.
The second incredible phenomenon unfolding these days is the hitherto unthinkable surge in support and solidarity by multitudes of Christians, mainly Evangelicals, who have adopted Tabernacles as an event to rally around. Every year increasing numbers leave their homes and travel from the ends of the earth to Jerusalem to express their staunch friendship with the Jewish People in their Land. Realizing that the rising tide of Islamic fundamentalist hate and delegitimization threatens not only us but also them as believing Christians, they are driven to show solidarity. While some may have proselytizing ambitions the vast majority acknowledge that true friendship must accept the validity of Judaism and its eternal connection to the Land of Israel. In a scene which years ago would have seemed unimaginable, South Korean Christian pilgrims marched down a main Jerusalem street carrying banners and placards which expressed remorse for past persecutions of Jews and begging forgiveness for these sins.
With our friends generally so thin on the ground it is heartwarming to see thousands of genuine supporters marching through the streets of Jerusalem. Representing every continent and waving flags of every nation this parade is an event not to be missed. Indeed it is a tantalising foretaste of what will transpire on a daily basis in the future.
It is instructive to see and hear how our misnamed peace partners in particular and the Islamic world in general reacts at this time. In a direct contrast to the expressions of joy, festivity and celebration exhibited by Jews and Christians alike, the outpouring of hate, incitement as well as verbal and physical violence from Islamic religious and political leaders alike is breathtaking. The verbal abuse is bad enough accompanied as it is by the most outrageous lies and accusations. The physical acts which consist of rock throwing (not small stones but large rocks) and other missiles are symptomatic of a malaise which infects Arab and Moslem society these days. Hundreds of thousands are being murdered by fellow believers throughout the Moslem world, enormous numbers are being made refugees and at every opportunity Jews as well as Christians are being targeted. None of these events have anything to do with the ongoing war initiated by Palestinian Arabs against Israelis.
Ludicrous and libelous claims that the “Arab character” of Jerusalem and the Aqsa Mosque are being destroyed by Israel are fueled from the very top. Thus King Abdullah of Jordan has the chutzpa to stand up at the UN and burble this nonsensical rubbish. Coming from the head of a country which ethnically cleansed Jerusalem’s Jews and destroyed their Synagogues and cemeteries between 1948 and 1967 is the height of absurdity. The only thing more absurd is the silence of the UN General Assembly in the face of these bald-faced lies. If the Temple Mount is as sacred to Moslems as Abbas and others claim, why are they desecrating the sanctity of the site by storing weapons, explosives and rocks there, to be used against Jews? The annual hot air hate and hypocrisy festival against Israel is meanwhile well under way at UN Headquarters. (More on this next week).
Blaming Jews and Israel for any and everything comes naturally to those who wallow in blaming others for their own manufactured misfortunes. The latest manifestation of this chronic condition is the claim by a senior Iranian military official that Israel was behind the collapse of the crane in Mecca and the Hajj stampede.
While Christian friends and Jews celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles with expressions of love and joy those who are erroneously touted as peace partners spit vile venom, rewrite history and threaten violence. Anyone with a grain of common sense should clearly see the disastrous results of pandering to these purveyors of puerile poison.
Michael Kuttner is a Jewish New Zealander who for many years was actively involved with various communal organisations connected to Judaism and Israel. He now lives in Israel and is J-Wire’s correspondent in the region.