Tashlich 2007Israel is in the middle of the Rosh Hashanah or New Year Holy Day. During this two day event Jews all over the world say prayers not only to usher in the Jewish New Year but take time for personal soul searching when “the Gates of Heaven” are opened by the Almighty for repentance prior to the Day of Atonement 10 days hence when the “Gates of Heaven” are closed and a person’s fate is sealed for the coming year. One of the prayers most relevant (and not always practiced by all) are those said in the afternoon of the first day of the holiday and known as Tashlich or casting ones sins into the “depths of the ocean “.

These prayers can be said near a free flowing stream or a lake if the “ocean” is not available. Israel is fortunately blessed with a long seacoast on the sunny Mediterranean Sea, as well as having other bodies of water available such as the Sea of Galilee and of course the pristine Jordan River, known since biblical times as a source for various religious practices. One rabbi so eloquently stated in days of yore: “just as free swimming fish may some day find themselves trapped in the fisherman’s net; so must we mortal humans repent our sins to the Almighty as we become old and approach our ultimate destiny”.

Israelis who belong to the country’s 76% Jewish majority certainly have a lot to stake stock of in regards to what has transpired during the past year; and this pertains particularly to the country’s political leaders in the wake of what has happened during the past few years – especially since the summer of 2005. This began with the decision by Israel’s government to uproot a group of more than 7,000 people living in 25 settlements in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, destroying their livelihood and making many of them still homeless and without a viable source of income more than two years later. The result has been an even worsening of the security situation between Israel and a now Hamas controlled Gaza strip from where deadly Kassam rockets rain down almost daily on Israeli towns, settlements and even army bases (most recently resulting in more than 63 young soldiers being injured ).

The ‘disengagement’ from Gaza eventually resulted in events which led up to the Lebanon II war in July/August 2006, which caused immense damage and human suffering to both sides of the conflict, and was commanded by an army Chief of Staff who first sought it necessary to put his own financial “house” in order: and by government ministers, including the prime minister and defense minister who were found to be incapable of adequately performing their duties. Although the army COS did finally resign in the aftermath of this event, the two ministers refused to do so; and one of them, the defense minister, had to finally be voted out of office by members of his own political party. The prime minister still holds on tenuously to power though himself is under investigation for various forms of corruption, including those of a financial nature.

Things haven’t really improved much since these events took place and presently, the security situation in Israel is not any better, and perhaps even worse. Three Israeli solders are still in enemy hands with no real sign of when, or if, they will be released.

And finally, let’s not forget the President of the State who ended his tenure under allegations of a number of sexually related crimes, including rape; and another well known politician who ‘cut a deal’ on his sexual offenses and is now back in the government. Both of these men should have been cast out entirely; instead, they were both allowed to plead guilty to “lesser offenses”.

These are just a few of the many things, along with normal examples of everyday sins and corruption that need to be dealt with and accounted for by many. And perhaps a token attempt to set things right might be to make a greater effort by all to “cast their sins into the depths of the ocean” and begin anew. We still have time before the “Gates of Heaven” are sealed again for another year.