I am now 8 weeks removed from my ZOA mission trip to Israel, and 5 weeks into school. It is rather daunting to me that time is moving so fast, and I rather miss the hot days in Israel where I spent a month this summer. As Yom Kippur quickly approaches (less than a week) it dawned on me that this summer, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the unification of Jerusalem.
In 1967, Israeli and Arab forces clashed in the Six Day War, and in the end, the IDF retook Jordanian-occupied Jerusalem and re-united the city, which has been one city ever since. It is so important for us to remember this event as Zionists and as Jews. The unification of Jerusalem marked the first time in more than 2000 years that Jews once again had their ancestral home and rule self-ruled ourselves, also known as self- determination.
Religiously, it celebrated another huge event, the liberation of the Western Wall and again, the first time a Jew could freely pray in public near Har HaBayit (Temple Mount) in thousands of years. These two points, Jewish self-determination and social (religious) freedoms, are two points that Zionists strive for. But it’s not just for Jews that we fight, for Israel fights for all minorities and those hurt or in danger.
Jewish rule of unified Israel gave Muslims and Christians religious freedoms as well. The best example of this religious freedom that I’ve ever seen was during this past summer’s ZOA Student Leadership Mission to Israel at the cave of Samuel the Prophet, where there is a mosque, a Shul, and a Beit Midrash in the same building (on top of each other).
More recently, Israeli search and rescue teams have been giving aid to Mexico after the devastating earthquake, and those in this country hurt by the last wave of hurricanes in Florida and Texas. One much less noticed incident, was the flying of Israeli flags by the Kurdish Peshmergaswe at a pro-independence rally led by Kurdish President Barzani in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
Currently, the Kurds living in Iraq are pushing for their own independent state, and the only example of another democratic state in the Middle East is Israel. Israel has had quiet ties to the Kurds since the 1960’s and has openly supported their political rights since 2014. The vote for an independent Kurdistan happened on September 25th. I hope that we see the light of another democracy in the Middle East, lit by the beautiful flame of Israeli democracy, in the weeks and months to come.
As Yom Kippur rolls around I will find myself again in Shul, fasting and repenting for not only my own sins and for the coming year, but for those in Kurdistan who are fighting for the freedom that we enjoy here in America and in Israel. May we soon see more and more democracies starting soon in areas of turmoil.
Shana Tova, G’mar Chatima Tova!