Putting real meaning in atonement

Jews, Muslims should engage in genuine reflection during Holy Days

Just because my wife is Jewish doesn’t mean I've figured them out.


I mean the “Jewish people,” not “wives.” Wives are definitely difficult to figure out, but the Jewish people can sometimes be even more difficult.


For example, Yom Kippur is this week. The Day of Atonement. Actually, it is a daylong event that occurs over two days, beginning Sunday at sunset and ending Monday at nightfall.


One day, where Jewish people must fast, attend synagogue service, and atone. Basically, it symbolizes the last opportunity to seek forgiveness for your sins.


Now I know Yom Kippur is not about atoning for sins that man commits against man, but rather for only those sins between man and God. Basically that means if you do something bad to someone else, you will have to deal with it when you face Judgment Day.


Last chance. Until next year.


Muslims have about 30 days. Ramadan began on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. Muslims do a lengthy process of self-assessment. Have they been good? Have they adhered to their scriptures? I think one Muslims scholar referred to it as a “tune-up for the Muslim soul.”


For Christians, especially those who are Arab from the Middle East like myself, Yom Kippur and Ramadan are important dates that impact our lives.


We don’t really have just one opportunity to cleanse or redeem ourselves. We can do it almost anytime. Catholics when they go to confession. Protestants when they just go to vote.


Christians, who are so much fewer in the Middle East, just turn the other cheek, so let’s concentrate on Jews and Muslims, since their holidays are upon us and Christmas is several months away.


Do Jews and Muslims really take their Holy Days seriously in terms of the real purpose? Do they recognize what they have done wrong, and embrace a path of healing? Or, do they just go through the motions?


Muslims have a light breakfast before sunrise, fast all day and then break the fast at sunset with an Iftar that begins with dates to give them a boost of energy.

Jews go to synagogue and pray, also while fasting.


Do Jews and Muslims close their eyes, focus their inner selves on the heavens and on God and ask for forgiveness for what they have done? Do they even acknowledge what they have done to each other?


When I visit the two web pages that provide the most objective sources of information on Palestinian and Israeli relations, Ynetnews and the Palestine News Network, I see that Jews and Muslims continue to kill each other on a near daily basis. Well, more Muslims are being killed than Jews these days, though you wouldn’t know that from the way the media covers the region.


We can go back a few years and the balance gets closer, I guess. But quantity is not a distinction in atonement for either, is it?


You kill 20 Muslims and one Jew. It’s the same weight in God’s eyes, isn’t it?


And it isn’t just about killing people. It is about killing truth. Saying bad things about the other. Now there is an area where both sides tend to strike an even chord, don’t they?


Saying bad things about each other

Sometimes, Muslims and Jews say such bad things about each other you have to wonder: “Do they kiss their mothers with those mouths?”


Calling Jews monkeys in videos, or hating Jews so much that you do a TV series on the fictitious Protocols of the Elders of Zion? Or maybe, you broadcast a series that questions how many Jews were really murdered by the Nazis and if the Holocaust exists?


Definitely, many Muslims have a need to atone for those things.


Saying Palestinians “don’t exist,” or cheering as the Israeli government confiscates a man’s farmlands so they can build the wall portion of the “fence?” Or taking the land because you want to build a Jewish-only settlement? Or, refusing to allow Palestinians like my friend Sam Bahour to return to their families because the Israelis want to impose their immigration standards on the occupied territories.


Tourist visa or not, the man has a right to go home, doesn’t he?


Jews did the same thing during the British Mandate, entering Palestine illegally.


There hasn’t been a suicide bombing for a while, Jews say because of the Wall, Muslims say because of the Hudna. Land confiscation, home demolition and targeted assassinations go on, some everyday. Jews continue to be victims of violence by angry Palestinians. And they were provoked by Hezbollah a few months back that caused a needless and unnecessary war that hurt so many.


Are Jews and Muslims, right now, atoning and reflecting? Or have their Holy Days become little annoyances in life that have been converted into commercialized events, like Christmas, which for most Christians is really about gifts, a man in a red suit and white beard, and vacations, than it is for reflecting on one's life.


This year as I wish Le Shana Tovah to the Jewish people and Ramadan Mubarak to the Muslims. I wish that they would both set a good example for the rest of us Christians and do what’s right.


Wouldn’t it be nice if we all just said we’re sorry? And meant it?


Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American journalist, author and standup comedian. He can be reached at


פרסום ראשון: 09.30.06, 16:14
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