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Shana Tova from Jerusalem

The days are getting shorter. Leaves are blowing in the wind and wandering birds fly high above, looking for serenity. The Days of Awe surround us; fill our hearts and souls with prayers, exaltation and hope.

In just two days, we will sit at beautifully set holiday tables. Jews around the globe will dip apple into honey and welcome the New Hebrew year with great expectations for a sweet 5776.

This week’s extreme weather in Israel, with all its inconvenience, provides an appropriate end-of-year message from nature. Haze engulfs Israel, the heaviest ever reported. The sand storm is suffocating the entire country with thousands of tons of sand particles.

Because of pollutants fill the air, the Environmental Protection Ministry has called for the cancellation of all school trips and outdoor activities. All domestic flights, too, are halted; army activities are diminished; and people suffering from heart and lung conditions, the elderly and pregnant women were asked to stay indoors.

School recesses have been held indoors and people wearing medical facemasks are a common sight. It is oppressive; and yet, I welcome the haze. It allows me to look at the seamline between today and Sunday with optimism.

The source of light, our sun, is static, always there to grant us warmth and give us life. But on most days this source of light is too bright to be viewed directly. It’s only on hazy days that we can gaze at the sun, thanks to the curtaining effect of the sand.

The Days of Awe are the time of individual and collective self-examination, when we engage in self-criticism and reflection: What must we be grateful for? What should we appreciate? Where did we go wrong, and what can we do better?

The haze is telling us a story—it’s foggy, dirty and dusty out there, really depressing. But there is still a sun shining high above, the same sun that shone on brighter days. We just need to look through the sand screen and we’ll see it; and it can be seen better when it’s most missed, on days like this.

The year 5775 won’t be carved in our hearts and in history books as a great year. As a nation we faced many hardships, difficulties and challenges, including terror attacks, political disputes and social injustice.

The world didn’t see much blessing in 5775 either. Our neighbor countries have faced heartbreaking catastrophes; forcing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians to flee their homes and seek refuge elsewhere. And Europe, in many cases their destination, is changing in front of our eyes daily—changes that will impact its social fabric tremendously.

In tomorrow’s Torah portion Nitzavim, we read:

You are standing today all of you before the Lord your God: the heads of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, all the men of Israel, your little ones, your wives, and the sojourner who is in your camp, from the one who chops your wood to the one who draws your water, so that you may enter into the sworn covenant of the Lord your God, which the Lord your God is making with you today, that he may establish you today as his people, and that he may be your God.

It is our unity, resilience, determination and belief that have kept us going whenever we have faced hardship. It is what will keep us going in the future, hoping that it will be a brighter one.

I can only pray for 5775 to become on every level — global, national and even personally—a dusty memory, much as I hope these hazy days will pass, clearing the way for clean, bright air. I hope that blue sky is waiting for us on Sunday, when we will welcome 5776, a new year filled with all the promise that lies ahead. May the curses and adverse circumstances of 5775 come to a close, and a new year, with its blessings, rise upon us.

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Lord our God, Hear our voice, bless this I would like to take this opportunity to personally wish all of you a blessed year. May Israel be noted for its great wonders and achievements, and may we all stand together as one in good times, as we did in challenging ones.

Shanah Tova and Shabbat Shalom

Leah Garber , Vice President. Director, JCC Israel Center

[email protected]

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