Sundown Sunday marks the start of Rosh Hashana, the New Year for Jews. It's not a time to party and celebrate, but to reflect on our actions during the past year and ask for guidance and strength to help us be better people in the coming year.
Traditionally, at this time we pray for a few things -- the wisdom to do better, health, happiness and above all, peace. One of our key prayers ends with the word "Shalom" -- Hebrew for Peace. It is peace of mind, and peace on the larger scale -- peace among people and nations.
Ironic that the Jewish homeland of Israel has for its entire existence been mired in war. That irony makes even more sobering an address Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave at the General Assembly at the United Nations last week.
An excerpt, as reprinted in The Wall Street Journal a few days ago, may partly explain why Shalom - Peace - has been so elusive in the Middle East.
"I want you to imagine a day in the life of a 13-year-old Palestinian boy. I'll call him Ali.
Ali wakes up and before school, he goes to practice with a youth soccer team named after a Palestinian terrorist responsible for the murder of a busload of 37 Israelis. At school he attends an event sponsored by the Palestinian Ministry of Education honoring Baha Alyan, who last year murdered three Israeli civilians. On his walk home, Ali looks up at a towering statue erected a few weeks ago by the Palestinian Authority to honor Abu Sukar, who detonated a bomb in the center of Jerusalem, killing 15 Israelis.
When Ali gets home, he turns on the TV and sees an interview with a senior Palestinian official, Jibril Rajoub, who says if he had a nuclear bomb he'd detonate it over Israel that very day. Ali then puts the radio on and hears President Abbas' advisor, Sultan Abu al-Einein, urging Palestinians to "slit the throats of Israelis whenever you find them." Ali checks Facebook and sees a recent post by President Abbas's Fatah Party calling the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics "a heroic act." On YouTube he sees a clip of Abbass saying "We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem."
Over dinner, Ali asks his mother what would happen if he killed a Jew and went to Israeli prison. She tells him he'd be paid thousands of dollars every month by the Palestinian Authority. In fact, she says, the more Jews he would kill, the more money he'd get. And when he gets out of prison, Ali would be guaranteed a job with the Palestinian Authority.
Ladies and Gentlemen, all this is real. It happens every day. Sadly, Ali represents hundreds of thousands of Palestinian children who are indoctrinated with hate every moment, every hour.
This is child abuse.
Imagine your child undergoing this brainwashing. Imagine what it takes for a young boy or girl to break free of this culture of hate. Some do, but far too many don't. How can any of us expect young Palestinians to support peace when their leaders poison their minds against peace?"
Yet, again this year as we do every year, we fervently pray for Shalom, Peace. Not only for us, but for all the world.