The new year is traditionally rung in to the soundtrack of well-wishes. In the days, hours and minutes before bidding farewell to the old year and stepping into the new, friends, family and perfect strangers typically great each other with words of hope for peace, love, joy and everything precious and beautiful in the year to come.
In Israel, things follow the same pattern—with a difference here and there. For one thing, the new year doesn’t roll around come January. The Jewish New Year is traditionally celebrated on Rosh HaShanah, Hebrew for “head of the year.”
The State of Israel recognizes the Gregorian calendar, but the biblical feasts and year numbering are taken from the calendar the ancient Israelites used in the Scriptures. The two-day feast of Rosh HaShanah is celebrated on the first and second day of the seventh month, the month of Tishrei, which falls in September or October. This year, Israel ushered out the year 5783 and welcomed 5784 at sunset on September 15 and observed the feast until dusk on September 17.
Although New Year’s Day celebrations on December 31 in the secular West are often marked by lavish parties and merriment, the Hebrew New Year is slightly different. The atmosphere of Rosh HaShanah is one of reverence and devotion, which some describe as “subdued joyousness.”
Regardless of the differences, there is a common element that Rosh HaShanah shares with other New Year’s celebrations: well-wishes. In the days, hours and minutes before bidding farewell to the old year and stepping into the new, friends, family and perfect strangers in Israel also greet each other with words of hope for peace, love, joy and everything precious and beautiful in the year to come.
So as Israel prepared to take its first few steps into the new year, we asked a few Israeli friends to share the hope they cherish for their country and people in 5784.
“May Israel be blessed with internal peace and peace with its neighbors in the coming year so that it cannot only take care of its own people but also perform a key role as a global leader in helping the citizens of the world fight illness, poverty, hunger and drought.”
—Steve Linde, editor-in-chief, the Jerusalem Report
“Does my wish even matter? Is my view of what Eretz Yisrael [the Land of Israel] should look like superior to others? Does any person have more of a right to imagine this place, to construct it, to carry a 4,000-year-old dream on their bare backs, in the way they see fit? My wish is for everyone to understand we are all on this little piece of land together. Only then could there be a true Israel.”
—Liam Forberg, writer and photographer
“Israeli society has always been diverse in a cultural, ethnic and also political sense. In many ways, the reality of Israel’s social and political life has always been an example of how a society has managed to accommodate extreme differences and strongly conflicting perspectives without breaking apart. But as we enter the Jewish year 5784, many feel that the unity of Israeli society is seriously being challenged…I just returned from a trip to Europe where, once more, I saw the remnants of a once so rich Jewish life that has largely been destroyed. This renders the State of Israel one of the very few places in the world where Jewish society can thrive and continue to evolve naturally in all its diverse manifestations…My hope for the coming year therefore is that Israeli society will retain its unity without forfeiting its diversity and retain its diversity without forfeiting its unity.”
—Dr. Marc Neugröschel, writer and educator
“After a year of turmoil, I wish the State of Israel is able to find peace and that the political situation stabilizes. Israel has too many outside threats and can’t afford such infighting between ourselves.”
—Noa Amouyal, PR specialist and journalist
“As Israel enters a new year, my prayer is that it be one of healing from civil strife that has marked the previous year, and much needed unity among all Israelis. I pray for the constant building—and reinforcing—of bridges between Jews and Christians toward our ultimate redemption. And I pray for peace, whether through defeating our enemies’ evil intention, or God changing their heart. Please join me in your continued prayers for Israel.”
—Jonathan Feldstein, president, Genesis 123 Foundation
“This past and coming year were and most probably will be filled for Israelis with discord and uncertainty. I pray for more harmony and certainty. This past and probably the next year will be filled with wishing there was more—not less—compassion in the world. So, what I do and will pray and aim for is that we all ‘find grace in the eyes of God and man’ (Prov. 3:4).”
—Mara Schecter, social worker, resource development writer and consultant
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