Today is Rosh Hashana. The Jewish New Year. Literally it translates as “head of the year”.
Like the secular/Christian New Year Rosh Hashana is a day for celebration; in fact, the Biblical name for this day essentially means raising a noise or happily shouting.
It is a day of intense religious significance for Jews and is ushered in with the blowing of the shofar (commonly a ram’s horn) and eating significant food like apples dipped in honey.
Right now in Israel Benjamin Netanyu has wished Israelis a happy Rosh Hashanah. Like every other politician in the world at other New Years.
But this year is something different.
Netanyu held back until the last moment to give something additionally symbolic to this day packed with symbolism.
For he announced that for the first time, Israel was now home to six mullion Jews.
Nobody bothered to announce on earlier Rosh Hashanas that there were five million or four living there; and it is a safe bet that no one will announce something on Rosh Hashana when they hit 7 million.
For six million is the accepted figure for the number of Jews in Germany Poland France etc that Hitler murdered in pathological hatred.
And Netanyahu is sending a message to Muslims and world bigots on Rosh Hashana that Jews are still here. They are still a force. The message was almost defiant – “They did their worst” and we are still living, we were beaten and we rose again.
This “still here” message is deep in the soul of everyone on earth. It appears in the Star Spangled Banner – “the flag was still there”. It appears in the Man from Snowy River when it seemed the horses had got away but suddenly there was “the man from Snowy River at their heels” still racing. When 9-11 happened, viewers saw a man emerging from the cloud of dust, he had a set face as he looked at the cameras and said, “Still here, guys”.
When Jews celebrate the Passover – a ceremony performed at home – they finish by exclaiming “Next year in Jerusalem” No matter how hopeless their situation at that particular moment was they still toasted, “Next year in Jerusalem” – they were still there.
These words convey a web of meaning from concrete to abstract, and from earthly to holy – something to be experienced before it can be understood.
Netanyahu’s ordinary sounding statement on Rosh Hashanaof a census figure of six million will have profound effect next Passover.