Jews around the world are getting ready to celebrate Rosh HaShana, the birth of the year 5782, on September 7. As we all know, the holiday comes with customs, prayers and including the blowing of the shofar and eating sweet apples dipped in honey. By filling ourselves with sweetness, we hopefully not only also gain the strength and courage to face the upcoming year, but even take a more positive view of the world.
In the spirit of Rosh HaShana, let me please pour sweetness over some bitter and realities we are facing, and hope that sweetness can show a more positive and hopeful side of things.
COVID. Not only are millions still dying and getting seriously ill, but society is split worldwide over vaccinations, preventative measures and availability of resources. This is sad and frustrating but, nevertheless, let us taste some honey. Humankind has been able to quickly find a vaccine that can stand up to this terrible disease. Let us celebrate that, in such a short time, we developed a new kind of vaccine that will hopefully, over time, protect us from COVID and, possibly, help treat other diseases in the future.
Afghanistan. At the time of writing, this painful and sad situation is still changing day by day. Once our government declared that U.S. soldiers would be leaving, many were hoping that the Afghani soldiers would defeat the Taliban. Obviously, this did not happen. But, if we were so wrong, and the Taliban was destined to take over again, maybe it was better that it happened in one week, without years of battles which would result in more deaths and frustration. We are all going to need a lot of apples and honey to stomach this one, especially when we think of the brave soldiers and families who sacrificed so much in Afghanistan for 20 years. My colleagues at The Jewish Community Relations Council/American Jewish Committee join countless people around the world in praying that all those affected in Afghanistan are safe – and resettled, if need be – properly and with the respect they deserve.
Israelis and Palestinians. Who could ever imagine that a forest fire outside of Jerusalem could add a hint of sweetness in an otherwise deep, complicated conflict? A massive fire recently raged on the edge of Jerusalem, Israel’s worst since 2010. Among those who came to the rescue were members of the Palestinian Civil Defense force, 20 firefighters and four trucks, from the Palestinian city of Ramallah. This was a purely humanitarian move, but in a region that, this year especially, has felt so much pain, this beautiful gesture from the Palestinian Authority added a lot of honey to a sad situation.
Finally, and maybe the most worrisome one of all, Global Warming. Our planet has been living through a devastating summer filled with flooding, especially locally, massive fires and intense heat. To think that smoke from fires in Siberia reached the North Pole for the first time ever is extremely troubling.
One may wonder where the honey is in this situation and I have the answer, which may initially sound a bit corny. By eating honey we remember how vital bees and other pollinators are to our world – and how threatened they are by world forest devastation. But, maybe even more importantly, because the whole world is literally feeling the heat, there is a greater chance than ever that countries that do not always get along, will start working together.
If there is one message that comes out of global warming it is that we have to work together by sharing technologies to find clean water and renewable energy sources and help developing countries fund these transitions.
So, on September 7, let us eat apples and honey in the hope that our sorrows develop a sweet side as we usher in a new year, and that this hope will turn into action – that everyone will work together to make this world a place sweet for all.