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JEWISH CULTURE N° 162 by Gilberte Jacaret

THE YOM KIPPUR WAR

40 years on, the IDF finally emerges from the bunker
The 1973 war shaped the way in which Israel's military and intelligence saw strategic developments in the region. Now, with a new generation at the helm and new challenges in the Arab world, the IDF is beginning to adapt to the changes in and around it.
Haaretz, By Amos Harel | Sep. 13, 2013

For nearly four decades, the Yom Kippur War has cast its enormous shadow over the Israeli defense establishment. The trauma of 1973 shaped the way in which the establishment's leaders, Israel Defense Forces commanders and intelligence chiefs perceived the developments in the country's strategic reality, the way in which they treated intelligence information, and the precautions they took to prevent another military surprise. The images of the Israeli POWs on Mount Hermon, the desperate cries of the soldiers under attack at the Suez Canal strongholds, the angst-ridden consultations in the General Staff's underground headquarters − all of these not only left an ineradicable impression on the war's veterans, but also ended up being passed down to subsequent generations like a kind of Oral Law.

The war's influence was evident everywhere. It reinforced several basic elements shared by its veterans and those who came after them, which went unchallenged for many years: an inherent skepticism regarding what intelligence agencies really know about the enemy's intentions; the need to preserve broad margins of safety regarding the possibility of a surprise war erupting; and a basic lack of faith in the judgment of political leaders ‏(which grew still more pronounced after the duplicitous war in Lebanon in 1982‏). To this day, the soldiers at outposts on the Hermon and Golan Heights are still trained to cope with a surprise offensive of "Syrians on the fences," even though four decades have gone by.

Only in the past two years has the IDF begun to free itself slightly from the shadow and to adjust some of these longstanding conceptions to the new era. In part, this is a natural consequence of generations changing. Among the top defense brass, only Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and commander of the General Staff Corps, Maj. Gen. Gershon Hacohen, saw active duty in the war. Benny Gantz is the first IDF chief of staff since 1973 who has not been a veteran of that war; a month before it broke out, he had entered the ninth grade. The other generals on the General Staff today were in elementary school at the time. The current commander of the Paratroopers Brigade, Col. Eliezer Toledano, was born the week that Yom Kippur's paratroopers were fighting at the Chinese Farm. His colleague Golani Brigade commander Col. Yaniv Asor was a year old when the brigade re-conquered the Hermon.

But the conclusions from the Yom Kippur War, some still relevant today, are also being reexamined in view of the shakeup that took hold of the Arab world nearly three years ago. The deep processes still underway there, whose consequences are not yet clear, obligate Israel to take a new look at the region and at the potential military threats that it faces. The change in the nature of challenges will also gradually dictate a change in Israel's response and in the IDF's structure.

The intelligence failure is generally noted as the main reason for the Yom Kippur fiasco. The low probability the Military Intelligence Directorate ascribed on the eve of the war to the possibility of a coordinated Egyptian-Syrian offensive remains a source of eternal disgrace. But in its wake, together with the requisite need for relying on parallel evaluative bodies − and the insistence on allowing junior officers to express an independent opinion, even when it counters official assessments − there are also negative norms that became entrenched. These include a clear-cut tendency on the part of the evaluators to cover their asses, with the object of expressing all possible scenarios and thus preventing the possibility of future accusations of complacency and arrogance.
Only lately have there been growing signs that MI is kicking this nasty habit. This could be seen clearly two weeks ago when, in view of the American statements about an imminent attack in Syria, MI was not afraid to offer the assessment that only a low probability existed that Damascus would retaliate with military action against Israel. Presumably, the attacks this year against Syrian weapons convoys and depots, which have been ascribed abroad to the Israel Air Force, were accompanied by similar intelligence assessments.

The most dramatic change the Arab Spring has generated from Israel's standpoint concerns the depletion in the power of the conventional military threat posed by Arab states. The first days of the 1973 war revealed a numerical inferiority of the ground forces in the Golan Heights and Suez Canal and a difficulty in gaining air superiority in the face of the threat of anti-aircraft missiles. That was the tragic background that yielded the massive growth in the IDF's ground and air forces in the years after the war. The army created more and more armored divisions, determined that, as the saying goes, "Masada shall not fall again."

Thus was born what economists describe as the lost decade after the war, in which tremendous defense-related expenses paralyzed the economy. Likewise, in subsequent decades, the IDF concentrated on preparing for a major confrontation, mainly with the Syrian army. Even though in practice it dealt day-to-day with what was then termed "low-intensity wars" − such as guerrilla and terror confrontations with Hezbollah and the Palestinian organizations − a major military contest was seen as the primary scenario for which to prepare.

Even after Syria acknowledged its inferiority in the conventional realm, and focused its military's procurement and training on those areas where it felt it had an advantage ‏(steep-trajectory missiles and rockets, air-defense systems, fortifications and anti-aircraft missiles‏), the IDF continued to behave as though a war between armored divisions might break out at any moment.

Squirming in their seats

However, the enormous erosion in the Syrian military's ability since the civil war broke out there has led, belatedly, to a change in mindset on the Israeli side. This summer, in view of budget cuts, Chief of Staff Gantz drew up a plan for structural changes in the IDF that includes slashing the number of armored and artillery units and eliminating air force squadrons. The General Staff is convinced that the abilities developed in recent years − accurate intelligence, firepower from air and ground, and mainly the possibility of coordinating these components − will compensate for the damage the cutbacks will cause.

But it was riveting to see some of the veteran military commentators, so-called graduates of the Yom Kippur War, squirm in their seats as Gantz described his plan to them. Full support for it has come from Ya'alon, who declared that the military must change because future conflagrations will no longer look like the war of '73. Ya'alon, who fought during the war in Sinai as a reservist paratrooper and returned for an officer's course thereafter, has spoken out frequently in recent weeks about the lessons he learned, among other occasions, at a conference for IDF top brass about the war, held at the Palmahim base this week.

There he said: "One of the seeds of that war's failure was the great sense of victory of the Six-Day War, which led to excessive self-confidence, arrogance, complacency, carelessness. Senior officers had a culture then of 'I am, and there is no other beside me.' Immediately after I was appointed head of the MI Directorate in 1998, I set about reading the report of the Agranat Commission, and went to meet its protagonists, too. From them, I learned the extent of the tragedy: MI's leaders in those years were clearly excellent people. They were overcome, and not only they, by arrogance and immodesty. There was no room for another opinion, another view, different thinking."
Each of us, Ya'alon told the senior officers of today, "should maintain modesty and beware of the euphoria that follows successes. The challenge for all of us these days is to be alert to change, the pace of which is tremendous. The correct way is to encourage within the organization a culture that seems contrary to hierarchical military logic, in which the commander is the one who determines and knows. We need an organizational culture that encourages all ranks to be critical, to cast doubt, to reexamine basic assumptions, to get outside the framework and eventually act in keeping with operational discipline."

Ya'alon did not mention the issue of internal oversight. In the past decade, largely in response to the shock of the Second Lebanon War, a deeply troubling tendency has been exacerbated in the IDF, whereby senior officers toed the line and were afraid to criticize their commanders, after having concluded that such audacity would end up delaying their promotion. The first who dared point this out openly was Brig. Gen. Amir Abulafia, now the commander of a reservist division, who in an article in the military magazine Maarachot in 2010 criticized officers' fear of expressing an independent opinion.

Abulafia warned that the phenomenon imperils the IDF's ability to fulfill its purpose: protecting the country. Gantz, who is aware of the danger, is making a fierce effort to rescue the army from intellectual conservativeness. Ya'alon, who supports this, contends that, "in the IDF they are once more not afraid to think."

The Yom Kippur War highlighted other sensitive seam-lines, such as the mutual relations between the military command and the political leadership, the public and the media. Historians who have published studies of the war in recent years, among them Prof. Uri Bar Joseph and Dr. Yigal Kipnis, emphasized the refusal of Golda Meir's government to entertain diplomatic initiatives in the three years leading up to the war. The findings, some of them new, have intensified the feeling that the roots of the war's surprise lay also in a serious political fiasco − and these have led to numerous comparisons to the suspicious and sour attitude of Benjamin Netanyahu's government vis-a-vis peace efforts today.

On the other hand, criticism of politicians can come from another angle entirely: Today is also the anniversary of the Oslo Accords of 1993. To a large degree, the formative military experience of the generals on the current General Staff goes back to the years of combat against Palestinian terrorism, culminating in the second intifada, but which generally accelerated in the wake of Oslo. Moreover, on the eve of the shakeup in the Arab world, Netanyahu blocked recommendations − which had the vociferous support of the IDF − to move toward forging a peace treaty with the Assad regime that would have entailed giving back to Syria the entire Golan Heights. Where would Israel be today without that strategic asset?

It is hard, therefore, to draw definitive historical conclusions and make them fit a uniform ideological mold, when reality continues to change. But generally speaking, the approach to the peace process of the present General Staff, although not directly expressed in public, remains moderate and relatively sober-minded. Israel's generals are very far from the prevalent image of warmongers.

One of the main speakers at the conference in Palmahim this week was Prof. Yagil Levy, who focused on the war's effect on Israeli society ‏(the fact that an invitation was extended to Levy, who frequently attacks the IDF's conduct in the territories, attests to a new spirit in the Gantz era‏). Levy diagnoses in the Yom Kippur War the roots of long-term processes, primarily the mounting military burden on society, in terms of money and manpower and a concomitant increase in society's expectations from the IDF, as if to show that the increased burden is justified.

Today, Levy sees a tendency in the army to focus on professionalization, with the IDF seeking to compensate for a decline in people's willingness to sacrifice their sons in battle by means of improved technology, and to explain that trend by means of the market economy − an observation that met with discomfort among part of the audience at the conference.

In this relationship there is a third vertex to the triangle: media outlets. The military commentator for the website Ynet, Ron Ben-Yishai, this week wrote about his experiences as Israeli television's military correspondent during the '73 war and also gave links to footage of stories from previous years.
The IDF's confidence, the smugness despite the worrisome signs on the Egyptian side − these are clearly evident in the run-up to the war. The military correspondent himself says in passing, toward the end of an item from 1971, that the IDF will rely less on reservists "next time," because behind the enlisted forces in the strongholds will be the immense strategic expanse of Sinai.

Two years later, the immensity of that mistake became clear. Alongside the intelligence and diplomatic failings, Yom Kippur highlighted the total collapse of the arrogant perception that the flimsy order of battle of enlisted units on the borders would be enough to stop a Syrian and Egyptian offensive, should one even occur. The scorn for the Arabs' ability, following the victory in 1967, is apparently at the heart of the failure in 1973. Therein resides one of the main lessons of the war, which is relevant in 2013 as well, even if all the rest of the circumstances have changed: the need to take the potential rival with all seriousness and prepare accordingly.

The Yom Kippur War
By Elizabeth Stephens | Published in History TodayVolume: 58 Issue: 10 2008

Elizabeth Stephens examines how the surprise invasion of Israel by Egypt and its allies started the process that led to Camp David.

The impact of the Yom Kippur War that erupted on October 6th, 1973, far outweighed its relatively short duration of twenty days of heavy fighting. It severely tested the détente between the United States and the Soviet Union as the superpowers sought to defend the interests of their Middle East clients: Israel on the American side, Egypt and Syria on the Soviet side. The result was the most dangerous moment of the Cold War since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. American support proved critical to the survival of Israel at this seminal moment as the US-Israel special relationship, begun in 1967, was consolidated. The conflict is also remembered for triggering the first energy shock as Arab oil producers unleashed the oil weapon to punish the United States and its allies for their support of Israel. Finally, it set off a chain of events that culminated in the 1978 Camp David Accords, the landmark peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

JEWISH CULTURE N° 161 by Gilberte Jacaret

TWO ISRAELI-AMERICANS AWARDED NOBEL PRIZE IN CHEMISTRY

Arieh Warshel, along with two other scientists, awarded prestigious prize for ground-breaking research in field of chemistry
Ynet, AP

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced on Wednesday that American-Israeli scientists Arieh Warshel and Michael Levitt, together with scientist Martin Karplus, have won this year's Nobel Prize in chemistry for laying the foundation for computer models used to understand and predict chemical processes.
The Swedish academy noted that their research in the 1970s has helped scientists develop programs that unveil chemical processes such as the purification of exhaust fumes or the photosynthesis in green leaves.
"The work of Karplus, Levitt and Warshel is ground-breaking in that they managed to make Newton's classical physics work side-by-side with the fundamentally different quantum physics," the academy said. "Previously, chemists had to choose to use either/or."
Warshel, 72, is a US and Israeli citizen affiliated with the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Levitt is an American-Israeli professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine who has also held positions at the Weizmann Institute for many years. His wife still lives in Rehovot. Karplus, a US and Austrian citizen is affiliated with the University of Strasbourg, France, and Harvard University.
Warshel told a news conference in Stockholm by telephone that he was "extremely happy" to be awakened in the middle of the night in Los Angeles to find out he had won the prize and looks forward to collecting the award in the Swedish capital in December.

"In short, what we developed is a way which requires computers to look, to take the structure of the protein and then to eventually understand how exactly it does what it does," Warshel said.
In an interview with Israel Army Radio he described the moment he was informed of his win. "I got a phone call at 2:30 am. They didn't have to say anything, once the phone rang, I knew."
Asked about the role Israel plays in his identity he said, "I am partly Israeli. I visit Israel, I feel Israeli. My kids speak Hebrew."
His brother Yigal noted that he left Israel at the age of 34, after serving as a combat signal officer. "He was at the Weizman Institute but said he had better chances of getting ahead overseas, that the salary is better. He hasn't lived in Israel for 40 years. I once asked him whether he would ever come back – he said he wouldn't. I guess he's happy there."

PRIX NOBEL CHIMIE OCT.13
Winners of Nobel Prize in Chemistry (Photo: Reuters)

Warshel was born in Kibbutz Sde Nahum and studied at the Technion and the Weizmann Institute.
Minister of Science and Technology Yaakov Peri congratulated Prof. Warshel on his win. "Warshel continues in the unprecedented line of Israeli Nobel Prize winners, but at the same time he shines a light on the real national challenge of reversing the brain drain," he said.
Levitt, 66, said after his win: "It was just me being in the right place at the right time and maybe having a few good ideas." Levitt won the prize together with Arieh Warshel and Martin Karplus for developing computer models used to understand complex chemical interactions.
"It's sort of nice in more general terms to see that computational science, computational biology is being recognized," he added. "It's become a very large field and it's always in some ways been the poor sister, or the ugly sister, to experimental biology."

Levvit was born in Pretoria, South Africa and moved to England at age 15. He arrived in Israel when he was 21 for his doctoral studies. Levvit and his wife Rina have three children. He divides his time between Israel and the US.
Potential candidates for the prize were also Israel Prof. Haim Cedar and Prof. Aharon Razin of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Warshel is the 11th Israeli to win the prestigious prize. Scientist Daniel Shechtman received the 2011 Nobel Prize in chemistry for the discovery of atom patterns called "quasicrystals."

In 2009, Israeli scientist Ada Yonath was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry for showing how ribosomes function, work that has important implications for antibiotics.

She was preceded by Shmuel Yosef Agnon, who won the literature prize in 1966; Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres who won the Nobel Peace Prize (Begin in 1978, Rabin and Peres in 1994); Daniel Kahneman who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002; Avram Hershko and Aaron Ciechanover who won the chemistry prize in 2004; and Robert Aumann who received the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2005.

The Nobel week began on Monday, as the Nobel Prize for medicine was given to James Rothman of Yale University, Randy Sheckman of the University of California, and Thomas Sudhof of the Stanford University School of Medicine at Stanford University.

On Tuesday, Peter Higgs of Britain and Francois Englert of Belgium won the 2013 Nobel Prize for physics for their discovery of the Higgs boson, about how subatomic particles that are the building blocks of matter get their mass.
The Nobel Prize was founded in 1895, and can be awarded only to people who are still alive. Every prize winner is also awarded with $1.2 million.

JEWISH CULTURE N° 159 by Gilberte Jacaret

SOUNDS GERMAN AND ISRAELI
Jerusalem Post, 09/25/2013 By MAXIM REIDER

The Weimar-Jerusalem Project, a combined orchestra of young musicians, kicks off with three concerts around the country.

VIOLONISTE J.CULTURE 159
The Weimar-Jerusalem Project Photo: Courtesy

Next week, local classical music fans will be able to enjoy the fruits of a unique Israeli-German musical synergy when the Weimar- Jerusalem Project kicks off. The venture comprises a confluence between young musicians from Germany and Israel with, as the project information puts it, "a story in sound, dedicated to the history of Jewish composers in Central Europe from the end of the 18th century up to the Holocaust – the event that would sever the continuity of their involvement and contribution."

The on-stage proceedings, presided over by German conductor Michael Sanderling, will feature works by Mendelssohn, Mahler, Shostakovitch and 20th-century German Jewish composer Berthold Goldschmidt, who lived most of his life in Britain.

Two young symphony orchestras – one from the High School of Music in Weimar, named after Franz Liszt, the other from the Rubin Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance – will join forces to perform an homage to the long Jewish cultural presence in Germany, which was brought to an abrupt end with the rise of the Nazis and the following the Holocaust. These concerts are part of the Weimar- Jerusalem international project. The program features Passacaglia by Goldschmidt; Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto; Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn songs; and Shostakovitch's Symphony No. 6.

Violinist Yuval Herz and baritone Guy Peltz are the soloists. Michael Sanderling conducts.

The united orchestra has already appeared in Germany, where the young Israeli musicians spent about a month rehearsing and then performing at important venues, such as the Bayreuth Festival.

"This project is both an homage to Jewish musicians of the past and the mutual history that Jews and Germans once shared, as well as a rare opportunity to collaborate with young German musicians," says Israeli composer Michael Wolpe, who heads the project. "The program features music by Jewish composers, but not only. Music by Shostakovitch was very popular in East Germany, mostly due to activity by Kurt Sanderling, an outstanding conductor who was forced to escape Germany and worked for 35 years in Russia before returning to Dresden in 1960. His son Michael is one of the most promising conductors of his generation."

The concerts took place October 1 in Tel Aviv ; October 2 in Haifa ; and October 3 at the Jerusalem Theater (with a live broadcast on radio's Voice of Music).

JEWISH CULTURE N° 157 by Gilberte Jacaret

TRAVELLING EXHIBITION HELD IN BEIJING

Beijing Evening News, July 7th, 2013

On July 7th, 2013, an exhibition titled "Nazi German Death Camp--Konzentrationslager Auschwitz" had its opening ceremony in the Museum of the War of Chinese People's Resistance Against Japanese Aggression in Beijing. The exhibition, which showcases displays related to World War II, is sponsored by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum, which provided a portion of the exhibit. The following are excerpts from two media reports.

Criminal Evidence of Auschwitz

In Auschwitz, the only way out is the chimney of incinerator. Even the hair of the dead killed in gas chambers was cut for textile material. Twenty thousand kilograms of gas were depleted every year in the gas chambers. Today is July 7th, the anniversary of the Lugou Bridge incident in 1937. The Museum of the War of Chinese People's Resistance Against Japanese Aggression held the opening ceremony of an exhibition titled "Nazi German Death Camp--Konzentrationslager Auschwitz" in the same place that the Lugou Bridge incident occurred, revealing history and reminding us what happened with exhibits and pictures.

The exhibition was sponsored by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum and the Museum of the War of Chinese People's Resistance against Japanese Aggression. The first guests were the diplomats of Poland, Israel and Germany in China.

"The history of Auschwitz concentration camp" and "Jewish Refugees and Shanghai" are two parts of the exhibition. The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum provides exhibits such as a warning sign on the barbed wire of the concentration camp, a prison uniform and Jewish identification, a pair of clogs, a suitcase with the name of a Jewish person on it and Zyklon B's logo, a manufacturer of poison gas and so on.

Although these exhibits are replicas, the cruelty of the concentration is very apparent. The Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum also provides many other exhibits: a Jewish marriage certificate, driving license, residence permit, refugee certificate, boat ticket to Shanghai, letter to family, published newspapers from the time, and more.

The exhibition took place until September 7th. Citizens could visit free of charge with valid ID.

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During World War II, tens of thousands of Jews fleeing Nazi Germany were welcomed in China.

- Fight Hatred, Jabotinsky International Center,

Ho Feng Shan, Chinese Consul General in Vienna from 1938 – 1940, saved thousands of Jewish lives by issuing visas to travel to Shanghai

PEKIN

Ho Feng-Shan was a Chinese diplomat in Vienna who risked his own life and career during World War II to save thousands of Jews. He served as the Chinese Consul General in Vienna from 1938 – 1940. Despite being ordered to desist by his supervisors, he remained steadfast in his principles and continued his extraordinary humanitarian efforts by facilitating the safe departure of thousands of Jews by issuing visas to the Chinese port city of Shanghai.

Ho's actions were recognized posthumously when he was awarded the title "Righteous among the Nations" by the Israeli organization Yad Vashem in July 2000 and honored by Boys Town Jerusalem in 2004. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) posthumously honored Dr. Feng Shan Ho with its "Jan Karski Courage to Care Award" on November 15, 2012 at the League's Annual Meeting in Chicago. The award was accepted by his daughter, Manli Ho.

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director said: "Ho was among the first of a small number of diplomatic rescuers who took extraordinary measures and personal risk to do the right thing." "During one of the darkest times in world history, this man stood up against a powerful evil, jeopardizing his own career, without recognition or compensation. Led by his moral compass, Dr. Ho saved thousands of mothers, fathers and children, grandparents, aunts and uncles."

Ho's actions in Vienna went unnoticed during his lifetime, save for a black mark in his personnel file for disobeying orders. His extraordinary actions were not known until after his death, thanks to research by his daughter, Ho Man-li, who conducted research and documentation for 15 years on her father's story.

JEWISH CULTURE N° 156 by Gilberte Jacaret

SUKKOT

Sukkot, Feast of Booths, Feast of Tabernacles is a biblical holiday celebrated on the 15th day of the month of Tishrei (late September to late October). It follows the solemn holiday of Yom kippur.

When the sons of Israel were traveling in the desert, they lived in huts that are called "sukkot". Leviticus, 23,34: " The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the Lord."

Deuteronomy, 16,13 :" Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine." 14, "And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates."

SUKKAH-SEPT-13
A sukka.

In Leviticus 23,40, 42,43: God told Moses to command the people : « On the first day you shall take the product of hadar trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook" and " You shall live in booths seven days; all citizens in Israel shall live in booths, in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt".

This agricultural holiday lasts seven days (eight in the diaspora). The Hebrew word sukkōt is the plural of sukkah, "booth or tabernacle", which is a walled structure covered with skhakh (plant material such as leafy tree overgrowth or palm leaves). The sukkah is intended as a reminiscence of the type of fragile dwellings in which the Israelites dwelt during their 40 years of travel in the desert after the Exodus from slavery in Egypt. Throughout the holiday meals are eaten inside the sukkah and many sleep there as well.

CITRON-SOUKKOT-SEPT-13

Since Sukkot celebrates the harvest in the land of Israel, another custom on Sukkot involves waving the lulav and etrog. Together the lulav and etrog represent the Four Species. The etrog is a kind of citron (related to a lemon), while the lulav is made of three myrtle twigs (hadassim), two willow twigs (aravot) and a palm frond (lulav). Because the palm frond is the largest of these plants, the myrtle and willow are wrapped around it. During Sukkot, the lulav and etrog are waved together while reciting special blessings.

The holiday immediately following Sukkot is known as Shemini Atzeret (lit. "Eighth [Day] of Assembly"). Shemini Atzeret is usually viewed as a separate holiday.In the Diaspora a second additional holiday, Simchat Torah (lit. "Joy of the Torah"), is celebrated.

JEWISH CULTURE N° 155 by Gilberte Jacaret

YOM KIPPUR

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Yom Kippur, also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jewish people traditionally observe this holy day with an approximate 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services.

Yom Kippur completes the annual period known in Judaism as the High Holy Days or Yamim Nora'im ("Days of Awe") that commences with Rosh Hashanah.
According to Jewish tradition, God inscribes each person's fate for the coming year into a book, the Book of Life, on Rosh Hashanah, and waits until Yom Kippur to "seal" the verdict. During the Days of Awe, a Jewish person tries to amend his or her behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God and against other human beings.The evening and day of Yom Kippur are set aside for public and private petitions and confessions of guilt. At the end of Yom Kippur, one hopes that they have been forgiven by God.

As one of the most culturally significant Jewish holidays, Yom Kippur is observed by many secular Jews who may not observe other holidays.

Leviticus, 16.20,: "And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat;
21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess upon him all the iniquities of the children of Israel and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness:
22 And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness....
26 And he that let go the goat for the scapegoat shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward come into the camp...
29 And this shall be a statute for ever unto you that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do not work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you:
30 For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.

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Jonah and the Whale

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Chapter 1
17- Now the Lord prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonas: and Jonas was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Chapter 2
Then Jonas prayed to the Lord his God out of the belly of the fish.
2 -And said: I cried out of my affliction to the Lord, and he heard me: I cried out of the belly of hell, and thou hast heard my voice.
3- And thou hast cast me forth into the deep in the heart of the sea, and a flood hath compassed me: all thy billows and thy waves have passed over me.
5- And I said: I am cast away out of the sight of thy eyes: but yet I shall see thy holy temple again.
6- I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me forever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God.
7- When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.
8- They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.
9- But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.
10- And the Lord spoke unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
In Israel, public transportation is interrupted during the whole day. Air traffic and audio-visual broadcasting is also suspended on this occasion. The celebration of Yom Kippour is punctuated by prayers and a fast during 25 hours. All access on Palestinian territory is forbidden during the day, except for emergency humanitarian staff for security reasons..

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