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Rosh Hashana Opinion Piece

By Dr Ron Weiser AM 

The following appeared in last week’s Australian Jews News:

As we approach 5777-2016/17 we are entering a momentous year of anniversaries for the Jewish People.

There are many significant markers, but it behoves us to recall at least some of them.

It will be 120 years since the first Zionist Congress in Basle in August 1897.

It was at this Congress that after 2,000 years of powerlessness and exile, the change in the Jewish condition began. It took 50 years for the world to formally recognise that the Jewish people could be responsible for the Jewish future when on the 29th of November 1947 the United Nations passed Resolution 181, partitioning Mandated Palestine into a Jewish State and an Arab State.

So we will therefore also be celebrating 70 years of global recognition of Jewish self-determination.

Nothing less than the political liberation of the Jewish People.

Sadly the Arab world never accepted Partition and as a result until today there is no resolution of the conflict.

Along the way we have many other anniversaries, including the Balfour Declaration in 1917.

Of special significance to Australia will be the anniversary of the last charge of Light Horse by the ANZACS at Beersheba in 1917 which essentially was the beginning of the end of centuries of Ottoman rule in Palestine.

As well we will mark the establishment of the Zionist Federation of Australia in 1927 by Sir John Monash and Rabbi Israel Brodie.

The coming year we will also reflect upon 20 years since the Maccabiah Bridge disaster in 1997 that had such a profound impact on so many families personally and on the community in general.

Most significantly, we will also mark 50 years since the reunification of our people with our soul.

In 1947 when we agreed to Partition, part of that decision was to also have Jerusalem as an international city with free access to all.

What actually happened during the War of Independence was that not only did the Arab world deny us access to our holiest sites including the Kotel, but the Jews of the Old City were expelled and for 19 years our synagogues and special places were vandalised and desecrated.

Perhaps nothing demonstrates the meaning of Jerusalem and her place in our psyche more than events that occurred between 1930 and 1947.

Following the anti-Jewish riots of the 1920’s the British passed a law that made it illegal to blow the shofar at the Kotel, pray loudly there, or even bring Torah scrolls, so as not to offend the hostile Arab population.

Despite this, for those last 17 years of the British Mandate the shofar was successfully sounded each year at the Kotel, at the conclusion of Yom Kippur.

Every year a number of different blowers were organised in case one or more would be arrested prior to reaching the Kotel. Complex arrangements were made to smuggle various shofars to the Kotel to be passed to the blowers.

Some escaped after blowing the shofar, but some were arrested and sent to prison by the British.

This act of defiance and statement of our connectivity to the Holiest place on earth was far more than a religious act and many observant and non-observant Jews participated in it.

It was a declaration by the Jewish People of the unbroken connection to our past and to our future. To our traditions and to our culture.

In 1967, in a war Israel did not seek or start, the miracle of the 6 Day War took place and we found ourselves reunited with our history.

Just over 3,000 years ago, King David established Jerusalem as the capital of the United Jewish Kingdom.

Jerusalem is the central spiritual and physical place in the continuum of the Jews.

She is our historical capital as a nation, the basis of our culture and the site of both the First and Second Temples.

We feel the tug of history, of our ancestors calling to us down through the many centuries from thousands of years ago.

And no-one anywhere or at any time can change the fact of the prime connection of the Jewish people to the Jewish capital, Jerusalem.

She is as indefinable as a city, as we are a people.

That is her beauty, her importance and her challenge to us.

Yerushalayim is a city which serves our nation as its capital, our religion as its spiritual centre and our people as its home.

We have come home.

And we are here to stay.

Shana tova,

Dr Ron Weiser AM

Dr. Ron Weiser is the Zionist Federation of Australia Public Affairs Chairman and the Hon Life President of the Zionist Council of NSW.