Jews Worldwide to Celebrate High Holidays Amid Threats to Israel

Washington, Sept. 27 — The Jewish New Year, or Rosh Hashanah, begins at sundown Wednesday (Sept. 28). During the festival, Jews listen to the shofar or ram ’s horn and reflect on their actions of the past year until the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, on Oct. 8.

The Jewish calendar year of 5772 begins at a time of intense political turmoil particularly for Israelis who face concerns ranging from the Palestinians’ bid for unilateral statehood and their refusal to return to negotiations to threats by Turkey to send warships into Israeli waters off of Gaza and new reports of Iranian nuclear development. Iran has called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” and last week accused ‘Zionists’ for causing all of the world’s ills.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Palestinian rejection of peace talks in his annual Rosh Hashanah message, saying, “The Palestinians finally have to do what they've refused to do throughout the decades:  recognize the one and only Jewish State.  And if they do, then I think we'll have a very, very good year.”

In the case of Iran, an International Atomic Energy Agency report earlier this month stated that it is “increasingly concerned” about “extensive and comprehensive” information that Iran is clandestinely continuing nuclear weapons pursuits.

Jews in Israel and around the world will beef up security during the High Holy days because terrorists have in the past used the period to carry out attacks. (See below for list of terror attacks on Jewish holidays.) The most notable example is the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Arab armies attacked Israel as Jews were in synagogues praying and fasting.

President Obama used the occasion of Rosh Hashanah to reaffirm the strong United States-Israel relationship: “While we cannot know all that the New Year will bring, we do know this: the United States will continue to stand with Israel, because the bond between our two nations is unshakable,” the President said.

Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. Jews fast for 25 hours and spend much of the day praying. In Israel, most activities are suspended, including TV and radio broadcasts and public transportation. Roads are closed, as are entertainment venues.

Sukkoth, also known as the harvest festival, comes five days after Yom Kippur and lasts for a week. Booths are erected across Israel to symbolize the tents that Jews lived in after their exodus from Egypt. Schools are typically closed and many Israelis take advantage of the break for leisure activities.

In Israel, Shemini Atzeret and Simhat Torah are combined into one holiday and are observed when Sukkoth ends. It is a joyous time during which Jews recite the final and beginning chapters of the Torah (bible) as they renew its yearly reading cycle.

In accompanying grey boxes below release:

Jewish High Holy Days

Rosh Hashanah: sundown Sept. 28 – sundown Sept. 29

Yom Kippur: sundown Oct. 7 – sundown Oct. 8

Sukkot: sundown Oct. 12 – sundown Oct. 19

Shemini Atzeret (also Simhat Torah in Israel): sundown Oct. 19 – sundown Oct. 20

Simhat Torah: sundown Oct. 20 – sundown Oct. 21

Terror attacks during Jewish holidays

  • On Yom Kippur in 1973, Israel was attacked by surrounding Arab armies as many Israelis were in synagogues fasting and praying;
  • On March 4, 1996, during Purim, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up outside the busy Dizengoff Center shopping mall in Tel Aviv. Thirteen people were killed and many were injured. Many of the victims were children dressed up to celebrate the spring festivities.
  • On Sept. 26, 2003, a 27-year-old man and a 7-month old infant were shot dead by a Palestinian terrorist who knocked on the door of a home in Negohot, south of Hebron, during a celebratory Rosh Hashanah dinner;
  • On March 27, 2002 22 people were killed and 140 injured - 20 seriously - in a suicide bombing at the Park Hotel in the coastal city of Netanya, in the midst of the Passover holiday seder with 250 guests;
  • On Sept. 23, 2002, a man was killed and his three sons were injured by Palestinian gunmen while they were celebrating the Sukkoth festival near Hebron.

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