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My Yom Kippur fast

Living in Israel, the one place where it's possible to not be a Jew, except for one day a year

There are few things that I do as a Jew. Fasting on Yom Kippur is perhaps the last of them. I don’t eat and I don’t drink from sundown to sundown.

I wasn’t a religious kid. I went to cheyder, which I hated, every Sunday morning and every Wednesday evening. The prayers we learned, they held no meaning to me. The ritual gave me no solace, I went through the motions at the behest of the rabbis and teachers.

There was one teacher: she taught me about the history of my people. She taught me about wise King Solomon, about his father the ultimate warrior King and about his torment at the hands of his one time mentor the emotive King Saul. My favorite was Samson, Samson the strong man of the Jews, Samson who tied two foxes together by their tails, set them on fire and then set them among the Philistines. Samson for all his human failings, for all of his wonderfully human weaknesses was the man who spoke to me. The one who inspired me.

And now I find myself here, in the Jewish land. I eat forbidden food, I ignore the Sabbath, I pay no mind to the words of men who are declared ‘holy.’ There is little of my Judaism that those Rabbis would recognize.

But in Israel I find myself in the land of the Jews. I served in the army of my people, I speak our language. Here I am not a Jew, here I am not Goldberg, here I am Marc. If anyone calls me anything at all it would be the British guy, never ‘the Jew’. Here I don’t have to listen to comparisons between Jews and Nazis. Here I don’t have to worry that one day it will be to my door that the masses with the flaming torches march. That it will be my eyes seeing the horrors of man inflicted upon my family.

That is a wound that is still fresh, even after all these years. When I studied the Holocaust I did it in a lecture theater filled with bored, yawning 18 and 19 year olds for whom the subject was awfully dry.

When I learnt history I learnt about the Congress of Vienna, I learnt about the Industrial Revolution. At school in Israel when I have children they’ll learn about their people. The way we built our country, our living history.

And so here I sit on my couch at home. An nonobservant Jew who believes in The Almighty and I am thinking these thoughts only because it is now the Day of Atonement and because I am observing it. From afar.

About the Author
Marc Goldberg is the author of Beyond the Green Line, a story his service in the IDF fighting through the al Aqsa Intifada
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