Danny Hakim

When President Rivlin blows the shofar, can you hear it?

Israeli Bedouin children from the Negev. Photo credit: Jordan Polevoy

Will 5780 be a good year? My great-grandfather, Rabbi Yehuda Halevi Hakim z”l, former Chief Rabbi of Safed and revered kabbalist, would have added the numbers 5+7+8+0 =20 to find the mystical convergence of the Jewish year of 20, the Christian year of 2020 and the Islamic year of 1+4+4+1 = 10, which is double Hamsa.

Is that a sign of a lucky year to come?

Hamsa – A symbol of luck in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism

Look closely at the numbers in Israel and you’ll discover we have a lot to celebrate this year. For the first time, Israel’s population surpassed 9 million citizens. At the present rate of growth, the population will reach 10 million in five years with Aliya and high fertility rates of 3.11 children per woman — the highest rate among OECD countries which has 1.7 children per woman average.

Israel’s population has surpassed Ireland (6.2m) and Switzerland (8.4m) and is catching up to Hungary (9.6m) as well as our neighbor, Jordan (10.4m).

This is amazing when you remember that Israel’s population was under 900,000 when she was established in 1948…. a 10x increase! Our founding fathers and mothers would be proud saying “Oy Vay! Vat an achievement!”

If Israel was part of Europe (as some people envision) then our population would rank 18th among all 44 European countries. Isn’t that worth a big l’chaim?

So why aren’t we celebrating? Why aren’t we jumping for joy with confidence and pride?

Is it because of external threats from countries like Iran and her 82.5m people – the 18th most populous country in the world? Or is it because of internal threats that contribute to our present political stalemate which numbs our senses and dampens our hopes?

Has our Zionist dream become a nightmare? At times, I feel like hanging up my dream-catcher when I lay down to sleep hoping to wake up in an Israel living at peace with herself.

On Rosh Hashanah we read from the Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Teshuva (the Laws of Repentance) in Chapter 3, verse 4:

“Wake you sleepers from your sleep, and you slumberers from your slumber, examine our deeds, return repentance and remember your creator, you who forget the truth in the follies of time and waste the whole year in vain pursuits that neither profit nor save.”

But what does it mean?

President Rivlin understands the truth and the follies of our time now. He sees the follies of the election and how the country is being torn apart by leaders from the different sectors promoting fear and distrust of “the other” thereby creating a toxic atmosphere in our society.

According to Rabbi Jonathan Sachs, Maimonides says that the shofar is God’s cry to us. It is God’s way of saying what he said to the first humans in the Garden of Eden: “Where are you?” “What have you done with the life, the freedom and the blessings I gave you?”

What are we doing with the life and democratic freedom with which we are blessed?

President Rivlin has been blowing the shofar with this message of hope ever since he took over from Shimon Peres.

In the 1990’s Israel had one clear majority and 3 minorities – Secular Jews composed 52% of the population, Arabs 23%, Religious Zionists 16% and Haredi 9%. Today we have 4 distinct tribes, Secular Jews 38%, Arab 25%, Haredi 22% and Religious Zionists 15%. President Rivlin calls it the New Israel Order with each tribe invariably living in separate locations with separate education systems and separate media outlets.

Our President wants you to see these signs and hear his shofar.

Why are so many of us in Israel unable to hear it? Is the political noise so loud that we can neither see the signs nor hear the music on the different radio stations? Are we so deaf or so absorbed in our own personal pursuits that we’re unable to read the facts and understand the challenges ahead?

President Rivlin may be busy negotiating a new government this week but for the past few years, his mission has been to wake up the people of Israel and promote a partnership of hope between all four tribes.

President Rivlin is not a dreamer. His hope is based on four fundamental principles that have the potential to turn our splintering country into a shared society. The first is security within each sector without changing their identity. The second is taking the challenge as a shared responsibility. The third is fairness and equality for all and the fourth is creating a shared identity.

As the president said: “This partnership can happen if you believe that we are not doomed to live together, we are destined to live together.”

The days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are days to reflect on our destiny as individuals and as a people. It’s a time to reassess our values as human beings and to improve relations with others in Israel.

One highlight for me from this past year was seeing hundreds of Israeli children from all sectors of society share common values and play sport together at the end-of-year Budo for Peace (BFP) event.

BFP is a non-profit educational NGO that teaches martial arts values and sport as a platform to promote a shared society. BFP is just one of the 110 members of the Alliance of Middle East Peace (ALLMEP) promoting people-to-people relations through education, sport and culture in Israel and across borders. These organizations are making shared society a reality.

Orthodox Jews from the Sharon area with Arab girls from Jisr Azarka. Photo credit: Jordan Polevoy

So what is our hope for the New Year? Can we make 5780 a lucky year for Israel?

Let’s wake up from the follies of our time and take up President Rivlin’s challenge as a shared responsibility. Let’s examine our deeds and build on the truths of our time by promoting fairness and equality for all.

Join us to reach out and partner with “the other tribes” so that the next generation of Israelis can celebrate a long life of hope and peace.

Gmar Hatima Tova


About the Author
Danny Hakim OAM is a 2 times world karate silver medalist and holds a 7th-degree black belt from Japan. He is the founder of Budo for Peace and chairman of Sport for Social Change. He is a board member of The Azrieli foundation, MWU ( Maccabi World Union), ALLMEP (the Alliance of Middle East peace), and Kids Kicking Cancer. In 2017 he was inducted into the Australian Maccabi Hall of Fame, and in 2019 was the recipient of the Bonei Zion award for Culture, Art, and Sport. In January 2022, he was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for service to the international community.