The Jewish High Holidays are a time for reassessing preconceptions, redressing misconceptions, and making personal decisions for the better.
This year, this Jew is embracing jihad.
“… jihad does not mean war in the Koran, as there are other words for it, like qital and harb,” Islamic scholar Asghar Ali Engineer wrote his month. “Jihad has been used in the Koran in its root meaning, i.e. to strive and to strive for betterment of society, to spread goodness (maruf) and contain evil (munkar).”
“There are four most fundamental values in the Quran. i.e. justice (‘adl), benevolence (ihsan), compassion (rahmah) and wisdom (hikmah) … Terror attacks are a gross violation of all these Islamic rules [on the conduct of warfare] and there is no way these attacks can be characterised as jihad.”
As Asghar Ali Engineer goes on to note, revenge attacks, and doing harm to all non-combatants, especially women, children and the elderly, are directly contrary to Islam.
In this new century, the first of a new millennium, no word has attained more force nor been associated with more horror than jihad. Because of its perversion by the mass-murderers and blasphemers of radical Islam, not only the concept of jihad, but Islam as a whole, have been grievously defamed.
In the West, Islam has been treated as pestilence, the most moderate and peace-loving of its adherents suspected and at times persecuted as sleeper-cell terrorists.
The essence of humanity is the ability to get beyond the external, and see to the heart of the person who may be cloaked in unfamiliar religious garb or cultural costume.
The most profound proof of God’s existence, I believe, is the fact that every group, race, geography, or faith notwithstanding, has within it its share of feral hotheads, bigots and thugs, alongside people of saintly generosity, constructive wisdom, life-affirming humor and contagious grace.
As this Jewish New Year approached, my Jewish neighbors and our neighbors in the Arab village down the road found ourselves quietly delighted to be able to wish each other a happy holiday at the same time.
In a rare confluence, the Muslim holiday of Eid al Fitr and the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashana coincided at the end of September.
I decided to take it as a sign. I thought about it in earnest when, during the fast of Yom Kippur 10 days later, rumors began to circulate about Arabs and Jews carrying out pogroms against one another in the northern town of Acre.
I have decided to take on a jihad of my own. A New Years resolution, if you will. Eight years into this accused century and this benighted millennium, I want to make a new start. I want to root out the vengeance I feel as a resident of this region and this world.
May I learn to discern the real villains of this world, and counteract the epidemics of anger and hatred they spawn, propagate, and feed on. May I learn to delineate between those who must be fought and defeated, and those who despise them, but may look just like them.
In the course of the blood-fire that overtook Jews and Arabs in Acre, we received the following talkback response, one which stood out with rare nobility and profound humanity against a sea of calls for violence, and permanent expulsion of one side or another:
As a man who practices Islam, I have to say both sides ought to be ashamed of themselves. Why are you committing such crimes? In the name of religion? No, I don`t think so, because God-fearing men contemplate God throughout their day.
This has got to end. We are children of Abraham – not children of Satan. People, wake up! Monotheism is under attack because of such actions. Let not ignorance prevail over your emotions but rather let your intellect achieve peace, love, stability & closeness to God. Let’s stop pointing fingers. Let’s forgive and forget and live for the future for the sake of our children. Salaam/Shalom/Peace everyone.
It is a New Year. The world has been turned upside down. Old assumptions have been reversed. New leaders are on the threshold. May they, and we, have the wisdom to rebuild a world for the sake of those who love, and not at the mercy and in the image of those who hate.