Israel Prepares for Rosh Hashanah

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Wednesday evening marks the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

During this time, Israelis greet one another with the Hebrew greeting 'Shanah Tovah,' which means 'Happy New Year.'

In Israel, it's a national celebration but with deep biblical roots.

Let the Celebration Begin

In Jerusalem, the city is filled with the sights and sounds of the holiday.

Mahane Yehuda is Jerusalem's biggest open air market. At this time of year, thousands of Israelis come here to get ready and celebrate the Jewish New Year.

"Well, everybody is all thinking and gearing up for one purpose, you know. It's fantastic," said Jerusalem resident Rachel Yehezkiel,

At Rosh Hashanah, merchants sell specific foods with their own symbolism. For example, apples and honey mean hope for a sweet New Year.

Pomegranates symbolize the hope that the good deeds for the coming year be as many as the seeds of the pomegranate. Fish represent the desire to be the head and not the tail. Round bread symbolizes the cycle of the year.

It's a time for family and friends. But beneath the holiday bustle, there's a deeper meaning to Rosh Hashanah.

"We do in Hebrew what's called a 'Hesbone Nefesh,' which is kind of like searching our soul, examining our various deeds, examining our relationships. It's actually a time to reconnect with people too," said Jerusalem resident Ben Freeman.

A Divine Appointment

Rosh Hashanah is also called the Feast of Trumpets in the Bible. In Hebrew, the meaning conveys a divine appointment, a time to meet with God.

Joseph Shulam, founder of Netivyah Ministries, "It is a declaration of the entrance of the people of Israel into a period of atonement."

Shulam says Rosh Hashanah begins a 10-day period of repentance known as the Days of Awe. They culminate in the holiest day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

"There is no other nation in the world that has 10 days of the year dedicated to soul searching, dedicated to calculating our sins and our mistakes and our wrong doings and them coming to the tenth day of the seventh month to the Day of Atonement," Shulam said.

Dwight Pryor, founder of The Center for Judaic-Christian Studies, says the trumpet -- or shofar -- blast reminds us one day we'll all face God's judgment.

He said, "That's what Rosh Hashanah tells us. Hey have you been faithful? If not, make amends, repent, turn around, make things right and walk in faithfulness, in the obedience of faith, after the Good Shepherd, Yeshua, Jesus."

*Originally published on Sept. 29, 2008.

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