JERUSALEM, Israel -- By 4:00 p.m. today, a hush will descend over all of Israel. For the next 25+ hours, the only vehicles on the roads will be those guarding the well-being of this tiny piece of real estate -- about the same size as New Jersey -- and its people.
The observance of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, is as varied as the Israelis themselves.
The ultra-Orthodox have their traditions, the modern Orthodox (or national camp) theirs, and secular (less observant) Jews theirs.
Most, however, will observe a complete, 25-hour fast and many will go to their neighborhood synagogue. There they will confess their sins to God corporately and individually and ask that their names be written in the Book of Life for another year.
A Little History
In the late 1800s, a modern-day phenomenon, prophesied by Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah and others thousands of years ago, began taking place in earnest.
While a Jewish remnant remained in Israel throughout the 2,000-year exile, the overwhelming majority left, as foretold in scripture.
Over the past century or so, more than six million Jews have returned to the land of their forefathers, according to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics. It's about the same number who perished in the 30s and 40s in a genocidal reign so evil as to defy imagination.
Though the Jewish connection to the land existed millennia before the Nazi Holocaust, many of the death camp survivors found their way to Israel -- to barren hills, dusty fields and swamps.
These early pioneers began draining the swamps, planting forests and irrigating vast stretches of desert, exactly as scripture foretold. Fifty percent died of malaria draining the mosquito-infested swamps and 50 percent survived to rebuild the land and their lives.
Even that was far from simple. The battle for Israel's survival began one day after Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion announced the establishment of the modern nation-state and homeland of the Jewish people.
Those Jews are our heroes and role models in many ways. We're especially enamored with the men and women who have fought and lived through multiple wars. They're experienced, pragmatic, calm and optimistic.
Am Yisrael Chai!
In the midst of all the unrest that surrounds us, we can say as a nation, "am Yisrael chai" -- the people of Israel live!
We are also part of this ingathering. We are living proof of God's faithfulness to do what He has promised -- bring us back to the land of our forefathers.
We've learned we can trust Him. The God of Israel really doesn't slumber or sleep! He will fulfill every jot and title of what He has purposed for this people and this land, and we're so thankful to be part of that fulfillment.
On Yom Kippur, the nation of Israel will come before its God. While Diaspora Jews -- those still living in the nations -- will also fast and pray on Yom Kippur, there's something altogether different when it's a national observance.
So we want to thank God for all He's done, all He's doing and all He will do.
As a people we say, "Hodu l'Adonai ki tov, ki l'olam chasdo!" -- Give thanks to the Lord for He is good and His mercy is forever!