Count the Jews: 7 things to know for September 9
Israel media review

Count the Jews: 7 things to know for September 9

There’s more of them now, but barely, and many in Israel are God-fearing evolution deniers, while some in the Diaspora no longer need fear the IDF (at least until after holidays)

Shofarot (horns) at the Jerusalem Shofar factory, in Anatot industrial area near Jerusalem on September 10, 2014. The shofar is used mainly on the Rosh Hashanah holiday, the Jewish New Year and at the closing of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Shofarot (horns) at the Jerusalem Shofar factory, in Anatot industrial area near Jerusalem on September 10, 2014. The shofar is used mainly on the Rosh Hashanah holiday, the Jewish New Year and at the closing of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

1. After the holidays: The Jewish new year, Rosh Hoshanah, kicks off Sunday night, with the country (hopefully) taking a two-day holiday.

  • The holiday is actually the first of a bonanza of festivals, which will last until Simhat Torah at the end of Sukkot on October 1. The whole month is a yearly excuse to procrastinate (and eat way too much), and the national joke is that everything gets put off until “after the holidays.”
  • Well, not quite a joke. It’s taken pretty seriously, and nobody actually expects anything to get done from about early July until October. On Sunday morning, the army announces it will also be joining the lazy parade, and won’t go after deserters until after the holidays.
  • The directive doesn’t cover all deserters, but only those who left the country. In an effort to make their mothers stop worrying, the army says they can come back to the country starting September 9, granted they leave by the end of October, without fear of criminal prosecution.

2. Book of life (slowly): Ahead of the holiday, a survey by Hebrew University’s Sergio Della Pergola puts the Jewish population around the world at about 14.7 million.

  • The figure is only a slight rise of 100,000 from last year. What that means is that Jewish growth, at some 0.7 percent, is continuing to lag far behind the world population growth average, which is almost double.
  • A Pew survey last year projecting growth to 2060 found that the global population is expected to jump by 32% over that period, while the Jewish population will only grow by 15%, which means a whopping 16.4 million Jews will be flying their cars (or not) to Rosh Hoshanah eve services to pray to be inscribed in the Book of Life in 5821, before heading home to dip space apples in moon honey.

3. Horny Jews: There may only be a few million Jews, but there are apparently a trillion different kinds of shofars around.

4. Monkeying up the country: Another survey by Haaretz looks at Israelis’ opinions toward religion.

  • Among the findings are that 54% believe in God, while 21% believe in some sort of higher power, 23% are atheist, and confirming the stereotype of the headstrong know-it-all Israeli, only 2% admit they don’t know.
  • The survey also finds that 60% don’t keep Shabbat, but 65% support opening markets on the day of rest, showing there are some out there who believe in living and letting live.
  • Perhaps worryingly, 37% don’t believe humans descended from apes, and 50% of those who deny evolution are between ages 18 and 24.
  • Commenting on the poll, the paper’s columnist Chemi Shalev notes that the figures show Israel in a tight race with the US for the Western country where most people believe in a biblical God, and also that political leanings are a good indicator of religious beliefs. With most Israelis tending to the right or right-center, the numbers make a bit more sense.
  • “The right, which enjoys a clear majority of 51 percent in this poll, is far more religious. The left, which is down in our poll to a measly 17 percent, is largely secular, and the center, as its name suggests, is somewhere in the middle, with a slight tilt toward the nonbelievers,” he writes.
  • “The gaps are striking: 78 percent of right-wingers believe in the biblical God, compared with only 34 percent of centrists and 15 percent of leftists. Forty-five percent of Israeli Jews claim to keep a fully kosher home (another 17 percent keep ‘partially kosher’). Among right-wingers, 69 percent keep kosher, compared with only 27 percent of centrists and 6 percent of secular Israelis.”

5. Don’t blow it: Clearly on the religious side of things but also trying to bridge the gap toward those who might not have the same traditional beliefs, Israel Hayom’s Nadav Shragai calls on everyone to say a little prayer.

  • “This Rosh Hashanah, don’t give up on prayer, whether at synagogue or under the open sky, from an old, good prayer book, even if you don’t always understand it, or from your bursting heart. With others or alone. All of these are godly living prayers,” he writes.
  • That same desire to bring the holiday into less traditional spheres also stands behind Tzohar’s Shofar in the Park initiative, which will hold public blowings in all sorts of places one otherwise might not hear the horn.

6. Who by water: While many Israelis may be spending the next two days in synagogue or teaching their kids about the dangers of evolution, many others will spend them lolling on the beach or at the pool. With the summer drawing to a close, Yedioth looks at the deadly summer swimmers have had.

  • According to figures published by the paper, there have been over 150 drownings or near drownings on beaches since March, the vast majority on the Mediterranean, and including five deaths on Palmachim beach south of Tel Aviv alone.
  • Figuring in pools, tubs and floods as well, along with a number of teens killed in a flash flood in April, according to the paper, there have been 62 drownings since March, which is a shockingly high number for a country of just a few million.

7. Who by fire: Of course, those figures may be dwarfed when compared to the humanitarian disaster looming over the Syrian rebel enclave Idlib, where there is no indication that Russia and Syria plan to put off a planned offensive.

  • The Israel Hayom tabloid writes that the bombardment of the city is expected to start “after the summit of evil” failed to find another way, referring to a meeting between Iran, Turkey and Russia.
  • In Walla, correspondent Oren Nahari writes exasperatedly that the West has basically given up on saving Idlib, as long as the bad guys don’t go too far.
  • “The West is saying to Syria and Russia that they can liquidate Idlib any way they want, as long as they don’t use weapons of mass destruction, like chemical weapons they have already used in the past,” he writes. “This is a punctiliousness that’s almost tasteless — it’s okay to drop bombs on kids and to massacre civilians, but our moral compass won’t stand chemical weapons? The answer is that they don’t want to allow a situation by which a country will use chemical weapons on civilians or soldiers. The precedent is too dangerous and a response is needed.”
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