by Shoshanna Tita

If we don't know our heritage as Jews how can we fight for our destiny?

In an open letter to Israel's Chief Rabbi a prominent rabbi writes that the situation in israel now offers a small window of opportunity with which to enhance Jewish identity. Most Israelis are confused, argues Nathan Lopez Cordozo, as to what we, the Jewish people, stand for.That very lack of Jewish identity makes us vulnerable to Palestinian attacks at a time when their identity is stronger than ever. We need to educate Israelis, Cordozo goes on to write as to the fundamental reason why we are in the land of Israel in the first place.

It didn't take me long to realize how right Rabbi Cordozo was. Only recently published in Israel's most popular newspaper there is a lengthy interview with one of Israel's leading pop stars Aviv Gefen. In it, he boasts of that he serves as the "Chief of staff" to many israelis even though he doesn't even know how to hold a weapon. "II don't know what G-d is. I am the new Israeli, colorful, free, liberal and delicate."  Then comes the punch line: "This is not my war."   Many Israelis do not seek out their heritage, even though they are Israelis.

A case in point is Israel's tourism industry. For 50 years Israel lured the non-Jewish world with a focus on Eilat, Nazareth and Acre . Once the miniwar broke out and the tourism market collasped, it became clear that the average gentile can find calmer shores.   Beaches and sun can be found in Greece or Italy. Now Israel's Tourism Ministry is turning to the Jews, usually traditional, who visit even when the security situation is difficult. No suicide bomber will deter Jews with a strong sense of their heritage from coming home.

In the Jewish calendar the energy of time cycles through its phases at different seasons. There is no better time to come home to our roots than in the month of Elul. This month is G-d's gift to us to revitalize the Jewish nation in preparation for Rosh Hashana. Traditionally the month of Elul is the month of introspection and soulsearching. Think about all that we have experienced in the past year since last Rosh Hashana individually and collectively. Hundreds of Jews were killed and many thousands wounded in the land of Israel. It is no longer business as usual. We are forced to reflect on our primary purpose.

Elul offers us that window of opportunity to enhance our Jewish identity. We are not in Uganda and not without reason. The Jewish homeland proved to be founded in its biblical home rather than any odd geographic location on the surface of the globe. After thousands of years we are back in the land of our forefathers.This whole time of year is a chance for us to appreciate our opportunities in life and and grow spiritually.

The Rambam writes in Hilchot Teshuva (Laws of Repentence) that even though one can do teshuva at any time, the days of Elul are very special because the gates of heaven are open extra wide. We should make an effort to give more to charity than we can afford, to spend more time expanding our Jewish learning than we have time for. These are the days to build the foundation for the entire year. We have that rare opportunity to reclaim our destiny. All that G-d requires us is that we make a tiny effort as is evident in the following saying, "Open me an opening the eye of a needle and I'll open you an opening the size of a hall."

Shoshana Tita is a Judaic lecturer and the director of Torah Life Center of Potomac, a center dedicated to educating and inspiring Jews of diverse backgrounds.



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