Tonight will be the eve of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year for the year 5762. In Israel you can feel the spirit of renewal emerging from the harsh, barren, rainless summer. The cracked earth, dried up river courses and ever shrinking Sea of Galilee cry out for rain. The heat is starting to break, the nights are getting cooler, the air is getting more humid, the mornings are often cloudy - the first hint of rain is in the air. On otherwise brown hillsides across Israel white hatzav (squill) flowers are in bloom, harbingers of autumn.
Early autumn produce is coming into season: fig trees are heavy with their bounty, fruits on the date palms and olive trees are starting to ripen, the last of the summer grapes are being harvested and the fire engine red of ripe pomegranates creates splashes of colour in urban gardens and rural orchards. The shops are full of beautifully fresh locally grown mangos, apples and a variety of cactus fruits such as prickly pears and kobos. No shortage of the season's new produce to make the shehekhianu blessing on at the festival meal.
According to the Hebrew calendar it is now a year since the Palestinian war began with the bombing of an Israeli jeep in Gaza in which an Israeli soldier, David Biri, was killed. One year and many Israeli deaths later we are wiser, less naive as to our peace partners' intentions and I believe also more resolute in our efforts not to let terrorism destroy our way of life. Perhaps to some extent we have become used to the attacks, but we have not become inured to the ever rising death toll of our countrymen and women. We are anxious but strong, fearful but determined.
Our prayer this year, more than ever, is for the impending winter rains to wash away the curses of the past year and to bring with them blessings both for the parched land and for a nation thirsting for peace. More than ever we wait with breathless anticipation for the new life and fertility that the winter rains bring with them, the rebirth of the shrivelled crops of the field and the greening of the now scorched hillsides. The rain that brings with it the message that the tangled, menacing jungle of thorns can once more become a meadow of wildflowers.
May God grant us a good new year, a year of peace, health and prosperity. May He open the gates of Heaven and accept our heartfelt prayers during these Days of Awe. May He open the skies and send us much needed rain, blessed rains, and not destructive floods. May we merit peace in the Land and in the world and happiness in our homes. May we all be written and sealed in the book of life.