Samia Khoury: Yom Kippur

Posted on Oct 9, 2019

Image: Samia Khoury

Samia Khoury

Samia Khoury writes from East Jerusalem:

Today is Yom Kippur in the Jewish calendar, and it has been so quiet in the whole area, especially that there is a  Jewish settlement Neve Yacov built after 1967 adjacent to our neighborhood.  Of course, Israel refers to it as a northern  neighborhood of Jerusalem.  And since I had not written for a long time,  I decided to reflect on that day.  To start with I looked up what the day stands for so that I am sure the information I already have was correct, and that is exactly what I found.  A day of fasting and atonement, and the holiest day in the Jewish Calendar. 


Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year in Judaism. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jews traditionally observe this holy day with an approximate 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services.

Observances: Fasting, prayer, abstaining from physical pleasures, refraining from work

Observed by: Jews, Samaritans

Significance: Atonement for personal and national sins, fate of each person is sealed for the upcoming year

I  could not help but wonder whether one day per year is enough for atonement for all the atrocities that have been carried out by Israel against our Palestinian people.  The young men and women languishing in Israeli jails, the children who have been harassed on their way to school and interrogated until they wet their pants, the young couples who are not allowed to live in Jerusalem together because one of them does not have a Jerusalem Identity Card, the Palestinians with foreign passports who are denied entry into their country, the humiliation that people face at the check points on their daily journey to work.

The people of Gaza alone need a whole year of atonement for what has been happening to them under those long years of siege, and for daring to protest, so many lives have been lost.  The farmers, who are losing access to their land, and its income,  especially during this season when they start picking olives. Over and above,  all those  people who have been evicted from their homes without mercy and have strangers occupy them  under their own eyes, just because they claim that they belonged to Jews before 1948.  How ironic that Palestinians have never been able to claim their homes of pre 1948, not even those Palestinians who stayed in Israel and became Israeli citizens, but were evicted from their homes to other areas in what became Israel.  Let alone all those homes that are being demolished every day not only in the Jerusalem area under the pretext of not having the proper license,  but also in Arab towns inside Israel as well as the West Bank, where those homes have a license from their own Palestinian  municipalities.  Indeed, a grave injustice that the whole world has turned a blind eye to.  No wonder Israel continues to get away with all these measures with impunity.

As I reread the observances for that day I noticed that  abstaining from physical pleasures was on the list. Some of  those trigger-happy young Israeli soldiers consider shooting, harassing and torturing our people as a physical pleasure.  So hopefully at least for one day per year our people are being  spared.  But honestly and truly,  is one day per year enough for atonement for  a people who are occupying another people and violating international law and all human rights accords?  By the end of the day the slate is clean and ready to get filled up as soon as the next day starts while the world.