Today, we celebrate in Israel the day of atonement or Yom Kippur. It is a day of repentance, humiliation before God, and forgiveness. On this day, there is no eating, no bathing or washing, no anointing, and no marital relations. It is a day dedicated to seeking the forgiveness of God. It is a day in which God expects from those who follow Him to forgive the sins of others.
Can Jews forgive the sins of the nations who attacked and abused them? Can they reflect on their own sins that led our country to the current situation? Can Palestinians forgive the Jewish people? I pray that I will discover my own sins on this day and will seek to forgive and bless all of my neighbors. I also pray that my Jewish neighbors will seek true forgiveness that is much more than just ritual celebrations. Perhaps, the test of Yom Kippur is more than ritual! It is also an ethical one. Furthermore, it seems to me that Jewish ethics today cannot be divorced from the Palestinian question. The latter is the litmus test for the authenticity of celebrating Yom Kippur in Israel in the 21st century. Such forgiveness would change the hearts of the nation as well as its politics leading to the support of a politics of peace and reconciliation rather than war and further alienation. May God answer the desires of all the hearts that seek forgiveness and bless them with true atonement! As a Christian I found this atonement embodied in the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth who died on the cross for my own sins.
Jesus of Nazareth brought all of God’s creation under one banner. He forgave his enemies and sought every possible way to bless them. He wanted to make forgiveness a daily reality. Thus in the Lord’s Prayer he insisted that we need to forgive as God has forgiven us. John adds that, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1: 8-9).
In light of the above, perhaps we need to design a new politics rooted in forgiveness. Let us stop piling up the sins of the past as we address each other over TV or radio stations. Let us stop the politics of anger and revenge claiming that it is a mere military response. Let us celebrate our humanity not only within our faith communities but by building bridges as Jesus of Nazareth did with the Samaritan women. Only then we can convince God that we are truly seeking forgiveness!
Rev. Dr. Yohanna Katanacho is a Palestinian Evangelical. He has earned his M.A. from wheaton College and his Master of Divinity as well as his Ph.D. in the Old Testament from Trinity International University. He has translated several books from English to Arabic and has also written several books as well as dozens of articles in English and Arabic. He is now serving as the Academic Dean of Bethlehem Bible College and Galilee Bible College. Dr. Katanacho has spoken in many churches and conferences around the world addressing the theological perspective of the Arab-Israeli conflict. (Source, here)
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