Shanah Tovah! 13.5 million Jews around the world celebrate Rosh Hashanah today, a Jewish holiday that marks the Jewish New Year. For the Jewish people, it represents the day that Adam and Eve were created, the mother and father of all humanity, according to the Torah. A hollow ram’s horn, called a shofar, and apples dipped in honey are some symbols that accompany Rosh Hashanah rituals. The honey-dipped apples, along with other sweet food, symbolize a “sweet new year.”
Rosh Hashanah carries deep significance to all of us, regardless of religious belief. The holiday is “a reminder, as old as Genesis itself, that we are connected that we often realize, and that in reminding ourselves of those connections, we can find ways to make this year better than last — whatever calendar we happen to use,” writes Brad Hirschfield of the Washington Post. This beautiful human solidarity is apparent with a greeting posted by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Twitter: “As the sun is about to set here in #Tehran I wish all Jews, especially Iranian Jews, a blessed Rosh Hashanah.” The tweet was accompanied with an image of a “Jewish man praying and wearing a yarmulke cap and tallit prayer shawl,” the International Business Times reports. In the same spirit, Iran foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted, “Happy Rosh Hashanah,” featured in conjunction with Rouhani’s tweet in the Washington Post blog. There seems to be no shortage of diplomacy in a social media platform used more and more by political leaders to express their deepest thoughts.
— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) September 4, 2013
Rouhani’s tweet is especially controversial in the light of his earlier statements in an interview posted on Telegraph UK: “There has been a wound on the body of the Muslim world in our region for years, as a result of the occupation of the holy land of Palestine and the revered Al-Quds. And today is a reminder that the Muslims will not forget their historical right to stand up against oppression and violation.” A report by the ISNA news agency, linked to former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, claimed that Rouhani said that the “Zionist regime has been a wound on the body of the Islamic world for years and the wound should be removed.” The truth remains to be seen, however, as Iranian state television has denied the reports, saying that the news agency has “distorted” his comments. It must also be considered as well that the “twitter diplomacy” coincides with a “major policy change” approved Thursday, according to CBS News. Zarif will be “Iran’s top nuclear negotiator with world powers,” as confirmed by Rouhani.
To add to the controversy, the International Business Times published a claim from Iran’s official Far News Agency that that “No, Hassan Rouhani didn’t wish Jews a ‘Blessed Rosh Hashanah.” IBT writer Howard Koplowitz writes that Mohammad Reza Sadeq, adviser to Rouhani, stated that the president doesn’t possess a Twitter account.
President Barack Obama similarly issued a greeting with a YouTube video on the official YouTube Channel of The White House. Echoing a solidarity that encompasses all human beings regardless of creed, he stated, “As the high holidays begin, it’s a chance not just to celebrate with family and friends, but to ask some of my life’s most piercing questions. Am I treating strangers with kindness? Am I living not just for myself but also for others? Am I doing my part to repair the world?”
What are you doing to celebrate Rosh Hashanah in your own little way? Jew or non-Jew, we all share the same human ancestry, and can take this day as an opportunity to celebrate our commonalities as members of the human race.