The 30th Annual International Day of Peace



There are a lot of holidays to think about this time of year: Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, International Hobbit Day (no, but really, happy birthday Bilbo and Frodo). It would be a mistake, however, to let the calendar’s crowdedness overshadow the celebration today of the United Nations’ 30th annual International Day of Peace.

In fact, that Peace Day comes at this time in the Jewish calendar, during the reflection and repentance period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, lends the holiday even greater meaning. How can we truly reflect on the types of violence that we, as American Jews, have experienced? How can we respond to Isaiah’s provocation – “Is this the fast that I desired?” – with a renewed commitment to work toward peace? This process must begin by trying to grasp the scope of violence in our society. In this vein, here are some numbers for your pre-Yom Kippur digestion. This is by no means every kind of violence, nor should it be assumed that this reflects every instance of these types of violence (these statistics tend to underreport). It does, however, begin to paint a picture of how much work there is left to do on this 30th International Day of Peace.

But not all violence is as distant as the violence of warfare:

Then there is the violence that, rather than breaking the laws of the U.S., is enacted in the process of trying to uphold them:

Finally there is the violence that is less easy to discern or define, the violence of economic injustice and unequal opportunity:

Next week, on Yom Kippur, all Jews who have lost an immediate family member will stand and say the Mourner’s Kaddish, others will say it in memory of Jewish martyrs and still others will stand for those who have been victims of violence in years past. I have always been impressed by the Mourner’s Kaddish as a prayer. Jewish tradition asks those who have lost people, those who may have the greatest justification for turning toward violence, to say the words of “Oseh Shalom” and pray for peace. Many of us have been victims of violence or have seen how it can disrupt our communities. All of us – as citizens, as consumers, and as taxpayers – are implicated in these many forms of violence. Yet on Yom Kippur we all stand together and pray for peace. And after we hear the shofar at Yom Kippur’s conclusion, we are all commanded to begin the construction of our sukkot – our fragile shelters of social change and peace.

Click here to find International Day of Peace events happening near you.

Shana Tova, have a good and meaningful fast, and a reflective International Day of Peace.

Image courtesy of the United Nations

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About Benny Witkovsky

Benny Witkovsky is an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant, he is from Madison, WI, and recently graduated from Vassar College.

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