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    Blowing the trumpets – B’ha’alot’cha

    Blowing the trumpets, from the Holman Bible, 1890

    Two trumpets of silver accompanied the Children of Israel through the wilderness (Num. 10). They attracted the attention of the people on important occasions such as a meeting of the tribal chiefs or a summons to battle.

    Two trumpets blew a t’kiah to summon the whole people, one blew a t’kiah to call together the chiefs, and two were used to blow a t’kiah, t’ruah and t’kiah to warn the camp to move forward.

    Probably no-one knows for certain how many times in ancient Jewish history there was a trumpet call to rouse the people to battle.

    In post-Biblical history there was no Jewish military unit until the First World War, and it is unlikely that battles involving the Jewish Battalions were announced in any special Jewish way. Only with the establishment of Israel did a Jewish army as such come into being, but then the call to arms took a more modern form.

    The most bizarre call to arms was in 1973 when the Arabs launched a war on Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur has a unique atmosphere in Israel, particularly in Jerusalem. The streets are eerily quiet, the roads are empty, and even the secularists are engaged in some private observance of their own.

    But on this Yom Kippur afternoon the quiet was shattered. The sirens wailed. The roads became busy. Cars and trucks were on the move. Radio signals summoned the Defence Force to their units. The rabbinate instructed the troops to eat and then take whatever transport was available.

    But not everybody complied. By morning there were wounded in the hospitals – and some service personnel who were dehydrated because they would not break their fast even in order to go into battle.

    Two things became clear about Jews that day, and two things about their enemies. What we learned about Jews was that no matter how cynical and agnostic a Jew may claim to be, tradition retains an unbreakable hold; and no matter how important the day, a threat has to be countered.

    About our enemies we learned that, however fiercely they claim to uphold their own faith, they accord little or no respect to the faith of others; and no matter how many times they lose out in a war against Israel, they seem to value war over peace.

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