This evening the two day festival of Rosh Hashanah starts, which sees in the Jewish year of 5781. The song I’m sharing here is called “BaShana Haba’a” (“Next Year”) and is a popular, secular, new year’s song, a joyful song filled with hope for the upcoming year.
Every time I hear it (which is not often) my heart swells up with cherished memories of my childhood with my parents and siblings in and around Jerusalem. This family photo was taken in a field right behind our house in the village we lived in just outside Jerusalem, a few months before we moved to Germany when I was 10…
My father’s life’s work as a Dutch Protestant theologian was devoted to dialogue between the three large monotheistic religions. He taught us to be anti-missionary and pro understanding of the other in their faith, specializing in Jewish-Christian dialogue. Our own family technically was a multi-Christian-faith family (not that we ever paid attention to that ourselves). My parents were Dutch Protestant, my older siblings were also baptized Dutch Protestant, my younger brother and sister were born as Arab Christians in Nazareth and, like me (born in Jerusalem), were baptized in the Anglican church. My Ethiopian brother and sister entered the family as Catholics.
Because of my father’s work, we had Jewish friends and were often invited to celebrate Jewish holidays with them. I loved Jewish holiday celebrations at the homes of those friends and sometimes even hosted in our own home, with Hebrew prayers and good food and a lot of singing. Almost all of us became non-religious as we grew up but I always think that if I ever were to choose a religion for myself to follow, it would be (liberal) Judaism. There is something about Judaism and hearing Hebrew and the Hebrew songs (even though I barely speak Hebrew myself) that make me feel completely at home.
I have two siblings who did convert to Judaism (my older sister on the left next to my mother in the picture above and my older brother with the black and white dog) and so, because of them, I am always quite aware of when the Jewish holidays come around. So, to them and to anyone who is Jewish and reading this I want to say: Shanah Tovah! I hope the coming year will be better than the last….