Iran's President Address United Nations

Dear congregants,

Many of you have commented on the irony of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s address to the United Nations on Yom Kippur. I urge you to read the full text. When you read his speech it is alarmingly mild. Do not be mistaken, he speaks against Israel and America, but he claims to have a vision for world peace, which will put an end to the suffering of the innocent people around the world. His public words must be measured against his words in his own language and his actions. The timing of his speech is an example of duplicity. More than ever we must be careful while forming opinions.

I was not offended that Ahmadinejad chose Yom Kippur to deliver his speech to the United Nations. I was enlightened. You see, for us here in America, Yom Kippur is a sacred day of reflection, repentance and prayer. On the face of it, the timing of his speech seems like a religious affront, but in fact it is a political statement. For the citizens of the Middle East, Yom Kippur is not the Day of Atonement but the anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. For Israelis, it is a day when the nation remembers the fallen soldiers.

Israel was attacked on its southern and northern borders by Egypt and Syria. Because the Israeli government chose not to defend itself by a preemptive strike, but rather wait until attacked, Israel suffered the highest number of causalities of all its wars. This day is a very sad one for the nation. On the other hand, for the Arab Nations it is a day of victory celebrations. Egyptians believe that they were victorious over the Israelis. October 6th 1981, on the eighth anniversary of the “October War” Anwar Sadat stood proudly in a viewing stand with thousands watching the annual military parade celebrating the Egyptian victory over Israel. As MIG jets flew overhead and tanks rolled by in the parade, assassins threw hand grenades and shots were fired and Sadat was killed. In fact, this year Iran’s President was not the only one to choose Yom Kippur to address the United Nations; so did the President of Egypt. For both leaders, it was the perfect day to deliver their speech, for on this day there is great historical, political, and military symbolism.

Today is the second day of Sukkot. We celebrate the holiday of Sukkot by building structures that are temporary and fragile to remind of the fragility of life. And we cover these structures, the sukkah, with branches. These branches are loosely placed with the stars of the heavens peeking through. We call this a canopy of peace. We will still be celebrating Sukkot on October 6th. There are no victors in war; there is only a collective cry of loss and mourning.

May we find the way to bring all the nations under the canopy of peace.