Yom Kippur in Israel by the New York Times

How many times has the New York Times explored the “emotions” of, or difficulties encountered by, non-Christian minorities on religious national holidays like Christmas and Easter in Catholic or Christian-majority countries?

That is the tack taken by Jerusalem bureau chief Patrick Kingsley in his dispatch about Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day of the year, that is observed throughout the Jewish state of Israel. 

Headlined “For Believers, a Day of Atonement. For Others, a Giant Playground” (online, posted Oct. 5 which coincided with Yom Kippur) and “A Day of Full, Solemn Synagogues, and Empty, Silent Roads” (print, Oct. 6), the dispatch is ostensibly about how the country observes the Jewish holiday.  But while Kingsley fleetingly mentions that “more than half of Israeli Jews attend synagogue on Yom Kippur for at least part of the ceremonies, according to polling in 2019 by the Israel Democracy Institute,” his primary focus is on highlighting the secular entertainment of Israel’s Jewish citizens on that holiday, based on interviews with a few chosen individuals, and emphasizing “the spectrum of emotions” of a minority of non-Jewish Israeli citizens — “Palestinian” citizens, as Kingsley labels them – many of whom, he claims, find the national celebration of Judaism’s holiest day “restrictive.” 

Had Kingsley reported more precisely on the survey he briefly cited, readers would have learned that 61% of Israeli Jews were considering making an appearance at a synagogue on Yom Kippur and that 72.5% were considering either partially or completely fasting on that day (a religious requirement on Yom Kippur). 

In other words, Kingsley’s dispatch downplays the religious significance of the national holiday to the majority of Israel’s Jewish citizens while highlighting the inconveniences of the holiday’s observance to its non-Jewish citizens.

He also makes a point of emphasizing that Palestinian workers from the West Bank, i.e. non-citizens of Israel, are “depriv[ed] of a day’s wages” due to the shutdown of the Jewish state and the closing of checkpoints into the country.  The reporter goes on to describe a gun battle “between militants and the Israel Army near Nablus” that took place during an arrest operation of  a “Palestinian fighter” on the holiday.

Who does Kingsley label a “fighter” with its connotation of heroism and resistance? The reference is to Salman Imran, a member of Hamas who was arrested by Israeli forces on suspicion of firing on a Jewish school bus and taxicab and injuring the driver, two days earlier.

Labelling a Hamas terrorist a “fighter,” highlighting the inconveniences of a Jewish holiday to Palestinian workers from the West Bank and to those the NYT increasingly refers to as “Palestinian citizens of Israel,” and downplaying the religious importance of Judaism’s holiest day to the majority of Jews in Israel all serve the same Palestinian narrative and ultimate purpose – eroding Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state.

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