TEL AVIV (Sep. 7)
Many Israelis, including many who do not regard themselves as superstitious, are viewing the arrival of the Jewish New Year tonight with some fear and trepidation.
Astrologists and fortune tellers interviewed by Israel Radio and Television even report a large increase in clients asking about the future, “some of them in a state of near-panic, ” according to one of the them.
The cause of the fear is the numerology of the new year — 5744 –which, in Hebrew, is represented by letters standing for numerals. There is no letter or group of letters for the thousands. But the last three figures are written in Hebrew as. Taf, Shin, Mem, Daled — which forms the word for “annihiliation.”
So widespread is the unease that the radio has started to spell out the individual letters rather than the word they form, and the army and the Ministry of Education have issued calendars with the letters rearranged to avoid the fear-instilling word.
Specialists and enthusiastic amateurs in “gematriya” — the art or science of the interpretation of numbers–have been quoted in radio programs offering differing interpretations, based on the Scriptures, for what may happen — with some suggesting there may, indeed, be an annihilation this year — but of non-Jewish forces seeking to harm or damage Israel.
Israeli astrologists all seem to agree that great changes in the world situation will occur between now and the end of the century, with many forecasting the end of the Communist state in the Soviet Union within the next 10 years.
Fears of the year 5744 with its “tastmad” (annihilation) tragedy have been enhanced by the fact that George Orwell’s notorious 1984 starts in three months time. Some gematriya experts claim that Orwell consulted Jews versed in Cabalistic lore to set his date.
But other literary experts point out that Orwell wrote his book in 1948 and merely transposed the last two figures – as the army and the Education Ministry have done with the fear-instilling letters of the Jewish New Year.