(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
It is not the Jewish custom to make New Year resolutions. Perhaps because we should strive to do our best all year round; perhaps because it is forbidden to make promises we cannot keep; or maybe it is the let-out clause of Yom Kippur, just 10 days after Rosh Hashana, when we can be released from our vows anyway. Nonetheless, in the seasonal spirit of heshbon nefesh - the soul searching that attacks like a stereotypical Jewish mother's guilt, intensifying as Rosh Hashana approaches - it is hard not to look back at the year just ending, look ahead, and look inwards and make a wish list.
Every new year, civil or religious, journalists have a knee-jerk reaction to summarize the year that was. 5767 was the year that wasn't. Not that it was a figment of our imaginations. It just didn't stick out for better or (as too often happens) for worse. It was not the year of disengagement; it was not the year of "The War." Neither was it - unfortunately - the year of peace or the return of the missing soldiers (and let's not forget that some families have been trying to celebrate Rosh Hashana without knowing the fates of their sons since "Lebanon I" was still only Operation Peace for Galilee in 1982).
Some resolutions (of the non-UN kind) could help make the Jewish year of 5768 better for all of us.
The Winograd Commission into Lebanon II is expected to publish its findings sometime soon. In a country full of amateur generals (the public) and amateur politicians (including some current and former generals and a Knesset for which the appellation "amateurish" sometimes seems complimentary) we all know what needs to be done. The challenge will be actually doing it. We need to learn from our mistakes, not just read about them in reports. We need to recover not only our deterrent capability but - no less important and perhaps more elusive - our sense of security.
Residents of Sderot and the South have our support and sympathy. What they need is to be able to lead normal lives. The whole country needs to be free of the threat of terror (and the whole world could do without the Iranian nuclear threat).
Law and order
This year saw the continuation of the soap-opera-style parade of figures facing criminal charges from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson down. Public feeling against corruption and abuse has definitely had its day in court. We don't want to whitewash the bad but let's not get carried away. Lately, it's hard to avoid the feeling that "inquiring minds" are systematically attacking a list of headline-worthy personages. As my army commander was fond of saying: "Hands that throw mud get dirty." May this be the year in which the justice system is used for exactly that - justice, not revenge or media exposure.
And while we're on the subject... I don't want to cut the branch on which I sit but the conduct of the press in several "affairs" has been far from exemplary. Granted a president suspected of rape is, by definition, a sexy story but the slobbering is messy. Only two people really know what went on behind closed doors between Moshe Katsav and "A." Her version of the story gets more graphic every time she recalls it in yet another press conference; he denies any evil-doing although he accepted the offer of a plea-bargain. It is a classic case in which the courts - and I don't mean the kangaroo version that we saw in Rabin Square - should decide. The press should be the watchdog of democracy, not sinking its teeth into it. No matter what the outcome, the affair has caused immense damage not only to those directly involved but to all women who have been assaulted and are scared to press charges and all men who have been falsely charged and find themselves also the victim of public feeling. There is, however, one winner: Kinneret Barashi, A.'s lawyer, has gained more than just a name for herself - she also now has a Friday afternoon TV slot.
The plight of Holocaust survivors with not enough money to live on captured headlines in the outgoing year. Their situation is intolerable. Should they be singled out? Only at a cost. We are missing the point: No elderly person should be forced to choose between buying food or medication. No child should go to school hungry. Much has been said about the philanthropic efforts of aspiring politician Arkadi Gaydamak, who has stepped in whenever he felt the government was failing (and heaven knows that has given him enough opportunity), but while it's nice to know there are good people out there - and kudos to the Diaspora and Christian friends of Israel, too - it would be better to rely on the state rather than charity. The government needs to make sure that a safety net is there for those who find themselves falling and before they are pushed over the edge.
Israel has lately been conquered by an unusual form of "outing": public exposure of draft dodgers. There have even been motions to ban those who didn't serve from appearing at public events such as the Independence Day celebrations or officially representing Israel abroad (this in the country that happily sent transsexual Dana International to win the Eurovision Song Contest a few years ago). The efforts strike the wrong chord. Is anyone really going to decide to enlist as a result of such a campaign? It seems as likely as those who throw stones at cars traveling on the Sabbath actually succeeding in making the drivers feel closer to religion.
It sometimes seems that ideas for environmental protection are the only thing that get recycled. Israelis tend to concentrate so much on security issues that they often forget basic safety needs. The environment is really calling for us to clean up our act when it comes to waste management, pollution prevention, preservation, and the proper planning of infrastructure (which could save lives on the country's roads as well as in the not improbable event of an earthquake.)
THE LIST could go on: patching up the social divide, improving foreign relations... But soul searching need not be soul destroying. There is plenty to rejoice about in this year, too, as the country gears up to celebrating 60 years of independence. We continue to make amazing scientific and cultural achievements and economically we are, tfu, tfu, tfu, thriving. New immigrants are arriving and visitors are constantly surprised at the high quality of life. There's no need to put ourselves down too much. We have plenty of enemies for that.
All we need to do is take stock of our collective and personal lives on Rosh Hashana, and then we can permit ourselves to sound our own trumpets as we listen to the shofar being blown.