It was the year of the oxymoron.
“There are two sides to every story”
goes the cliche. Wrong. Every story has multiple sides, or at least several
Drawing up year-in-review-type stories is an occupational hazard
In Israel, the passing of no civil or Jewish year goes
unmarked, but the “hazards” are many: It’s impossible to cram into one readable
article of reasonable length all the events in a country where the news changes,
often dramatically, from hour to hour. And very often the different views are
Israel is a country of contradictions.
year, even the weather proved the point. One day, firefighters were battling the
lethal Carmel inferno which was exacerbated by the extreme drought; the next,
torrential rains were causing the loss of archeological treasures as cliffs
collapsed into the sea.
There are probably even conflicting opinions
concerning what events merit a mention in an annual overview. Readers can vote
for their favorite stories of the year on the Jerusalem Post
(www.jpost.com). What follows is not meant to be a comprehensive review, but
another look at some of the paradoxes and absurdities that featured in the
The paradoxical tone of the year was set early on, when
the settlement freeze declared in January by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
to further the “peace process” (an oxymoron in its own right) provided the main
excuse for its failure.
No Israeli review would be complete without the
Mabhouh assassination story. As we all know – because Dubai’s top cop became one
of this year’s surprise media stars – Israel is considered to be behind the
thriller-style, hotel-room murder of archterrorist Mahmoud al- Mabhouh in
The story also contained some of the greatest
If Mossad agents were so successful in penetrating the heart
of an Arab emirate, carrying out their mission and returning safely, how come
the operation was considered such a failure? If “friendly” nations expelled
Israeli diplomats for misusing their passports (without being able to prove that
the Mossad was behind the event), how friendly are they and just what do they
mean by “the war on terrorism”? More poignantly, how can a country succeed in
pulling off such a complicated mission in the distant Gulf state and still not
manage to get Gilad Schalit out of Hamas captivity in Gaza? Schalit,
incidentally, was the one person who managed to unite the country (by his
One of the greatest contradictions of the year was
the footage of the IDF naval commandos being attacked by ostensible “peace
activists” during the Gaza flotilla affair at the end of May – and Israel being
damned for having the nerve to shoot back.
Why the Mavi Marmara
allowed to get as far as it did, and why the government decided to send in the
elite unit and hand a PR victory to Turkey and the pro-Hamas lobbyists, are
other unfathomables of the year.
How the Gazans managed to open a
shopping mall a month later and still claim they were starving is yet another
The red-green alliance between the Western radical left and
Islamic extremists, too, is an ongoing paradox.
It was the year in which
calls for boycotting Israeli universities were made in the name of academic
freedom, and Jewish heritage sites (including the Cave of the Patriarchs and
Rachel’s Tomb, dating from an era before Islam even existed) were declared
IN JERUSALEM, the Holyland residential complex became much
more complex and significantly more unholy. The ugliest building in the capital
was found to have been born in sin, kicking off a major corruption
The Emmanuel affair emphasized some nasty divisions, when
the Beit Ya’acov school erected a physical barrier between girls of different
religious streams (and for the most part different ethnic backgrounds); parents
chose to go to jail rather than comply with a secular court decision; and the
very term “educational” became ironic.
That Shas, the Sephardi party, did
not speak out in this case, and throughout the year battled causes generally
close to its electorate’s hearts, is yet another
Unfortunately, religious issues were the cause of many
rifts and absurdities.
(Take, for example, the conversion bill.) And the
religious extremists who placed the importance of ancient (probably pagan)
graves over the construction of a missile-proof emergency room at Ashkelon’s
Barzilai Medical Center deserve a special mention.
The nonstop shelling
of the South during a year of peace is another sign of Israel’s unique
Israel Beitenu’s proposal to impose a loyalty oath to a
“Jewish democratic state” on only some of those seeking to live here was a bone
of contention, as was the letter by the rabbis supporting a ban on selling and
renting property to Arabs. Indeed, sadly, the phrase “Jewish democratic” country
increasingly seemed to be a contradiction in terms.
And strangely, more
and more foreign workers were given permits as efforts increased to prevent
migrants from settling in the country.
It was a year of mounting (and
brutal) crimes. So many children were killed by their parents – the very people
who were meant to protect them – that I can’t mention them all. I can only
wonder how it is that in a country where nosy neighbors are the norm and perfect
strangers feel free to offer uncalledfor advice, nobody realized just how great
a risk these children faced until it was too late.
IN THE GLOBAL village,
nobody was unaffected by the major events of the year. Israel sent the first and
bestequipped mobile hospital to Haiti following the earthquake in January (and
was rewarded by both glowing reports and a blood libel that it was harvesting
Special socks created by an Israeli inventor helped protect the
feet of the Chilean miners in the real-live drama that turned into a reality
The Jewish Wedding of the Year – Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky
– was only half Jewish.
The biggest media story of the year was
WikiLeaks, which as the Post’s Herb Keinon noted, was more of a torrent than a
leak. It gave a new meaning to the phrase “too much information.”
WAS also good news. Israel found vast quantities of natural gas off its shores,
but even that fueled a controversy: Who was to benefit – the entrepreneurs who
invested in the dig or the average Israeli who might enjoy some of the wealth
via the royalties? Israeli filmmakers continued to earn fame and awards, mainly
with propeace movies paradoxically about wars.
Truth being stranger than
fiction, although Iran’s Twitter Revolution of 2009 failed, this year its
nuclear ambitions were delayed by a (possibly Israeli) computer worm.
while countries like Ireland, Portugal, Greece and Spain suffered a financial
near-meltdown, Israel weathered the global monetary storm reasonably well and
even joined the prestigious OECD economic club. This was not an insignificant
achievement at a time when the call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions
Medical developments were too numerous to mention; using
scorpions to take the sting out of pain was one of my favorites. And the
country’s hi-tech sector continued to produce gadget after gadget.
will be interesting to see how many of this year’s technological wonders will be
considered dated by the time we part from 2011.The writer is editor of
The International Jerusalem Post.