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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks told Haaretz last week that when visiting Israel he prefers to spend time with what the paper termed the new prophets of the Jewish people. "I've tried to begin a serious conversation with Amos Oz and David Grossman, either of whom would have been prophets if they were religious," said Sacks.
This leads me to reveal here (for the first time) that along with Grossman and Oz, I too have prophetic talents. With the New Year just around the corner, and with a tip of the hat to Jeane Dixon, here are my own predictions for 2008.
January: To the surprise of some and the chagrin of others, Mahmoud Abbas tells the London-based Asharq al-Awsat that the Palestinian Arabs indeed recognize the right of the Jewish people to a national homeland in Palestine.
"Let us share the land in harmony; we in our state and you in yours. Just as Arabs live as citizens in Israel, I invite Jews to stay in their West Bank communities and enjoy dual citizenship. You have returned to the heartland of your civilization. Whatever our differences over this disputed land, we can work them out."
Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayad declares that with the billions Palestine is receiving in international aid, his goal is to turn the West Bank and Gaza into "the Singapore of the Middle East."
Several hundred thousand Palestinians demonstrate in Nablus under the banner: "A Demilitarized Palestine." Rally organizers say the people want Palestine's leadership to pour the bountiful resources provided by the international community into building civil society, blending Islam with modernity, creating representative democracy and inculcating tolerance and pluralism.
Meanwhile in Gaza, Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud Zahar, along with top Islamic Jihad, Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade and Popular Resistance Committee chieftains, complain that Israel is moving too slowly to process the tons upon tons of collected weapons, bombs and ammunition now decommissioned.
An exasperated Farouk Kaddoumi, the PLO foreign minister, tells reporters: "We need to tear down the refugee camps to build permanent housing, but our efforts are hampered because of the vast stores of weapons and explosives in every nook and cranny. Let us be rid of these instruments of bloodshed. Sixty - no, 100 years have been squandered!"
February: Speaking with an upper-crust British accent, Syrian President Bashar Assad, who trained as an ophthalmologist in London, admits to the BBC's Zeinab Badawi that his country has long been engaged in a campaign to destabilize Lebanon. "We're awfully sorry for the assassinations and bombings and for robbing Lebanon of its sovereignty. Dirty pool. Bad business. That's done with."
Were Assad in Israel's shoes, Badawi inquires, would he give up the strategic mountain ranges of the Golan Heights?
"Heavens, no." Assad replies. "That's why I propose that Israel 'return' the heights to us then we will immediately lease them back to the Jewish state for 100 years. Assuming things go smoothly, the next generation can sort things out."
March: London's Independent breaks the story that Peace Now, founded in 1978 to uproot every vestige of Jewish presence in Judea, Samaria and those areas of metropolitan Jerusalem liberated in the Six Day War, is finally closing its doors, grounding its spy helicopters and ceasing operations.
Peace Now has come under increasing scrutiny from the Israeli tax authorities for having accepted millions of dollars over the years from foreign governments and foundations who want to influence Israeli security policies. Several Peace Now leaders seek asylum in Norway.
April: Israel Radio reports an announcement by Rabbi Yona Metzger and Rabbi Shlomo Amar that they are jointly stepping down as Israel's chief rabbis to devote their lives to Torah study and good deeds.
The Degel Hatorah party newspaper, Yated Ne'eman, reports that Metzger and Amar "are obviously correct in pointing out that the mixture of politics, patronage and Judaism has undermined yiddishkeit and created one desecration of God's name after another."
In an editorial headlined "Goot G'zooked" - well said - Hamodia, the hassidic daily, praises the two outgoing chiefs for advocating the separation of "synagogue from state."
"Opposing pluralism and tolerance," Hamodia writes, "has been bad for the Jews. It's time to end the rabbinate's control over marriage, divorce and over defining 'Who is a Jew' for purposes of immigration and naturalization. Away with both hegemony and dependency."
Yom L'yom, the Shas newspaper, adds: "The two chief rabbis are paving the way, baruch Hashem, for more Ashkenazi haredim to serve in the IDF or do other forms of national service. It's about time."
May: The Jerusalem Post reports that a Haifa truck driver began a better driving movement that's spread like wildfire. Rafi Shaked placed a notice in the windshield of his lorry declaring that he would "yield the right of way - absolutely."
A grandmother in Beersheba, Ludmilla Chertok, noticed the sign while driving on Route 6 and promptly put a large notice on the door of her car: "I will always signal."
A tipping point was reached when an Army Radio personality persuaded upwards of 350,000 motorists to stop their cars for one minute during the Thursday evening rush-hour in support of "always giving pedestrians the right of way at a crosswalk."
Traffic police say that if the "sanity on the roads continues into 2009, it will be necessary to shift resources into other areas." By the end of 2008, failing to signal, not yielding the right of way, and driving above the speed limit is frowned upon as "un-Israeli" behavior.
June: JPost.com reports that an increasing number of students in secular schools are insisting on calling their teachers Mr. or Ms. or "teacher" instead of by their first names. Such deference has long been the tradition in the national-religious system.
Meanwhile, Finance Ministry officials insist that the education minister accept a 20 percent increase in funding. The new moneys come from funds heretofore earmarked to support avant-garde art, alternative filmmaking and other cultural projects that ministry officials now claim are heavily laden with post-Zionist messages.
September: The Islamic Republic News Agency reveals that after returning from the haj in Saudi Arabia some eight months ago, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told aides that he experienced an epiphany and now believes that Islam forbids terrorism, nuclear proliferation and Jew-hatred. After months of behind-the-scenes consultation among the country's leading mullahs, Ahmadinejad was authorized to appear on television to tell the nation: "In the name of God the almighty and merciful, when I was on haj, I saw a light around me. I was placed inside this aura. I felt the atmosphere suddenly change, and as I was performing tawaf around the Ka'aba, my eyes were opened. The Jewish people are not our enemies, they are our brethren. They must not be harmed. We must provide Israel - may her years be many and serene - with free petroleum. All praise is to Allah."
November 4, 2008: In the US, presidential race exit polls indicate that the independent ticket's Michael Bloomberg and Barack Obama have been elected president and vice president.
I'M ALSO predicting these less earth-shattering, but still consequential events in the course of 2008:
â€¢ HOT, the Israeli cable provider, brings back CNN. CEO David Kamenitz explains, "Let's be frank. We're raking it in. We can't just cut out a popular and essential station and not reduce our charges. So, CNN is back."
â€¢ Rabbi Eric Yoffee, head of the Reform movement, embraces Sufi Islam and takes the name "Cat Stevens."
â€¢ Meteorologist Robert Orlinsky is named chair of the Academy of the Hebrew Language in appreciation for making the language more accessible to new immigrants.
â€¢ Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei retires as director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and takes up a senior leadership position at Lighthouse For The Blind in New York City.
FINALLY, in December 2008, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks authors an "Open letter to Amos Oz and David Grossman," which London's Jewish Chronicle publishes.
The chief rabbi thunders: "What has systematically derailed Israel's efforts for peace is the fact that every concession it has made, every withdrawal it has undertaken, has been interpreted by its enemies as a sign of weakness, and has led to more violence, not less.
"The Oslo process led to suicide bombers, Ehud Barak's offer led to the so-called Al-Aksa intifada. The withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza led directly to the onslaught of Katyushas and Kassams. How does any nation make peace under these conditions?"
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