Israel's three week holiday season from Rosh Hashana through Simcha Torah resembles the shorter period in western countries from Christmas through New Years. The western holiday is actually longer than a week, due to pre-Christmas work, school, and bar parties, and time in early January for sobering up.
What is common to both Israeli and western holiday periods is that no serious work is contemplated or accomplished.
Israel's celebration involve less drinking than the western equivalent, and perhaps more religious observance. However, the secular majority of the Jewish population views it as a time of family meals, except for Yom Kippur, the closing of schools, most government offices and many businesses, and travel within Israel or overseas. It is a time of clogged highways and airport, and no space in the inns.
"Wait till after the holidays" is a sure way to postpone an issue, begun to be heard a month before Rosh Hashana.
Now that it's over, we should consider what has happened, what must be done, what it is possible to do, and what is likely to be done.
All those are different questions, with answers that depend on who is asking.
The agendas of Israel and the world (if there is such a thing) are not the same. Numerous prominent figures, each with their own perceived pressures and competing with one another's national and personal interests, gives some wiggle room to Israel, despite what may appear as Everyone is against us.
Palestinians are coasting on a wave of verbal support heightened by pictures from Gaza.
It reminds me of coasting downhill on my sled. Montgomery Street was one of the places that the City of Fall River set aside for the kids during the season of snow. There I learned that there was an end to coasting, which could mean a painful crash if I did not take account of the obstacles at the bottom of the hill.
The Palestinians coast without a concern for the consequences. They threaten Israel with the loss of Jerusalem, access to the Temple Mount, and everything over the 1967 borders. Yet they haven't the capacity to deliver, and they will remain dependent on Israel for the reconstruction of Gaza and their management of Palestinian areas in the West Bank..
The Israeli left is hyperventilating, demanding the government offer something, but hopeless to suggest what might get a Palestinian response that would actually move things along in the direction of accommodation.
Jerusalem is on edge, elevated by Succoth and all the visitors from elsewhere in Israel. There have been lots of targets for Palestinian stone throwers among the tour buses, the Jews gathered at the Western Wall below al Aqsa and its plaza, or riding on the light rail from Jewish to Arab and again to Jewish neighborhoods.
The first shipment of concrete has gone to Gaza, but it may be nothing more than a gesture while the folks convening in Cairo to discuss reconstruction were still in the area.
It's a huge challenge to convince the world that Jewish settlements are less the problem than Palestinian intransigence.
It may be impossible, or unnecessary, especially if the world's attention (i.e., that of the US and EU) remains on ISIS and Ebola
Israel even more than usual is a relatively quiet island is a sea of deadly turmoil. We are safer than elsewhere, given tight control of our borders, sophisticated security forces always considering likely threats, a population used to the inconveniences, and medical personnel capable of dealing with the few travellers from West Africa.
There has been a popular campaign concerned with Israelis who move to Berlin, orchestrated by activists protesting the relative high costs of food and housing in Israel.
However, recent data shows substantially more immigration than emigration, due to anti-Semitism in Europe, and relative economic stability in Israel.
It is conventional to welcome immigrants as part of the national ethos and Israel's role as a haven from hostility. Yet it is a small country already crowded.
Welcome to Israel, but wouldn't you prefer settling in the Negev rather than Tel Aviv or Jerusalem?
NIMBY competes with Zionism.
Israel's claim to having fought a defensive war in Gaza is not lost amidst populations and politicians despite the prominence of hostility. Nor is Israel's point that the collateral damage had a great deal to do with how Hamas operated.
Israel's case gets better with every televised beheading, every story of young girls being sold to ISIS fighters; and every mass slaughter of prisoners.
John Kerry livened things up toward the end of the holiday season by a statement that a renewed peace process between Israel and Palestine would help to defeat ISIS.
Right wing Israelis came close to calling the US Secretary of State mad.
According to Naftali Bennett,
'Even when a British Muslim beheads a British Christian, there will always be those who blame the Jews . . . We don't justify terror; we fight terror . . .The Israeli-Palestinian conflict statement encourages ISIS, and is a boost to terrorism worldwide."
Gilad Erdan, Minister of Communication and a MK of Likud, is closer to the center than Bennett. He said that Kerry has "broken the record for lack of understanding" the region, and his comments prove he is totally detached from the realities.
A commentator on one of Israel's prime time news programs described Kerry as "a man not connected to the electricity."
One of Yair Lapid's colleagues in the Knesset took the occasion to threaten, once again, to leave the government if there was no peace process.
State Department personnel said that Bennett distorted Kerry's words for political gain, and that the Secretary did not link the lack of peace between Israel and the Palestinians to the rise of Islamic State, but merely that solving the conflict could have a stabilizing impact on the region.
What Kerry actually said, according to an official Department of State website,
As I went around and met with people in the course of our discussions about the ISIL coalition, the truth is we – there wasn’t a leader I met with in the region who didn’t raise with me spontaneously the need to try to get peace between Israel and the Palestinians, because it was a cause of recruitment . . . "
That may be true, but Kerry lacks the savvy to recognize that he is hearing an Arab slogan, well known from 1948 onward, that Israel is at the heart of the region's problems. Political and religious elites have found that blaming Israel works to deflect dissatisfaction from their own rule. Now they may be learning that blaming Israel may also deflect the US Secretary of State from pressing them to get serious about ISIS.
Israel's Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense did not parse the various charges and counter-charges, but urged their colleagues to cool it, rather than offend the generous Uncle.
The Kerry-centered brouhaha erupted on Friday, a day after the end of the holiday and few hours before the beginning of Sabbath and its weekly halt in politics. Many vacationers, including politicians and their families, were still away from home. Sunday will be the real start of things, and the day to see how this develops, and what else will occupy us. .
There are too many individuals capable of provoking Israel, either from inside or out, and too great a variety of relevant political dynamics from Washington across Europe to the Middle East to justify specific predictions. Except that this country is not about to disappear.