Lots of news.
It''s worth thinking about the details, and whether they amount to a watershed inviting a heroic decision.
Khaled Mashaal, the senior leader of Hamas, has ordered his forces to cease attacks on Israeli targets. http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/hamas-forces-ordered-to-cease-attacks-on-israeli-targets-palestinian-sources-say-1.404226
Mashaal''s expression of non-violence has something to do with the peace agreement claimed to have been reached (once again) between Fatah and Hamas, but anyone seeking to check this out with Mashaal may have trouble locating him. Hamas has abandoned its Damascus headquarters in yet another sign of Syrian shakiness. It is not clear if Mashaal has decided to move in with party colleagues in Gaza, or to seek another location beyond Israel''s reach (maybe) in Cairo, or somewhere in the Gulf. All this may depend on current and future winds produced by Arab spring.
Who knows how far Mashaal''s reach extends through the alphabet soup of Palestinian clusters that smuggle arms, assemble and fire rockets, and recruit suicide bombers. The list expands and contracts, and has included Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Jihad Jibril Brigades, Palestinian Popular Struggle Front, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, and whatever claims the label of al-Quaeda in Gaza or the West Bank. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestinian_political_violence#Palestinian_groups_involved_in_political_violence
The Sudanese General heading the Arab League delegation to Syria provided a "reassuring" first impression of the situation observed. Yet one commentator calls him
“the world’s worst human rights observer . . . likely stinks of either a voluntary whitewash or an example of how the observers are being stage managed by the Syrian regime, . . . What does one expect from an Arab League mission headed by a loyalist of President Omar al-Bashir, currently wanted on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity?" http://humanprovince.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/darfur-syria/
A senior Palestinian representative in the United States has written an op-ed piece for the Washington Post in which he admits a Jewish history in Palestine. His claim of an ancient Palestinian lineage is mythic, but so is the story of Abraham and some of the other Jewish forebears. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/palestine-a-history-rich-and-deep/2011/12/21/gIQALJ6GLP_story.html?wpisrc=emailtoafriend
Ron Paul has denied being an anti-Semite. He affirms his opposition to US foreign aid to all countries, but views Israel as “one of our most important friends in the world.” http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/west-of-eden/ron-paul-tells-haaretz-i-am-not-an-anti-semite-1.404208
The print edition of Ha''aretz has a front page story that the head of Mossad "hinted" to a meeting of foreign ambassadors that "a nuclear Iran is not necessarily a threat to Israel''s existence." (December 29)
The newspaper also reports that the Palestinian Authority is saying something about removing a demand for a settlement freeze as a condition for resuming talks with Israel. In return, it is asking for the release of more Israeli prisoners, perhaps 100, and perhaps including some old timers rather than just the recent iconic terrorists.
Netanyahu''s initial response is Nope. No conditions for negotiations means no conditions. (p. 2)
Is it time to break out the hard stuff and begin an early New Year celebration?
Not without reckoning with yesterday''s liquidation of one Palestinian in Gaza and the wounding of several colleagues, said by Israelis to be on their way to doing something ugly near Eilat. This was followed by missiles fired into Israel, then Israel''s bombing of targets in Gaza, and a senior IDF person saying again that continued rocket attacks require preparations for a major attack on Gaza. http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/idf-confirms-preparations-for-extensive-future-gaza-military-action-1.404232
Israeli sources seem to be admitting reports the airforce has attacked convoys in the Sudan carrying munitions from Iran in the direction of Egypt for Gaza. http://www.israeldefense.com/?CategoryID=483&ArticleID=717
On some purely domestic issues, the Chief Sephardi Rabbi is about to issue a halachic ruling as to whether a woman can deliver a eulogy at a funeral. In Pope-less and pyramid-less Rabbinical Judaism, that distinguished rabbi''s ruling will only go so far to quiet anything.
The police are moving cautiously against those who spit, curse, insult, and otherwise harass women doing what the harasser thinks is improper. Rabbis and the IDF are in a fuddle about requiring soldiers to remain in the audience when a female sings at a military function.
A prominent Israeli economist with ties to the Finance Ministry has published his own fatwa that families with 8 or more children are statistically likely to damn their children to lives of mediocrity without academic, professional, or economic accomplishments. His focus is the ultra-Orthodox, and somewhat less on Arabs who are actually reducing their fecundity (with the exception of Bedouins). He further noted that Haredim who insist that their children study nothing but sacred texts consign them to ignorance, poverty, and dependence, and harm the state that is responsible for protecting us from evil and directing the economy toward progress for us all..
What to do about all of this?
Some of you may disagree, but it seems to me that the positive signs suggesting impending salvation are neutralized by scepticism about them, and even moreso by negative signs also appearing in the media. Moreover, they do not add up to the kind of situation faced by Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakai, or David ben Gurion. The first responded to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem by establishing Rabbinic Judaism without the rituals of the Temple that no longer existed, and began a long period of Jewish passivity with respect to great powers. The second seized a moment in the lee of World War II and declared the State of Israel.
If such times come once in 1900 years, we''re not due for another until the year 3848.
Jews are good at pondering. We began at least a half-millennium before Rabbi ben Zakai, have published some provocative stuff along the way, and are still at work.