By JONATHAN TOBIN
Did you have a good time in 5769? For Jews around the world, it was the usual assortment of bad - and even worse - news.
Of course, not everything was awful. The rocket barrage on southern Israel restarted but then was largely squelched by a successful Israeli counteroffensive in Gaza. Despite the fact that Israel had every right to defend itself against attacks from territory it had already completely evacuated years earlier, the international verbal assault on every Israeli measure of self-defense seemed to gather even more momentum. New governments in Washington and Jerusalem found themselves at loggerheads over settlements, while Iran's fanatic Islamist leadership not only engineered its own reelection in a sham election with the West no closer to a hope of a plan to stop Teheran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Elsewhere, the international economic slide continued throughout the year, but many Jewish philanthropies (as well as some of their big donors) suffered even more cruelly because of the collapse of the multibillion dollar Bernard Madoff Ponzi fraud.
SO, AS we pause to catch our collective breath, the arrival of a new Jewish year has us all wondering about what's in store for 5770. Can things get worse? Of course, they can! Yet, even as we cope with bankruptcies, frauds, indicted prime ministers, Islamists building nukes and the American politicians and their cheering sections who have abandoned any pretense of civility, we shouldn't lose what's left of our sense of humor.
But before the Almighty writes down just how much worse (or better) it will be for us in the proverbial Book of Life, I present (with apologies, as always, to former New York Times columnist William Safire) the annual "Jewish Pundit Quiz" for 5770.
Save this column, and see how you or I do in 5770. So guess - or should I say prognosticate - along with me about the coming year. My answers are at the bottom of the column. And remember, if you are worried about the outcome, teshuva (repentance), tefilla (prayer) and tzedaka (acts of justice and charity) may avert the severe decree. L'shana tova tikatevu!
1. By the start of 5771, the prime minister of Israel will be:
a. Binyamin Netanyahu b. Tzipi Livni c. Ehud Barak d. Avigdor Lieberman e. Madonna
2. By the end of 5770, the government of Iran will have:
a. Announced the cessation of all nuclear activity after being subjected to effective international sanctions.
b. Avoided sanctions by engaging in inconclusive talks with the Obama administration while continuing clandestine nuclear activity.
c. Proclaimed that it is now in possession of a workable nuclear device.
d. Fallen after the military refused to implement widespread and bloody repression after renewed dissident protests.
e. Been strengthened by the international outcry over Israeli air strikes on nuclear facilities.
3. By the end of 5770, the Middle East peace process will:
a. Have led to a comprehensive peace accord that ended all violence and ensured a two-state solution.
b. Be largely forgotten as conflicts with Iran and the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan occupy the world's attention.
c. Be stalemated as US initiatives are stymied by the Palestinians' refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state or to give up their hope of a "right of return."
d. Be hanging on the outcome of fighting between Hamas and Fatah for control of the West Bank.
4. By next Rosh Hashana, Israeli settlements in the West Bank will: a. Be frozen as Netanyahu's pledges to President Barack Obama of no new building are kept.
b. Growing at their highest rate yet because of the collapse of the latest peace initiatives.
c. Begun shrinking as Israel signals that its hold on communities that are outside the security fence will soon be relinquished.
d. Be growing on a modest rate as Jerusalem finds itself unable or unwilling to maintain a freeze in the absence of a viable peace process.
5. The most serious problem for Obama in 5770 will be:
a. The war in Afghanistan
b. The fate of his health care initiative
c. The state of the economy
d. Iran's nuclear ambitions
e. The fallout from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's fist-fight with House Republican Whip Eric Cantor.
6. By the end of 5770, America's health care system will:
a. Start to resemble that of Israel as a government-run single-payer system is rammed through Congress over Republican protests.
b. Be a mess as insurers, employers and ordinary citizens scramble to adapt to a partial reform package that pleases no one.
c. Be unchanged as Obama's initiative eventually collapses due to lack of public support and partisan infighting.
7. In 5770, Israel's biggest problem will be:
a. The conflict with the Palestinians
b. Iran's drive for nuclear weapons
c. Coping with a post-Zionist malaise that undermines its society and national defense.
d. Haredi-secular conflict in Jerusalem and throughout the country.
e. All of the above.
8. In 5770, American Jews will be most worried about:
a. Peace in the Middle East
b. Iranian nukes
c. The fate of Obama's domestic agenda
d. The decline of Jewish identity as assimilation leads to more intermarriage and lack of affiliation.
e. A new wave of kashrut scandals.
9. The most significant force in American Jewish life in 5770 will be:
a. J Street as the left-wing lobby topples AIPAC as the key Jewish player on Israel in Washington.
b. The Reform movement whose effective lobbying on behalf of the Obama health care package will be seen as crucial to its passage.
c. The Zionist Organization of American as the backlash against Obama's pressure on Israel gives new life to the right.
d. Orthodox outreach movements that continue to grow the numbers of their adherents as other Jewish denominations continue to shrink
e. The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, whose mainstream bully pulpit will galvanize a united community about the threat from Iran.
10. Which of the following will not be true in 5770?
a. Obama will maintain strong Jewish support despite his attitude toward Israel and Iran.
b. Anti-Semitic incitement against Jews and Israel will continue to grow in Western Europe.
c. Quentin Tarantino will direct a new film on the Madoff scandal starring George Clooney and Barbra Streisand as Bernie and Ruth Madoff.
d. Jewish day school enrollment in the US will decline as economic pressures devastate non-Orthodox schools.
e. Israel will be forced into military confrontations with Hamas and Hizbullah.
Tobin answers: 1. a, 2. b, 3. c, 4. d, 5. a, 6. b, 7. e, 8. c, 9. e, 10. c.
The writer is executive editor of Commentary where he contributes to its blog Contentions (www.commentarymagazine.com). email@example.com
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