Resilience has described Israel since its inception, and at no time is it more evident than today.The pace of events in Israel is usually in a permanently frantic ‘fast forward’ mode. But if anything, in the last year, and especially the last few months, there’s been an acceleration to life here – as if someone had dropped a case of Ritalin into the nation’s drinking water.
Since last year, we’ve experienced the formation of Kadima, the illness and coma of Ariel Sharon, new elections, and a new government headed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Of course, those were all just appetizers for the main event – the abductions of three Israeli soldiers, Gilad Shalit in Gaza by Hamas, and Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev by Hizbullah in Lebanon – and the resultant Second Lebanon War, now named, capitalized and etched in the stone of Israel’s military landscape.
The war may be over in its current phase, and the world seems to have forgotten that there are still two Israelis being held by Hizbullah – but their families sure haven’t. And while the country’s northern residents are just beginning to return to ‘normal’ life, the emotional scars for all of us will remain for much longer.
But instead of being given some breathing room to regroup and reflect, we’ve been thrust on a daily basis from one scandal to another. Name calling, back stabbing and finger pointing has characterized the post-war political and military mindset, with calls for the resignations of Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Chief of General Staff Dan Halutz being only the top of the list of dignitaries being blamed for Israel’s less than exemplary showing in the war.
But if it was only that internal soul-searching and rectifying of our national institutions and leaders that was on the agenda, we could perhaps handle it and grow stronger. However, the country’s also been wracked by scandal – with both President Moshe Katsav and then-justice minister Haim Ramon being accused of sexual harassment and worse.
As we approach Rosh Hashana – the Jewish New Year – the issues of accountability and responsibility are supposed to be at the forefront of our thoughts and actions. But it’s clear from what we’re seeing from the ‘crust’ of Israeli society – those people that make decisions on the battlefield, in the Knesset, and in the halls of justice that affect every facet of our lives – the lessons have not yet been learned about accountability and responsibility and, as the popular Israeli phrase goes, ‘drawing the necessary conclusions’.
Deny, stonewall, blame others and refuse to step down are the cornerstones of many of our leaders’ philosophies, and that attitude trickles down to the rest of us. Not quite the proper principles as we approach Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement.
But perhaps, the situation is not quite that bleak. The head of the army`s Northern Command – Maj. Gen. Udi Adam did draw the necessary conclusions and resigned last week over his opposition to the way the war was conducted. And there are signs of hope elsewhere.
For the first time, a woman has been named to head Israel’s Supreme Court. In handing over the reins to Justice Dorit Beinisch who took the oath of office last week, outgoing Supreme Court head Aharon Barak said that Beinisch will “lead the judicial system in general and the Supreme Court in particular, to new achievements, to better protection of our Jewish and democratic values, to better service for the individual who turns to the court.”
News reports are rife with informed sources saying that Gilad Shalit – the soldier being held by Hamas in Gaza – will be released before Rosh Hashana, which would truly be a New Year’s gift for the entire country.
And of course, this week the country gets some respect from the visit of the world’s second richest man – Warren Buffett – who is coming to see the Iscar, the company he’s invested $4 billion in.
On the streets of Jerusalem, groups of tourists are being spotted in abundance, and there’s hope that the long-term damage to the tourism industry caused by the war will be minimal.
Resilience is a word that has described Israel since its inception, and at no time is it more evident than today.
That dichotomy – the impression that things couldn’t get any worse while so many good things continue to happen – is just one of the maddening but endearing qualities that one learns to accept if they choose to live here.
So even with political and military recriminations, sex scandals, an Iranian nuclear threat, and the prospect of another round of war in Lebanon hanging over our heads, Israelis will sit down on Friday night with their families and friends to welcome in the new year, the synagogues will be filled with worshippers, and we’ll count our blessings.
And we’ll hope against hope that next year, the breathless pace of life in Israel will slow down just a little bit.