When your electronic device refuses to function properly quite often the best solution is to reboot it.
Most often this fixes the problem and normal service can be resumed.
We have reached that time of the year in the Jewish calendar when the annual rebooting of our personal lives kicks in. At the same time, as a community, we reassess our commitments. As a nation, Israel also needs to take stock of the past twelve months and look ahead to the coming year. On present indications, a comprehensive reboot will be necessary so that the current dysfunctional performance can be rectified.
Without a doubt, as we survey our achievements and failures as individuals we once again must resolve to do better where we have stumbled. That after all is what teshuva is all about and why we have this glorious opportunity every year to soul search and acknowledge our imperfect actions.
Likewise, as we survey the train wreck of national and international events, especially as they impact us as Jews we can only hope that the period ahead is infinitely better. As we face the twin pandemic viruses of COVID and Jew-hatred we must sharpen our responses to both deadly threats. While an inoculation against the former is possibly on the horizon unfortunately there is no realistic prospect of developing an antidote to the latter. No matter how much money is poured into museums, education and outreach it is an unfortunate fact that the world’s longest surviving virus not only keeps mutating but also spreads with virulent results.
This year as never before in our lifetime the prognosis for the year ahead is decidedly murky.
Individuals and families will be struggling to survive the economic and health tsunamis currently ravaging most countries. Vast numbers of citizens in democratic nations have already lost faith in the ability of their leaders to implement policies guaranteed to safeguard them. Millions in regimes ruled by authoritarian human rights abusers have no chance of salvation. As experts argue and disagree, a weary public is rapidly turning to civil disobedience or as in the United States total anarchy and mob violence. Some claim that a vaccine will be the salvation and Trump promises one just in time for the elections. According to expert opinions, anyone who chances their luck with a vaccine rushed through tests which normally take years to complete is dicing with disaster. Whether it is the US vaccine of the century or Putin’s miracle vaccine these “cures” promising quick solutions are a gamble.
When will international travel and vacations return to normal? Realistically the answer is no time soon because until the pandemic transmission is brought under control facilitating its spread worldwide is grossly irresponsible. The uproar over the aborted mass annual visit to Uman is a classic example of the mindless idiocy infecting large swathes of certain sectors. Likewise, the hysterical reaction to the banning of large gatherings whether for religious services or rave parties is proving an uncomfortable challenge especially for politicians used to surrendering at the first stirring of electoral pressure groups.
As we stand on the cusp of a new Jewish year it also is worth speculating on what may lie ahead for Israel and Jews worldwide.
White House extravaganzas notwithstanding, there is something surreal about the euphoric visions generated as a result of recognition of Israel as a legitimate nation by the UAE and Bahrain after 72 years. Despite the touted security and economic benefits and the possibility of tourism as well as faster flying times to the Far East one has to wonder what undisclosed and secret small print provisions are included in these agreements. Has Bibi permanently ditched Israeli sovereignty over Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem? There are rumours of building freezes again and who knows what other red lines have been crossed? The fatal myth of a peace-loving, democratic Palestinian Arab State in our heartland is still being regurgitated. Apart from the Gulf States, there is no stampede by other Islamic countries to follow suit. The rejectionist PA backed by Iran, Turkey and their terror surrogates will be hoping for a Biden victory and this will inhibit any further bold moves of recognition.
If Biden wins in November most of the Obama era Iran appeasers will be back, the radicals will be in full flow and normal anti-Israel State Department policies will resume. None of these possibilities of course will motivate most American Jews to vote for Trump who despite all his faults has generally proven to be our friendliest President ever.
Forget about the UN embracing Israel or telling the Ramallah and Gaza based purveyors of hate that the days of throwing millions of dollars into their bottomless and corrupted bank accounts are over. We need to brace ourselves for more EU duplicity, double standards by so-called friends and a continuing litany of obsessive censure and condemnations by UN-affiliated bodies.
The New Year will also see a rampant Iran and Turkey joining hands and thanks to craven appeasement policies become an even greater threat to regional and world peace. As usual, Israel will be forced to “go it alone” and thereby attract the wrath of the righteous hypocrites. These self-same “warriors of the oppressed” are conspicuous by their silence as Iran executes sportsmen, Turkey imprisons journalists and Islamic regimes persecute and murder Christians.
Meanwhile, Jewish students at universities will face increasing incitement and physical danger if they dare show any commitment to Israel. This will be part of a resurgence in Jew-hatred generally emanating from both right and left extremists. Countries such as Denmark will keep trying to ban Brit Mila and others will step up their efforts to ban Shechitah. Life for Jews in many countries will become progressively more untenable as French and German communities have already discovered. As the USA descends further into radicalized mayhem increasing numbers of affiliated Jews will need to make life-changing decisions as to whether they should make aliyah or like their European 1930’s predecessors pretend that it will all blow over.
In the midst of this bleak prognosis for the year ahead, there is ironically an attainable brighter horizon.
We learn from Jewish history that it is always darker before the ultimate triumph of good over evil. Israel today, despite all its political flaws and failures is poised on the cusp of ground shaking achievements. The creative talents of a resurrected people gathered from the ends of the earth in the most exciting project since Jewish sovereignty was destroyed by the Romans will, without doubt, combine to benefit not only Israelis but all of humanity. Research, innovation, discoveries in various fields of endeavour will all burst forth from Zion. Slowly and surely a new generation of youngsters combining the best of Ashkenazi and Sephardic traditions is developing which will in time create a strong blend of Israeli based Judaism. This is already evident in the number of those who realize that learning skills to earn a living can coexist with adherence to tradition.
All we need for the good times to roll is the individual dedication to the tasks at hand, recognition of the diversity which constitutes our myriad tribes, education and knowledge of our traditions and above all inspired religious and lay leadership.
Does this sound like mission impossible and a daunting goal?
If we can send a craft to the moon then nothing is beyond achievement. It is in our hands individually and collectively to ensure a political leadership untainted by corruption, lies and cronyism and a religious leadership more attuned to the realities of modernity.
Moshe in his final address to the Israelites before their entrance to the Promised Land stated that the Torah was not in the heavens but that instead, it was here now amongst all the people.
In the same vein, the promises of a better and more just future are not theoretical. All it takes is a concerted effort by all of us to bring those days closer.
May we all be inscribed for a healthy, virus-free year.
Michael Kuttner is a Jewish New Zealander who for many years was actively involved with various communal organisations connected to Judaism and Israel. He now lives in Israel and is J-Wire’s correspondent in the region.