I so wanted to start the new year with a positive attitude and a message of optimism but I have to say that I am struggling.

I spent a very mellow New Year’s eve watching the movie “Trumbo”, a film centered around the Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo who, together with a number of other screenwriters, were “blacklisted” after being asked to testify before the US Congress regarding alleged Communist propaganda in Hollywood films. A number of these writers were forced to spend time in prison in what was clearly a violation of the First Amendment right of free speech. After watching the movie (which is incredibly good and worthwhile seeing – despite some unexplainable bad early reviews) I returned home, had some dinner, watch the Amy Schumer HBO special of her live performance at the Apollo Theatre which conveniently ended at exactly 11:57PM allowing us to watching a repeat of the ball dropping in Time Square. This annual event was attended live by more than one million people who had stood in the same location for a large portion of day trying to secure their “spot” close to the ball, and all attending with the same common agenda of saying goodbye to 2015 and expressing feelings of joy, hope, optimism and promise for the year ahead.

After listening to multiple versions of “Auld Lang Syne” (a song that I, like many people, still struggle to understand the lyrics, after hearing it for 56 years) I was very happy to call it a night and get a good night’s sleep.

I woke early on New Year’s day and did what I do most mornings – checked my iPhone for any important emails or text messages and then clicked on both the CNN and Jerusalem post applications which sadly revealed that two people had been killed and several other people injured when a gunman went on a shooting rampage on Dizengoff Street in a populated area of Tel Aviv which was filled with people sitting and enjoying the day at various cafes. Before open firing, the gunman was caught by a video camera in a grocery store where he appeared to be purchasing various items for his personal use. The camera then showed the gunman reaching into his bag, pulling out a gun and then running out onto the street where he open fired before disappearing into the neighborhood where he has still not been found.

Sadly, unprovoked shootings where innocent people have lost their lives have been all too frequent in the Middle East over the last 6 months and perhaps I should have not been so shocked at the news of another rampage. Perhaps because I knew the neighborhood and the cafes where people were shot or perhaps it was because it was January 1 and I wanted to believe that perhaps things might be different this year. Alas this optimistic dream does not seem a likely reality. To the contrary, having witnessed the actions of terrorist attacks in virtually every corner of the world during the last 12 months makes one realize that the world is in a delicate balance right now and that there is no place that is completely safe from possible attack.

I was saddened to hear from a good friend who lives in Israel that friends of hers were sitting at a café in the neighborhood where the shootings took place with their young child who had to witness a cold blooded unprovoked killing first hand and who not surprisingly was completely traumatized by the event. How sad it is that our children should have to grow up at a time where the likelihood of them either witnessing a terrorist attack, or knowing someone who is somehow connected to someone who was injured or killed in such an attack is an increasing level of probability.

As to what we can do, this is a difficult question to answer with no single easy response. What I do think is important is the following:

• We all need to be fully informed and educated on the issues that are confronting us in today’s religious and political world.

• We all need to be willing to try and engage in rationale dialogue (to the extent possible) with people who are expressing points of view that we do not agree with or where they are making comments based upon incorrect facts. This does not necessarily mean that your own point of view is a correct one but any engagement in conversation with someone who has a contrary point of view is better than not engaging at all. When I look at the issues that are raised in the film “Trumbo” mentioned above, a large section of the public at that time bought into the propaganda that there was a real threat of communism that would exist if we allowed Hollywood screenwriters to keep writing movies that on reflection embodied themes that were anything but a threat to national security. Trying to educate people on the issues that we are dealing with today is no less important now than it was back then.

• Before any of us react to something that has us emotionally charged, take a beat and perhaps put off the response until the next day unless it is something that requires an immediately response. Sometimes when we reflect on things in a less emotional state, our response or reaction can be quite different.

• We all must take proactive steps to do something that is likely to result in the betterment of our own society. Anything we can do to help address problems that exist in our own backyard can only help to create a more conducive environment in which people can exist. Whether it is doing volunteer work that helps the homeless or unemployed, or engaging in some other form of community service can only have a positive impact on the emotional state of where we each live. When you look at some of the problems that exist, especially in the Middle East, in many cases the terrorist groups have grown out of a growing number of people who feel like they are not being treated fairly in societies where class distinction seems to be expanding rather than shrinking.

Not wishing to have my first post of the year end on a completely “down” note, I did take a walk with my daughter on Sunday with friends along the beach in Playa Del Rey where I have posted pictures before. There is still something quite beautiful about a walk on the beach on a winter’s day, even if it is overcast. In looking out at the sea, we could see pods of pelicans and schools of dolphin enjoying the ocean.

Despite less than ideal conditions, couples sat on the sand starring out at the ocean and watching the waves roll in; children played in the sand building sand castles, and people were out riding their bicycles and rollerblading enjoying the Pacific coast in the last few hours of the Christmas holiday.

The two hours we spent walking along the sand was peaceful and refreshing and for a brief moment in time I was able to focus on the things that are both positive and good in our lives. Perhaps the important thing is to not lose sight of the good things that we do have. As long as we keep those things in the back of our minds, the challenging things that we have to address all to frequently, serve as a reminder of what it is that we are fighting to preserve.

For all of us, I wish for all of us a happy, healthy and hopefully peaceful 2016.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”  – Anne Frank

(Photos taken at Playa del Rey on January 3, 2016)

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