As 2014 comes to a close, Israel can look back at an eventful yet tumultuous year. 2014 was a year of new achievements and accomplishments, but it was also a year of confronting our enemies and struggling to protect the land and culture which we cherish.

The year opened with mass protests against the ultra Orthodox conscription bill, as hundreds of thousands of Haredim protested the conscription bill in Jerusalem, which would force Haredim to serve in the Israel Defense Force if the draft exemption were to be overturned. The peaceful protests rocked Jerusalem, as opponents voiced their opposition on March 2nd, in an incredible display of unity against the bill. The protests did not just represent a fierce opposition to the bill requiring Haredim to serve, they represented a growing tensions between ultra Orthodox Israelis and secular Israelis. Unease between secular and ultra Orthodox Israelis is likely to continue in the future, as the controversial Jewish state bill is the latest installment in the culture war between the two sides.

The conflict with the Palestinians and Hamas was by far the most memorable event for Israel in 2014. Operation Protective Edge was arguably the most intense conflict between Hamas and Israel so far, as the conflict saw increasingly sophisticated attacks from Hamas onto Israel, from the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers to their foiled tunnel attack on Rosh HaShana. Operation Protective Edge (מִבְצָע צוּק אֵיתָן) was the most violent conflict with Hamas to date, as the conflict also saw Hamas’ rocket attacks increase, as they targeted Israeli cities with more sophisticated rockets which had the capability to hit Haifa from Gaza. On a more personal note, I spent six weeks in Israel with a summer study abroad program, and alongside meeting incredible friends and exploring the Jewish State, I had the surreal experience to live through Operation Protective Edge. My group of 130 American teenagers had to run to the bomb shelter a total of 9 times at our campus based in Hod Hasharon. I am thankful not only for the Iron Dome intercepting Hamas rockets, but also for the resolve of Israel to protect the Jewish State from terror.

Prime Minister Netanyahu handled the conflict with excellent resolve, as he vowed to protect Israel from rocket fire. Netanyahu achieved his goal, and stopped rocket fire from Gaza while severely damaging key Hamas infrastructure, leaving Hamas greatly affected by the successful Israeli offensive.

Tensions on all sides reached boiling point after the summer war with Gaza, as Israel faced both external and internal conflicts. Palestinian attacks on Jews in October and November were disturbing and sickening, as names such as Chaya Zissel Braun z”l, Rabbi Moshe Twersky z”l and Rabbi Aryeh Kopinsky z”l were murdered by Islamic extremists just for being Jewish. The two vehicular attacks in Jerusalem, the stabbing of Sgt. Almog Shiloni and the horrific Har Nof synagogue massacre heightened fears that a third intifada was imminent. Some Jews at the time even questioned if we were safe in our own capital city, not to mention Paris or Malmo.

In conclusion, 2014 was a year of ups and downs for Israel, as not all news was bad news from the Holy Land. Israel continued to explore the Leviathian natural gas field in the Medditeranean, and Israeli startups had a record year as Israeli startups are being acquired faster than ever. However, 2014 for the most part was a year of conflict, hardship and tension, as the war with Gaza and the surge in Jerusalem violence only accelerated the pace of hostilities between Israeli and Palestinians. Conflict and tensions (both external and internal) are unfortunately more than likely to continue in 2015, however no one knows how to handle hardships better than Israel. Israel has been facing tensions, conflicts and struggles since its foundation in 1948, and will continue to face conflict in the future. It is what Israel does in regard to tackling hardships and creating unity which will propel the Jewish state into a hopeful future of unity, stability, and most importantly, peace.