This past Shabbat was the last one of the year and an opportunity to look back and ahead, to recall and to hope. Summing up the past year, these are the main points I take from the news:
- I was asked by a teen magazine to name the “Event of the Year.” After some thought, I chose the same event as last year – Elor Azaria’s trial. I believe that out of all the news items and scandals we have had in the past year, the trial stands out as being a watershed event. We vented all our feelings about the media, politics, the army, social media and the periphery and placed them squarely on Azaria’s shoulders. As a result of the trial, issues such as the importance of the rule of law and purity of arms came to the fore. In addition, the trial provoked discussion about the dissonance between the strict letter of the law and the gut feeling of wide sections of society. I do not want to write any more about this story but to wonder what will happen if a similar event recurs, God forbid. Will we be able to manage the incident? Will everyone from the soldier’s attorney, to the military prosecutors and the politicians know how to contain such an affair and finish it quicker and thus prevent the next “Event of the Year”?
- The sixteenth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks was marked this week throughout the world. I want to note another dramatic event that occurred last year on 9/11/16. Hilary Clinton collapsed during a memorial ceremony and, as her aides where dragging her to the car, a spectator filmed the event and posted the short video. The effect on her campaign was dramatic. Clinton was (once again) caught out telling a lie and was forced to admit she was suffering from pneumonia. So, we can also commemorate 9/11 as the anniversary of the new media. Anyone can be a photographer and field reporter, you don’t need a press pass and everything is far more transparent and speedy. Zdenek Gazda, who filmed the incident is the embodiment of the new media.Two amazing facts about Gazda reveal the extent of this new era. He considers himself a Clinton supporter and even though his video seriously damaged his candidate’s campaign, he still chose to publish it. And he didn’t seek any remuneration. He could have made a fortune selling the video to the media, but he posted it on the web for all to see. Was this a rational decision? Certainly not, but we are not living in rational times.
- Although terrorists continued their murderous attacks this year, it was quieter than the previous one. In 5777, there were 17 terror victims as compared to 43 in the previous year. In the last few days we were once again reminded of the gaping chasm between us and our enemies and the ongoing struggle between Good and Evil. This week saw the publication of the diary written by Gil-Ad Shaer, one of the three boys kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists in the summer of 2014. So many people were touched by the diary, mainly because of the quality and maturity of the writing. This 16-year-old teenager comes across as a thinking and learning person who is very aware of the changes taking place within his soul and is always trying to improve himself. We were afforded a similar opportunity of getting to know another dignified person during the book launch of “Simply to the World”, a book of poems written by Na’ama Henkin who was murdered with her husband Eitam in a drive-by terror attack in October 2015. One of the speakers welcomed the guests to the “launching of Na’ama’s first and last book.” A graphic artist by profession, Na’ama displayed a wonderful way with words, metaphors, and rhyme. Throughout the evening, literature critics and good friends spoke about her special creative talents. Gil-Ad’s diary and Na’ama’s poems only intensify the gap between their serene lives and the cruel manner in which they were murdered. In 1921 when author and poet Yosef Haim Brenner was murdered in the Jaffa riots, Gershom Shofman the author said: “Unlike the death of any person, when someone is murdered by a frenzied mob who have no idea who the person they murdered was, the pain is intensified.”
- I looked back over the past year’s headlines and if I were to give a headline to describe all of them it would be: Let’s put things in proportion. Everything was on a large scale, hugely important, even earth-shattering. The amount of news coverage given to an idiotic post by Yair Netanyahu equals that given to the approaching Hurricane Irma in Florida. Everything here is a matter of life and death. Every ridiculous comment by anyone the Right or Left tears away at the democratic fabric of our existence. A half-baked tweet becomes an existential threat to the State of Israel. And now is an opportunity to make amends and put things in the right proportion and perspective. Remember the criticism when Danny Danon was appointed Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, the amount of cynicism levelled at him and Netanyahu who appointed him? All of a sudden, everyone was nostalgic for Abba Eban and Haim Herzog. Well, I got to meet Danon at the UN and he eagerly told me that he had been appointed Chairman of the UN Legal Committee, the first Israeli to chair any permanent committee at the organization. One member of Israeli delegation to the UN told me off the record that Danon intends to run for the position of Vice-President of the General Assembly. I must admit that I chuckled to myself. But that is exactly what happened this week, and it is definitely an impressive achievement. He has begun chairing sessions of the General Assembly and will also do so when Netanyahu addresses the UN this week.
- And as another year of talk, chatter and reporting draws to a close — silence ensues. It is interesting to note that during the two days of Rosh Hashana we are commanded to desist from talking and listen to the sound of the Shofar. This is the central commandment and the blessing we make in the synagogue is: Blessed be our God…. to listen to the sound of the Shofar. For a few moments we don’t speak, argue or react, we simply keep quiet and listen. We don’t need to voice our opinion, all we need to do is silence the background noise and listen to a natural and simple sound, the voice of our soul. It is no coincidence that this is how the Jewish People begin their New Year.