Miriam Herschlag
Miriam Herschlag
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Voices of 2021: The year that boggled our collective minds

When so much seemed to go off the rails, Times of Israel bloggers offered sharp perspectives, wisdom and inspiration to guide us through the uncertainty

Who could have envisioned a mob storming and ransacking the US capitol? Who believed fears of widespread Arab-Jewish rioting in Israel’s streets would come true? Who knew Benjamin Netanyahu would ever depart the Prime Minister’s Balfour St. residence? Or that we’d need to face health threats from our own (unvaxxed) friends and relatives?

For that matter, did we think that after more than two decades, the alarm would still be sounding over Iran’s growing proximity to nuclear weapons capability? The crush disaster at the Lag B’Omer celebrations at Meron should have been predictable – it was, to some – but the appalling scale of the death toll shocked everyone.

So many contributors to the Times of Israel blogging platform wrote exquisitely on these developments, offering original ideas and capturing the emotion of the moment. And there were good surprises too: delightful essays from unexpected corners – an Egyptian literature professor on the Six Day War; an Iranian dissident on the transformational impact of watching Schindler’s List.

And, not so much surprising as inspiring: deep, nuanced rethinking about the choices we make in our families and social circles (one from Neshama Carlebach and another by Menachem Bombach), along with some thought pieces on Israel by my colleague Haviv Rettig-Gur, and one I wrote myself.

Here then is a sampling of just some (really, there were so many more) of the most powerful blog posts published during this mind-boggling year.

January 6 became a day that will live in infamy

Supporters of US President Donald Trump climb the west wall of the the US Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Dear Trump-supporting friends, we love you and forgive you. Now apologize.

Rena Magun

It was never about whether being Republican was OK. It was about supporting an unhinged, dangerous serial liar

The American Jewish discourse got disturbingly dissonant

America is over. I’m moving to Israel

Rea Bochner

I don’t know if another Holocaust is possible in the US, but after what I’ve seen lately, I do believe that at some point Jews will no longer be welcome here

* * *

To the students who walked out on Palestinian-Israeli dialogue

Yossi Klein Halevi

I’ve learned you can’t cancel a people: Mohammed Darawshe and I are modeling a painful conversation about injustice and existential fears

* * *

I will not be a lamb on the altar of your purity

Rachel Sharansky Danziger

Once I felt if only I explained more, if only I explained better, surely you would understand that I’m fighting for my life. Not anymore.

* * *

For the love of Israel, we need to say: The Reform Movement is Zionist

Ammiel Hirsch

How could future Jewish leaders write an open, public letter in the middle of a war, missiles raining down on our people, without ever mentioning Hamas?

Dark days in May: Another deadly war and riots inside Israel

Damage caused by a violent mob at the Arabesque Arts and Residency Center in Acre, May 12 (courtesy)

A violent mob destroyed the oasis we created in Acre

Evan Fallenberg

Can the people in this sad, beautiful, ravaged land ever learn to respect the differences and distinctions between us and use them for an enhanced joint future?


* * *

Why Israel lost this war

Donniel Hartman

As criticism of the war shifts to a foundational critique of Israel itself, the country can’t afford to not make its case. This it can do ​only by reclaiming the moral high ground

* * *

This has nothing to do with Sheikh Jarrah

Bassem Eid

It’s about Hamas seeing a chance to seize the narrative and increase its own influence and control over Palestinians in Jerusalem

Fourth elections ousted Netanyahu and ushered in the ‘Change Government’

The newly sworn in Israeli government pose for a group photo at the president’s residence in Jerusalem on June 14, 2021.(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Why this fractious coalition gives me hope

Yossi Klein Halevi

If all it achieves is to liberate Israel from those who have tried to unravel the delicate balance between nationalism and democracy, decency and power, then dayenu – it’s enough!

Family values were reexamined: Less hugging, more love

(illustration by Avi Katz)

I’m stepping back from hugs and embracing the mitzvah of consent

Neshama Carlebach

Just as we’re exiting COVID lockdown into a touch-starved world, I’ve had the uncomfortable realization that my family’s tradition of hugging needs to be re-examined

* * *

Thou shalt love your child who leaves religion

Menachem Bombach

Just as God accepts us regardless of our weaknesses, so must we ultra-Orthodox accept our children when they choose a different way of life for themselves

The longstanding Iran threat loomed ever larger

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, right, visiting an exhibition of Iran’s new nuclear achievements in Tehran, Iran, April 10, 2021. (Iranian Presidency Office via AFP)

Why Israel may soon attack Iran

Michael Oren

The world’s largest state-sponsor of terror, sworn to destroy Israel, is approaching the nuclear threshold. It’s not an existential threat for the US. It is for Israel.

* * *

I’m a former CIA agent: Iran was behind Lockerbie and should be made to pay

John Holt

Despite former US AG Barr’s claims, Libya did not carry out the horrific 1988 bombing of a plane over Scotland. The US should bring Iran to justice now

Astonishing voices were heard from surprising places

Frame from the 1993 movie, Schindler’s List.

For an Egyptian teenager like me in 1967, an Israeli victory was inconceivable

Kamal Abdel-Malek

In an excerpt from his ​memoir, a professor of Arabic literature describes the horror at learning his country had lost the Six Day War and the shockwaves that followed the defeat

* * *

In Iran, I was taught to hate Israel and Jews. Then I watched Schindler’s List.

Omid Safari

Spielberg’s movie undid decades of lies, inspired me to visit Auschwitz, and taught me that the truth will always, eventually, come to light

The virulent virus and vaccination exasperation

How do I tell my unvaccinated friends they’re not invited?

Elizabeth Brenner Danziger

Will they think I am judging them for not getting the jab? Well, I do judge them a little, but that’s not the reason I’m not inviting them.

* * *

I let my guard down and got COVID-19. This is what it’s like.

Sarah Tuttle-Singer

Today is Day 7 and I am shredded and somewhere, deep within a well of memory inside me, I can hear my mother’s voice: This too shall pass

45 dead in the Meron crowd crush

Josh Vlessing (right) with friends on a bus to Mt. Meron. April 29, 2021. (Courtesy Josh Vlessing)

Eyewitness to disaster: All I could see were faces of agony

Josh Vlessing

We went to Mount Meron expecting an unforgettable cultural experience. Then we got trapped in the crush. We’re still processing what we saw there.


And, finally, we indulged in clear-eyed – if utterly subjective – takes on what makes Israel tick

Illustrative. Israeli revelers at Independence Day celebrations, May 8, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

When the whole world weeps

Haviv Rettig-Gur

On Memorial Day, we do not grieve alone. We know, in the old, deep ways of knowing, that heaven and earth grieve at our side

* * *

Thoughts on Israel at 73 while flying over the Saudi desert

Miriam Herschlag

On this, the independence day of an old-new country, our governance may be ailing, but the hallmark ‘superabundant force’ of democracy is alive and kicking

About the Author
I edit The Times of Israel's Ops & Blogs section, and I also co-host the storytelling live show and podcast WhyWhyWhy! (That needlework in my cover photo is by Yocheved Herschlag Muffs.)
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