A New Year has dawned, and as always we put the difficulties of the old year behind us and look forward to the blessings of the new. And there are many blessings, all coming to us by way of polls and surveys of Israeli Jews that are as ubiquitous this time of year as are apples and honey.
The population of Judea and Samaria now exceeds 350,000 Jews, which, added to the 300,000 Jews already residing in Jerusalem neighborhoods built after the Six-Day War, consist of well over 10% of the Jewish population of Israel. If the “yishuvim” were one city, they would constitute Israel’s third-largest city. This news led Yossi Sarid, die-hard peacenik and committed leftist, to lament the irreversibility of Jewish settlement, concede defeat, and mourn what he feels to be the end of the peace movement and Israel’s forthcoming disappearance, r”l.
Facts on the ground do matter and have made a difference in forging Israel’s destiny. If the two-state solution was always a chimera, today it is a flight into Wonderland – a lingering part of the politician’s rhetoric but not a living part of anyone’s reality. Credit to Mitt Romney for articulating the futility of the two-state solution and the need for a new paradigm for Middle East diplomacy. Thinking Jews: take heed.
That news supplements – in fact, likely shapes – the findings of the annual Peace Index. Only 25% of Israel’s population believes at all in the possibility of “peace” with the Arabs in coming years; a full 72% do not believe it is realistic. The better news is that almost 60% of the population is optimistic about the coming year; since Jews are generally a pessimistic people – usually grounded in reality – this is an encouraging figure. About half feel secure about their personal safety and economic health – although 35% find the government’s role in assuring security somewhat lacking. (Compared to what? There were fewer terrorist-caused murders in 5772 than in many years, less than ten; of course, each soul lost is precious and a world in itself.)
More than 89% of Arabs fear an Iranian nuclear attack!
Almost 78% rate the government as generally unresponsive to people’s concerns – and yet most would vote that same government back into power. That reminds of a poll from years’ past when almost 80% of the population was pessimistic about Israel’s future, less than 5% would consider leaving the country, but more than 70% rated themselves as generally happy in life. Perhaps the dissatisfaction with the government is not as surprising as it first sounds, given that polls predict a Netanyahu-led coalition government after the next election but he struggles to garner even 25% of the votes, and given that anyone with a grievance finds it easy to blame the government.
Yet, with all the problems unresolved and challenges looming, it is appropriate to appreciate the blessings we have been given and the glorious opportunities our generation has been afforded. Jews in other centuries would have died – did die – to have the problems and challenges we have: build Torah amid prosperity, safeguard the Jewish state and the Jewish people around the world from a position of strength, not weakness, and bring all Jews closer to their Torah.
How fortunate are we, how goodly is our portion, how compassionate is our Benefactor, the Creator of the universe who gave us the Torah.
May the coming year find some of our problems solved, new opportunities presented – the opportunities of redemption and the Messianic era.