As always when it comes to Israel, and the Jewish world, the past year has been bitter-sweet; marked by both pain and celebration. Currently, Israel stands as a beacon of light in a region plagued by destruction and bloodshed.
Israel’s remarkable contribution to the world in the arts, sciences and business sector has been no different in the year that now folds. Likewise, her commitment to Jews around the world and rescuing those in need has not wavered.
At the same time a vicious campaign aimed at demonizing and delegitimizing Israel has gained momentum. Repeatedly, Israel has had to defend its actions and its legitimacy on the world stage.
Let’s take a brief moment to reflect on the year that was; 5773.
– Egypt-Israel border attack: Three Egyptian heavily-armed militants dressed as civilians approached the Egypt-Israel border and opened fire on a group of soldiers from the Israeli Artillery Corps. Three militants and one Israeli soldier were killed.
– Israeli Air Force shot down a small UAV as it flew over northern Negev. Hezbollah confirmed it sent the drone.
– In what was widely believed to be a long-range attack by the Israeli Air Force, an arms factory in Khartoum, Sudan, that was alleged to have participated in arms-smuggling to Hamas, exploded. The Israeli government refused to confirm or deny its involvement.
– Prime Minister and Likud chairman Bibi Netanyahu and the Foreign Minister and Yisrael Beitanu chairman Avigdor Lieberman announced the unification of their two parties which would run as a single bloc for the upcoming elections. The joint party would be called “Likud Beiteinu.”
– Mortar shells from Syria are fired at an Israeli military outpost in theGolan. The IDF responded with tank fire at the source of the bombardment in Syria, scoring several direct hits on artillery units belonging to the Syrian Army.
– Ehud Barak announces that he will retire from politics after the next election in January 2013.
– A team of Israeli scientists unveils a plan to land an unnamed spacecraft on the moon. The SpaceIL project is part of an attempt to collect a £12.5 million prize offered in the Google Lunar X competition.
– Following Gaza militants’ rocket and mortar fire at Israeli towns and villages and attacks committed against Israeli soldiers stationed near the border with the Gaza Strip, the IDF launches Operation Pillar of Defence. Israel’s Air force conducted a series of air strikes against key Hamas targets. Head of Hamas’ military wing Ahmed Jabari is assassinated while driving his car in Gaza. Hamas responded by firing rockets and mortars at various localities in Israel, and for the first time managed to shoot rockets at the major metropolitan areas in the central region of Israel.
– The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution that upgraded Palestine to non-member observer state status.
– A ceasefire is announced on Operation Pillar of Defence and Defence Minister Ehud Barak says that “the objectives have been fully realised.”
– Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre. Six adult staff and twenty children are killed. The youngest victim was six year old Noah Pozner, whose twin sister and older sister escaped unharmed. He was shot 11 times.
– Early elections for the nineteenth Knesset are held. The elections saw the Likud Yisrael Beiteinu alliance emerge as the largest faction in the Knesset, winning 31 of the 120 seats. Likud leader Netanyahu formed the country’s 33rd government after establishing a coalition with Yesh Atid, the Jewish Home and Hatnuah, which between them held 68 seats.
– For the first time in over a decade, the coalition government excludes the two haredi parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism
– A new Israeli law sets an example for other countries by banning the use of skinny models (models with a body mass index of less than 18.5) in advertisements.
– MK Ruth Calderon, representing the Yesh Atid party, delivers an awe-inspiring maiden address to the Knesset. The speech goes viral with over 27,000 views on You Tube.
– Israeli scientists announce the results of the first clinical trials on a cancer vaccine, which could “change the paradigm of cancer treatment,” says CEO of pharmaceutical company Vaxil. Seven patients suffering from multiple myeloma were treated. All have gone into remission.
– Obama’s first visit to Israel since his Presidency. He acknowledged that “in stepping foot on this land, I walk with you on the historic homeland of the Jewish people… More than 3,000 years ago, the Jewish people lived here, tended the land here, and prayed to God here.”
Obama addressed hundreds of students from Israeli universities at the Jerusalem convention centre. He reiterated that “security must be at the centre of any agreement. And there is no question that the only path to peace is through negotiation. That is why, despite the criticism we’ve received, the United States will oppose unilateral efforts to bypass negotiations through the United Nations”. See his full speech here.
– Boston Marathon Bombings. Three people killed and over 250 injured. After a wild police chase (in which a security guard is shot and killed), Tamerlan Tsarnaev is killed, and his brother, Dzhokhat, is taken into custody.
-Twin airstrikes on military warehouses and other military installations in Damascus are part of Israel’s attempt to prevent advanced weapons from falling into the hands of Hezbollah.
– Acclaimed physicist and author, Stephen Hawking, joins the academic boycott of Israel by opting out of being the keynote speaker at the Fifth President’s conference. He says that his boycott is “based on knowledge of Palestine.”
– Israel hosts the Fifth Annual President’s Conference; Facing Tomorrow 2013 The Human Factor in Shaping Tomorrow.Over 4,000 of the world’s most influential Jewish community leaders, entrepreneurs, celebrities, politicians, and academics, as well as representatives of the next generation of leaders attend. For many, Barbra Streisand’s rendition ofAvinu Malkeinu is a hit.
– Israel hosts its most prestigious sporting event, the UEFA under-21 soccer championships. Teams from 53 countries flocked to participate in the event. Players from both the England and Israeli under-21 teams joined together to encourage the “Football for all” campaign and declare their support to kick racism and violence out of the sport. Football Association Chairman David Bernstein said “the various projects include joint Jewish-Arab initiatives, activities in the Ethiopian-Israeli community and programs in isolated Israeli communities.”
– ‘Poogy come back tour in Jerusalem;’ Legendary 70s-era Israeli rock band Kaveret launched its summer reunion concert tour with a performance in front of 8,000 fans at Jerusalem’s Sultan Pool. A blast from the past for many hard core fans!!!!
– Despite angry calls from famous author and BDS advocate, Alice Walker to boycott, Alicia Keys performs in Israel. In a bold and brave move Keys issued a statement; “I look forward to my first visit to Israel. Music is a universal language that is meant to unify audiences in peace and love, and that is the spirit of our show.”
– A lot of hype surrounds US Secretary of State, John Kerry’s visit to the Middle East (his fifth since taking the post in February). In the wake of the visit reaction on the ground is mixed, but there seemed to be a broad consensus that no real breakthrough had been achieved. In an article published by the Jerusalem Post, both Israeli and Palestinian officials acknowledged that some advances had been made but both blamed the other for obstructing efforts to achieving real peace.
– Morsi ousted in Egypt. Post-coup clashes between Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian military erupt. Reports coming out of Egypt describe the situation in Sinai as grave, and perceived by the top echelon of Egyptian military to be very dangerous.
– The growing number of al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists in Sinai is seeking to create a provocation aimed at undermining the treaty that has held relatively strong since 1979.
– The EU issues a directive banning its 28 members from providing funding to areas outside Israel’s pre-1967 borders. An EU official who spoke to Haaretz said that “from now on, if the Israeli government wants to sign agreements with the European Union or one of its member states, it will have to recognize in writing that the West Bank settlements are not part of Israel.
– The 19th Maccabiah Games kick off with over 9000 athletes from 70 countries flocking to Israel. Australia sent a 400 person-team who will compete in 13 sports out of 35.
– Palestinians and Israelis agree to the resumption of peace talks. Prime Minister Netanyahu plans to put a bill before Knesset that would make any peace deal with the Palestinians contingent on the Israeli public’s approval in a national referendum. According to a statement by the Israeli government talks will last from 9-12 months.
– The Israeli cabinet paved the way for the renewal of negotiations with the Palestinians, after it voted 13-7 to approve the talks, (two abstained). Central to this vote was the condition that 10 Netanyahu confirmed that Israel would go ahead with the release of 104 Palestinian prisoners.
– Martin Indyk is controversially appointed envoy to head Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Indyk served twice as President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Israel, and once in the post he now re-assumes as top Middle East peace envoy.
– Israeli born actress Natalie Portman announces that she is to direct her first film, based on A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz.
– For the first time rockets fired from the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza land on the outskirts of Eilat. Iron Dome intercepts these and the IDF issued an airstrike on Gaza in response.
– The first twenty-six Palestinian prisoners are released as a ‘good will gesture’ in recommencing negotiations. As the terrorists are received with celebration in the West Bank and Gaza, it is a time of great sadness for the victims’ families, and for Israelis at large.
– Yemeni Jews are secretly airlifted to Israel. Four Jews were flown directly from Yemen to Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport and two couples and a young child arrived through an unidentified third country in a coordinated effort among the Jewish Agency and the Israeli ministries for the interior, foreign affairs and immigration absorption. This operation was prompted by growing concern for the safety of the Jews in Yemen. The airlift brings to 45 the number of Yemeni Jews who have been brought to Israel this year and 151 since 2009.
– An El Al flight heading from Tel Aviv to New York City returned to its gate to pick up an 11-year old cancer patient who had been taken off the plane when she couldn’t find her passport. Thirty Israeli children battling cancer were headed to Camp Simcha, a summer camp for young patients in Glen Spey, New York. El Al has partnered with Chai Lifeline, which runs the camp, for the past 20 years to bring such children to the US.
– MK Ruth Calderon visits Australia and takes our communities by storm. Her inspiring take on secular Torah study draws crowds of 150 and 450 in Sydney and Melbourne respectively.
– Turbulence spreads in explosive Middle East; Egypt edges closer to all out civil war while fighting rages in Syria and car bombs left many dead in two Lebanese cities. Over 100,000 people have been killed in the civil war in Syria.
– The US confirms that Syria has ‘crossed the rid line’ by unleashing chemical weapons on its own people. In a move that angers many, Obama vows to attack the Assad regime, before retracting and putting it to a Congressional vote.
– Preparing for a possible retaliation to a US strike, Israelis ready themselves with gas masks on the eve of the High Holiday season.
– Just before Rosh Hashana 5773-5774, the Israeli population reaches 8 million.
Like always Israel continues to face many tribulations. Despite these challenges the small country retains its democracy, morality and commitment to protecting Jews around the world. On this Rosh Hashana let’s remember the tragedies of the year that was, but also rejoice in Israel’s countless achievements. And, let’s pray that 5774 brings lasting security for Israel and for the world at large.
Wishing you all a Shana Tova Umetukah.
Zionist Federation of Australia