No one can deny it. As we entered into the New Year and prayed for the safety of the soldiers of the IDF and peace and security in the land of Israel, we could not have imagined what would take place in the year ahead.
We could not have imagined that cold-blooded murderers would kidnap three Jewish teenagers on their way home from school and kill them without a care.
We could not have imagined that the rockets aimed at Israel would once again be fired at a rate of over 100 each day, or that over 4,000 rockets would be fired at innocent civilians in the space of 50 days, each one a war crime.
We could not have imagined that tunnels would be found on Israeli sovereign territory with a plot by terrorists to carry out an enormous attack on Kibbutzim in the south this New Year.
Could we have envisaged that a subsequent ground operation to eliminate these tunnels would carry with it the heavy price of 66 soldiers? Or that the year would have been filled with so much heartbreak for the families of the three boys, the families of those killed, all those affected by the rockets, the innocent civilians on all sides of the conflict?
Would it have been conceivable to learn that the two Hamas operatives who killed the three boys would be found by the IDF and killed in a subsequent gunfight, but that their death would be of little comfort to the heartbroken families? Yes, they will not be able to bring harm upon anyone else’s sons, but it will not bring these sons back either.
As we stood on the cusp of this year, it might have been in the back of our minds that there was a certain kind of evil that lay within Hamas with its cynical use of civilians as human shields. But perhaps we could not have imagined just how deeply the evil ran. How it used hundreds of millions of dollars to fund their terror tunnels instead of building infrastructure, or how it held millions of its own people hostage because its hatred of Jews is more powerful than its desire to make the lives of its people better and more fulfilling.
Most of us could not have perceived of or envisaged that anti-Semitism would rear its ugly head in the streets of London, Paris and other parts of the world – even here in Australia.
Meanwhile, the world has gone mad, with terrorists beheading journalists and killing hundreds of innocents, all in the name of religion.
With US and French air strikes attacking the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the terrorists (or “militants” if you like) have begun to use Yazidi women captives as human shields.
Civilian deaths have occurred as a result of the raids in the past day or so but world-wide reaction has so far been different to the demonstrations and condemnation of Israel over the casualties, most of which were rendered unavoidable due to Hamas’ use of its own people as human shields during Operation Protective Edge and many of who were falsely categorised as civilian by Hamas friendly agencies.
And on the subject of religion, would we have thought at the beginning of the year that the UN Human Rights Council would have been told that Israel is the only safe place for Christians in the Middle East?
No doubt it has been a terribly painful year, but Israel is nothing if not resilient.
Many things have happened in the past year in the world of innovation, of technology and science that remind us that Israel can never be defined just by the conflict.
While people all over the world were pouring buckets of ice over their heads in order to raise awareness of motor neuron disease, it was revealed that an Israeli treatment to ease the symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease was in Phase 2, and that the life expectancy of those suffering with the disease was higher in Israel than any other country in the world.
While Israel’s detractors nastily and without justification call Israel a “cancer”, Israeli researchers worked away on life-changing treatments that will hopefully one day assist in curing various forms of cancer.
While misguided academics around the world and even here in Australia want to impose an academic boycott on Israel, Israel was this year rated the fourth most educated country in the world behind Russia, Canada and Japan.
While so much of the country’s resources go into security, Maccabi Tel Aviv still managed to win the Euroleague basketball championship this year, no mean feat and turning all of Tel Aviv into a sea of yellow in celebration.
While protesters seemed to be paralysed in their hatred of Israel, an Israeli invention which enables individuals with lower limb disabilities such as paraplegics to stand, walk and take steps independently is benefitting people from all over the world.
And while Hamas leaders with no hearts rejoice in the murder of Israeli children and terrorise them by firing rockets at schools and building tunnels that open up next to playgrounds and kindergartens, Israeli doctors are currently responsible for the paediatric cardiac care of at least four Palestinian children from Gaza and the West Bank who suffer from heart disease.
It has been a difficult year, no doubt.
But Israel has risen about the challenges she faced, and she will no doubt rise above the challenges she faces in the year to come, whether it be the shaky ceasefire in place with Hamas, the recent threat by Fatah that they are producing new rockets to replenish supplies for new battles, the threat from Hezbollah in Lebanon, or from IS and Syria, or from Iran.
Despite all that occurred in the year that was, I stand here at the New Year optimistic, because this is the only way we can be. I pray for no more heartache. For quiet. For triumph. And for a peaceful New Year for all of Israel, and for Jews around the world.
Shana Tova ve Gmar Hatima Tova.
Media & Advocacy Director
Zionist Federation of Australia