Insights into Israeli politics and culture brought to you by JSO’s Israel Chair, Dan Osburn. You know, he used to wrestle bears in the forests of Wisconsin. No joke.
The Status of Israel in 5773
This week, the Jewish people entered a new year and traditionally with every new beginning, there is a reflection of the past and an outlook to the future. Individually, we look back to the memories of the year, the hardships we faced, and the successes that occurred. With the onset of Yom Kippur, we look to ways in which we can improve ourselves through recognizing our mistakes. The beginning of a new year also represents a benchmark that we can reflect on the status of our lives. In the future, we can look back at the beginning of 5773 and remember where we were in our lives. What troubled us during this time? What did we desire? As a college student, a reflection of this kind may include worrying about our future careers or desiring improvement in our social lives. While this time during the High Holy days brings us much individual self-evaluation, we can also reflect on a larger scale. At the beginning of 5773, what was the status of the Jewish people and more specifically of our homeland, Israel? What troubles did our Jewish nation face, and how can we improve to become a more prosperous and safer state? What does this next year hold for the land of Israel?
It is no secret that the story of Israel’s existence has been one of great turbulence and turmoil. The year 5772 was just another chapter in that story. That being said there were still some very bright lights for Israel in review. On October 18, the much awaited and negotiated release of Gilad Shalit finally occurred resulting in grand national celebration amongst grand governmental criticism. The exchange resulted in the release of over a thousand Palestinian prisoners including convicted terrorists. The beginning of the year also saw a continuation of rocket attacks from Gaza into the neighboring Israeli cities of Ashkelon and Sderot. By the end of 5772, more than 676 rockets and mortars were fired at Israeli settlements. In February, there were attacks on Israeli and Jewish targets in the countries of Thailand, India, and Georgia, all of which were linked to Iranian operatives. Terrorism targeted at Jews abroad continued in March when gunman attacked a Jewish school in the French town of Toulouse killing a teacher and three children. Throughout the year 5772, the concern over the status of the Iranian nuclear program continued to rise. A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed the concerns of the Israeli government and the world when it reported that there was credible evidence that Iran was developing nuclear weapons. Israel held the world’s attention about the possibility of a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. While Israel did face several hardships, the hardships that were avoided would have been much worse.
Looking on to the year 5773, there are many developing issues that may come to a head. The main issue concerns the relationship with Iran. In the past year, Iran’s defense minister publically stated that the country stands behind the pursuit of the annihilation of the state of Israel. With that extreme sentiment, there has been great debate on the actions the Israeli government should take. The majority of the international community and the Israeli Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Daniel Ayalon, have come out in opposition of an Israeli strike against Iran. This developing relationship will be very important in the coming year. Another issue that we can predict to be on the horizon of this new year is the status of Israel’s relations with countries like Egypt and Syria, who have both experienced much internal change in the past year. Israel must try to sustain the peace agreements that they had with the former government of Egypt and must be watchful of how Syria is changing in the face of its revolution.
As we welcome the New Year, we can take this time to reflect on ourselves and the status of world. Israel enters the New Year with many questions and developing issues, and it will be very intriguing to see how these issues progress during 5773.