Resolutionsby Andrea Simantov January 2, 2019
Like air seeping from a wee-puncture in a latex balloon, celebrations of the secular New Year are, in Jerusalem, anti-climatic and go from “What new year?” to “Ah, I messed up the date on that check” with little more than a sigh. There is some communal head-scratching when, for the sake of booming tourism, street lamps are decorated with lacy, nondescript, winter-season-ish things that light up at dusk, but no one knows what the designs are meant to be: angels and Kris Kringle won’t work in these parts; Hanukkah is over so the twisted white lights cannot possibly be Chabad menorahs. The municipality doesn’t commission decorative snowflakes because, frankly, few in the Middle East would recognize those only-one-of-it’s-kind designs. (Snow is not a big thing in the desert). Still, year after year the strange winter-season things are hoisted above roadways and, for a brief moment in time, we pretend we’re like the rest of the world.
January looms. Sipping tea on my balcony looking past the ruins of Herod’s palace, vineyards of Ramat Rachel, Arab villages of Tsur Bahar and Jabal Mukaba, I wonder how I bore it all – especially the year end wrap ups that have been media standards since the invention of the printing press. The “Bests of” and “Greatest Moments,” “Things that Happened” and “What We Missed.” The Who’s Who of those who died and which of the I-don’t-know-who-that-is tattooed celebrity gave birth to an oddly named baby. The inevitable population shifts, dwindling communities and glimmers of potential life forms in distant galaxies. Where we’re holding with the thinning ozone layer. It all feels so wearying.
And then there is the Me Too movement. Too, too much of the screaming and finger pointing and silencing those with different opinions than those sanctioned by New Age Thought Police. It was a year when moralists of all stripes muddied the waters of parenting, education, religion, international relations and reproductive rights with unprecedented stridency. It was a year when a march to advance the status of women excluded feminist-me and mine with bullying and cozying up to those who call for the destruction of my people and my country. It was the year that I weepingly discovered that my home is indeed where my heart lies and I forged figurative iron gates around my shabby apartment in an attempt to lock out an ugliness that failed at hiding behind a mask called free speech.
It was a year when anti-Semitism re-emerged as the new cocktail-hour chic and Jewish boys and girls on campus began, again, hiding. The words “never again” rang anemic while a few brave Children of the Tribe assayed to challenge a rise of vaguely-familiar BDE, anti-Israel scapegoatism that everyone and his brother claimed was a product of ‘the other.’ It was a year that Tikkun Olam became a new religion, which encompassed finger-in-the-air feel-goodism that had little to do with our 6,000 years of Torah-true observance and lighting the world with the flame of adherence to mitzvot. Torah, in fact, had little to do with the yearning of well-meaning Jews who continually grasp for straws of something, someone, some way to make a difference in a world that is losing (has lost?) its ability to guide those of us who are spiritually starving.
And so we stand at the cusp of a new year, a clean canvas that begs for color. Do I call my palette ‘Resolutions’ or, as in Jewish tradition, sing out the words Modeh ani lifanekha melekh chai v’kayam!”? (“Thank you, G-d, for granting me this new day in which to practice love, ‘do’ kindness and master patience! Thank you, G-d, for the generous opportunity to ‘resolve’ and ‘repent’ and ‘repair’ day after day regardless of what is written on the calendar”). A new year dawns but seems shadowed in clouds of intolerance, a lingering pall from the year that exits. Am I allowed to appeal to G-d? Or will this be deemed verboten in 2019?
Not Times Square ‘dropping a ball,’ countdowns or party-hat merrymaking can ensure a healthy, prosperous and peaceful year ahead. It depends on us.
And our relationship with Heaven.