Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Happy Civil New Year

Shana ezrachit tova (a happy civil New Year) is what (some) Israelis say to each other in the run-up to January 1st.This is of course to distinguish the New Year that the rest of the world is celebrating and the Jewish New Year of official, Hebrew, Israeli culture. This year's Israeli calendar started on Rosh Hashana or alpeh be-tishrei in the Jewish clandar which happened to fall on September 9 . Since Israel needs to live alongside the rest of the world, we keep both calendars.

But a "happy civil new year" also struck me as a decent wish for the coming year because the notion of 'civil' so lacking in our discourse. Political and social processes have led to a fragmentization of society into niches (Jewish, Arab, secular, religious-Zionist, haredi, rich/poor etc.), each of which lives in its own segregated society. In such a world, Arab ladies pushing prams do not have contact with people who ride tandems, except when they happen to pass each other in a shared public space. With nearly 50% of Israelis agreeing with a gang of rabid rabbis that it is forbidden to rent apartments to Arabs, a civil new year in which 20% of the population are treated as though they are part of society would be a refreshing change.
Is it just me, or at the end of 2010 are people feeling a little isolated and directionless? The non- story of 2010 was the US-led peace process that crashed and burned before take-off. Some are saying that this was the year in which any any lingering hopes for a  two-state solution have finally been dashed.
And if they are right, what does that augur for the future? The settlers (were they that way inclined|) might be raising a glass of Cava to a successful 2010 and an even better 2011 but we might all find out soon that the world is no longer interested. It has more pressing problems. Soon we - Israelis and Palestinians - might be left to simply stew in our own juice. If that happens we may find ourselves on the eastern shoreline of the Mediterranean, peering westwards in vain.  
As 2010 turns into 2011, definitions of reality seem more blurred than ever. We spend more and more time in virtual realities - on the internet and on the 'reality' shows that now completely dominate our TV screens. A few miles from the Tel Aviv bubble lie realities that we prefer not to visit. We are aware of their existence but we prefer them not tol be a part of our reality as long as we can keep shut them out. In this country, there are large minorities of people living in alternate realities that, at best, manage to co-exist with each other in an uneasy truce. What is 'real' for one, often seems a fantasy to the other. 
So a strange final wish for 2011 is for our perceptions of reality to become closer(and of course more "real')
A Happy Civil New Year

1 comment:

Lynn said...

Well put. I pray for the people of Israel to be able to gather to co exist to exist together in peace and harmony. It's been such a fantacy for so many years. What are the chances of change? What generation will make this happen?
Only a few years ago no one believe here in the United States that an African American could become President. But it finally happened. So is it also possible that Jews and Arabs can live in peace together in Israel? Are these two things so different?
I hope and pray not and that hate can fall to the wayside and love can conquor all.

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