I am writing this on the day after Yom Kippur from Radlett, an active Jewish community in South West Hertfordshire, almost rural but with excellent transport links. The result has been a massive expansion in Jewish settlement over the last 30 years, and it is the place which above all I regard as home in the United Kingdom. In the absence of a permanent Rabbi I have been acting as locum to the Orthodox synagogue.
The Day of Atonement marks both endings and beginnings, and we now stand at the beginning of a new period in the Middle East.
In political terms, Israel clearly finds itself at a watershed of movements and possibilities. There are signs of new political groupings both within Israel and with surrounding nations, which itself brings fresh possibilities. In particular the realisation of an informal alliance between Israel Egypt and Saudi Arabia, all scared by Muslim extremism opens opportunities that until now have been beyond realistic contemplation. At the same time the long overdue realisation by the disastrous Obama administration of what is really going on in the Middle East, and who really are America’s true enemies, is refreshing. Washington has actually had a rare moment of lucidity, no doubt helped by the fact that it is almost certainly Israeli intelligence that is vital in programming the attacks on the mediaeval Islamic state.
The festival period brings with it a lull in Israeli political activity. Bibi’s standing seems to have been enhanced by his performance at the United Nations, and equally by Abbas’ failure to appear as any sort of statesman. Having accused Israel of “genocide” (about 1000 civilians died in Gaza while the Syrian death toll is in excess of 200,000 and rising) Abbas has failed to be seen as the man who might be able to bring some sort of peaceful accord in both Gaza and the West Bank.
Endings and beginnings – the opportunities that have ended are clear, the possibilities that might be opening are fascinating!