What are some features of the past year we would like to leave behind?
The past year brought a number of trends to light — some of which we would like to perform Tashlich on, so they don’t follow us into the coming year. What are some features of the past year we would like to leave behind?
It started in Israel with the 2019 elections, and in 2022, three years and five rounds later, we still have no guarantee that a stable government will emerge. We should all hope that the parties find a way to form a stable government that will not only represent the country but also be able to govern. Government is important not just for its ceremonies and symbols, but also for more mundane things, such as ensuring that local authorities are adequately funded. And when instability becomes chronic, this trickles down into the public consciousness and leads to lasting tensions.
The War in Ukraine
Another feature of the past year we pray won’t stay with us is the war in Ukraine. Launched without justification and without the slightest provocation on Ukraine’s part, the war is still referred to in Russia as a “special military operation.” Well, there’s nothing special about this operation. The war has led to the deaths of many women and children, caused a wave of refugees, and torn apart families and communities. The war has also caused a drastic slowdown in global wheat exports and a hike in energy costs in Europe.
This trend is accelerating, in Israel, America, and many other countries, and it’s time we let it go. In recent years, politics has been gravitating to the poles, with both right and left turning to extremes and forcing us, the voters, to pick a side. Those in the middle have found themselves in an awkward position in this era of zero-sum politics. The two sides not only refuse to cooperate, but deny each other’s very legitimacy.
This is very bad news for Israel, by the way, since for decades it enjoyed support from both Democrats and Republicans. But what remains of Washington bipartisanship? Every issue is now an ideological battleground. It’s okay to hold different opinions, and it’s okay to lean in on those differences during a campaign and argue heatedly. But it’s worth remembering that the day after the vote, those elected to govern have to find the broadest common denominator, and in many cases this means working with the other side, even if it doesn’t serve your narrow short-term political interests.
Our money is now worth much less. Prices rose for meat, gasoline, plane tickets rose, and vegetables. The surge in energy prices challenged economies around the world, and the situation is particularly problematic in the United States. True, this isn’t Argentina or Turkey; inflation isn’t in the high double digits, but prices still rose this year at a rate not seen since the early ’80s. The Federal Reserve is hiking interest rates at a dizzying pace, and for many, the prospect of buying a house has receded over the horizon. And as if that weren’t enough, economists predict that higher interest rates will lead to a recession and mass layoffs. Unfortunately inflation is probably here to stay for at least a few good months.
If there’s anything that really deserves to be cast into the waters, it’s the coronavirus pandemic. One more variant, one more booster, more isolation, and more home tests. This was the year the world thoroughly tired of the coronavirus and developed a certain indifference to it, despite occasionally recurring waves of infection. But in most of the world — aside from China, where zero transmission policy is still in force — life has more or less gotten back on track.
This doesn’t mean there are no new cases, even serious ones, but the trend is a return to normal life. Let’s hope that in the next year, the pandemic will truly fade away and leave us in peace.
Endless Negotiations with Iran
The negotiations with Iran have been dragging on more or less since Biden entered office. Every time it seemed the two sides were on the verge of an agreement, the Iranians made some new demand, and the prospect of a deal receded. Just two weeks ago, it seemed that a signing was a matter not of days, but of hours. A lot of water has flowed over the dam since then, and a deal is no longer in the offing.
But even without a deal, the Iranians are not staying idle, and continue advancing their nuclear project. Even as Iranian representatives sit down at the negotiating table, the centrifuges continue spinning. This is not the behavior of someone negotiating in good faith. It’s time to cut this never-ending dialogue short and set Iran a deadline, after which the United States announces that it sees no point in resuscitating the deal.
Baby Formula Shortage
Remember the empty store shelves? That’s certainly a sight we’d love to forget. In the middle of the year, after one of America’s biggest producers of baby formula was shut down over salmonella concerns, a severe shortage ensued — so acute that the Biden administration actually flew in 20 planes of formula from Europe. While the situation has now stabilized, there’s no question that for parents of babies, there was extra cause for worry this year. According to some reports, many parents struggled to feed their babies and had to turn to alternatives such as homemade formula. A painful reminder that supply chains have yet to return to the pre-pandemic situation.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 930)
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