Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Jew of the Year

For a list of nominees, see here.
Picking the Jew of the Year for 5765 was particularly difficult as the one overwhelmingly obvious candidate came with significant flaws.
On the one hand, Ariel Sharon managed to do what the Left never could, and dismantled the Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip. With this bold, brave and riskly move he provided the first real breakthrough in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for years, and provided the first ray of hope for Israelis themselves that Israel will be able to get out of (most of) the territories, on its own terms, and disengage itself from this ongoing war which has been so destructive both morally and physically. It was a truly historic and monumentous step which has already left Israel better off economically and diplomatically, and by all accounts its citizens are entering the new year with more optimism for the future than anyone would have thought possible just a few months ago.
Unfortunately, Mr Sharon compromised this legacy with the way he executed the disengagement. I'm not referring to what some people perceived as its undemocratic nature, as he was the elected PM of Israel, and so I don't see it quite that way, but rather to the distinct lack of sympathy, or calculated coldness, that he showed towards the settlers, who, after all, were there with his encouragement and with the encouragement of successive governments of Israel, and who, after all, were being asked to give up their homes, communities and in some cases, livelihoods. By not keeping them properly informed of his plans; by not preparing them proper alternative housing; by not speaking directly to them or their supporters until the very eve of the disengagement -- he showed a lack of compassion and responsibility which is frankly shocking. Most importantly, his lack of leadership in this area made the feeing of betrayal in some segments of society, and the inevitable tear in the nation so much worse than they had to be.
On balance, the magnitude of the move he initiated still makes him the only reasonably choice as Jew of the Year. However, with a little bit more courage and heart he could have been so much more deserving and so much greater.
Runner up: The IDF Soldier. The Army was the only group that emerged totally heroically out of the single most important Jewish event of the year, the Gaza disengagement. Despite the hardest of circumstances, the soldiers carried out their mission professionally and calmly. The success of the operation ultimately largely depended on the men and women on the ground, and it is largely to their credit that the pull-out ended up being relatively smooth; in many cases, they diffused potentially explosive situations, showed the compassion to the settlers that the PM lacked, and reminded the nation that we were, after all, in this together, brothers and sisters.

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