Shofar (Jewish ritual horn) שופר

Times seem grim in the world in general. The Coronavirus is still on the rampage, and catastrophes, whether man-made or natural, come hot on the heels of one another. Here in Israel, many adults, myself and OH included, have had their third vaccination, and the numbers on a national scale are positive. Forest fires, whether occurring naturally or caused by malign humans, have wreaked untold damage on the beautiful woodland area of the Jerusalem hills, the air is scorching hot for most of the daylight hours, but the threat of another lockdown appears to have been avoided for the moment. The school year started despite everything, and the very diverse government seems to be functioning, with ministers getting on with their jobs.

Other matters seem to be moving in a positive direction. In a TV interview, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid admitted to having erred in not attending cabinet meetings devoted to addressing the Coronavirus issue, even going so far as to give the media credit for calling him out on this. He has since attended every such meeting, whether in person or via zoom.

The national budget passed its first parliamentary reading without undue fuss and bother. It includes increases in the allocations for the health and education ministries, enabling the services provided to certain segments of the population to be extended. Admittedly, there are still many areas in which the services provided to the less fortunate could and should be improved, especially housing and welfare, but this still signifies a positive change, both in attitude and in action.

In foreign policy, too, relations with other countries seem to be going in the right direction, with invitations extended to our Foreign Minister by the Arab Emirates as well as Morocco, Egypt and the U.S.A. On the other hand, our relations with Poland have taken a turn for the worse since that country ratified a law to deny the right of Jews who lost property during and after WWII to sue for compensation. I’m curious to see how that will evolve, though I personally regard the Polish government’s threat to ‘retaliate’ for whatever steps Israel might take by preventing organised groups of Jewish youngsters from visiting concentration camps as a blessing rather than a punishment. There is no need to put more money in the pockets of the people who have taken so much from us. A visit to Yad Vashem, or better still, a course of visits there, can have just as salutary an effect, and would avoid the shameful behaviour occasionally displayed by some of our youngsters on those trips.

But above all, life goes on. Families frolic and camp at the seaside and on the shores of Lake Kinneret, and also visit the many beautiful nature reserves and interesting sites in which Israel abounds. The beaches, playgrounds and funfairs are full of youngsters enjoying the last days of summer. Several museums, e.g., the Bible Lands Museum and the Museum of Islamic Culture, both in Jerusalem, are holding particularly attractive exhibitions (birds in the Ancient Near East in the former, the History of Coffee in the latter). Nobody knows how long all this will continue and we can still mix almost freely with one another (wearing masks and keeping our distance), so everyone’s doing their best to benefit from the current situation while they can.

The High Holydays occupy our time and attention during September, existential threats are still with us, dissenting voices are still being heard and security issues continue to be of concern. But at least for the moment we are not being constantly bombarded by the threat of another national election.