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Get Out Your Crystal Ball!
Did you enjoy 5767? For Jews around the world, it was the usual assortment of bad -- and even worse -- news.
Of course, not everything was awful. It was a year of recovery in Israel, as the aftermath of last year's less than successful second Lebanon War was followed by recriminations and political stalemate.
But the push for a two-state solution has morphed into a three-state version with a Hamasistan in Gaza. And the people of the town of Sederot and its environs celebrated the first day of the school year with a barrage of Kassam rockets from Gaza as they settle in for another year of being under Palestinian fire. Israel also suffered the humiliation of seeing its president resign in disgrace after taking a plea-bargain escape from a rape trial.
Here at home, President Bush's poll numbers continued to dive, and the discussion over Iraq shifted from when will we win to when will we cut and run. And triumphant Democrats, who celebrated their return to power in Congress last fall, are licking their chops for the 2008 presidential race.
So, as we pause to catch our collective breath, the arrival of a new Jewish year has us all wondering about what's in store for 5768. Can things get worse? Of course, they can!
Yet even as we cope with Kassams, terror and cutthroat politics, we shouldn't lose what's left of our sense of humor.
But before the Almighty writes down just how much worse (or better) it will be for us in the proverbial Book of Life, I present (with apologies, as always, to former New York Times columnist William Safire) the annual "Jewish Pundit Quiz" for 5768.
For the record, in last year's quiz, I correctly predicted that Ehud Olmert would beat the odds and hang on as Israel's prime minister.
But I was half wrong/half right in guessing that the GOP would lose the Senate, but hold on to the House when the Democrats wound up winning both. As for my prediction that Rick Santorum would pull an upset and hold onto his Senate seat, well, that was about as dumb a pick as I've made in the 12 years I've been doing this quiz. Save this column, and see how you or I do in 5768.
So guess -- or should I say prognosticate -- along with me about the coming year. My answers are at the bottom of the column. And remember, if you are worried about the outcome, teshuvah ("repentance"), tefillah ("prayer") and tzedakah ("acts of justice and charity") may avert the severe decree.
L'Shanah Tovah Tikatevu!
1. The winner of the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination will be:
a. Sen. Hillary Clinton
b. Sen. Barrack Obama
c. Sen. Joe Biden
d. John Edwards
e. Gov. Bill Richardson
2. The 2008 Democratic vice-presidential candidate will be:
a. Sen. Barrack Obama
b. Gov. Bill Richardson
c. Al Gore
d. Al Sharpton
e. Gov. Ed Rendell
3. The winner of the 2008 Republican presidential nomination will be:
a. Sen. John McCain
b. Mitt Romney
c. Rudy Giuliani
d. Fred Thompson
e. Newt Gingrich
4. The 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate will be:
a. Jeb Bush
b. Rudy Giuliani
c. Mitt Romney
d. Condoleezza Rice
e. Dick Cheney
5. The decisive issue in the 2008 presidential primaries will be:
a. Health care.
c. Islamist terrorism.
d. The war in Iraq.
e. Congressional corruption.
6. By the start of 5769, the situation in Iraq will have:
a. Collapsed, as a spring U.S. withdrawal leads to chaos and mass bloodshed.
b. Stabilized, as the success of the U.S. troop surge reverses the tide of American public opinion.
c. Stalemated, as the insurgents wait patiently for the victory of an anti-war U.S. presidential candidate.
7. The most important issue for the majority of American Jews in 5768 will be:
a. Funding Jewish education.
b. Fear of the Christian right.
c. The collapse of the federation system as Jewish philanthropy continues its decline.
d. The drive to build more Jewish history museums.
e. Ensuring the victory of the Democrats over the Republicans.
8. By the start of 5769, the prime minister of Israel will be:
a. Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
b. Current Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
c. Current Defense Minister Ehud Barak of Labor.
d. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
e. Ariel Sharon, who will come out of his coma and ask what happened while he was asleep.
9. By the start of 5769, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will:
a. Have been resolved, as Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas reach an historic agreement.
b. Still be stalemated, as weak Israeli and Palestinian leaders find they can't agree and have no support even if they did.
c. Have re-escalated, as missile attacks lead to an Israeli all-out attack on Hamasistan in Gaza.
d. Be largely sidelined, as an Iranian announcement of the successful test of a nuclear bomb renders all other issues moot.
10. The most important event in Jewish history next year will be:
a. The freeing of kidnapped Israeli soldiers Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.
b. Milwaukee Brewers third-baseman Ryan Braun being voted the National League Rookie of the Year.
c. The indictment of Ehud Olmert on corruption charges, which will set in motion the collapse of Israel's government and new elections.
d. The outbreak of increased anti-Jewish violence in Europe in the wake of the success of the boycott Israel movement.
e. Sen. Barrack Obama's announcement that he will convert to Judaism so as to solidify his ties with all three major religions.
Tobin's answers: 1. a; 2. b; 3. d; 4. a; 5. d; 6. c; 7. e; 8. d; 9. b; 10. d