Stroke of Fate
This week was one in which the challenges to the Jewish people were made all too clear in one single stroke. Israel and its friends abroad were shocked by the news that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had suffered a mild stroke on Sunday. Fortunately, the condition caused no great problems, and the prime minister is on his way to a full recovery.
Still, now the state of Sharon's health is international news, and it could cost him.
Having led Israel through the difficulties of the last intifada and the withdrawal from Gaza, Sharon has positioned himself as an indispensible politician. He alone seems to have the confidence of Israel's people to take command of the security situation, and to manage the country's relationship with the Bush administration. Sharon is banking on the voters rewarding him by re-electing him next March on the platform of the new Kadima Party he has created to promote his policies, as opposed to the Likud he abandoned.
More than even in the eras of such giants as David Ben-Gurion or Menachem Begin, Israeli politics now revolve around the decisions of one man. All of this means that his doctors hold the immediate future of Israel in their hands.
The fact that so much is resting on the continued good health of a rather heavyset 78-year-old is a sobering thought. Coming on the heels of a Hamas victory in local Palestinian elections, this is hardly a time for Israel to be without a strong leader.
In particular, the coming weeks will require Sharon to make it clear that Israel will not sit still for the mainstreaming of Hamas in advance of the Palestinian election. The passage of a congressional resolution last week urging the end of aid to the Palestinian Authority should Hamas be allowed to enter its government was indeed a victory; nonetheless, Israel will need a vigorous Sharon to hold both the P.A. and the administration accountable on this issue.
While we pray for the premier's good health and complete recovery, this week's incident must force Israel's leaders to consider what they would do should he be forced to leave the scene.
Keep the Lamp Burning!
Chanukah's a holiday predicated on miracles: an unlikely military victory by a band of rebels and a lamp that simply would not go out, despite an oil shortage.
In this respect, Chanukah isn't all that unique an event in Jewish history. The light of survival is something that has taken a lot of miracles along the way to keep it going for thousands of years. And as we look at a world where anti-Semitism is on the rise and Israel is unfairly pilloried by those who turn a blind eye to terror, the story seems all too familiar.
Though the calendar has brought it together with Christmas this year, Chanukah is not a blue-tinseled version of that holiday. Its essence is the refusal of Jews to bow down to the idols of the popular culture of the day. It is a reminder that it takes the extraordinary efforts, as well as the faith of ordinary people, to keep the flame of Jewish civilization burning in every generation. Just as in 165 BCE, each of us today has the capacity to strike a blow for Jewish survival that, while less dramatic than those struck by the sons of Mattathias, will nevertheless be an essential contribution to Jewish history.
Each one of us has the chance to play a part in Jewish miracles, great and small, both here and in Israel. We can do this by taking part in learning and observance; by standing up for the State of Israel; and by giving to essential causes, such as the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
With that in mind, from everyone at the Jewish Exponent to all of our readers, Happy Chanukah!