As the new year 2019 begins, it is evident that the Jewish state continues to thrive, looking confidently towards the future.
The year 2018, the year that the modern State of Israel celebrated its 70th anniversary, was eventful for the world and the Jewish state. Relations between Israel and America are stronger than ever. Despite vocal international protests, the American embassy finally moved to Israel’s ancestral capital Jerusalem.
While the geographical distance between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem is short, the embassy move was a historic event in the history of modern Israel and the Jewish people. For the first time, the world’s only superpower, America, recognized the eternal link between the Jewish people and Zion.
The Trump administration has dramatically changed the dynamic in the Middle East and beyond. Washington ended its aid to the terrorist-sponsoring United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNWRA), which blocks Arab-Israeli peace. The US also left the anti-Israel United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the world body’s misnamed Human Rights Council. For the first time ever, a majority of the international community voted in favor of a US-led UN resolution condemning Hamas’s terrorism against the Jewish state.
In 2018, President Donald Trump pulled out of the controversial Iran deal and decided to leave war-torn Syria. Israel dramatically stepped up its military operations against Iran’s aggression on the Jewish state’s northern border. In May 2018, the Jewish state bombed over 50 Iranian military targets in Syria. This was Israel’s most extensive operation in Syria since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
During 2018, relations improved between the Sunni Arab world and Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was warmly received in Oman and Culture Minister Miri Regev visited United Arab Emirates. For the first time ever, the Israel national anthem, Hatikva, was performed during a sports event in Abu Dhabi.
Peace between Ramallah and Jerusalem is more distant than ever but so is peace between Ramallah and Gaza. The “moderate” mask of aging Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas finally was removed, and his racist, anti-Semitic opposition to Israel’s very existence became visible for everyone willing to see. It is more clear than ever that the Arab-Israeli conflict is not about specific borders but, rather, about opposition to the very existence of a homeland for the Jewish people in the Middle East.
Russia and Israel continue to maintain pragmatic relations despite increased tensions in Syria. The European Union’s hostile attitude towards Israel will likely not improve any time soon. On the other hand, Jerusalem improved its relations with several Eastern and Central European countries.
Benjamin Netanyahu became the first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit Brazil. The newly elected Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, is a vocal friend of Israel and vowed to move the country’s embassy to Jerusalem.
Netanyahu was also warmly received by the Asian giant India.
During 2018, several famous Jewish personalities passed away. They include authors Philip Roth and Amos Oz, journalist Charles Krauthammer and film producer Claude Lanzmann.
Israel’s Netta Barzilai won this year’s Eurovision Song Contest with a catchy techno dance tune about women’s empowerment. The timing could not have been better. Israelis were already celebrating Jerusalem Day, the 51st anniversary of the reunification of the city during the 1967 Six Day War – when the win was announced.
Despite domestic and international challenges, at the beginning of 2019 it is evident that the Jewish state continues to thrive and grow, looking confidently towards the future.