Blink and you’ll miss it—we’ve only got a few weeks until Passover and there’s already too much to do. As you begin preparations for your midweek seders, here’s my almost-annual Haggadah supplement with Four More Questions, just for you…and everyone else.
The Enemy Within
Well, I was wrong. Israel’s new government isn’t just talking about Handmaid’s Tale-ing the Kotel and amending the Law of Return, they’re taking aim at the entire democratic apparatus and trying to kneecap any judicial oversight of the Knesset. Each week the protests against the judicial reforms grow larger—in recent weeks, we’ve seen protestors on the Ayalon Freeway, Sara Netanyahu getting trapped at her hairdressers, water cannons and tear gas being deployed against protestors, pilots refusing reserve training, and more. Everyone’s chips are on the table and no one is moving to the middle.
Not to be overlooked, a recent wave of terror attacks, IDF raids in the middle of Nablus and Jenin, and fiery quasi-murderous rhetoric from some right-wing ministers have added to this boiling stew of anxiety and chaos.
It’s hard to take a deep breath and be optimistic right now about the coming months, but perhaps we will get answers to a few of these questions sometime soon, although we might not like them.
Will the Knesset pass the full slate of judicial reforms or will a meaningful compromise be found? Will the escalation in Gaza and the West Bank continue? Have we crossed the rubicon with the divide between religious and secular Israel? Can Israel save itself from its greatest threat…itself?
Hope so. But things haven’t been this bad in a long, long time.
The invasion of Ukraine, 13 months in, is a tragedy of historic proportions. Eight million refugees and 8 million internally displaced; the destruction of Mariupol; missile attacks on Kyiv and Dnipro; tens of thousands of civilian casualties; war crimes in Bucha; a forever war against a fanatical tyrant. The list has no end and it’s so awful I don’t even want to link to the stories.
Together with most of us (and I hope all of you reading this), I cheered the Ukrainian summer counteroffensive, applauded the attack on the Kerch Bridge, and watched Zelenskyy’s historic December address to a joint session of Congress. Heck, I even watched “Servant of the People” on Netflix as well as his interview with David Letterman. Slava Ukraini.
Unfortunately, there is no endgame in Ukraine as long as Putin is in charge, with the Russians saying there is no point in negotiating anything as their murderous and genocidal campaign rages. The biggest land war in Europe in 80 years will grind on, but as long as the international will to arm and re-arm Ukraine is still there, Zelenskyy will hold the line. So, I guess the second question is:
Have we seen the worst of the fighting, or do new horrors await?
Unfortunately, the worst is probably yet to come.
You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Tent
Last month, amongst much fanfare and international attention, the Moses Ben Maimon synagogue opened in Abu Dhabi in the Abrahamic Family House. Can you imagine writing those words five years ago? It’s still incredible that recent years have seen Israeli normalization with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan, Israeli planes flying through Saudi and Omani airspace, and direct flights to Doha (although we know that’s not really that awesome). And while the economic impact of the billions of dollars already generated by the deals is great, the warm embrace of Emiratis and Israelis is really breathtaking—a genuine peace between peoples, unlike the cold ones that exist with Egypt and Jordan.
Recently, news outlets have reported that there have been talks about Israel pursuing agreements with the likes of Somalia, Mauritania, Niger, and even Indonesia, and make no mistake, I am here for this content; I am a living, breathing stan account for the Abraham Accords. And while the biggest prize (Saudi Arabia) seems to be still a long way off, things are shifting pretty quickly in the desert sands of the Sunni world, so you just never know.
So, for my third question:
Who’s got next?
Springtime is Eurovision time, and this year the competition will be held in Liverpool from May 9-13 since Ukraine, the 2022 winners, cannot host it for obvious reasons. After a one-year absence from the finals, Israel will be returning to the stage with pop star Noa Kirel performing her new song “Unicorn.”
Kirel has been a starlet and now a star in Israel for the better part of a decade; she’s featured all over European MTV and Israeli TV, and in 2020 signed the largest deal ever by an Israeli artist with Atlantic Records. It’s not always sunny in Ra’anana, though, as she also collaborated with Omer Adam on a controversial reboot of Hatikvah (not bad, don’t understand the fuss), got some of her backup dancers removed from their army posts due to some suggestive choreography, and has been at the center of a few other controversies, including her audacious response to Kanye’s antisemitic comments last fall.
With that being said, a lot of people are trying pretty hard to make her an international sensation, so we should probably get on board. Unfortunately, “Unicorn” is probably not going to help her that much: Ynet isn’t impressed and I think we’ve all seen better. But who knows:
Will Noa Kirel somehow rise to the top and claim the Eurovision crown for Israel for the fifth time?
You never know.
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