Not to be outdone by CNN in these exciting times, I thought I should report to you from my position embedded with the residents of the Galilee.
On the terror front, we are winning: since Israeli tanks and helicopters have been engaged in constant raids throughout the West Bank and Gaza, the number of suicide bombings and other terrorist events has dropped precipitously. There are daily news reports of Palestinian casualties, both suspected terrorists and innocent bystanders, but then, you win a war by inflicting more casualties on the enemy than he can inflict on you. There may, of course, be long term costs, but for now, we can prepare for Pesach without the constant lurid tabloid pictures and their attendant fears... until the next attack.
On the economic front, we are losing: bad economic news, job uncertainty, unemployment, sad stories trump the headlines from Baghdad. Every school principal or community center director I meet with greets me with a long face -- happy to dream about new program ideas but weighed down meanwhile with how to cut present programs and reduce staff once again. We live in the midst of a wave of strikes large and small with everyone gearing up for the big bang, a general strike that will shut everything down -- a sort of disastrous pre-holiday holiday (and people planning to travel abroad for the holiday have to have a back-up seder plan in case the aiirport is on strike). Meanwhile, our finance minister is basing his plan on statements like: the public sector (e.g., teachers, social workers -- but not soldiers) is a burden carried on the backs of the private sector... He is, of course, only adapting his approach to the general tenor of social discourse in recent years, based on a competition of victims: everyone (Orthodox, secular, kibbutznik, development town resident, Arab, Druze, Negev dweller, settler, Ashkenazi, Sephardi...) believes that he is the most persecuted, disadvantaged, passed over -- and that everyone else is doing better.
On the Arab-Jewish front: all is quiet on the surface, but it is not clear what lies beneath. None of the promises made by the government after the riots of 2000, regarding allocation of resources for Arab communities, has been carried out. The commission of inquiry on the civilian deaths in the riots has still not published its findings. Several cases have recently come to light of Israeli Arabs assisting terrorists. Much of the energy and enthusiasm invested in dialogue and cooperative planning in the wake of the riots has dissipated without much impact, though there are certainly important pockets of resistance quietly being kept alive by dedicated educators and community activists around the country -- especially in the Galilee -- in an unsympathetic national climate. It feels like the time bomb is ticking and the bomb squad is on strike.
On the water front: this has been the rainiest winter in ten years. With every new stormy day our smiles grew broader. Gods in his heaven, alls right with the world. And once again, the attempt to reduce water subsidies for agriculture, in order to discourage the large scale growing of crops requiring intensive irrigation, has been derailed by the prime minister, who coincidentally owns one of the largest private holdings of agricultural land in Israel.
On the garden front: despite perfect germinating weather, the spinach, lettuce, beans, and flower seeds never came up -- but the cauliflowers and broccoli are thriving. The profusion of weeds and wildflowers (who can tell the difference?) is breathtaking. The other day I was whacking weeds among our little grove of fruit trees and the mingling scents of citrus blossoms and oregano, sage, rosemary and hyssop were enough to make me forget all of the above.