It was another year of anti-Semitism in Europe, stalemate in Iraq, and ups and downs in Israel's battle for survival as the terror war waxed and then waned, and Israel left Gaza. But if you were looking to avoid controversy this year, even talking about the weather wasn't safe, as President Bush found out to his dismay.
But the arrival of a new Jewish year has us asking the same questions about what's in store for 5766. Can things get worse? Of course they can!
Yet even as we cope with terrorism, hurricanes and the potential for cataclysmic shifts in Israel's leadership, we shouldn't lose what's left of our sense of humor.
So 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 Exponent "Jewish Pundit Quiz" for 5766.
For the record, in last year's quiz, I did far better than usual. While two years ago I got almost every major question wrong, 5765 turned out pretty much the way I thought it would. I correctly predicted George W. Bush's re-election, a small but crucial increase in the number of Jews voting for the Republicans, Arlen Specter's re-election, a stalemate in Iraq and the successful completion of Israel's evacuation from Gaza.
Granted, none of those calls should make Nostradamus blush, but it probably just means I'll get them all wrong this time. Save this column, and see how you or I do in 5766.
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 tzedekah ("acts of justice and charity") may avert the severe decree.
L'Shanah Tovah Tikatevu!
1. At the start of 5767, the prime minister of Israel will be:
a. Ariel Sharon.
b. Benjamin Netanyahu.
c. Shimon Peres.
d. Uzi Landau.
2. Next year's parliamentary elections in Israel will feature:
a. A right-wing splinter of the Likud Party running under the leadership of Netanyahu.
b. A new centrist party led by Sharon, Peres and Shinui's Lapid.
c. A revived Zionist left, as Labor dumps Peres for a new leader.
d. A rerun of the 2003 election, as Sharon and Bibi make peace in the aftermath of Sharon's Likud primary win, and a demoralized Labor keeps sinking under the octogenarian Peres.
3. By the end of 5766, the Mideast peace process will be:
a. On the road to real peace as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas disarms Hamas, and is rewarded by more U.S. aid and Israeli territorial concessions.
b. On the rocks, as another intifada led by both Abbas' faction and the Islamic groups initiates a new round of Palestinian terror, whose purpose will be to force Israel to abandon the West Bank and Jerusalem.
c. Stalemated as a paralyzed Abbas is hamstrung by Hamas, but unwilling to risk another war.
4. By the end of 5766, the real democracies in the Middle East will be:
a. Egypt, Iraq, Palestine and Israel.
b. Palestine, Iraq and Israel.
c. Iraq and Israel.
5. In 5766, the key figure in U.S. policy toward Israel in the Middle East will be:
a. President George W. Bush, who will drop Abbas as the Palestinians revert to terror and tyranny.
b. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, whose tilt against Israel will poison relations with Jerusalem.
c. Karen Hughes, Bush's public-relations envoy to the Muslim world, whose attempt to appease the "Arab street" will bring a boost in U.S. support for Abbas.
d. Anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan, whose attacks on Israel will help shift public opinion against the Jewish state.
6. By the end of 5766, the war in Iraq will be:
a. Largely over as joint offensives by Iraqi and U.S. forces, and the closing of Al Qaeda's havens in Syria and Iran end the insurgency.
b. Heading into chaos after a demoralized Bush administration is forced by critics to announce a withdrawal date for U.S. forces giving Iraqi Islamists new life.
c. Still stalemated, as insurgents are unable to do anything but launch suicide bombings but remain impervious to U.S. attempts to wipe them out.
d. Eclipsed by a revolution in Iran, which will topple the ayatollahs.
7. The most influential American Jew in 5766 will be:
a. Sen. Arlen Spector (R-Pa.), whose leadership of the Judiciary Committee will help change the shape of the Supreme Court for the forseeable future.
b.Billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose marriage to Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) following her surprise divorce from former President Bill Clinton gives new meaning to the term "power couple."
c. Former right-wing lobbyist Jack Abramoff, whose conviction on ethics charges sets off a chain of events that leads to the fall of House Speaker Tom Delay (R-Texas).
d. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, whose hurricane failures will be forgotten after attacks refocus the country on the war on terror.
e. Filmmaker Steven Spielberg, whose controversial film about Israel's revenge for the Munich Olympic massacre becomes another box-office hit.
8. The most significant trend in American Jewish life in 5766 will be:
a. Poker-themed Bar and Bat Mitzvah parties.
b. The failure of the anti-Iraq war movement to co-op traditional Jewish centrists and liberals in their struggle.
c. The adoption of new policies on gay rabbis and on intermarriage by Conservative Judaism.
d. A clear shift away from concern for Israel as American Jews focus more on liberal domestic-policy issues, driven by anger at the Bush administration.
e. The rise of Chasidic reggae singer Matisyahu to the top of the pop charts.
Tobin's answers: 1. a 2. d 3. b 4. d 5. a 6. c 7. c 8. b
Jonathan S. Tobin is reachable via e-mail at: [email protected]