Rosh Hashanah in New York – the beginning of a new Jewish year in this wonderful city, carries with it a lot of personal meaning for me. Starting my tenure as the Acting Consul General in New York during this time reminds of when I came to the Consulate as the Consul for Media and Public Affairs nine years ago, in 2001.
It was in the midst of the Second Intifada, and Israel was bleeding from repeated terror attacks. One of most horrific bombings had taken place just three weeks earlier when suicide bomber detonated himself the middle of a crowded Sbaro’s in Jerusalem. Fifteen people were killed; several of them American citizens. Soon enough, I found myself deeply engaged with the American media, hungry for updates from Israel.
But one morning changed everything. It started as just a Tuesday, but the date, September 11th, 2001 is a date that would be forever burned in the back of our minds. The attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was an event with an unprecedented world effect. I remember sitting down for dinner a week later, for Rosh Hashana, still overwhelmed by what had just happened. We didn’t grasp the full magnitude of the event. The city was still buried under clouds of ashes and ruins, the American nation and the entire world in shock.
No New Yorker or American will ever forget where they were when they heard that planes had struck at the heart of the United States. I remember talking about it constantly with friends, colleagues, and loved ones – but no one actually understood what 9/11 was all about. Back then we didn’t realize that things would never be the same. The New Year approaching, 5762, was actually the beginning of a new era that few understood, and no one wanted.
And now, nine years later, I find myself again in the great city of New York, at the verge of a new year which also encompasses challenges – but this time of a different sort.
This New Year will be noted on one hand with the renewal of direct peace talks with the Palestinians, and on the other hand with the persistent attempts of our adversaries to attack Israel’s right to exist as the land of the Jewish people. Our foes invest great resources to sustain a noxious and poisonous campaign that is trying to undermine the very foundations of our free state.
While there are minefields ahead, if we can navigate the perilous environment, there is a lot to look forward to.
In the security sector, it is clear what necessary steps are needed to put Israel on the track leading to peace, regional stability, and stopping Iran from obtaining the deadliest of weaponry. A success in the upcoming month will mean eliminating the Iranian threat along with securing Israel’s future, and building trust and cooperation with its neighbors.
Success in the peace talks has momentous implications way beyond the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. International support of the peace process will also be a signal to the Iranian president that his venomous rhetoric will only fall on deaf ears and violence is no longer part of the region’s equation.
It is a year for bold moves and historic decisions. The government in Jerusalem is aware of the challenges forthcoming, and is willing to face them boldly. Not just for the sake of the upcoming year – but for the many more that will follow. Let us all hope and pray that this year will be a beginning of a new era – a peaceful, blessed and prosperous one. Amen.
Ido Aharoni is Israel’s Acting Consul General in New York