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Making real change for 5781



As we step into 5781 in the Hebrew calendar, we witness what appears to be genuine change in the Middle East and an about-turn in attitudes towards Israel. The timing is uncanny, or so it would seem.

As we draw to the end of a year that has been like nothing we have never experienced before and head into Rosh Hashanah, real change is happening in our world. And it has mostly come as a surprise.

I’m sure that behind-the-scenes negotiations between Israel, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – chaperoned by the United States – may well have been ongoing, but success still came as a surprise to most of us.

And I’m quite sure Israel haters never thought they would see the day that Israel and Muslim countries in the Middle East agreed – in writing – to be peaceful friends and allies. It must really rankle them as it goes against everything they want the world to believe about Israel.

Indeed, this is a wonderful change that for so long seemed impossible.

Most South Africans are fed by media and a strong anti-Israel lobby, which includes high ranking members of government, that Israel is the Arab world’s pariah and the cause of everything bad in the Middle East.

These people would prefer us all to hate Israel.

It just goes to show that Bahrain and the UAE believe there is more reason to ally themselves with this tiny Jewish state than there is to have it as their enemy. They aren’t wrong.

And unlike local judges, outspoken radio hosts, and the like, the anti-Israel lobby can do nothing to stop this. It can’t bully these two countries into submission. It can’t use any of its preferred tactics. It can’t call them racist, or attack their integrity, or even their positions of employment.

What’s more, it appears that the UAE and Bahrain are just the first of many such countries to ally themselves with Israel. Even – as we wrote in last week’s newspaper – Malawi is countering this anti-Israel stance.

Here’s hoping a new day is dawning, and our own government heeds the call to take a neutral stand on Middle East politics and gets involved in working towards peace, thereby ensuring that it’s on the right side of history.

It’s such a huge change at the end of a year in which the world has been turned on its proverbial head with the COVID-19 pandemic! This past year has brought us death, lockdown, job losses, economic chaos the world over, and so much more.

I, for one, won’t be sad when a new year dawns, one that will bring positive change as well as healthy and happy news on a communal, national, and international level. Bring it on!

But change isn’t something we sit in shul – or at home, as the case may be this year – and consider. Change is never easy. Real change requires much more than just thought and great ideas.

When we contemplate life changes or even personal growth, while it does require planning, it’s more about hard and persistent work.

You can’t decide today that you are going to treat your staff better, get fit, or stop yelling at your children – and then it just happens. I wish it were that simple. It requires the changing of long-entrenched habits and a lot of conscious work.

What’s more, genuine change requires courage and conviction so that it doesn’t become yet another fast-fading New Year’s resolution.

The reality of change becomes a question of just how much you want to make it happen. We can’t change other people, we can only change ourselves. We certainly can’t change ourselves because someone else wants us to be different. We can change only because it’s something we’re personally determined to do.

However, the truth is that change is growth, and unless we’re willing to change, we can’t develop and improve. And it does start with a simple decision to make a move, and the rest follows from there.

So, far be it for me to scare you off from changing and improving your life, I’m merely telling you that contemplating it on Rosh Hashanah simply isn’t enough.

But, as we have seen in the Abraham Accord signed this week in the United States by Bahrain, Israel, and the UAE, change is possible and, while difficult, is ultimately positive.

And, as we see the blossoms on our trees and smell the jasmine in our gardens, we watch the dawn of a new year approaching. We may have been looking forward to a life unchanged from previous years, but alas, this isn’t going to happen.

The world as we know it has changed. Our reality will never be exactly what it was, no matter how much you and I may want it to be. Our “normal” will from now on be the so-called “new normal”.

In this instance, change has happened, and we have no control over it. The world’s growth may not feel like a positive move right now, however, it is as it is. And change is positive. We just need to find the good and uplifting in it.

We need to grow with change. We need to find our own way in the new normal of 5781.

I have to admit, I’m grateful to move away from the new decades. The year 5780 and 2020 hasn’t been easy. It has brought much hardship and pain. So, hopefully, 5781 and, down the line, 2021, will bring joy.

May 5781 bring each and every one of you, our readers, the courage and perseverance to make the changes you want in your own lives, and the strength to make the new normal work for you.

Shabbat shalom and shana tova to you all!

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