Every year at this time, we assess the events of the previous 12 months and wonder whether things could possibly get worse. Though our lives are as full of blessings as they are of challenges, the answer—when it comes to the state of the world—is generally, “Yes, you bet they can.”
This certainly applied to 5782.
On the positive side, a year ago, the world was just barely coming out of the worst of the coronavirus pandemic. As we head into 5783, the ongoing obsessions of COVID fear addicts notwithstanding, that sad chapter of history seems to be basically over. This is despite China still being locked down and public health experts behaving as if they can’t wait for the next crisis.
Unfortunately, however, there was also Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as raging inflation and other economic woes. Political polarization in the United States is also worse, with right and left more at each other’s throats than ever ahead of a highly divisive midterm election, in which control of Congress is up for grabs in November.
In Israel, the multi-party coalition government that ousted Benjamin Netanyahu collapsed, forcing another round of Knesset elections. The vote, which is scheduled for the week before the U.S. midterms, will determine whether he will win back his old job from current (interim) Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
On top of that, there’s been another surge of Palestinian terrorism. And looming over everything is the prospect of another weak and dangerous Iran nuclear deal.
But, as Americans and Israelis wage political warfare amid ideological culture battles tearing apart communities, let’s not lose what is left of our sense of humor, even as we try to account for our misdeeds.
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 the late New York Times columnist William Safire) the latest edition of my annual Jewish Pundit Quiz.
So, along with me, guess (or should I say prognosticate?) about the coming year.
My predictions last year were, as usual, pretty bad. I was wrong about Naftali Bennett’s holding on as Israel’s prime minister and about his coalition surviving. I was also wrong about a new Iran deal being already put in place, and about Israel’s letting the Biden administration open a Jerusalem consulate for the Palestinians.
But I was right that abortion would, rightly or wrongly, become the top issue for Jewish voters in 2022. I was right, as well, about the growing split between right and left, and that Democrats would do nothing to restrain the increasingly virulent anti-Israel wing of their party, led by Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).
My answers to the quiz are located at the bottom of the article. Save it until next year to see which of us was right this time.
And remember, if you are worried about the outcome, teshuvah (“repentance”), tefillah (“prayer”) and tzedakah (“acts of justice and charity”) may avert the severe decree.
1. The outcome of the 2022 congressional midterm elections will be:
A: Republican control of the House and the Senate
B: Republican control of the House; Democrats hold the Senate
C: Democratic control of the House; Republican control of the Senate
D: Democrats retain control of both the House and the Senate.
2. The decisive issue of the midterms will be:
A: The Democrats’ claim that the GOP is a threat to democracy.
B: President Joe Biden’s unpopularity
C: Inflation and the economy
3. By Rosh Hashanah next year, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 will be:
A: Former President Donald Trump
B: Florida Gov. Ron De Santis
C: Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley
D: Texas Sen. Ted Cruz
E: Liz Cheney
4. The frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2024 will be:
A: President Joe Biden
B: Vice President Kamala Harris
C: California Gov. Gavin Newsom
D: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg
E: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)
5. The number of Israeli elections that will have been held by Rosh Hashanah next year is:
A: Two, with the first ending in a stalemate, but a government being formed after a second in the spring.
B: Three, with the first two ending in stalemates and the parties still negotiating after the last one.
C: Just one, as Netanyahu wins and forms a narrow but stable government.
D: Just one, as Lapid is able to form another multi-party coalition that includes at least one Arab party.
6. The prime minister of Israel on Rosh Hashanah next year will be:
C: Benny Gantz
D: Ayman Odeh
E: Itamar Ben-Gvir
7. By 5784, Iran will have:
A: Announced that it had produced a nuclear bomb.
B: Officially renounced its nuclear quest after anti-regime protesters toppled the Islamist regime.
C: Not signed a nuclear deal but refined enough nuclear material so that the world acknowledges it as a threshold nuclear power.
D: Concluded a new nuclear deal with the United States and the West in the weeks after the midterm elections.
8. By 5784, the Palestinians will:
A: Have replaced Mahmoud Abbas as head of the Palestinian Authority and begun peace talks with the Biden administration
B: Be fighting an open civil war in the territories after a Hamas victory over Fatah in long-put-off elections.
C: Have started another intifada to try to get the Arab world to pay attention to them.
D: Be stuck with Abbas and Hamas still in power and no prospect of peace talks.
9. The most important element of The New York Times’s coverage of the Jewish community will be:
A: That ultra-Orthodox schools don’t teach secular subjects, and that teachers assault their students.
B: The assertion that Jews are privileged whites who oppress people of color in the United States and the Middle East.
C: Why minority community violence against Orthodox Jews is not newsworthy.
D: The lie that Israel is an “apartheid state” and that Palestinians want peace.
E: All of the above.
10. The following event will not happen in 5783:
A: Biden will pressure Israel to acquiesce to the appeasement of Iran and concessions to the Palestinians.
B: Netanyahu will be convicted on corruption charges.
C: More than 70% of American Jews will vote for Democrats in the midterms.
D: Schools around the United States will include elements of critical race theory in various curricula, while liberals claim it isn’t happening.
E: The number of illegal immigrants entering America will again be more than 1 million.
Tobin answers: 1-a; 2-c; 3-a; 4-a; 5-c; 6-b; 7-d; 8-d; 9-e; 10-b
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS—Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.