A new year of peace Why not

With the coming new year, is it too much to hope for a little hope?

We think not.

True, there’s plenty to fret about. The Iraq debacle seems intractable. Global warming is only now drawing the world’s attention, perhaps too late. Yet despite the chaos, there is cause for optimism, cautious though it may be.

The U.S. midterm election last month showed that many people want change. No matter where one stands on the political spectrum, it’s good to know American democracy still works, that it still has the extraordinary ability to reflect the will of the people.

The new Democratic Congress promises a dynamic “First 100 Hours.” This could be mere PR hype, but we expect the Congress will operate in a more bipartisan manner than before.

President Bush is formulating a new plan for Iraq, seeking advice from many quarters. Cynics might scoff, but this could be the beginning of a better course for the United States, Iraq and the entire Middle East.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is calling for new elections. While the short-term prospects seem ominous, with Palestinian factional fighting growing more intense, a new election may sideline Hamas and get peace talks back on track.

In the Jewish world, we take comfort in the generous U.S. response to this summer’s Hezbollah war. Hundreds of millions of dollars were raised in a very short time, proving once again that the Jewish community always takes care of its own.

Even when things go wrong, positive reactions can result. As Iran sponsored a specious Holocaust deniers conference this month, world condemnation was swift, strong and angry. There are even hints that kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit may be coming home soon.

It may strike some as naïve to cling to hopefulness. After all, isn’t it the way of the world that things fall apart, that decay and entropy are the natural order? Aren’t we human beings fated to go out with a bang or a whimper?

No one knows the answer to that question, but we see no purpose in dwelling on it. Rather we prefer to dwell on a coming time of peace, a day of rest and a world of harmony. To do so serves both a practical and noble purpose.

Practical in that people simply function better when they feel optimistic. Noble in that we Jews were born to believe in better days ahead. After what we’ve been through over thousands of years, to still have hope as our default setting speaks volumes.

Since we will not publish next week, this is our chance to wish our readers a happy new year. And may 2007 be a year of peace.