As 2011 ends, winds of change are blowing worldwide, cutting across borders and across the orderly passing of months and years. This is evident from the very fact that these changes are referred to in terms of weather and seasons.
The hopes that were pinned on the "Arab Spring" and the wave of protest that engulfed the whole world were replaced by the disappointments and fears of the "winter" in which the clouds of extremist Islam dimmed the hopes of democracy. Economic fog envelops Europe, but the cold - which has chased the demonstrators out of the streets in Western cities - is not stopping protesters in Russia.
Many people feel that there is indeed "something in the air." We are on the threshold of a new era, perhaps a revolutionary one, whose essence is still unclear, and whose future is unknown.
The Internet, social networks and smart phones have redistributed power and influence in the world, a fact that manifested itself dramatically this year via mass demonstrations, the toppling of regimes that had seemed impervious to change, and the decentralization of means of expression and influence that had previously been reserved for establishment political and media platforms. But hopes that the new media outlets will bring a spirit of democracy, reconciliation and solidarity rather than atomization, divisiveness and hatred still depend on applying the old human values: good will, a longing for enlightenment and creative leadership.
Israel has been somewhat oddly synchronized with the global trend this year. The summer's mass demonstrations ostensibly put it at the forefront of the worldwide spirit of youthful protest, while its economic management has left it an island of relative stability. But from a political and diplomatic standpoint, Israel has been swept deep into the regional winter.
The protest movement evaded Israel's most fundamental issues and obtained no real political leverage. And while leaders' chairs the world over are shaking, in Israel, a government to which there is no real alternative is further entrenching itself, even though it is barren of hope and busy mainly with muzzling dissenting opinions and engaging in political machinations intended to preserve itself. Israel is also awash in the murky waters of religious extremism; it is being led toward alienation and isolation, immersed in threats of war and diplomatic fears.
The global forecast for next year is foggy. But in Israel it is clear: Spring never seemed so far away.
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