A Man Among No Men

In the spirit of Chinese tradition, the year 5766 will receive a name of its own: the "Year of the Rat." So shall it be called and so shall it be remembered: because it was marked by flight - flight from the ship.

And sages said, "There is no man whose hour does not come" (Tractate Avot). There are also a very few who have a year, a whole year in which they are heroes. I looked for the Person of the Year that ends this evening - it was hard work, but I found the hero of 5766, believe me. But before his identity is revealed, let the "judges' reason" be heard.

In the spirit of Chinese tradition, the year 5766 will receive a name of its own: the "Year of the Rat." So shall it be called and so shall it be remembered: because it was marked by flight - flight from the ship. The ship is named "Responsibility" and is in danger of going down, and its captains are fleeing for their lives like rats. One after the other, they flee from Responsibility, which nevertheless continues to pursue them, and will ultimately hunt them down.

But until then, they are lifting their eyes to the open horizon of "after the holidays," as though their help will come from there. By then, they are tempted to believe, the anger will pass. Or maybe they are casting their hopes on the "Tashlich" prayer, which is recited next to a source of water following the afternoon prayer of the first day of Rosh Hashanah: "He will again have mercy on us, He will subdue our iniquities, and You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea." Will the sea of time and oblivion truly swallow all their sins?

The year 5766 was the year of the great flight, and the Winograd Committee is intended to mark the escape route. Maybe the outgoing year should be called the "Year of the Rabbit," because the rabbit is cowardly by nature. Who escapes faster and farther - rats or rabbits?

No one stood up this year and accepted responsibility - though responsibility is not accepted, but taken; no one bent down to pick up his share of what happened; no one really relies on the Rosh Hashanah prayer "God uplifts those who are bent," and only those who stand straight and tall are capable of bending down to pick up his orphaned responsibility from the dust and the dung heap.

Weighty responsibility is many-layered. The highest and most exemplary layer apparently belongs to the Japanese, to that transportation minister, real or metaphorical, who resigns because of a plane accident in the sky: he is not to blame, the minister, but he is responsible. The second, lower, layer belongs to those who walk the line between blame and responsibility, like the general who resigned, Udi Adam. And the third, and far lower, layer belongs to people like Ehud Olmert, who ostensibly assume "all the responsibility," no less, but only as lip service; in practice, they continue as though nothing had happened, pursuing their desperate and despicable business as usual, and still delude themselves into believing that they will save their skins.

The war in Lebanon obscured him, the Person of the Year. Many did not notice him through the fire and smoke. So here he is, for all to see. He was born in Kibbutz Ayelet Hashahar in 1959. He is married and has three children. He is a graduate (cum laude) in economics and logistics and has an MBA. For the past 28 years he has served in the Air Force as a combat pilot and in command and staff posts. His last post was as commander of the Nevatim airbase.

On that base, dozens of soldiers and junior officers conducted illicit sexual relations with an underage girl. The scandal broke, and its reverberations filled the land. A commission of inquiry was appointed, which not long ago published an interim report that exonerated the base commander completely. And precisely then, after he had been fully cleared, he decided to resign, and wrote to the commander of the air force: "Now, following the report's publication, and only after my total innocence was clarified, I ask to conclude my term ..."

Two weeks ago, he announced that he was leaving the IDF. In a country in which faithfulness and responsibility have vanished, he is the example. The trouble is that those who did not take responsibility will also not follow an example. In a place where there were no men, he was a man, and he is my person of the year. It's important for me to publish his name, which is no longer classified, and it's important to remember the name: Erez Ron, Colonel Erez Ron; salute him.

It's a pity he is not chief of staff or defense minister; a pity he is not prime minister.