Oh, what a year it’s been. One for the vaults, that’s for sure.
Terrorism shows no signs of abating, with Islamic State taking credit for a string of shocking attacks, from Brussels Airport in March, to the Bastille Day horror in Nice, France, to this week’s truck plowing into a crowd of holiday shoppers at a Berlin market.
Closer to home, tragedy struck the LGBT community with the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando in June, and in the Bay Area, the horrific Ghost Ship fire broke all of our hearts.
The civil war in Syria marches on, tearing the country apart and leaving half a million dead. The death toll in Aleppo alone is heartbreaking. Millions of desperate refugees have poured into Europe, sparking the worst crisis since World War II.
In Israel, wildfires devastated parts of the north, destroying hundreds of homes and leaving large swaths of land near Haifa blackened and desolate.
And in the United States, a vitriolic presidential campaign divided families and friends, gave permission for public expressions of bigotry and base prejudice, and spurred a sharp rise in hate crimes against Jews and other minorities that have only increased since the election. The alt-right became a thing.
In the past 12 months, we lost two Nobel Prize laureates: writer and Holocaust memoirist Elie Wiesel and former Israeli President Shimon Peres, the last of his generation of builders of the Jewish state.
On the other hand, 2016 has also been a year of great visioning, particularly in science and health. Big strides are being made in finding cures — cancer may be a thing of the past by midcentury, and experimental gene-editing techniques have restored sight to blind animals.
But if this is all too much and you can’t take it on Earth anymore, Elon Musk plans to have a million people living on Mars by the end of the century.
Meanwhile, this Saturday night marks the start of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights commemorating the miracle of the oil that lasted eight nights in the Holy Temple. Tradition tells us to publicize the miracle by displaying our hanukkiah, with candles blazing, where passersby can see it. Only in times of danger, we are told, should we conceal that light.
This is a time of danger. But instead of concealing the light, let it shine forth. Let us put our candles in our windows for all to see, a sign of light and hope for a better year to come.