I started as The Scroll’s editor roughly two-and-a-half years ago. And seeing as tomorrow is my last day in the job and at Tablet Magazine (more tomorrow on that), it might be fun to make ten predictions for things that will happen in the next two-and-a-half years. There’s been a lot since I started writing The Scroll—the Arab Spring, the New York special congressional election, a season of Top Chef with not one but two indelible Jewish characters. Over the next period, I’m expecting a similar mix of events and non-events.
So in the spirit of Moses as filtered through Dr. King (“I may not get there with you”), here are ten things, from politics to culture to Jews, that I imagine The Scroll, Tablet Magazine, and the Jewish community will be gabbing about.
1. The United States or Israel—probably the U.S., or both—will launch military strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities. I hope it doesn’t come to this. But I think it will, and for reasons that barely have to do with Israel, at least directly. Both U.S. presidential candidates have made it crystal-clear that they will not accept an Iran with a nuclear bomb. And Iran is—put it this way, religious pronouncements aside, it is doing everything it can to give observers with an otherwise opaque or translucent view the impression that it is seeking nuclear weapons, and that it won’t use negotiations and bargaining as an off-ramp. By November 6? Probably not. But during the two years after that? Unfortunately, I think so.
2. If such a concept is possible, Israeli-Palestinian peace will seem even further away than it does now. Here’s another sad-but-true one—and, I suspect, one less disputed. Part of the problem, of course, is that the Israeli government shows no signs of slowing settlement growth, and indeed appears to be fighting to hold onto or at least compensate for even those settlements illegal under Israeli law. But the prime reason peace will be further off—I hate to say “blame,” because that seems to attribute some sort of unified agency to an entire people—is that the Palestinians haven’t had a leader since Arafat who could plausibly have struck a deal that would have received buy-in from the substantial majority of Palestinians necessary. And, given Abbas’ age, Fayyad’s unpopularity, Barghouti’s imprisonment, but most of all the fundamental disunity between Fatah and Hamas, they won’t have one anytime soon. It’s not in the current Palestinian leadership’s interest to strike a real deal, and it’s not really in Israel’s interest, either, as the status quo is pretty okay for them on a day-to-day basis. Unless, that is, you count the moral corruption that attends occupying, often cruelly, a people who also have a right to the land. One could also argue that every day that doesn’t bring us closer to a two-state solution is a day that brings us closer to a one-state solution. Which is bad, because we’re going to have many such days ahead of us.
3. Benjamin Netanyahu will still be prime minister. Insert your choice cliché about predicting Middle East politics being a fool’s game, or a week being an eternity, or whatever. Bibi’s heard and deployed them all. And I know he’s lost an election as an incumbent before. That was more than a decade ago, and a different Israel. He has figured out a balancing act between the paltry opposition, the hardliners in his own party, the Russians, and the religious parties. There will be crises; there always are. Doesn’t matter. When your highest principle is survival, and when you’re really friggin’ good at it, you tend to stick around.
4. Barack Obama will be re-elected president, and will receive more than 70 percent of the Jewish vote. This is a fun one because we know for sure whether I’m right or wrong in only a few months. More than anything, I think Obama’s just too good a campaigner to be defeated by Mitt Romney. As for the Jews? Hey, 30 percent ain’t nothing. And the 74 or 78 percent (depending on your chosen figure) they handed Obama in 2008 may have been a little high due to the general landslide and the Palin factor, but really, how many Jews are going to change their vote? Poll after poll has shown that Israel is a threshold issue: prove you’re basically okay, and Jews will vote on other things, on which they overwhelmingly favor Democratic positions. In part by keeping his mouth largely shut about Israel since May 2011, Obama has again passed the threshold, and here’s betting more Jews desert him because of his attacks on the financial industry than his attacks on the settlements. Ultimately? At some point, Jewish voters are going to be reminded that the other guy would institute policies and appoint judges who would restrict a woman’s right to choose, and for a truly tremendous portion of the Jewish community, that itself will be the ballgame.
5. Canada up, France down. I met more Canadians in Israel over two weeks than I do over six months in New York City. The fourth-largest national Jewish population loves Israel, and so does its government. Expect that Jewish community to be heard more loudly than ever on the world stage, concerning Israel and other Jewish issues. Meanwhile, in France there is problem, and the problem is the Jews. The Toulouse massacre earlier this year was only the most violent tip of an iceberg of anti-Zionism shading into anti-Semitism, particularly among the still-booming population of Muslim immigrants. Austerity measures prompted by continued economic crisis (and perhaps the collapse of the euro?) are only going to exacerbate this dynamic, and create a vicious cycle. The far left will become more popular. The fact that I haven’t even yet mentioned the astounding recent success of the Front National, which was led by a Holocaust denier until two years ago, is a good sign that things are going to get bad. The world’s third-largest Jewish community will begin to emigrate in larger numbers, which might, short-term, be good for Israel, but long-term will be bad for the Jews.
6. Philip Roth is going to win the Nobel Prize. I mean they can’t keep doing this, right? Of course right.
7. Philo-Semitism will become a thing in the hip tech community. Mark Zuckerberg! Brin and Page! Jimmy Wales! People we’ll hear of in the next one to two years! Liel Leibovitz laid the ideological groundwork that “Web 2.0—focused on applications that facilitate user interaction and collaboration—is governed by a logic that is inherently Jewish, a logic that has sustained the Jews as a community for millennia.” And the Jew-loving Chinese people might be the exaggerated leading indicator of how to revere the Jews for the acumen in this field. But just watch: some Anglo-American non-Jewish prognosticator is going to write a book or article or some such on how the Jews really are good at and well suited to creating this world we all increasingly live in. This in turn will lead to a mixture of pride and anguish among Jews over the extent to which it’s okay to be singled out for certain specific traits, mainly because mixtures of pride and anguish are what we do best.
8. A famous Jew will convert to Scientology, or come out or be outed as a Scientologist. Yes, more famous than Neil Gaiman.
9. Rise of the traditionally Orthodox is the new intermarriage. What we talk about when we talk about intermarriage is Jewish continuity, but really it’s more specific, isn’t it? The traditionally Orthodox are ideologically continuous, and almost by definition don’t intermarry. Therefore, all this time—I mean for the past few decades!—when Jews have been handwringing about how intermarriage threatens Jewish continuity, what they have really been saying is that intermarriage threatens the continuity of the secular-to-somewhat-secular, fully to partially assimilated, Jewish community: the great majority of American Jews and the ones who are most prominent in and make the biggest influence on the larger American society. But there’s a new demographic challenge to this, and it is the sharply rising proportion of the Jewish population made up of the traditionally Orthodox. Understand: I don’t mean at all to demonize these Jews; on the contrary, one of the great perks of working at Tablet has been getting to know a far greater number of them than I otherwise would. And I’m not suggesting the solution is to somehow tell them to stop making babies: the solution, of course, is the same—promoting marrying within the faith, or at least (and probably more realistically) the raising of children of intermarriage as Jews. I guess what I mean to say is, intermarriage is the new intermarriage, but it’s going to be increasingly approached, in discussions within the Jewish community, through this prism: not simply that American Jews are slowly, l’dor v’dor, eliminating themselves, but more specifically that assimilated American Jews may one day no longer define American Jewry, and instead the more outwardly observant will.
10. Tablet is going to continue to grow. This is the prediction I’m surest of. I don’t mean to demean our achievements up to this point; it’s frankly astounding to see how far we’ve come, in everything from the quality of our content to the size of our footprint, since I started in December 2009 (or since the first blog posts I wrote for The Scroll, which were almost exactly three years ago). But we’re gonna be huge. Just you wait.