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>My Sermon - 31st December - 2010 in Review

>2011 starts tomorrow with all of the exciting promise that a new year brings. When a new year begins I always think back to the feeling I had at school when I would begin a new exercise book. All of the pages were empty, waiting to be filled, and the potential of what would go on those pages filled me with excitement and anticipation. I was known on occasion to write in especially large letters, or draw particularly big pictures just so that I could get to that new book a little bit quicker.

Today, I no longer have a school exercise book, but I do carry around a small notebook with me, and I still get excited when one notebook is filled and a brand new notebook begins. However, before I can begin the new notebook, I have to review the old notebook for information that I need to carry forward, and cannot be left on the pages of a book, in a drawer in my office.

Before we can truly begin 2011, we need to review 2010 and consider what lessons and experiences we will be taking with us into the new year.

Personally, there are a number of images and stories, that I will carry with me from 2010 into the new year.

I feel that we have to start in the Gulf of Mexico. In previous years, we had witnessed oil spills, such as the Piper Alpha oil rig disaster of 1988 and the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989. But the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010 was of a markedly different scale. We saw pictures and films as millions of barrels of black liquid leaked out into the Atlantic ocean. And we watched as BP and the U.S. appeared powerless to stem the flow. It was over twelve weeks until they were able to finally plug the leak.

The American news highlighted the fact that a British company was to blame, some in Britain blamed the American made oil rig – and the world agreed that it was an American and BP problem. Many were shocked, and numerous people feared the effect it would have on them. But the problem and thus the solution, was not their problem.

In addition to the manmade disasters that characterized 2010, there were a number of devastating natural disasters as well. In January, Haiti was struck by an earthquake which left 200,000 dead and one and a half million homeless. And then in July, monsoon rains caused flooding in Pakistan, which spread across an area the same size as England, affecting over 20 million people.

What was striking was the contrast in the way that the international community, and especially the wealthier nations, responded. For Haiti there appeared to be an outpouring of support as money came in to help the country care for the victims and begin the work of rebuilding. But when Pakistan came calling, the international community was far slower to respond. In the first month the UN only received 20% of the relief funding they requested. Some people talked about disaster fatigue, while others raised questions about whether there were some latent anti-Pakistan feelings. These two tragedies demonstrated the ability of the international community to intervene positively, and also to stand idly by.

But in both of these cases, there was still an overarching feeling that it was not the world’s problem – it was not our problem. Sure we sent some money in the beginning, wrote a cheque that was out of sight, out of mind. But how many of us know the current state of those two countries now?

So much of this year, was about protecting ourselves, taking care of our own. Surely we have enough problems without having to care about somebody else’s? It’s a much easier way of life – but also so much emptier. Yet, not all is lost. There was one event that occurred this year – one that brought the world together and offered a glimpse of a more compassionate, caring and united world.

The entire international community was united on one day in October as we watched the inspiring rescue of 33 Chilean miners from an underground prison. We watched as a capsule was sent down into the depths of the earth, and we bore witness to the rebirth of each one of the 33 miners as they emerged out of the darkness and into the light. Across the world everyone was watching and listening; and the following day it was the lead story across the globe. For once there was a good news story for the entire world to celebrate.

In a way that was worthy of the worldwide attention, the meticulously planned rescue was a truly international effort. A U.S. company supplied the drilling technology that broke through to the miners. NASA donated a high-calorie liquid diet. An Austrian company made the capsule's winch-and-pulley system. And there were numerous offers of help from every corner of the globe.

We can say with complete confidence that if the world had not united and taken responsibility for the lives of these 33 men, the outcome would have been very different. But the world came together and said: ‘These are my brothers, these people are my people.’

2010 may have seen a lot of hardship, numerous disasters, ongoing wars and potential ones, but in those two months of uncertainty, 2010 saw a global community that instead of saying ‘it’s their problem,’ firmly stood by each other and said, ‘this is our problem.’

With every advance in technology our world is becoming a smaller place and we need to adjust our priorities and our attitudes accordingly.

It seems appropriate that when Time Magazine were choosing their Person of the Year for 2010 they selected Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and creator of Facebook. According to Time Magazine, he won the award: ‘For connecting more than half a billion people and mapping the social relations among them, for creating a new system of exchanging information and for changing how we live our lives’

Facebook has many uses, but at its core it is a way for people to stay in touch, 24-7, no matter where in the world they live. Over half a billion people are now a part of the Facebook community, and it continues to grow. People can argue about the positives and negatives of this social network, but it is another thread which is holding the global community together.

Now that we are all connected through a wireless network, we need to connect through a common interest in the well being of our global family and the shared responsibility we have for one another.

As we move into 2011, with all of the opportunity and promise, which it possesses; we must learn the lesson of 2010 that we are all members of one global family. As a family we must be prepared to care for each other, help each other and celebrate with each other.

Let’s make it our resolution to turn the Jewish mandate: kol Yisrael aravim zeh bazeh – all Israel is responsible for one another, into kol haolam aravim zeh bazeh – all the world is responsible for one another. If we can begin this new year as fully committed members of the global community we will be able to make 2011 a Happy New Year for everyone.

About Rabbi Danny

Rabbi Danny
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