UPDATE - Iran Tensions Loom Over Israelis on Jewish New Year
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had this message for Jews in Israel and around the world. “I want to wish you all a happy New Year, a happy New Year in your personal lives, a happy New Year for the Jewish people and the Jewish state. The Jewish state and the Jewish people are facing great challenges. Iran is racing to develop nuclear weapons. A rising tide of militancy is sweeping our region,” he said.
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. But it sees Israel as a Zionist enemy.
Netanyahu says Iran could achieve nuclear weapons capability in just six or seven months, something Israel sees as a threat to its existence.
Netanyahu has accused the United States of failing to get tough on Iran; and despite strong opposition from Washington and the international community, he has threatened to launch a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The Obama administration says it is not yet ready to draw a red line concerning Iran and continues to pursue a deepening of international sanctions against Tehran.
It’s almost here. And, what a long road it’s been. Anticipating 2010 and the changes we hope to bring to American government sends spirits soaring as we prepare to roll up our sleeves and take back our country.
With the current attention in the news given to fireworks in underpants (and rightly so), we turn to a different kind of fireworks… The kind that burst high in the night sky and send showers of glittery light to welcome the New Year. Let the celebration begin!
Revelers around the world are ringing in the New Year, bidding farewell to a tough year and welcoming a new decade. The celebrations began in the South Pacific because of its proximity to the International Date Line.
In New Zealand, dance parties, bands and fireworks greeted 2010 in the main cities, and live entertainment was planned in many holiday spots, including the southern tourist spot of Queenstown. In the capital, Wellington, celebrations included a display by world unicycle games competitors.
Fireworks displays and partying were planned across Australia, where an expected 1.5 million New Year’s revelers pitched tents and opened picnic baskets in Sydney on Thursday to get one of the world’s biggest parties started - bidding farewell to a tough year and welcoming a new decade.
Preparations were under way across the world for pyrotechnics, parties and prayers in the final countdown to 2010, with far eastern points in Oceania and Asia the first to herald the end of the period dubbed “the Naughties.”
The mood of celebrations was tempered in some places by the effects of the financial downturn, which bit hard in 2009, sending economies into recession, causing millions to lose their jobs and home foreclosures to rise dramatically in some countries.
There were also reminders of threats and the fight against terrorism that during the decade led to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and rising militant violence in Pakistan.
The U.S. Embassy in Indonesia warned of a possible terrorist attack on the resort island of Bali on New Year’s Eve, citing information from the island’s governor. The email warning to U.S. citizens said predominantly Muslim Indonesia’s counterterrorism efforts have been partly successful in recent years, but violent extremists continue to pose a deadly threat.
Signs of a global economic recovery emerged late in 2009, but the year may be one that many people are glad to put behind them.
“I think 2010 will be a good year - you can never tell, but I think so,” said Marek Kiera, a Sydney property investor who watched interest rates tumble amid the global financial crisis.
Asia will be partying, too, though probably not as hard as most of Europe and the Americas. The world’s most populous nation, 1.3-billion-strong China, uses a different calendar that will mark the new year in February. Islamic nations such as Pakistan and Afghanistan also use a different calendar.
In Beijing, President Hu Jintao was to make an end-of-year speech but no major celebratory events were planned.
Pyrotechnics displays were planned to illuminate Hong Kong’s crowded skyline, high-glitz parties were planned in Singapore and thousands were expected to gather at Indonesia’s national monument in the capital, Jakarta, for a fireworks show.
Millions of Japanese were to welcome the New Year by flocking to shrines to pray for good fortune in 2010.
In Tokyo, the Sensoji temple was draped with banners greeting the New Year in preparation for traditional New Year’s Day ceremonies when thousands of people pray for good fortune. Shoppers mobbed the city, stocking up on seafood and other items.
In Sydney, crowds defied grey skies and drizzling rain in the middle of summer to line parks and public places along the harbor. High-rise apartments with water views prepared for toney parties.
Sydney revelers were asked to wear something blue, the color chosen to match the fireworks show’s theme: Awaken the Spirit…In other cities such as Melbourne and Adelaide, revelers sweltered in 100-degree heat.
In Turkey, Istanbul Gov. Muammer Guler said authorities were deploying around 2,000 police officers around Taksim Square to prevent pickpockets and the molestation of women that have marred New Year celebrations in the past. Some officers would be under cover, disguised as street vendors or “even in Santa Claus dress,” Guler said.
Firecrackers were already exploding across the Netherlands early Thursday on the only day of the year the Dutch are allowed to set off fireworks.
Unlike countries like Australia, the vast majority of fireworks shows in the Netherlands are do-it-yourself affairs where families spill onto the street in front of their homes and light strings of fire crackers and other fireworks.
Many Dutch families also fire up their deep-fat frying pans on New Year’s Eve to cook the traditional treat of oliebollen - deep-fried balls of dough laced with raisins and dusted with icing sugar.
Some 1.5 million people lined the Sydney (Australia) harbor bridge and opera house for some of the most brilliant fireworks from a night of celebration across the globe.
Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. ~ Albert Einstein
We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called “Opportunity” and its first chapter is New Year’s Day. ~ Edith Lovejoy Pierce
I enter the home of poverty,
causing pale-faced children to open their
eyes wide in pleased wonder.
I cause the miser’s clutched hand to relax,
and thus paint a bright spot on his soul.
I cause the aged to renew their youth
and to laugh in the glad old way.
I keep romance alive in the heart of childhood,
and brighten sleep with dreams woven of magic.
I cause eager feet to climb dark stairways
with filled baskets, leaving behind hearts
amazed at the goodness of the world.
I cause the prodigal to pause a moment on his wild,
wasteful way, and send to anxious loved ones some little token
that releases glad tears -
tears which wash away the hard lines of sorrow.
I enter dark prison cells,
reminding scarred manhood of what might have been,
and pointing forward to good days yet to come.
I come softly into the still, white home of pain,
and lips that are too weak to speak
just tremble in silent, eloquent gratitude.
In a thousand ways I
cause the weary world to look up into the face of God
and for a little moment forget the things
that are small and wretched.
I am the Christmas Spirit.
Our final installment of The Twelve Days of Christmas comes wrapped with wishes for a very, Merry Christmas to you and yours! May your New Year be filled with hope and happiness.
Animated Christmas card: Peace on Earth
The Nativity featuring Amy Grant singing Breath of Heaven:
Joy to the World sung by Third Day:
What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace. - Agnes M. Pharo
UPDATE - From left: Owen, Ann, Nash, Wyatt , Mitt, and Gracie on Christmas morning 12/25/09