For two weeks now, we've been scrabbling for a positive angle to sum up the Jewish year 5761. We had to find something cheery after bombarding our readers with negative news and sour analyses throughout the year.
The eureka moment arrived last week, when Nasdaq shrank to below 1,700 points. Got it! The upside of Jewish year 5761 was that all the worst-case scenarios, all the economic plagues, were crammed into a single annus horribilis, enabling us to look back with a huge sign of relief and say, "Good riddance."
The year 5761 began with the eruption of the al-Aqsa intifada. After seven years of the peace process soldiering ahead, with a riot here and insurmountable obstacle there, we suddenly found ourselves transported into the past, utterly devoid of direction or vision.
The intifada slammed into the economy like a freight train. First it eradicated tourism, then started to gnaw at all sectors to this or that degree. The only ray of light came from the hi-tech sector, which despite drops on Nasdaq, seemed immune to the regional malaise, with companies raising huge sums of money and recruiting staff.
A few weeks after the intifada resumed, we met with Ami Ayalon, who retired as chief of the Shin Bet security service for the charms of the venture capital fund Argoquest. He was deeply troubled, saying that Israel and the Palestinians had lost their path, with unpredictable results.
If he had faith in anything, it was that the future lay in hi-tech. He felt confident of his decision to abandon the public service for venture capital. He couldn't have guessed that within half a year he'd realize he'd jumped onto the wrong bandwagon at the wrong time, and would jump off again to seek his fortunes elsewhere.
He wasn't alone. Managers, workers, investors were all shocked to the core as the hi-tech industry crumpled at terrifying speed. The bad news rolling in became a tidal wave of companies closing, workers fired, ultimately forcing us to the Hellenistic principle of optimism: The worse things get now, the better the future will be.
As the technology world collapsed, we could say, Great! We can finally get rid of all that overcapacity, costs will drop, crazy competition by companies that should never have been founded will disappear and the foundations will be laid for truly sustainable growth.
The intifada? The more gruesome the bloodshed becomes, the more greater the need to find a solution.
Then the turnaround will come, we said.
Then, just as the Jewish year was about to roll to a close, just as we thought we'd weathered the worst, with all the plagues crammed into a single year, just as we started to believe that the year to come had, simply had, to be better, the worst and biggest shock of all hit.
Anybody who thought that watching Nasdaq tumble from 5,000 points to 1,700 points, or who thought nothing could hurt worse than the collapse of the economy and the national disposition, was proved horribly wrong, as the Twin Towers that had graced Manhattan crumpled into rubble.
Anybody who thought that terrorism had broken all records in Israel in the last year evidently didn't consider that one fell blow, aimed at the world's bastion of freedom and security, could kill more people than have died in all the terror attacks ever perpetrated in the Holy Land.
Now, less than a day before trade on Wall Street resumes, after the most painful single blow ever to land on the United States in general, and on its economy in particular, now, that the only question remaining is by how much stocks will tumble ¿ we are scrabbling for a positive angle to open the New Year.
It can be done. The economy is built on a bed of expectations, changes and derivatives. Jewish year 5762 begins with expectations across the board, in both the private and public sectors, lower than ever before.
If Israel tracked stats like the Americans do of consumer or investor confidence, we'd probably find the index at an all-time low.
In 1982, after the worst decade American stocks have known, in the middle of a recession and jumping inflation and lending rates, Businessweek ran a cover story terrifyingly titled "The death of equities". In retrospect, that was the year in which the longest bull market the States has seen began.
This week, Businessweek is gloomier than ever. Its cover is black, its cover story is "Act of War", and its message is clear-cut: Recession is inevitable.
Now all we have to do is wait for the headlines to turn even grimmer, for the eulogies for technology and investment to spew forth, for the epitaph to be written for United States of America as the engine of capitalism and font of inspiration for the global business world.
Then we can declare the death of globalization, the resurgence of isolationism, we can trumpet the advantages of safe-as-houses bank deposits and warn of the dangers lurking in equities. And then, when all that has happened, we can finally, at long last, rest assured that the upturn is coming.