The coming days see the start of Chanukah, Christmas and the secular new year, bringing with it all the usual parties, presents and paraphernalia.

The dulcet tones of Silent Night, Maoz Tzur and Auld Lang Syne will provide, if only for a few precious moments, a collective sense of well-being, happiness and calm that is rarely repeated throughout the rest
of the year.

As soon as the festive restpite clears, the dire state of international relations will once again rear its ugly head.  There will be plenty to focus the mind in 2017 after the chaos and tragedy of the past 12 months.

Russian influence continues to grow across eastern Europe and the Middle East while the United States seems increasingly irrelevant in these regions; Iran’s intervention in local conflicts has intensified; attempts to contain the fighting in Syria have repeatedly failed while ISIS remains a significant force; Marine Le Pen, leader of  France’s far-right Front National Party, could be the country’s next president. And Israel and the Palestinians are far from anything resembling common ground.

Add to this turbulent backdrop bewilderment over Brexit, growing concerns over the Trump presidency and the ever-present threat of Islamic radicalisation and terror and the picture for 2017 looks less
than rosy.

Perhaps, over the testing months that lie ahead, the world’s politicians would be advised to cast their minds back to the festive spirit and remember how easy it can be to join hands with strangers and spread the spirit of goodwill. Well, we can always hope.