Sunday, January 27, 2008

Freckles Was His Name, or Velcro and the Jewish Question

(Our regularly scheduled post about Tu B’Sh’vat is being temporarily postponed in order that we might bring you this special edition on a timely topic. We are sorry for this inconvenience.)

Freckles was his name,
He always used to get the blame,
For every broken window pane,
It was a shame……..
Composed c. 1920 by Milton Agar and others

As there are no more than a handful of people, one or two of them receiving this post, who would understand this reference to my childhood, I will begin by bringing the rest of you “up to speed.”
For the “Ziegfield Follies of 1919,” Irving Berlin was asked to write several songs to be added to the show, which he did. One of them, “You’d Be Surprised,” was performed in the first act by the young Eddie Cantor, who subsequently recorded this song. In those days, songs – music and lyrics – were written by professional song writers and the sheet music peddled around to anyone who would perform it. If the original version of a song did well, other performers would sing it on a vaudeville stage or record it also. “You’d Be Surprised” was, like many Berlin songs, a very big hit, and it was “covered” by Billy Murray, the most popular recording star in the period from 1900-1920, the Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, or Elvis Presley of his day. It was this version, with “Freckles” on side B, recorded in 1919 or 1920, which my parents had. Originally we would play this and several other 78’s which my parents had managed to preserve – these acoustic 78’s were very, very fragile – on an old wind-up victrola (powered by a hand crank) and then later on a more modern three-speed turntable. Our friends loved to listen, the music being so different from what they would be hearing anywhere else, at a time when people were buying thirteen inch black and white television sets.
“Freckles” was everyone’s favorite. This extremely obscure song painted a picture – in three minutes – of a rural America and a childhood very different from what we knew in The Bronx: “And though he was his mother’s pride and joy, He was worse than Peck’s Bad Boy; At the swimming place, you’d always see his grinning face, And down by the old church picnic, He’d win every race.” But for our young hero, there was a definite downside: “And when a dog had tin cans tied to its tail, It was never known to fail; Everybody said ‘Freckles,’ He always got the blame.”
Velcro. You may recall that certain Presidents were called “Teflon” by their opponents, the implication being, that they were never held to account for things that ostensibly went wrong during their administration. “Velcro” is just the opposite: you get blamed for everything!
It is my contention that the Jewish people are a Velcro nation. Everything sticks to us: we’re always blamed for things, in the middle of things, involved in what would not seem to be our business. You may know the old story about the international scientific conference on elephants. Many papers were presented: a French scientist spoke about the love life of elephants; a German scientist spoke about the social patterns of elephants; an American scientist spoke about elephant conservation, and so on and on. As the conference was winding down, in raced Sammy. “I’m sorry I’m late,” he said breathlessly. “But I just found out about the conference. I just finished writing a paper I want to present.” The conference chairman asked him what his paper was about. Said Sammy, “Elephants and the Jewish question.”
It was not that long ago that the Turkish government absolutely needed to know what was the position of the Israeli government and the Anti-Defamation League on whether or not Turkey was responsible for massacring Armenians during World War I. The future of Turkey’s trade relations with Israel would depend on what Ehud Olmert or Abe Foxman would say. All of a sudden, everyone cares what the Jews think. Unless I’m mistaken, nobody went off and conducted a poll of the NYC Council, or went off interviewing legislators in Virginia or Florida, or the government of Thailand. I can imagine the response in the great state of Texas if Turkey threatened to withhold its dried fruit unless the state disavowed any knowledge of Armenians. There would probably be a run on t-shirts saying something like “I don’t give a fig.”
More problematic by a mile is the business with Gaza. As everyone knows, the Israeli government expelled about 8,000 Jewish people living peacefully and legally there, and turned over the administration to the “Palestinian Authority” with an all-too-predictable result: mayhem and a government of terror. The only positive thing that one might think would have come out of this debacle was, at least, whatever happened, we in Israel wouldn‘t be responsible for it and for the Arabs living there. WRONG!!! It seems that, according to many, we are still responsible for Gaza, no matter who runs the government there, and we will always be responsible – until the end of days. No matter how many kassam rockets fall on the hapless residents of Sderot, we apparently have a moral obligation to continue supplying the fuel and electricity that are used to make these rockets. Even the Supreme Court here has gotten into the act, kibitzing the civil authorities responsible for safeguarding the lives of Israeli civilians: can you, can’t you, how much, how often, blah, blah, blah.
When I began this article, the entrance into Gaza from Egypt was also the subject of a blockade – which was usually ignored by the world media – so that there was a very interesting asymmetry: if Arabs from Gaza could not enter Egypt for needed medical attention or because they were accepted into universities in The West, it was Israel’s fault. When the Israeli government produced videoed evidence of collusion to allow terrorists to enter Gaza from Egypt, that country’s government got defensive and huffy; the American State Department refused to allow members of Congress to see the films because it would damage U.S.-Egyptian relations. Again, it was Israel’s fault for noticing.
Now that Hamas has destroyed the wall separating Egypt from Gaza – I guess the Egyptian Intelligence didn’t hear the banging sounds all these months – people around the world seem intent on painting the Egyptians as the good guys and the Israelis as the bad guys. Here in The Land, there is the interminable second guessing of why the P.R. here is so poor. Personally, I haven’t read any of these articles because I have my own more comprehensive answer: “They” just don’t like “Us,” which is perfectly understandable, given that “They” just don’t like “each other.”
When I say that They don’t like Us, I don’t mean to suggest that there aren’t tens or hundreds of millions of wonderful gentiles out there with whom we get along quite well, or that the talents and creative gifts of Jewish men and women aren’t widely appreciated. It’s when we go from the individual to the collective that we run into trouble: As nations, the gentiles of the world, busy massacring each other all these millennia, do not like or respect the Jewish People. In order to make my point, let’s get back in our time machine and advance about twenty years from the Ziegfield Follies of 1919. While the winds of war and a Holocaust were beginning to sweep Europe, Americans were listening to their radios (an industry pioneered by Jews), laughing at the Jack Benny and Fred Allen shows, listening to (a now older) Eddie Cantor, Fanny Brice (Baby Snooks), and Gertrude Berg (Molly Goldberg), and dancing to the music of Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw. The songs that were on “the charts” and in the movies (an industry that was developed in the States almost entirely by the initiative of uneducated Jewish immigrants) were written by the ever-popular Irving Berlin, the Gershwins, Jerome Kern, and lesser lights …like Milton Agar. In a few years, at the urging of Albert Einstein, the Manhattan Project was underway, and J. Robert Oppenheimer and Edward Teller were developing the weapon that would end World War II. So you might have thought that Americans might have had room in their hearts and in their vast, open plains for our equally talented cousins across The Pond who were being threatened with annihilation. But you know how that story ended.
I know that many Jews back in The States are involved in “hasbara” campaigns, writing letters, sending each other e-mails of recent articles by our defenders, lobbying elected officials, all in behalf of our beleaguered little nation. And that’s all well and good. What puzzles me is the accompanying tone of indignation and surprise at the prevailing world-wide anti-Semitism, the anti-Israel bias. You see, I look at things from a different point of view. Personally, I don’t get angry because it gets hot in the summer and cold in the winter; that’s the way things are. If you live by the banks of the Passaic or Mississippi River, don’t be surprised if one day there are five feet of water in your basement playroom; if you live at the base of a volcano, don’t be indignant if on a different day a stream of molten rock is about to engulf your rose bushes.
As Jacob Cohen/Jack Roy/Rodney Dangerfield was wont to say, “We don’t get no respect,” and we, the Jewish People/Nation of Israel haven’t had any for two thousand years since the destruction of the Second Temple (if you don’t believe me, you can look it up.) From that moment on, we were the fall guys: we killed “Their Savior;” we caused the bubonic plagues in Europe; we murdered their children and used their blood to bake matzohs. To the Communists, we were capitalists, to the Nazis, we were Communists; either way, we were responsible for the world’s economic woes. Now we have taken the land away from “The Palestinians,” a nation created in 1973 by Yasser Arafat, may his name remain a curse.
You want some respect? We will get it once we are collectively back in Our Land, when we show a little class, a little attitude (Perhaps then we will all be wearing t-shirts with a Hebrew version of “I don’t give a fig.”), and when we do a better job of being “A Light Unto the Nations.”
So what was my response to the threat of further U.N. condemnations of Israel, this time over Gaza? On Thursday, I took my two large, funky plaid shopping bags, put them in my backpack, and headed off by bus to the Mahane Yehuda shuk (which will be featured more prominently in future posts), where I filled the bags with fruit, vegetables, meat, chicken, challah, cake, wine, and finally, a bottle of John Jameson Irish whiskey. When the bags were filled to capacity, to the point that I could barely carry them, I returned home – slightly delayed, along with hundreds of others, while the police exploded a “chefets chashud” (a suspicious package. Much of Friday was spent preparing huge quantities of food for Shabbat, as we were having company. Shabbat morning, I trudged over to my beit knesset, Mussar Avicha, where we recited the traditional prayers, for rain to fall in OUR country, for the well-being of OUR state and OUR soldiers. I joined the other cohanim in transmitting the priestly blessing to the congregation and to all Israel. Then, I went home, and we and our guests had lunch.
It is now Sunday. I am shortly expecting Harry, a friend from Teaneck to drop by. Some of his children are now living in Jerusalem, going to school at nearby Hebrew University, and considering moving to our community. While I was talking to Harry on my cell phone a while ago, I got a call from Shelley Brinn, Maale Adumim’s community liaison. She was driving around with a woman who is making aliyah this summer. Could she drop in and show this prospective MAer, our oversized cottage?
So here we are. Because it is too cold to wear any kind of a t-shirt, I am wearing Tina’s heavy “Frisch” (her high school) sweatshirt with a hood. But the message to the Rices-of-this-world, whoever is running the U.N. these days (I have lost track), Mr. Abbas, and anybody else who is not happy that we are living a little bit east of Yerushalayim, is “ I don’t give a…………” Meanwhile, should you choose to arrive in our environs, I would be happy to take my two large, funky plaid shopping bags, put them in my backpack, and head off by bus to the Mahane Yehuda shuk so that we can provide you too with Shabbat lunch.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

N.I.M.B.Y.. or Life Goes On In Titipu

And we are right, I think you'll say,To argue in this kind of way;And I am right,And you are right,And all is right--too-looral-lay! (from Act 1,“The Mikado, Or The Town of Titipu”By William S. GilbertMusic by Sir Arthur Sullivan)

The following morning, Wed. Jan. 9, was when the President’s entourage arrived at Ben Gurion airport, and then by helicopter to Jerusalem. Traffic was supposed to be a nightmare (We had visions of a two hour delay at the checkpoint going into the city.) It didn’t take much to persuade us to forego ulpan, sleep in, and stay home. When I finally got up, I went to the living room to daven shacharit (the morning prayers.) From this vantage point, I can look out and see the new police station only a few miles away. Some of you may be familiar with “E-1,” an area a little bit west of today’s Maale Adumim, in fact, originally slated to be part of our town. The government built a new regional police station there and it’s just about ready, but it has not been used because Condi says we can’t be there, and no one yet has politely told her that it’s not her place to tell the Israeli government where we can put a police station.
Now if Condi doesn’t want us to be there in E-1, I imagine that she wants the “Palestinians” to live there. If I were going to include digital images with this blog, I would show you how close this area is to where we live. Even scarier is the large, uninhabited hill behind and slightly to the left of the police station. If there were a weak, unstable Arab government with a full complement of terrorists in the adjoining areas, it wouldn’t take much to place a rocket launcher on that hill,or one nearby, perhaps in the dead of night, and send a kassam rocket or two our way. Real estate prices in Maale Adumim have risen noticeably in the last year, but it wouldn’t take much to turn our lovely community into another Sderot, with the concomitant fall in the value of everyone’s home as we watched “the rockets’ red glare” and a slew of Magen David Adom ambulances careening wildly around the traffic circles, taking bloody victims to the Hadassah Hospital on nearby Mount Scopus.
Imagine if we were back in New Jersey, and one of the cell phone companies wanted to put up an antenna within a thousand feet of our home. Some neighbor would be running around with a petition against it because everyone might get cancer (which never stopped these same people from being on their phones ten hours a day while complaining about the poor reception.) Or what about the woman on Johnson Avenue in Teaneck who went into court to prevent a Conservative temple from opening on her block. One of the arguments that her attorney made with a straight face was that it would increase automobile pollution on her block. Here was a woman who lived about a mile from the intersection of Route 80 (going from the George Washington Bridge to California) and Route 95, the New Jersey Turnpike (going all the way down to Florida), and she could go into court and complain about air pollution from a house of worship. N.I.M.B.Y!!!!!! Not in my backyard! Not in my neighborhood! Why can’t I do that? Where’s the court that I can go into? After all, the chances of my home being destroyed, of my limbs being severed in a terrorist attack launched from within a of Gaza-in-my- neighborhood would be much greater than people dying of cancer from cell phone towers or Conservative Jews in New Jersey.
I have the sense that the land of Israel has spawned a dozen or more parallel political universes, each one occupied by a different faction, group, or party. What’s scary is that few of them seem to be related to the world I live in. Here’s the scenario and the cast of characters, as I see it: George W. Bush, a quintessential lame duck, along with his Secretary-of State, about whom it is next to impossible to say a kind word, comes to Jerusalem to meet with Ehud Olmert and then Mahmoud Abbas. Now Ehud Olmert will always be remembered in a Guinness-Book-of-Records kind of way for being the democratically elected head of state with – deservedly -- the lowest approval rating ever. While his predecessor, Ariel Sharon, is being kept alive by tubes, Olmert is being kept alive politically by two political parties, Shas and Israel Beitenu, who are opposed to his policies (since I wrote this, Lieberman has left the government, leaving Shas as the force keeping Olmert alive.) Then there is Abbbas, who is not-so-affectionately known as the “Mayor of Ramallah,” because he rarely leaves his home base for fear of being assassinated.
Several weeks ago, The Jerusalem Post printed an interview with Olmert in which he discussed his plans to divide Jerusalem and allow the establishment of a “Palestinian” state in what the world calls “The West Bank,” and some of us refer to with the original names of Yehuda and Shomron (Judea and Samaria.) He claimed triumphantly that he had enough support in the Knesset to win approval for his program. Not so fast! The next day, JPost ran an article in which both Shas and Israel Beitenu repeated their positions that if Olmert continued his negotiations with Abbas on “core issues,” or on dividing Jerusalem, they would at some point bolt from his coalition. In other words, they will allow him to make commitments which they know he will make, and they know they will not vote for, before they turn off the lights.
Not so fast! The next day JPost ran another article with Abbas’ position. Olmert must be living on another planet, said the Fatah representative, his proposals are completely unacceptable, non-starters. Understand that there is a difference between the radical positions of Hamas and those of Fatah, the more “moderate” group which Abbas represents. Unlike their more extreme counterparts who dress the part and want “Jews out or dead,” Fatahites wear western garb and do not necessarily refer to “Allah” all the time. What they want is simple: Israel must withdraw to the indefensible pre-1967 borders, in the process, relocating hundreds of thousands of Jewish citizens (including the 40,000 in Maale Adumim), giving up sovereignty over Jewish holy sites – which, if past history is any indication, means that these sites would be desecrated and we would never be allowed near them again – and slicing our capital city into two mutually exclusive parts. In addition, Israel must renounce its commitment to being a Jewish state and take steps to insure that the Jewish people would soon be a minority in its ancestral homeland. Shall we commit suicide now or later?
To add their voice to this cacophony of illogic, Israeli’s small but vocal political left felt the need to chime in. In an op-ed piece in Haaretz, one Gideon Levy articulated the faults, real and imagined, of the American president, and then opined that “(U)ntil a determined president is inaugurated in Washington who will engage in a serious effort to bring an end to the occupation, no peace will prevail here. Bush could have done this, but he abused his office.” This, however, is mild compared with the impassioned appeal of Haaretz editor David Landau, who reportedly told Condi that Israel needed to be raped (his words) by the United States into accepting a “Palestinian” state. Israelis, in general, do not want to abandon our holy places, do not want to fracture Jerusalem, and are very leery, after the debacle in Gaza, of any more concessions to hostile entities; but the Levy’s and the Landau’s will have none of that, because they know better. The way I see it, it’s sort of like a group of people whose leader wants them to climb a treacherous slope. They demur, citing the danger. But there is a vocal minority who, in addition, want the group to jump off the top of that mountain, and, when they really don’t want to do that, tries to hire a tough guy to force them do it.
By this time, I desperately needed to return to reality. Several weeks before, prior to the scheduling of Bush’s visit, we had purchased tickets to the Jerusalem English Speaking Theater’s production of “The Mikado” for this particular evening. Now, we were willing to forego a Day At Ulpan, but miss a performance of something by Gilbert and Sullivan? Never (well, hardly ever!)
How I came to my lifelong affection for Gilbert and Sullivan can be traced back to events well before I was born. When my father, may he rest in peace, was a boy on the “Lower East Side” sometime around 1910, his music teacher (remember music teachers?) instilled in him a love for Sir Arthur Sullivan’s soothing Victorian melodies and W.S. Gilbert’s diabolically piercing librettos. So when my brother Frank and I were fairly young, my mother, may she also rest in peace, took us to the Museum of Modern Art to see the 1939 film version of The Mikado, the one with Martyn Green and Kenny Baker (who, in case you have forgotten, was the first singer on Jack Benny’s radio show, preceding Dennis Day. What other blog would provide such information?) I was hooked from that moment on.
So we got ready to go into Jerusalem for the 8 PM performance. Barbara, fearing a monumental traffic jam, had us out of the house a little bit after 4PM. Contrary to our worst fears, there was zero traffic going into the city – like going from Teaneck over the GW bridge into New York at 7AM New Years Day – so that we got to our Jaffa Road at 5PM. We had three hours “to kill” (I hate that expression: you don’t kill time; time kills you.) before the performance, so we returned to Arcaffe for dinner (this time, no strange hands) and then walked around Yoel Salomon St. I have never seen the streets of Jerusalem so empty, even the area around the King David Hotel, where we expected roadblocks and anticipated delays getting to the theater a few blocks from the President’s entourage.
We finally arrived at the theater to join a full house f assembled Anglophones for a performance that greatly exceeded my expectations and provided a revealing insight into the libretto. In case anyone reading this is not familiar with the plot of The Mikado, it goes something like this, oversimplified, of course: Nanki-Poo, the son of the Mikado (emperor of Japan), flees his father’s court rather than marry Katisha, an unattractive woman who is the Mikado’s daughter-in-law elect. Nanki-Poo arrives in Titipu, hoping to find Yum-Yum, a young woman with whom he has fallen in love. However, she will soon be married to her guardian, Ko-Ko, who has risen from being a “cheap tailor” (Taken from the county jail, by a set of curious chances…) to the exalted rank of Lord High Executioner. Ko-Ko is ably assisted by Pooh-Bah, who, when all the ministers of state resign over Ko-Ko’s appointment, becomes Loord High Everything Else, including First Lord of the Treasury, Lord Chief Justice, Commander-in-Chief, Lord High Admiral, Master of the Buckhounds, Groom of the Back Stairs, Archbishop of Titipu, Lord Mayor and……… gabbai of the second minyon – something which is left out of most printed copies of the libretto and consequently is not mentioned in most performances.
The plot thickens, as it always does. The Lord High Executioner must find someone to behead within thirty days, or he will be beheaded himself. And the Mikado will soon be coming to Titipu to find out if his orders have been carried out. So Ko-Ko tries to convince Nanki-Poo to serve as the victim, rather than committing suicide over a broken heart. After a second act and much glorious music, Nanki-Poo marries Yum-Yum, and Ko-Ko winds up marrying Katisha.
As I sat there, trying not to “sing-along” with words and music I know so well. I began making a connection which had never occurred to me: The Lord High Executioner (“Wafted by a favoring gale, As one sometimes is in trances, To a height that few can scale, Save by long and wear dances; Surely, never had a male Under such like circumstances So adventurous a tale, Which may rank with most romances.”) was waiting for the arrival of the Mikado and his meddlesome daughter-in-law elect ostensibly to make certain that the L.H.E. was carrying out his promise to separate a man from his head. I repeated this theme over and over in my mind, and then I thought: could it be that this musical play, first performed in 1885, and written as a satire on English institutions and politics of the time, bears any resemblance to what was going on only a few blocks away? There in The King David Hotel, a visiting Mikado and his meddlesome secretary-of-state had arrived to make sure that our local Ko-Ko, who had certainly had achieved his position “by a set of curious chances,” would make good on his promise to sever Israel from part of its heart, Jerusalem, and some of its limbs as well. In the Hirsch Theater, the performance would end with spirited music, wild applause from a very appreciative audience, and possibly an encore. Olmert’s is going on to a very restive populace, displeased with everything it sees and hears.
But never fear, members of this audience. As fine a playwright as was William S. Gilbert in constructing witty patter and happy endings, The Master of The Universe who is guiding The People Israel back to The Land of Israel with his own unique choreography will surely provide a denouement in accordance with His Will. I’m convinced that, like G&S’s Mikado, He has His own “little list,” and that for modern day Mikados, tired and tiresome heads of state, meddling secretaries-of-state, and various politicians with their own agendas, He will find a way “to make the punishment fit the crime” as we see with a certain Supreme Ruler of Egypt in days of yore. Until then…………………

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Ministering Angels, or "Sticking It" To The President

(Note: This is the first part of a larger article, which, because of its length, I have decided to split in half. The second part will be ready shortly,… I hope!)
“Then the Ofanim and the Holy Chayot tumultuously lift themselves up towards the Seraphim…” from the weekday morning (Shacharit) prayers

When I first became interested in Jewish observance, one of the things that troubled me – as it has many others – was the references to these “ministering angels,” which I had never encountered, as well as descriptions of time that seemed to vary wildly from the way time worked in the world I knew. There are, of course, many different explanations, ranging from the simple to the more subtle. I now take it for granted that the universe which G-d created is more complicated than what I can perceive: time works differently in different places, and there are dimensions, and parallel universes that exist even though I cannot see them. Of course, even in the dimensions that I can see, people can be standing next to each other and yet seem to worlds apart.
Here’s a surreal example of what I mean: It was Tuesday, January 8, 2008, the day before American President George W. Bush was scheduled to arrive in Israel as part of his effort to “negotiate” a “peace treaty” between Israel and “The Palestinians.” (Three sets of quotation marks in one sentence; not bad!) For the first time this season, it was actually cold, damp, and dreary in Jerusalem – something like a raw November day in New York City. I had a few hours to spare between the end of my ulpan class at 12:30 and 2:30, when I wanted to be at the Yaffa Gate for the first of two planned demonstrations against the Bush-Olmert-Abbas efforts to divide Jerusalem, truncate Israel, and form a “Palestinian” state. (I should mention that Barbara was heading back to Maale Adumim to deal with a home inspection for an apartment we are considering buying, a few blocks from where we are living now.) So of course I went looking for somewhere where I could sit indoors and have lunch and, just maybe, review some Hebrew. Every place we normally go to was packed to the gills; nobody was eating outside, and everyone was huddled inside. After wandering around for close to an hour, I walked into an attractive place called Arcaffe on Hillel St. After placing my order, I went to use “the facilities.” As I was washing my hands, suddenly a pair of hands – women’s hands – appeared through the wall, and started using the second wash basin. I could not believe what I was seeing: there was indeed a pair of women’s hands opening and closing the water faucet. Where was the rest of her, and how were her hands coming through the wall? I finally figured out the simple, perfectly natural explanation for what had happened: while there were two separate, adjacent men’s and women’s rooms, there was one washing facility: there were two sinks placed on a ledge, accessible from either side of a wall, with an opening in that wall about eighteen inches high, allowing men and women on opposite sides to access the sinks, so you could see the hands, but not the rest of the other co-washer (if that’s a word.) But I’m sure this seeming apparition took several weeks off my life.

After finishing a bowl of delicious minestrone soup, some bread, and a cup of coffee, I headed over to Shaar Yaffo to join the demonstration sponsored by an organization called OneJerusalem, whose name says it all. The idea was to have people encircle the four kilometers long walls of Jerusalem’s Old City with linked banners as a sign of support for the continued unity of “Ir Atika,” and by extension, all of Jerusalem. Most of the demonstrators, thousands in fact, seemed to be teenagers from B’nei Akiva, the religious Zionist youth organization, and consider that fact alone: there are now so many B’nei Akivaniks that they alone can encircle the Old City. Placing myself strategically near the Yaffo Gate (inside of which are conveniently located “facilities”; we were going to be there for a while, and it was cold out), I placed my newly-washed right forefinger under the string of a banner and lifted it, so that I would be part of this human chain, and I stood there -- with forefinger extended -- for close to two hours. What an easy way to “stick it” to a whole bunch of people whose plan is having control of our Holy City and our holy places in the hands of parallel but mutually exclusive entities. I watched as the line of people continued to grow, until I could no longer see the end of the human chain which snaked around these winding walls constructed by the Ottoman emperor Suleiman around the year 1537. What I could see over my right shoulder was the rear of the King David Hotel, still the most prestigious hotel in the city, where in one day, George W. Bush and a huge entourage would be occupying all 237 rooms, tying up the entire city, and giving rise to a flurry of political advertisements in the local English press and a series of demonstrations.
At the appropriate time, I was able to withdraw my hard working finger, walk over to the next portal, the Zion Gate, for a brief rally. At this point, I located the contingent from Maale Adumim which had come by bus to the first demonstration. We now headed down to Har Homa for the second one, this time organized by a motley collection of groups I had never heard of, with names like (I’m making this one up) “Har Homa, Now and Forever.” In fact, Har Homa is a small neighborhood, the most southerly part of Jerusalem, but clearly linked to the rest of the city by major thoroughfares. Thousands of people live there now, and there are homes for thousands more already in various stages of construction. Why this area should be of any concern to the American Secretary of State is beyond my comprehension.
What I did understand was that I was getting tired, hungry (we were promised some food, but none materialized), and damp (we were standing in a muddy construction zone, and you can imagine how much we enjoy standing in the mud in our sneakers.) I was getting bored listening to a series of repetitive speeches (in Hebrew), and I was getting very cranky because my only means of escape was the bus, which would not leave until the rally was over. I have this belief that there is a diminishing return in having a series of speakers repeating the same idea over and over again. To be fair, the organizers of this rally were not planning to limit their activity to verbal protestations. On this muddy field were three trucks filled with building supplies (provided by supporters faraway) with four more trucks in another undisclosed site. The more zealous protesters were planning, after the rally, in the dark, in the rain, in the mud, to go off and build some form of “outposts” in locations unauthorized by the Israeli government, and certainly not marked on “The Road Map” of the Bush-Rice entourage. (At this point, each of you reading this article is entitled to indicate your opinion as to the value of this enterprise, from [1] stupid, counter-productive to [10] the highest form of devotion to our Torah and our Land. It’s a secret ballot.) I personally chose to get back on the bus, go home, eat dinner, take a hot shower, and go to bed. I had done enough “sticking it” to whomever for the day.
The end of part 1