Steven Plaut

Monday, April 21, 2014


 

Two Fast Thoughts for Esra-Chag (8th day of Passover outside Israel, Mimona for some inside Israel)

 

1.    You probably have all seen the news reports about the fox that infiltrated the grounds of the White House and has made its home there, seen wondering about. I could not help but be reminded of the words of the Prophet Jeremiah near the end of the Book of Lamentations about how a fox moving into an area signifies the presence of absolute devastation!

 

2.   I hope I am not stepping on anyone's sensitive toes with this comment, but you know how Obama's followers always like to claim he is the Savior and even like to compare him with Jesus? Well, it occurred to me that this may all be based on the fact that Jesus ALSO had some ambiguities on his OWN birth certificate (such as an unclear domicile address for when he was born and also the question about what to put in the Baby's Father space on the form?).  That seems to explain everything!



Saturday, April 19, 2014


 

 

    Archeological Find to Resolve Ancient Rabbinic Dispute?

By Steven Plaut

 

 

 

     Passover is a good time to "pass over" political matters for a brief hiatus and speak about less upsetting matters.   This past weekend, the Makor Rishon newspaper revealed one of the most fascinating stories in Israeli archeology, one that has intriguing implications for resolving an ancient Rabbinic controversy.

 

     The discovery involves an ancient tefillin box discovered in a cave near the Dead Sea, south of the better known area where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.  This is where a number of artifacts from the Bar Kochba rebellion against Rome were found.   The Bar Kochba revolt ended in failure, and the Romans murdered Rabbi Akiva in retaliation, as well as nine other leading sages and thousands of their religious students.  This is the tragedy that we mourn during the first 33 days of the Counting of the Omer, which just began this past Tuesday evening.

 

     But the significance of the tefillin box was only uncovered by Dr. Yonaton Adler, who teaches at Ariel University (yes, the one the Left is calling for dismantling and boycotting) and also at the Hebrew University. 

 

   Adler is an expert on antiquities, with special interest in ancient tefillin.  The tefillin or "phylacteries" are two boxes attached to straps that Jews don every morning during prayer.  They represent the manifestation and application of the Torah commandment to Jews to place the words of God as a sign on their arms and in between their eyes.  Standard tefillin contain four small reams (small scrolls) of parchment, papyrus, or paper in the box placed on the forehead, representing the four senses that are contained in the head, and a single ream in the box placed on the forearm, for the sense of touch.  Short portions from the Torah appear on each ream, the best known of which is the paragraph recited twice daily by Jews that follows the recitation of the proclamation Shma Yisrael.  Both the boxes and their straps are made of leather and dyed pitch black and the boxes are squares.

 

     A number of ancient tefillin have been uncovered in archeological digs, some going back even before the period in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were composed, meaning well before the period of the Talmud, indeed back to when the Second Temple was still standing and operating intact.

 

     While perusing artifacts held in the Israeli Antiquities Authority, Dr. Adler discovered the tefillin box I am about to describe.  It was actually uncovered in 1960 from a cave containing Bar Kochba era relics (132-136 AD) but was apparently put aside and forgotten in the Antiquities Authority, probably because no one understood its significance or even realized that it was a tefillin box.  The problem is that it does not look like any tefillin box any living person has ever seen. 

 

    First, it is incredibly small.  The size of tefillin boxes seems to follow its own trend in fashion.  A generation back the boxes were usually pretty modest, but in recent years the trend among observant Jews is to use much larger boxes, large enough to hold a plum.  The box uncovered near the Dead Sea and analyzed by Adler is tiny.  It is a head tefillin  box and the parchments inside are so tiny that the writing must have been done by someone with uncanny skills in miniaturization, something that today could only be accomplished using a computer and robot.  The box in question is so small that those who actually discovered it in the cave probably did not understand that it was a tefillin box at all.  Some other ancient tefillin boxes with tiny writing were previously uncovered and analyzed.  

 

    Second, the box uncovered by Adler is not square, as are all tefillin  used today.  It is rectangular.  In addition, while its ancient color long ago faded, it is clear that it was not originally dyed black, but perhaps tan or brown.       

 

     Most important of all is the fact that the tefillin in question is complete, containing all four reams encapsulated in any head tefillin box.  And as such it promises to resolve an ancient theological dispute among two of the greatest sages of the Middle Ages.

 

    The four passages from the Torah that must be written on the reams inserted into the head tefillin box are spelled out in the Talmud and are accepted by all streams of Judaism.  However there is a famous disagreement about the ORDER of the passages.  Standard tefillin boxes follow the opinion of Rashi.  Just who was Rashi?  Only the most important Biblical and Talmudic commentator who ever lived.   Rashi (whose real name was Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki) died in 1105 in France.  In his lifetime he wrote a compendium of commentaries on the Torah that are so clear and understandable that they are still used today in nearly every study version of the Torah text, nearly a thousand years later.  No other commentator is so crisp and lucid.  Any book that contains at least one set of commentary on the Torah text will include Rashi's, although may include others as well.  Rashi also composed commentaries on non-Torah books of the Bible and a near-complete set of commentaries on the Talmud.  Standard editions of the Talmud today always contain the Rashi commentary.

 

    The problem is that Rashi's ruling regarding the order of the passages in the head tefillin box was challenged by his own grandson, Rabbeinu Tam.  His real name was Jacob Meir (died 1171 in same town as Rashi) and he himself was so eminent a scholar that he often allowed himself to challenge rabbinic rulings by his own grandfather.  Rabbeinu Tam was one of the more eminent contributors to the post-Rashi commentary on the Talmud known as the Tosafot.  The Tosafists were prominent scholars who took the rulings of Rashi as a starting point but not as unchallengeable.  (Rashi's own son-in-law was another well-known Tosafist.)  And Rabbeinu Tam rejected Rashi's ruling regarding the order of the reams in the head tefillin.

 

     While most standard tefillin boxes ever since then have followed the ruling by Rashi, the matter is considered to be still open and unresolved.  Some Jews pray in the morning using standard Rashi-edict tefillin boxes, and then at the end of prayer briefly don a second head tefillin box constructed according to Rabbeinu Tam's ruling and recite the Shma Yisrael a second time.

 

    If all this sounds a bit esoteric, the question has excited debate among Jewish scholars for nearly a thousand years.

 

    The matter was ALMOST resolved several years back when some ancient tefillin boxes from the site of the Dead Sea Scroll caves were recovered.  In the best preserved, only part of their reams were intact.  Infuriatingly, the archeologists who carefully removed the reams from the tefillin box did NOT record the ORDER in which the reams had been placed in the box!   So the Rashi-Rabbeinu Tam dispute could not be resolved.

 

     But the box uncovered by Dr. Adler IS fully intact and contains all four reams!  The problem at the moment is to figure out a technology that will allow the reams to be opened without crumbling into dust.  This is not a trivial problem for parchment that has sat in the desert for two millennia.  But just as the Dead Sea Scrolls were eventually opened and preserved, I trust a solution will be found here as well.

 

    When this happens, the dispute between Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam is likely to be resolved once and for all, nearly a thousand years after it was initiated.  

 

   Just one last interesting point about Rashi.  Today in standard Rashi commentaries on the Torah, Rashi often translates a difficult word from the Torah into Yiddish.  There is only one little problem with this.  Rashi did not speak Yiddish at all.  He spoke medieval French, a language very different from modern French, probably as different as English is from German.  So why do the commentaries show Rashi translating words into Yiddish?  Because no one today speaks medieval French and in standard texts, particularly those following Lithuanian scholarly traditions, the ancient French was replaced with Yiddish that the rabbinic students were thought to be able to understand.

 

     At the time Rashi lived, almost no one living in France was literate in this ancient French.  Many ancient languages were spoken only and writing skills for them developed later.   Indeed, very little was known about this ancient medieval pre-modern French.  Until linguists realized that they could reconstruct the ancient French using Rashi in reverse.  Taking the original Rashi commentaries in which Rashi translated Torah terms into Old French, the scholars worked in reverse and extracted a vocabulary of over 3000 words.  Hence, people who might have no interest in the religious importance of the Rashi commentaries themselves, including French linguists, found that the very same Rashi preserved and salvaged the earliest version of spoken French for all the world!

 

Moadim L'simcha!

  

 


Friday, April 18, 2014


 

 

One would think that Passover week should be the time for triumphant Jewish pride and lowered profiles in embarrassment for the Jewish Left.  Nevertheless the past few days have seen an upsurge in Jewish anti-Semitism, defeatism, and self-abasement by the Jewish Left.

 

First we had the "mission" of the Israeli Far Left that made pilgrimage to Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), the "president" of "Palestine," on the day that the Israeli police officer Baruch Mizrachi was being buried.  The officer had been murdered while on his way to the Passover seder with his wife and five children.  Some of his kids were also injured.  There was not a dry non-leftist eye in Israel at the sight of Mizrachi's eight year old son saying kaddish at the funeral.  The Left decided that it would be a good day to run to the Terrorist in Chief and demand that Israel make more concessions.  The delegation  included leaders from the Israeli Labor Party and Meretz/Peace Now. 

 

Next we have the decision by the editors of Haaretz, that Palestinian newspaper printed in Hebrew, to devote its weekend holiday magazine supplement to a puff interview with Stephen Walt, the anti-Semitic "professor" who co-crayoned that book about the cabals of the Zionist Lobby and its nefarious conspiratorial control over Washington.  The magazine cover shows a glowing smiling Walt, who explains how the 9-11 attacks and the US campaign in Iraq are all consequences of the nefarious Zionist Lobby.  And of course the media in the US are also under Zionist occupation.  He attacks Noam Chomsky for not being sufficiently militant.  Even the Haaretz interviewer had to raise his eyebrows over some of the overtly anti-Semitic comments by Herr Walt.   (Interview in Hebrew is at http://www.haaretz.co.il/magazine/.premium-1.2298831 )

 

Then there were the violent riots by the "Palestinian" hooligans on the Temple Mount yesterday.  The Israeli government decided to cope with the terrorism by closing off the Temple Mount to all Jews, this in the middle of Passover.  No, that is not a misprint.  They did not rule that Moslems be barred from the Mount until the violence ends, but rather that the Jewish targets of the violence be barred.  In addition, there have been calls from the Israeli cabinet to impose martial law on the West Bank settlement of Yizhar.  That is the home to some gangs of teenage Jewish rowdies who have engaged in vandalism, including attacks on soldiers.  The Yizhar rowdies definitely deserve a rigorous spanking with a hickory switch.  But martial law?  In the very same days when nothing at all is done by Israel in response to the Temple Mount violence or even the murder of Mizrachi noted above (in fact Israel held "talks" with the Palestinian Authority immediately afterwards.)

 

This week saw the Marxist anti-Israel hater of democracy Zeev Sternhell, professor at the Hebrew University,  opine that the demand that the "Palestinians" accept Israel as a legitimate Jewish state is nothing less than the road to apartheid (http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.586127).  Haaretz also ran an Op-Ed by its old editor-in-chief David Landau about Yassir Arafat's love of the Jewish Bible, in which it says, inter alia (http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.585835) :   

 

"Why did Jacob go to Egypt?" Arafat innocently asked the kippa-wearer — and I walked straight into his trap. "Because there was a famine in Palestine. It's in the Bible," I offered.

"Ah! Yes! But the Palestinians didn't leave the land, did they?" The point was clear. "The Palestinians" — all the biblical tribes had been adopted by the PLO chairman as forbears — loved the land more than the Israelis' forbears. They had more sumud — the Arabic word for steadfastness.

Arafat's recognition of the biblical Israelites as the forefathers of the present ones was, of course, an important concession that contributed to the headline of the interview — "Arafat: Israel is Jewish." But Arafat's lasting (posthumous) contribution, yet to be applied, to Israel-Palestine negotiations came in the religious-historical discussion with me.

 

 

Haaretz then runs an Op-Ed by its late columnist Reuven Pedatzur, who died a few days ago, about how the entire Middle East has been destabilized by the fact that Israel's Arrow anti-missile system has proven so successful (http://www.haaretz.co.il/opinions/.premium-1.2298913 ).

 

But the crème de la crème of Jewish self-abasement and Jewish anti-Semitism showed up this week on the anti-Semitic blog "Mondoweiss," run by Jewish anti-Semite Philip Weiss.  His web site specializes in maniacal attacks against Israel (see http://mondotruth.tumblr.com/).   It even runs the chronically-unemployed pro-Iran pro-Hamas anti-Semitic blogger Richard "Little Dickie" Silverstein, whose own blog has been used by him to smear his own parents (see http://kapodickie.blogspot.co.il/2009/03/oh-boo-hoo-kapo-dickie-whines-about.html)

 

Well, this week Mondoweiss ran an article claiming that Israel was behind the murders in Kansas by the Klan fascist:

http://www.frontpagemag.com/2014/dgreenfield/left-wing-mondoweiss-editor-claims-israel-behind-passover-kansas-city-shootings/     It earlier ran material claiming that Israel was also behind the 9-11 attacks on the US.  Mondoweiss is so openly anti-Semitic that the far-leftist Daily Kos has condemned it. 

 

You probably already heard that the Klan terrorist of Kansas cited with approval articles published by the Jewish anti-Semite Max Blumenthal:  http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/2014/04/antisemite-max-blumenthal-incites-murder-of-three .  In fact, the anti-Semitic Left contributed to the Kansas pogrom:  http://www.frontpagemag.com/2014/dgreenfield/anti-semitic-violence-neo-nazis-and-the-anti-israel-left/

 

Naomi Wolf's latest jihad against Jews, Zionism and feminism is described here:  http://www.frontpagemag.com/2014/jamie-glazov/where-does-naomi-wolfs-hypocrisy-end-or-does-it/ .

 

 

 

2.  On a lighter note ("lighter" being used with double entendre), as you know I always try to stay abreast of trends in political correctness and, to avoid any ambiguity, let me say that the breast that I try to stay abreast of is a non-gender-specific one.  So I wanted to ask your advice about something.  Would I be correct to assume that the person described in the following news story qualifies as transgendered?

 

http://www.eonline.com/news/532749/wu-tang-clan-rapper-cuts-off-his-penis-jumps-off-building-in-suicide-attempt?cmpid=sn-111021-facebook-na-eonline

NEWS/ 

Rapper Andre Johnson Cuts Off His Penis, Jumps Off Building in Alleged Suicide Attempt

 (I am not sure whether his health problems are covered under Obamacare). 

 

 

3.  A funny interview with Obama is here:  http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/18e820ec3f/between-two-ferns-with-zach-galifianakis-president-barack-obama


Sunday, April 13, 2014


 

  

1.  The leftwing fascist "Reform Rabbi" and Haaretz columnist Eric Yoffie endorses the censorship at Brandeis, where Brandies decided to deny a critic of Islam an honorary degree:

 

http://ericyoffie.com/brandeis-islam-2014-04-10/   Brandeis Gets it Right on Islam

 

 

Yoffie's position was also endorsed by ultra-liberal Deborah Lipstadt.  She has also recently endorsed the pilgrimage of Harvard students to Arafat's grave and has been lobbying against the release of Pollard.  A few years back she called me a moron for trying to get the Neo-Nazi Norman Finkelstein fired at DePaul University, insisting it would backfire and DePaul would not fire him.  Well it did not backfire and my campaign was instrumental in getting Finkelstein fired there.  The DePaul Senate was officially directed to read my analysis of the Finkelstein fiasco and I exposed the pseudo-academic anti-Israel streetwalkers who were rallying to defend Finkelstein and help get him tenured. 

 

Lipstadt also recently signed a petition endorsing Kerry's initiative.  While Lipstadt deserves enormous credit for her valuable work on the Holocaust, she has long been undermining that legacy with her obsessive shallow ultra-liberalism.   

 

 

2.  Ron Pundak, the clueless halfwit who was sent by Shimon Peres illegally to "negotiate" with the PLO in Oslo in 1992 in preparing the Oslo "deal" and "accord," died on Friday.  Haaretz and the Left are unable to control their tears.  Obituaries in the press from J Street (which recently demanded that Israel stop insisting that the "Palestinians" recognize it as a legitimate Jewish state) and Meretz pretty much tell you all you need to know about Pundak.

 

Pundak was a pseudo-academic with virtually no academic credentials who teamed up with Yair Hirschfeld, another failed wannabe academic, and set off at the behest of Beilin and Peres to conduct "negotiations" with the PLO behind the back of the democratically elected government of Israel.  Naturally, these "negotiations" consisted of the non-elected duo agreeing to most of the demands of the PLO while getting no concessions at all in return.  In particular the rejected the idea that the PLO should be subjected to any tests to see if its "moderation" and interest in peace were genuine.  Of course, they were not  genuine, but the Pundak formula was: Damn the Tests of Behavior, Full Speed Ahead into Oslo Oblivion.

 

Pundak was a leading advocate of the idea that peace in the Middle East can be achieved by pretending that war does not exist.   The obstacle to peace was, in his view, Israel refusing to conduct "talks" with terrorists who were conducting mass murder of Jews and claiming that Jews drink the blood of gentile children for Passover.  Pundak believed that Israel must abandon all of its positions and agree to pretty much everything the PLO demanded.  He later teamed up with Yossi Beilin in proposing the "Geneva Agreement," an outline for a final solution of the Middle East conflict based upon near-complete Israeli capitulation.

 

Pundak, in short, was the epitome of everything that went wrong in Israel over the past 2 decades.  He embodied and symbolized the detachment from reality of the Israeli Left, and also the Left's deep loathing for Jewish self-respect and Zionism, as well as its disrespect for elections and democracy.  

 

Israel is far, far worse off thanks to the "career" of Pundak.   He was the poster boy for abandoning the idea that analysis and thinking and history are things that should guide Israeli public policy.  He believed that Israel should adopt positions that make people like him feel good, that would allow leftists to feel righteous, that would allow them to feel comfortable when hanging about with their leftist gentile friends from other lands, and never mind how much worse the consequences that any implementation of their "ideas" would be for Israel.   He was the symbol of the replacement of the thinking Jew with the wish-upon-a-star Jew, the Jew who was willing to ignore reality and concentrate on fantasies about a "New Middle East."

 

He, Hirschfeld, Beilin, and Peres are directly responsible for the nearly 2000 murdered Israeli victims of Oslo, and for the thousands of rockets that have been launched into Israel by their "peace partners."  Yet none of these has ever been made to pay a price for their folly.  Pundak is now beyond caring.

 


Thursday, April 10, 2014


 

 

As you know, John Kerry recently used the term "poof" to describe what happened to the "peace talks" when Israel refused to capitulate any further to the demands of the savages.   Curiously, none of the caring crowd denounced Kerry for using such a homophobic expression as "poof."

 

Nevertheless, the use of the term by His Poofiness raises some interesting thoughts.  Among these are the need for new lyrics to that classic by Peter, Paul and Mary:

 

 

 

Poof the Clueless Kerry 

 

 

Poof the Clueless Kerry, traveled overseas, 

And frolicked in the springlike mist in a land called Iz-Ra-Lee, 
Little Barack Bama loved that rascal Poof, 
And gave him Secretary perqs and other fancy stuff, oh 

Poof the Clueless Kerry, traveled overseas, 

And frolicked in the springlike mist in a land called Iz-Ra-Lee, 
Poof the Clueless Kerry, traveled overseas, 

And frolicked in the springlike mist in a land called Iz-Ra-Lee.

To Ramallah he traveled in his diplomatic ride 
Obamie kept a lookout back in Foggy Bottom's tide, 
Arab kings and terrorists would bow whene'er he came, 
Abbas counted chickens every time Poof squeaked his name, oh! 

Poof the Clueless Kerry, traveled overseas, 

And frolicked in the springlike mist in a land called Iz-Ra-Lee, 
Poof the Clueless Kerry, traveled overseas, 

And frolicked in the springlike mist in a land called Iz-Ra-Lee.


The Big Lie lives forever about Palestinian "rights," 
Like Santa Claus and Obamacare, imaginary plight, 
One grey night it happened, Bibi caved no more 
And Poof that Foggy Bottomer, he vanished from our sight. 

His weird head bent in sorrow, green tears then fell like rain, 
Poof no longer went to play the terrorizers game. 
Without his life-long jihad, Poof could not be brave, 
So Poof that Secretary sadly slipped into his cave, oh! 

Poof the Clueless Kerry, traveled overseas, 

And frolicked in the springlike mist in a land called Iz-Ra-Lee, 
Poof the Clueless Kerry, traveled overseas, 

And frolicked in the springlike mist in a land called Iz-Ra-Lee. 


Wednesday, April 09, 2014





The Passover Peacock

By: Steven Plaut

Published: April 25th, 2012

Plaut-042712

It was a few days before Passover when I first heard the horrific cackling. “What,” I asked family members, is that? It sounded just like the longtime leftist agitator Shulamit Aloni. But it wasn’t.

Soon thereafter my wife came running into the house.

“There is a peacock downstairs in the yard,” she proclaimed.

Hmmm, just in time for Passover, I said to myself.

Down I went to investigate. And there standing in our yard was a giant turkey, like something out of a Thanksgiving poster in a Walmart store.

We live not far from the Haifa zoo, and various critters, especially those in possession of wings, tend to escape the place in search of friendlier, quieter surroundings.

The zoo, you see, is rather noisy. Late at night throughout our neighborhood one can hear the elephants in the zoo making loud noises. And – how shall I put this delicately – the noises they are making are not from their mouths.

Zoology is not my wife’s strong point, so you will have to forgive her classification error in ornithology. But she had good reason for mistaking the turkey for a peacock. Years back we actually had a male peacock refugee – long blue peacock feathers and all – take refuge in our yard.

The kids were young back then and nicknamed the peacock “Notsi,” from the Hebrew word for feather, notz. The yard guest lost a feather, which we saved and still use to this day in the late-night search for any crumbs of chametz the night before the Passover Seder.

The kids discovered that peacocks really like Bamba, a peanut butter-tasting Israeli puffy snack. Bamba, by the way, is kosher for Sephardim during Passover, and it seems peacocks must be Sephardic because they love gobbling up Bamba even during Passover. We know, we fed it.

The newest “Notsi” was, however, an obnoxious and aggressive male turkey. The various cats on the street found themselves intimidated and chased down the block by the monster whenever they came to investigate and got too close.

No one quite knew what to do with the turkey. Being the only American around, I of course proposed fattening it up and trying to keep it around until the last week of November, when all Americans know just what the proper use for such yard guests should be.

The neighbors, however, cringed at the thought of the noisy gobbling lasting that long.

Meanwhile, the children all along the street were carrying plastic bags full of chametz out to the garbage containers. I invited them over to feed the scraps to our Passover turkey instead of dumping or burning them. I am sure it was the highlight of Passover for many of them, and for years they will remember feeding the beast far better than they will recall reading about Pharaoh in the Haggadah.

The Passover turkey did have some problems during the actual days of Passover, though. It was not crazy about matzah – not even egg matzah or French toast-style matzah.

Anyway, the parking situation near the zoo was horrendous during Passover, with some cars stopping as far away as the front of our building just to get to the zoo. But the lazier families halted their climb up the hill when they got to our yard. They let the kids chase and photograph the Passover turkey.

Alas, the turkey did not last very far into the counting of the Omer. One morning it was just gone, and I suspect one of the other critters that lives in the Haifa wadis or gorges came out one night and had its own snack. There are wild boars and huge porcupines down there.

There went my plans for Thanksgiving!

But all is not lost. I went for a climb up the Carmel today to get some serious coffee, and a few buildings up the hill from my own I heard a new but different cackle. It wasn’t Shulamit Aloni this time either. (She has never quite recovered, by the way, from letting Hansel and Gretel escape her clutches.)

This time it really was a peacock, the newest refugee from the zoo, though a female this time, meaning she did not have any of those glorious blue feathers. If she hangs around until Shavuos, I’ll let you know if she eats cheesecake.

 


2.  I have posted the following story regularly, but a few asked me to re-post it for Passover.

A few years back, I took the kids to the Haifa beach promenade during Passover, where they had French fries. While sitting there, some Russian Jews who had not been in the country very long came and sat down. They ordered some salads, and asked the Arab waiter to bring it to them with Matzos because they did not want to eat Chometz during Passover. Then they asked the Arab to also bring them beers. The Arab stood and explained to them that it was not only bread that is Chometz but actually beer is also considered Chometz and so is also prohibited for consumption by Jews during Passover. The Russians thanked him enthusiastically for explaining that to them.

I was reminded about the section in Pirkei Avot where it says one must feel beholden and gratitude to anyone who teaches one Torah or even a single Hebrew letter. These Russian Jews were beholden to their Arab waiter for teaching them Torah.

Only in Israel!


Tuesday, April 08, 2014


http://www.jewishpress.com/?p=4798

A Tale of Two Beggars

Published: April 14th, 2009

Once upon a time, somewhere in the steppes of Eastern Europe, in the Pale that contained many a Jewish village, there roamed two beggars. One of the hobos was a Jew, the other a gentile.

The two transients were friends and far too lazy to hold any job or do any real work. So they wondered carefree, aimlessly and uselessly from village to village, begging for food, sometimes collecting discarded things to sell, here and there stealing some eggs or fruits off farm trees. It was a hard life and they often found themselves on the brink of starvation.

One day, as the two were looking for someone from whom they could shnorr some food, they came upon a shtetl whose residents were all buzzing about, hurrying, scouring pots and pans, cleaning their homes and cooking.

The Jewish beggar suddenly realized it was but a few hours before Passover was to begin.

“We have extraordinary good luck today,” he said to his comrade. “Tonight begins Passover, a Jewish holiday. Indeed, it is in many ways the happiest holiday of the year, with mountains of food and drink. So here is my plan. Let us come into the village just before evening. We will stand in the back of the synagogue. We will tell them that you and I are both Jewish wanderers, far from home, traveling to do some trading and seek our fortunes. And the local Jews will invite us to the most wonderful banquet of our lives!”

Just as the Jewish beggar had predicted, the plan went off like clockwork. The locals competed with one another to see who would have the honor of hosting one of the beggars at his own Passover Seder. After the evening prayers, the Jewish beggar went off to feast with one family, while his gentile friend, pretending to be Jewish, went off to dine and celebrate with another family.

The gentile beggar’s mouth was already watering with the thought of the wonderful delicacies he was about to devour. His belly was grumbling with anticipation. But things were not going the way he had expected.

His hosts ushered him into a chair at a large table set with candles and many empty dishes.

In the center of the table he saw nothing but some pathetic hard-boiled eggs, a few leaves, and a single small shank bone of meat.

“This is for the entire assembly?” he thought. Then, instead of pouncing on the food, his host poured everyone a single tiny cup of wine.

Things just got worse. The hosts finished drinking their wine and offered everyone at the table a few small leaves to nibble. Not even enough to satisfy a rabbit! And they even insisted he dip these into an awful salty solution, which only made him more thirsty and desperate to drink some real grog. Then, to celebrate this “meal,” they broke into song and laughter, which went on for a whole hour.

When he was expecting them to serve dessert, they handed him instead a piece of bread, but one unlike anything he had ever seen before. It was dry, evidently having been left out in the sun for a week, and barely resembled real bread. It was hard and it crackled when he chewed on it. Moreover, it was served plain, with no oil or molasses or fat.

“This is the feast my friend promised me?” the beggar said to himself. “This is the mountain of food these Jews eat to celebrate their happiest holiday?”

And just imagine his horror at what came next. Each of the people at the table was given the most bitter and disgusting glob of horseradish, something he would never ordinarily eat even if he were famished. They even blessed God when they swallowed that horrid-smelling and evil-tasting slop!

Convinced the “meal” was over, the beggar excused himself, saying he was needed elsewhere with great urgency, and left his hosts with an apology. In a rage, he wandered the streets of the village, looking for his Jewish friend and intending to thrash him and scream at him for his empty promise of a full stomach and a glorious meal.

Four hours later, he finally found his Jewish friend. The Jewish beggar was wandering through the alleys, shirt buttons popping, belly overfull, picking at his teeth and belching his pleasure. His gentile friend was so weak with hunger that he was unable even to pummel his friend. The Jewish beggar examined his starving comrade with surprise.

“Some feast you promised me!” grumbled the non-Jewish beggar. And then he told the Jewish beggar what had happened, how his hosts had offered him a thimble of wine, less than a handful of pathetic leaves in brine, a stale piece of bread of some sort with nothing on it, and some horrid bitter glob.

“At that point I decided enough is enough,” he explained, “and I got up and left.”

The Jewish beggar could not control his laughter. “You do not understand,” he said. “Those were simply the earliest preliminaries of the feast. You snatched hunger from out of the horn of plenty! Had you stuck things out for just a few more minutes, you would have been served the most sumptuous feast of your life, a meal for kings, food that would have sufficed you for a whole week of wanderings. But, you see, you abandoned hope only a few moments too soon. Because you were impatient, you spoiled everything.”

* * *

The story of the two beggars is neither a fairy tale nor for children. The gentile beggar in the story, the one who spoiled everything because of his own ignorance and impatience, is the state of Israel.

Like the beggar who did not understand where he was or what was going on, the state of Israel was on the verge of entering the most wonderful, prosperous and liberated period of its existence in the early 1990s.

Had it listened to the Jewish beggar, all would have been well. Had it found patience and stamina to stick things out for just a little longer, it would have achieved its deepest desires and fulfilled its strongest yearnings.

By 1990, the first Palestinian intifada had been put down, suppressed by force of Israeli arms. The dimensions of Palestinian violence were dropping each month. It would likely have ended altogether had Israel used even more vigorous force against it.

In fact, Israelis who felt Israel should use greater force to end the violence outnumbered by perhaps four to one those saying less force should be used. It was a landslide consensus. Israelis were in no mood to appease or capitulate.

In 1990, Palestinian terrorists were so desperate for weapons that they were reduced to concocting zip guns out of household materials and Molotov cocktails far more likely to scorch the throwers than any targets.

The best the terrorists could do in most cases was toss rocks at Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip or in parts of the West Bank, a phenomenon unpleasant but not life-threatening, and one that certainly posed no existential threat to the survival of the state. Many sections of the West Bank were fairly tranquil, including Bethlehem and Jericho. Jews could walk or ride in security in many parts of the “occupied territories,” as they could in all of Israel.

The leaders of the Palestinian terrorists were off in distant Tunis, with a few others in Damascus, places from which they could do little more than pout and bluster. The world – or at least the United States – had made its peace with the Israeli position that the PLO was not an acceptable partner in any Arab-Israeli peace talks. The most the Palestinians could hope for was a limited autonomy, with no role whatsoever for the PLO.

The number of Israelis who took seriously the notion that the Palestinians deserved their own state was relatively small. Israelis were willing to treat them as the Palestinian branch of the Arab people, entitled perhaps to control their own lives and conduct their own local affairs – but only on the condition that they would eschew further violence. This was also, in essence, the formula backed by the United States.

The Israeli economy in the early 1990s was booming, riding the crest of the high-tech revolution. The country was flooded with immigrants from the nations that had comprised the Soviet empire. The standard of living in Israel had reached the levels of the middle tier of Western European countries.

While many Israeli Arabs voted for anti-Zionist parties to show their solidarity with Israel’s enemies, many others did not and voted for Zionist parties while maintaining cordial relations with Jews.

Into this relative tranquility burst the Oslo “peace process,” led by the ignorant beggar who did not understand that the greatest of feasts was nigh.

Oslo was based on the proposition that economic interests and consumerism had replaced military power as the determinants of international relations in the post-modern world – that armies are obsolete, as is patriotism; that appeasement of fascist terrorists is the surest path to true peace; that Israeli self-abasement is the highest form of Jewish nationalism; that cowardice is the highest form of valor; that the best way to end war is to pretend it doesn’t exist.

It sought to reduce tensions with the Palestinian Arabs, who had just been defeated in their intifada, by importing the PLO leadership from Tunis and Damascus into the “occupied territories” and then allowing it to build up an army in the suburbs of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, bankrolled and armed by Israel itself.

Like the beggar who snatched starvation from the jaws of plentitude, the Israeli government of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres succeeded in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Peres and Rabin became convinced that the most promising path to a full and permanent peace with all of Israel’s neighbors lay in Israeli capitulation to Arab demands and appeasement of the planet’s worst Islamofascist terrorists.

They took to lecturing the country on how the utopian state of affairs they envisioned had not yet come about because Israelis were not strongly enough desirous of it.

The Oslo era was defined by a massive assault on Israeli pride, morale and confidence by its own leaders and intellectual elites. Israeli academics wrote books and articles castigating the country for its shortcomings, both real and imagined.

“New historians” and “post-Zionists” zealously set about the task of rewriting history texts and school curricula to debunk what they regarded as pernicious Israeli propaganda, promoting instead the Arab “narrative,” beginning with the Original Sin of Israel’s founding.

The Israeli media, heavily leftist on nearly every level, bludgeoned the country on a daily basis, promoting the Palestinian position in editorials, op-ed columns and even ostensibly objective news stories.

This self-flagellation produced a situation in which each and every atrocity committed by Arabs was greeted with calls from the Israeli chattering classes for further concessions and appeasements by Israel. Some, including tenured extremists at the universities, went so far as to justify and celebrate Arab acts of terror as necessary to force Israelis to come to their senses and make peace on terms favored by the extremists.

The Left promoted insubordination and mutiny by Israeli soldiers, with not a few leftists endorsing boycotts of Israel by overseas anti-Semites. The Israeli press adopted the practice of overseas Israel-bashers in referring to Palestinian terrorists and suicide bombers as “activists” and “militants.”

In return for its endless goodwill gestures and masochistic eagerness to placate its enemies and world opinion, Israel got a campaign of Nazi-like hatred led by the Palestinian Authority, down to and including virulent Holocaust denial accompanied by Holocaust justification (never mind the contradiction).

* * *

For 16 years now, Israel’s elites have been living in a make-believe world in which Jews are to blame for nearly everything and Arabs are merely expressing “frustration” at being “mistreated” for so many years by Jews.

And the psychological war mounted by Israel’s elites against national pride, dignity and self-respect – indeed against national existence – has been accompanied by a set of diplomatic policies expressing little more than self-loathing – policies that in effect allow no act of Arab violence to go unrewarded.

The Oslo and post-Oslo eras will be known in history as the period when it became evident that a great many Israelis – and nearly all the Israeli elite – had lost the will to survive as a nation.

After centuries during which Jews maintained the most militant self-assurance even while being mistreated, despised and humiliated, here were the Israelis – possessing one of the great armies of the world and a record of achievement on a variety of fronts that put far older, larger and wealthier countries to shame – abandoning all pride and promoting self-humiliation and self-destruction.

An Israel no more than two generations removed from the Holocaust was willing to hold “peace talks” with people who denied there ever was a Holocaust and who insist that Jews use the blood of gentile children to make Passover matzos.

The nation that had fought against enormous odds and won spectacular battlefield victories was acquiescing in a “peace process” that involved unilateral gestures from Israel in exchange for Arabs continuing to make war against the Jews.

Israel’s leaders chose to behave like the foolish beggar in the story who had no idea of what was going on, who let his hunger get the best of him, and who stormed out of the house in irritation, just before the delights of the feast were to begin in earnest.

Because of frustration that Palestinian guttersnipes were tossing rocks at Israeli troops, Israel swapped the stone-throwers for suicide bombers exterminating hundreds of Jewish children and other civilians in Jerusalem and Haifa.

And while the events of the past decade and a half have taken the shine off the visions offered by Rabin and Peres and all the others who brought us the Oslo disaster, make no mistake: the foolish beggar is still with us.

But where is the Jewish beggar – the one who understood the rituals of the Seder and knew his heritage, the one who had the wisdom to wait patiently and achieve the delightfully bloated belly of satisfaction and prosperity?

I search, but cannot find him anywhere. Can you tell me where he’s gone?


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