Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Learn a dirty Hebrew word: "Political" "מלה גסה: "פוליטי

In case it's escaped your notice, social protest here is deplorably unsophisticated. Three examples:

A female Jewish cashier dates a male Palestinian bagger, and all hell breaks loose. The local rabbi, who would be the sheriff if this were a western, pays a visit to the store CEO demanding that the latter do something, and poor Rami Levi twists himself into a pretzel trying to please everyone. In the process he sets himself up as a social worker, relationship chaperone, and babysitter, and forgets what he presumably does for a living: He runs a business. In a real Western country, where clerics don't intimidate the ordinary citizen, Levi would tell Rabbi Perl privately, "I run a business, and my employee policies are implemented with that one goal in mind. I regret that I'm not the address for your problems."

And in a real Western country, Levi's statement to the press would be: "We at Rami Levi do not purport to intervene in the individual relationships between our employees. As long as their relations do not interfere with their performing their duties, it's not our business. With all due respect, I direct Rabbi Perl to address his congregants on this issue, not us. Meanwhile, as always, we invite all our neighbors to continue to shop with us, and in return we pledge to continue to provide quality groceries at reasonable prices to all our customers."

Thank the Lord for Yossi Sarid. Unfortunately, we in Israel suffer from a disease called We're Not Political-itis, which manifests itself in social protesters resolutely insisting that their cause isn't, God forbid, political. Yet Sarid reminds us that curiously, there are no tent protests in the territories. Hello, Israel: How could anything be more political? When will Israelis stop being intimidated by the right? How long, Lord, before we demand what is due us?

That aside, I have a problem with the whole "I refuse to live anywhere but Tel Aviv" mindset. What's wrong with a 45-minute train commute to and from Ashdod, or a 10-minute commute to Lod? Who wants to live in Lod, you ask? Well, if a critical mass of tent-dwellers does, they'll benefit, and so will Lod. That's how organic communities form: Greenwich Village was originally populated by struggling artists. Ditto for similar urban districts all over the West, which morphed into bastions of -- you guessed it -- openness and tolerance. But if all the open, tolerant folks insist on living nowhere but Tel Aviv, what direction do they expect housing prices to go?

What a shame Ir Amim's Orit Noy didn't "tell it like it is" regarding artists performing in Silwan. She states her protest is "personal, not political" (there we go again: "Not political"). Why is Noy afraid to take a stand on behalf of Ir Amim, who's been valiantly fighting Elad for decades? Again: What could be more political?

And what's "active cooperation with a 'radical political move'" supposed to mean? Don't hide, Noy. Just state your case clearly: "We oppose patronizing Elad-sponsored events held in Silwan, as Elad has been harassing Silwan residents and making their lives miserable for decades." Case closed. What's so hard about that?

What in God's name are people afraid of? It must be the same fear that causes Israelis to incessantly use כ, or *keh* — a prefix that translates as "approximately" — anytime numbers are involved, i.e., *ani gara k'arba'im kilometer mi'Eilat* ["I live approximately 40 kilometers from Eilat"]; *k'esrim achuz miHaOchlusiya aravi* ["Approximately 20% of the population is Arab"].

From what lawsuit are people trying to cover their behinds? Are they afraid that if they don't use כ, someday they'll be subpoenaed and be required to prove that the distance from their house to Eilat is precisely 40 km? That precisely 1.5 million Israelis are Arab? It's Loony Toons. But then so is a CEO of a supermarket chain placating a local rabbi.


  1. Mollie Saferstein NewmanJuly 28, 2011 at 9:52 AM

    “This is the ‘peace supermarket,’ the owner said. “Extremist Palestinians and Jews don’t like it.” They don't like it? Then tell them to shop somewhere else. Why cause such a hoohah? It's an analogy to my favorite bumper sticker here in the States: "Don't like abortion? Don't have one." And now, "Don't like gay marriage? Don't have one."

  2. Ah, Mollie, would that it were that simple, but this is the Middle East. We don't know from the *yiddische kop* so aptly demonstrated by bar owner Holling on Northern Exposure: When the Bear and Raven clans (of a local Native American tribe) were feuding, and Cook Dave won't take an incoming order because the patron is a Raven, Holling's response is, "Dave, out there he's a Raven. In here, he's a customer."

  3. It may be time for the Samaritans to reclaim Israel, their country and their name, from the Judeans.