Fifteen years ago, about a thousand cranes wintered here in the Galilee panhandle, before the Hula Lake was carelessly dried out into a lakelet. Today 30,000 cranes winter here, as if to say to themselves, "it's fun living here, so why keep wandering?"
One has to visit to appreciate the glory of the scenery here, and to hear the winged creatures wail in unison as if part of an ensemble.
Area farmers lament the birds' destructive effect on the fields they labor so hard over, which end up costing us NIS 2 million a year. Between us, what is that really? Not even a fraction of a tycoon's accumulated debt. Soon, when the first bank crashes in Israel, it will turn out that the state has a lot of money to give, but the cranes aren't even thrown a peanut.
Until now, we have profited handsomely from our itinerant visitors: Every year, 300,000 Israelis and tourists flock to side of these boisterous birds. The Galilee has become a worldwide attraction for professional ornithologists and amateur birdwatchers alike, and these guests leave the Galilee panhandle NIS 80 million richer annually. But for a few gold coins, a jewel will be lost: Again the Hula Valley is being dried out. Didn't we suffer enough when they did it the first time in the '50s?
Not only will the birds not find a place to rest here, human beings will not either. We expel birds to Africa, which become tired on the way, and we expel human beings who flee from Africa and are hunted on the way.
Otherwise we'd be guilty of harboring dangerous black prisoners of war and the Sukkah of David will fall. This is a false threat, a straw man. Only Israelis fear such pathetic wooden figures draped in rags.
Jews know very well the significance of an open door when the entire world is closed to us. We will always be willing to host the seven traditional ushpizin ("guests" in Aramaic), but them alone. All seven of these guests knew wandering and persecution in their days, and that's why we keep a spare chair in the Sukkah for them to find rest. But the chair is for them alone.
Abraham will arrive brandishing a butcher knife, Isaac will come with his plate of delicacies and Jacob will bring his son Joseph's coat of many colors. Moses will bring his broken tablets, Aaron the fragments of the golden calf and David his harp, and will be well.
But what if all these fine guests are late, and their chairs remain empty? It will be sad without the displaced cranes and the uprooted people. Just us, alone, every man in Israel to his own Sukkah.
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