As August approaches, the world sinks into the slumber of Cucumber Season (as silly season is known in these parts) - that time of year when the news media run out of news. Whole nations migrate from country to country to escape one heat wave only to run smack into another. Newspapers and magazines are thinner. Fewer readers, fewer news stories. As everyone knows, when the politicians and the parliamentarians go on vacation, the world stands still.
In Israel, Cucumber Season is a little different. It is definite proof that the earth is heating up and our collective brains are being fried. This is the time of the year, for example, when someone invariably pulls the ethnic discrimination genie out of the bottle - in this case, because of some insult to Silvan Shalom.
This is the time of the year when blabbering and smugness on the part of our leaders have provoked two countries into blowing their tops at us. France has put Sharon's visit on hold and New Zealand has pulled the plug on a visit by our president. It takes real talent to get into a fight with a country like New Zealand. And it's all because we don't have the balls to admit that the Mossad screwed up. What's so hard about saying "sorry, we goofed"? As for France, how would we react if Jacques Chirac called on all French Jews living in Israel to come home because people keep talking about how dangerous it is?
In our Cucumber Season, the yakking mouth of Israel never rests. The Shin Bet chief is at it again, warning that 200 right-wingers want to see Sharon dead and extremists on the left are helping the Arabs. The head of Military Intelligence announced that in 2008 Iran will have nuclear weapons and Syria will have chemical warheads. So what do we have? Toys? The settlers, threatening a violent showdown if anyone tries to evacuate them, are calling Yonatan Basi, the man organizing the pullout, "Yonatan the Hangman." MK Avraham Ravitz wants to "lop off the head of the serpent," by which he means Shinui. Rabbi Ovadia, famous for his pithy utterances, says Sharon is the prime minister of the garbage can.
Yosef Lapid, who gives nearly simultaneous interviews on every subject, in all the media, was naturally the first to portray the murder of Tel Aviv District Court judge Adi Azar as "a blow to the legal system in Israel." Israel's response to the killing brings to mind Avraham Burg's famous eulogy for Amnon Rubinstein. Burg, who was Speaker of the Knesset at the time, got a phony phone call and without checking further, immediately launched into a lyrical, heart-wrenching lament over the untimely death of a man who was very much alive.
This time around, every hotshot in the government rushed to call the judge's murder "a knife in the back of the court system." The media compared Israel to Sicily, to a country ruled by the Mafia. The very next day, the police began hinting that the motive was probably personal, and not connected to Azar's judicial duties.
Lack of respect for human life and human dignity has reached a new low. A teenager is murdered in a quarrel over a bicycle. Two boys rape a mother of five. Day in and day out, young people are stabbed or stab others over peanuts. Kindergarten teachers abuse their young charges. Nursing aides mistreat the elderly in old-age homes. People are killed by their own kin and people are mowed down on the roads. And we haven't even mentioned the stairwell rapist, the toilet rapist and the laughing rapist. The police Identikit artist can forget about a vacation this year.
Ruth Dayan opened a workshop called Maskit many years ago, where women who immigrated to Israel from countries around the world produced handicrafts and colorful embroidery. Today, MKs embroider colorful stories about each other. Paritzky tries to frame Poraz; Poraz tries to frame Paritzky. All the lines between what is permissible and what is not have been crossed. The connection between money and power is more transparent than ever. Who would believe that the police would have enough questions to grill a tycoon like Yossi Maiman, or a former Mossad chief, for nine whole hours?
Like a sperm bank, Israel seems to have a tape bank. Meir Palavsky bought a tape recorded two years ago. The Gilad Sharon tapes were also dug up from who knows where. Bugging seems to have become a matter of routine. Corrupt politicians are hiring detectives. The whole country is being run by private investigators and "strategic advisers" elected by no one, who have a finger in every pie and are busy pulling the strings. You start to wonder how this country, with its glorious army and national institutions, ever came into being without tapes and strategic advisers.
In August, it's true, the Knesset takes a break, but who says that's a reason to party? The rest of us are stuck here, with the cucumbers.
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