The Israeli viewers of the excellent American television series, "The Sopranos," were met with a bleak surprise near its end - in trying to escape from a deep depression, the son of the head of the crime family feels even worse after learning for the first time, in college, about the Middle East and the two nations (the Palestinians and the Israelis) apparently fighting there forever. Each side talks about the holiness of the land and the edict of God, with neither side prepared to yield; therefore there is neither an end to, nor hope for, this conflict. It is evident that even the Mafioso world, with its murderous vendettas, pales in comparison to our region - so devoid of hope and redemption.
If someone viewing our situation from afar, especially from New Jersey, gets so depressed, just imagine the depths of melancholy the two wretched nations should sink to; the abyss of desperation we should have been thrown into by the winning political concept - the almost official one (at least as expressed this week by our foreign minister) that this is a never-ending, religious and built-in conflict - and all that is left to do is "conduct it." And conduct it with enjoyment.
Despair? Depression? Sorrow? There is nothing further from the Israel of today. On the contrary. The final farewell to any hopes for peace also includes large and small celebrations, as witnessed in the strange euphoria that has swept across the Israeli street and media following Mahmoud al-Mabhouh's assassination in Dubai. It seems "Shoshanat Yaakov" (the "Rose of Jacob," referring to the events of Purim in Shushan) has not been sung with such enthusiasm since Haman and his sons were hanged - or at least since the Entebbe rescue mission. Even the "families" in New Jersey do not express as much glee when someone is liquidated, nor do they wallow in such enjoyment, day after day, as they describe every minute detail of the event.
It is indeed doubtful that anyone on the street or in the media had ever heard of this same al-Mabhouh when he was alive; and it is even more doubtful whether his assassination furthered our interests in the region or in the world by even a millimeter. However, as the poet said, "the joy of the poor knocked on the door," a kind of joy that instead reveals wretchedness and a lack of expectations - a country that has already despaired of existential or realistic tidings and finds consolation, even entertainment, only in "operational" episodes and legends, as if it were living out an eternal national childhood.
The celebrations around the liquidation should not surprise us; they are part of a general reactionary, and somewhat infantile, wave which the current Israeli government, inspired by its leader, has been conducting. In the attempt to avoid making real decisions, and to divert attention, official Israel behaves as if our lives were a presentation in a kindergarten belonging to the religious Zionist stream - including games in which we are "not on speaking terms" with the entire world; attempts to inculcate a heritage that is nothing more than yearning for some Land of Israel Judaism (as opposed to Israeli identity), in which Tel Hai and Rachel's Tomb get confused; and the emergency revival of some kind of archaic "information" campaign, which acts as if Israel's greatest problem is that it has the image of being a backward desert country where people ride camels.
Is this really our image problem right now? Camels? Not our being an anomaly devoid of borders and identity, even after 60 years of independence? Not our being a nation losing the very legitimacy for its existence in world public opinion by ruling over another nation? By foregoing a definition of itself as secular? By putting the keys to its fate in the hands of theocratic settlers?
Here and there, some rare visitor will still arrive, in an ever more limp attempt to push something forward in the region - to save Israel from itself - and then he leaves insulted and disparaged. How can he help when the leaders in the region seem to have washed their hands of dealing with their own problem? From their point of view, let it go on bleeding. As long as the blood is not spilled too publicly, it can be ignored and other matters can be dealt with - beginning with the reforms to close balconies and renovate tombstones, and ending with the issue of housekeepers. And if the blood is spilled far away, we can even rejoice and be merry. How does the old Purim song go? "Lend a shoulder, close your eyes / It is Purim and we can forget everything." And no longer just once a year but, as the hope is expressed in another Purim song, twice a week.
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