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One newspaper reported that the first question Elhanan Tennenbaum asked when he got back from Lebanon was: "Is Ehud Barak still prime minister?" Another claims he said: "What? Arik Sharon is prime minister?"

After three years and three months in a Hezbollah jail, the first thing that obviously needs to be done is bring Tennenbaum up to date on what has happened around here since he boarded that flight to Brussels.

For starters, it's no wonder you're surprised that Sharon is prime minister. So are we. As for Barak, the answer is no. He's not prime minister anymore, and he's not Nava's husband either. The foreign minister today is Silvan Shalom (Judy's husband), who says he has helped to change the map of the world.

Shimon Peres is still chairman of the Labor party. The two most stable leaders in the country are Peres and Arafat. David Levy is back outside the government and he's mad for a change, this time at Sharon.

The investigation of the Greek island affair, which began a year before you hopped on the plane, has reached the courts. The island is still deserted, but piles of money have gone around it, over it and under it. The Sharon family is still being probed and grilled. In the three years you've been away, the defense minister and the heads of the Shin Bet, Mossad and army have been replaced.

If the line-up were different, you might not have come home so fast. There was a time when Ron Arad was alive and under the care of Amal, the pro-Syrian Shi'ite militia headed by Nabih Beri, with whom we were in contact. But Yitzhak Rabin did not want to pay their asking price after the Jibril prisoner exchange fiasco. And while we were haggling, Dirani, who was physically holding him, split from Amal and sold him to Iran. Can you believe that Dirani, the person directly responsible for his fate, was released without our having received so much as a hair from Ron Arad's head?

Since you left, a new brand of yogurt called Yoplait has hit the supermarkets, along with new variations on Ahla humus, improved Huggies diapers and a new sanitary napkin with wings to set the athletic woman free. Hi-tech shares are six feet under, and the police are raiding betting parlors as if the gamblers don't know the way to casinos in foreign pastures.

The government is Shas-free and Lapid - you know, that one from the TV show "Popolitika" - is justice minister. The mug shot of the guy with the mop of curls and the mischievous grin that hit the papers after your disappearance is you. You won't recognize the new Knesset either. It's become a den of criminals (according to Limor Livnat) and sex fiends (according to Inbal Gavrieli).

Oh, yes. While you were gone, a couple of other things happened. The Twin Towers were brought down in New York, and life around the world has changed. The flight home from Germany was a luxury you can kiss goodbye. Nowadays, they rummage through your bags, take fingerprints, confiscate nail clippers and make you take off your shoes. From one minute to the next, flights are canceled because of this alert and that alert.

Bush invaded Afghanistan, occupied Iraq and captured Saddam. In your absence, nearly 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians were killed in the Al-Aqsa Intifada that began a month before you left. Since then, there have been two Palestinian governments. One has already fallen and the next one is on the way.

The world around us has changed. Syria and Saudi Arabia are talking peace; Libya and Iran are trying to stay out the Bush elephant stampede. And Sharon, believe it or not, is gearing up to evacuate 17 settlements in the Gaza Strip. Only two people are making a laughing stock out of us - Sheikh Yassin, who because of a Mossad screw-up was allowed back into PA territory and is now lead conductor of the suicide bomber orchestra along with Nasrallah.

It is hard to believe that Israel, which could track down and capture Adolf Eichmann, discover the whereabouts of the kidnapped boy Yossele Schumacher, and rid the world of all those responsible for the Munich massacre, did not know where you were being held.

Our legendary power of deterrence ain't what it used to be, thrown out of whack by the cult that has grown up in the country around dead soldiers. The terrorists will continue to sow terror, and will probably step up their efforts to kidnap people for bargaining purposes. Israel will start concentrating on Ron Arad and ask itself how many murderers information about him is worth.

Meanwhile, welcome home, Elhanan. And if you don't like the horrible tie Hezbollah bought you, for God's sake, don't go running off to Beirut to exchange it.