Bearing Symbolic Fruit

Given the weight of the issue, even scholars from the Shalem Center, a Jerusalem-based right-wing think tank, were invited to brainstorm at the Prime Minister's Bureau. On the agenda - a tree. What species will the prime minister plant when he treads through the land of the Jewish settlers? Only someone entirely unfamiliar with the culture of government would allow him to lay a hand on just any tree, particularly one which doesn't bear symbolic fruit. After all the entire world will be watching, trying to figure out what the planter is trying to signal with his planting.

Bureau chief Natan Eshel sat at the head of the table - not only in his official capacity, but also because his surname means "tamarisk" and because he is familiar with the family tree. He knows better than most what the household members are allergic to - and they rely on him to select the tree that suits the place and the time, one which will not cast a shadow on the festivities.

Participant X proposed an olive tree, which presumably ought to be the first and natural choice: a symbol for after-the-deluge, for Israel's clinging to its land and for the desired peace; it was even chosen to adorn the state symbol. The moment this suggestion arose, though, it was shot down, lest it be interpreted as a provocation just for the sake of provocation. What is the prime minister doing planting an olive tree in a place where they are uprooting olive trees, cutting them down and burning them as a "price tag"?

Participant Y, who wished to restore the pioneering spirit to its former glory, proposed a eucalyptus, but then he himself had second thoughts. The eucalyptus tree is a foreign element in our land, brought here from Australia; there aren't any leftover swamps here to dry out, while the new swamps are liable to be attributed to the planter himself, whom some see as a kind of King Narcissus.

Another participant proposed a fig tree, another proposed a date palm and yet another proposed a pomegranate tree - all from the seven biblical species, the first fruits of which were brought to the Temple as a gift to the priests. Then someone issued a warning: Rahm Emanuel is going to see this as a reference to the Third Temple and, perfidious Jew that he is, will tattle on us to Barack Obama.

Thus, after a lot of weighty discussion and a process of elimination, the cedar was chosen. But was the matter indeed carefully considered? This is not certain. First of all, the cedar is also identified with the First Temple, in which "all was cedar, there was no stone seen" (1 Kings 6:18). Second, cedars are associated with King Solomon, who had 1,000 wives. Third, cedars are linked to wealthy people, who dwell in "houses of cedar," in contrast to the poor who are the mold on the walls (Moed Kattan, 25B). And fourth, cedars are closely identified with Lebanon and therefore they will be considered "foreign seedlings" (Isaiah 17:10) in Judea and Samaria, just like the planters themselves.

When presented with the choice, the prime minister liked it and suddenly felt like Theodor Herzl at Arza (though what Herzl planted there was actually a cypress). However, no woodcutter will come up against his tree (Isaiah 14:8).

The Israeli nation is renewing its days of yore, and not as a stump (now there's a strong sentence that should have been taken to Poland this week, which is even better in Hebrew because it rhymes). The Jewish people is putting down roots and growing a sturdy trunk (here the speaker should raise his voice and his leg and mark out territory). The day will come when like Honi HaMeagel, the circle drawer from the Talmud, we will see the tree of the occupation bear rotten carobs and realize we fell asleep for 70 years.