In the Desert

Passover is known as the holiday of freedom, but also of anti-Semitic blood libels.

Passover is also the holiday of anti-Semitic boors peddling today's blood libels. Jews, they say, use the blood of Gentile children to bake matza, pouring their blood into the unleavened dough while kneading. The libel still exists today, if only in a slightly modified form - but what a monstrous form it is.

Nowadays these uncircumcised louts, having imbibed Jew-hatred with their mother's milk, make ugly accusations against us. Israel, they say, is a state created by the Elders of Zion, one where people travel by camel, as if we had never completed the Exodus from Egypt. What's more, they cook meat on iron grills like cavemen who have just discovered fire, then lunch in forests, fields or traffic islands like beasts. Haters the world over talk about us as if we were a failed state. These loathsome libels must not go unanswered, bleeding like a Christian or Muslim child on Passover Eve. All the better, therefore, that our Information and Diaspora Ministry decided to staunch the bleeding and show Israel as it really is.

It's easy to burst through a door that's already open. Israel, after all, is not really viewed as a country that eats with its hands and rides camelback. The whole world knows Israel as a developed country, one adept at creating high technology and electric cars, and assembling cluster bombs, phosphorous shells and nuclear warheads (according to foreign media reports, that is).

On television the world doesn't see us as an underdeveloped country, but rather one that in the heat of battle sometimes goes a bit crazy, one in which the leaders, and the led, sometimes lose their heads. After all, when do we ever appear on the screen? When the ultra-Orthodox let loose, when the settlers go wild. That is the collective image broadcast, the impression left. Even our friends can't help asking: "Is this really Israel? Is that Jerusalem?" In the eyes of the world we are as an unruly mob that never quite crossed the Red Sea.

Over this holiday season we add another picture to our family album, this one of thousands of Israelis loping like camels in heat, pushing and shoving, trampled like bugs at the entrances to clothing and furniture stores. It's easy to imagine the enjoyment that must have filled the hearts of the descendants of the Vikings watching the heirs of the Hebrews pounce on a bra-and-underwear set of their own Scandinavian manufacture, as we once pounced on their homespun kibbutz volunteers. Was it not in Sweden that a blood libel spread about the Israeli army trafficking in Palestinians' organs, and which Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman boycotted in all of our names, in the names of the looters at H&M? Were Sweden not so cold and expensive, we would give it the Turkish treatment and boycott it for a month.

One doesn't need a particularly active imagination to imagine the upheaval in the desert during the Exodus when God brought the Israelites manna from heaven, its taste sweet like honey. Good thing there was no television back then. Slaves we were, slaves we remain.