It's OK to Feel Good

These are not only young people with normal hormones, they are all united now in a just war, for the sake of change, and against an enemy who really understands only force.


It is not possible for a Jew, or even someone who wants to be a Jew, to say that he is simply enjoying life. We were all born to suffer, we are unknown soldiers without uniforms in our war against life's tribulations. Kvetching is the original soundtrack of our existence. And what served as the foundation of our country if not the shared suffering of our mothers and fathers in every Jewish Diaspora? We are Jews, we suffer, we deserve a country of our own. And instead of a wicked gentile nobleman before whom we have to atone, or Christian kings who expel us or imprison us in ghettos, and collect a head tax from us - we will have a Jewish nobleman and Jewish finance minister who will torture us, and in spite of that we will be fruitful and multiply. And there will be some Jewish foreign minister who will get back at the gentiles for everything they did to us.

Ten illustration, cartoon
Avi Ofer

This shared suffering is not only the basis for the establishment of the state, it is the cornerstone of our definition as a nation. For secular people as well as Haredim and Reform Jews alike, the history of suffering and persecution is what defines us as Jews. And here is really where the popular competition begins - a unique Israeli sporting event which, if ever recognized, would bring us a gold medal in the "Who suffered more" Olympics.

It's almost superfluous to mention, I consider myself a worthy contestant in the individual competition of this event. Personally, what could make me the terror of my competitors is the fact that both my parents died on the same day, after years of a marriage from hell that ended when both fell ill. For six years I found myself almost alone in taking care of a father who was hospitalized in Nahariya, and a mother who was hospitalized in Haifa, while I and my three young children were living in Jerusalem. All I have to do is hint at that and any shivah is destroyed, and people begin enthusiastically to eat the pretzels and drink lukewarm diet cola, and silence descends upon the room.

If that's not enough, most of the relatives on my father's side were killed in the Holocaust, so I can be considered "second generation," although at the very last moment my father abandoned religion and Europe because he wanted to be a pioneer.

On my mother's side, on the other hand, I belong to the Kalfon family, which originated in Spain but came to Israel from Spanish Morocco. It's true that my maternal grandfather's family arrived in Palestine in 1860, well before the invention of DDT. It's also true that the family came from Morocco, and that even my grandfather's stepmother, who died at the age of 108 in Tiberias, didn't know a word of Moroccan. Still genetically I'm equipped with everything necessary to be considered a "Frenk."

I gave birth to twins (and I don't have to tell everyone that the birth was a cinch and raising them was a great pleasure ), I was injured in three road accidents, I was saved from a predatory bacterium after several vital organs were removed from my body, I'm deaf in one ear as a result of a rare virus that struck me at the age of two and a half, and I'm also a disabled Israel Defense Forces soldier. So I'll reveal what you've known for a long time, which is that I've gone through a lot in my life, and I'm no Ted Danson.

The thing is, I really don't enjoy suffering. Suffering bores me and when I'm bored I suffer most of all. I feel empathy and identification with the suffering of others, but I don't have patience for competitive suffering.

What's so wonderful about the social revolution that is now taking place everywhere in the country is that the protest is against suffering in all its forms and against the right that our hedonistic leaders have been appropriating to themselves for years: to annihilate every scrap of quality of life. All of us, without regard to gender, ethnic origin or religious belief, are suffering (although let's admit that the Arabs are suffering more, the Palestinians far more, the Ethiopians are suffering more than the Russians and the settlers aren't suffering at all ) - and we're all fed up.

I'm most fed up with those who claim a monopoly over suffering, the elders of the Black Panthers movement (who incidentally succeeded nicely in life ), the founders of the "tent" movement (ditto ) or various "professional" Mizrahim, for whom the sense of deprivation is their staff of life, even though they have been dominating the cultural agenda for quite a while.

They make me so mad that I'm considering switching my ethnic group and becoming totally Ashkenazi. Yes, we Ashkenazim also have a right to exist. I'm also unable to help my children, all three of whom are working and studying, to pay the rent, and I can barely manage to pay my own rent, because what my parents succeeded to do - as long as they were alive, they helped me a great deal, although they subsisted on two modest civil service salaries - I, who have been working in journalism for almost 30 years, can't afford to do.

As little patience as I have for the professional sufferers, I have even less for those who claim that the tent-dwellers aren't actually suffering but enjoying themselves, and therefore their protest is not justified. Furthermore, the leaders of the protest are suspected of being Ashkenazi, and among them there are apparently some who devour sushi instead of enjoying themselves, as is customary, with Yemenite bread soaked in hilbeh (fenugreek and coriander chutney ) or a piece of bread dipped in matbucha (a tomato and grilled pepper salsa ).

But why shouldn't they enjoy themselves? These are not only young people with normal hormones, they are all united now in a just war, for the sake of change, and against an enemy who really understands only force. Perhaps this is finally the metamorphosis that Herzl and Jabotinsky dreamed about: Instead of being persecuted Jews, maybe we can finally become Israelis.