Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Time Machine

A time machine would allow the traveler to visit vistas unknown and unseen and return with knowledge that could change the course of history, or just a life. Neither Einstein nor Stephen Hawkins believe that time travel is possible, but most people agree that history and lives can be changed by the action of a man, women, or group of people.

In essence we each have a time machine, something that can change the way history, even down to the personal level, is written. Every step we take, ever move we make, as the song goes, is watched by the confluence of fate, chance and destiny. Should you not bring that hundred-dollar bill with you, you couldn’t have had the ready cash to buy that counterfeit Rolex from the street corner vendor on 54th and Lexington.

Then the pickpocket working the area would have seen the cash and gone for your wallet. Then you wouldn’t have wound up with no money nor credit cards or train pass to get back to New Rochelle. Had your mobile phone’s battery not died you would have been able to call for help, but it did, and you couldn’t. You didn’t even have a quarter in your pocket to make a phone call.

That’s how you wound up begging for a quarter on the corner of 54th and Lexington when the Cop came by and arrested you, not believing your story about the lost wallet mainly because you were abusive to him when he approached you; he was tough, you were tougher, but he was a Cop and you weren’t, and then you found yourself in jail.

You got your phone call but you had to wait in the cell. Carlos Fuentes wasn’t in the mood for a white bread in his cell, and went at you with his fists. You’d studied karate and judo but never really used them outside a Dojo, and to your surprise you discovered that a concentrated blow to your opponent’s chest, just above the solar plexus, could actually cause the heart to stop. You were as surprised as Carlos Fuentes when he fell over dead from the blow.

You were already arrested, now just charged with a more serious crime than the trumped up one the Cop tossed at you. The lawyers cleaned out your savings defending you successfully against the murder charge, but your wife left when the money ran out, your boss fired you for showing exercising poor judgment against the policeman and Fuentes, thinking that as a manager and head of a department you should have kept your cool in adverse circumstances.

The next time you saw him, years later; he didn’t recognize you when he dropped the quarter in your cup. You were in rags. He was coming out of a Deli on Houston. You didn’t say hello. He didn’t look at your face.

Fate changed. Actions shape events, which when reviewed and retold or recorded become history. Each of us has a time machine to shape the future. It’s called us.

A lie, a good deed, a planned action, can shape the way our future unfolds. When one is in a position to influence others, that person can easily affect the futures of those people as well. The higher up the ladder one goes the more influence that person’s actions have on the course of history.

That is why we should be very careful choosing leaders. Some make the right decisions and wind up writing a glorious history, like Alexander the Great, others create an aura of infamy and madness, like Hitler, leaving horrendous suffering, senseless death and wanton destruction in their wake.

A leader’s decision that is influenced by his own self-aggrandizement is like that time machine as well. Those that decide to go to war based on advice by others who stand to benefit. Those who approve a dam project to help friends improve their businesses, and take a kickback at the same time.

Those that look the other way knowing something untoward is happening. All of these actions control the outcome of history. Huey Long, the one-time governor of Louisiana was responsible for the death of scores of people when he ignored building codes in favor of a fatter bank account supplied by the friendly building contractor who found it cheaper to pay Long than to build safe buildings.

Wars are profitable. Some still maintain that the ‘military-industrial complex’ encourages them to make money. Who knows?

What is clear is that a person can make a difference. The higher up that person is the bigger a difference.

Leaders can and do make history.

We chose the leaders.

That is what democracy is all about.

If we chose leaders who are like Huey Long, we are to blame.

The time machine is in our hands.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Two Resignations and some Fighting

Finance Minister Avraham Hirschson, who is suspected of theft, has suspended himself for three months. until the investigation into allegations that he embezzled millions of shekels is over.

Hirschson informed Prime Minister Olmert of his decision on Monday morning. Earlier in the morning Prime Minister Olmert, giving an interview on Israel Radio’s “Reshet Bet” dodged the issue of Hirschson saying that the interview was a pre-Memorial Day subject and not one of government actions, proper or improper.
In a statement issued Sunday afternoon, Hirchson explained "under the public atmosphere created, I feel that it would not be right to continue serving as finance minister.

"My public responsibility and my conscience were the deciding factor, as well as the recognition that my family members are the ones being harmed, and I should fulfill my responsibility as a family man and be with them at this time, beyond my being a public figure," the suspended minister said.

The police claim to have strengthened their case that Hirchson embezzled funds from the non-profit Nili organization (associated with the National Workers' Organization) while he headed the workers' association.

Hirchson is accused of using the funds to finance a political campaign and cover the illegal gambling debts of one of Nili's directors.
In an interview with Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet on the eve of Israel’s Memorial day, PM Olmert responded to interviewer Aryeh Golan by saying that while he understood Golan wouldn’t like the answer, the Prime Minister didn’t think this was the right time or place to discuss the matter. PM Olmert also refused to discuss the charges of larceny against his office manager Shula Zakin, and the recently convicted former Justice Minister Chaim Ramon.

Olmert did say that mistakes were made in the War in Lebanon II, and those mistakes would be corrected. He said that on the eve of Israel’s 59th birthday, Israel was a strong vibrant country with a strong economy. He said that Israel had a host of enemies lined up to do it harm, from Islamic Jihad, to Hamas, and Iran. On the diplomatic front PM Olmert said that Syria had made no serious ovations to make peace with Israel.

The media has lately been filled with stories about Syria threatening to go to war with Israel to retake the Golan Heights, under Israel’s possession since the 1967 Six-Day war. Approximately 14,000 Jewish residents now live in the Golan Heights.

Military analysts believe that the possibility of Syria misreading Israel’s strength or weakness could encourage Syria to strike Israel thinking Israel was about to strike Syria. According to the prestigious Haaretz newspaper’s military analyst Ze’ev Shiff, Syria has been arming herself with advanced missile systems, both offensive and defensive. Some of the missiles, according to Shiff emanate from Iran, like the North Korean built 820c.

While the government is undergoing scrutiny, Balad Chairman, MK Azmi Bishara, resigned from Knesset on Sunday. He did so in a letter sent to the Israeli Embassy in Cairo. Bishara left Israel a number of weeks ago and has not returned. The media speculates that he was tipped off about the investigation against him and fled before he was arrested.

Bishara is one of the leading Israeli Arab Knesset members. His resignation takes place amid a cloud of suspicion. A press gag order has kept the exact details of the case from the public, but informed sources believe that the Shin Bet and Mossad have gathered enough evidence against Bishara to charge him with treason and money laundering..

Bishara has often been a visitor to Syria and other Arab countries. He was usually harshly criticized in the press upon his return. Bishara told the Arab TV channel Al Jazeera, that he would eventually return to Israel to face charges, but that he was setting down “new rules to the game.”

Bishara began his political career in the left-wing Communist camp, but was in favor of dialogue and co-existence between Arabs and Jews. His ideology changed about ten years ago when he became antagonistic towards the Israeli government, even though he was in the Knesset.

In the Al Jazeera interview Bishara said, "Recently, the accusations voiced against me at the Knesset have become stronger. It appeared as if I was taking advantage of my immunity, but this was not the case. I don’t want to give the Right this opportunity and in any even I had planned to resign, and therefore I submitted my resignation.

"The resignation can be submitted either to the Knesset or to Israeli representatives abroad, so I submitted my resignation to the ambassador."

Bishara continued, "I decided not to wait, and to submit my resignation and end my plans here before returning to Israel. I did not want to give the Israeli Right the opportunity to hold this festival against me.”

Bishara has raised the question of Arab-Israeli loyalty. He is supported by other Arab-Israeli legislators but even they now seem to observers to be losing their credibility with the Israeli public.

Meanwhile more Kassam rockets fell in Israel. A rocket fell in the town of Sderot, damaging a house and lightly injuring two Israelis. The Israeli Defense Forces have been fighting the rise in attacks.

Hamas, The Islamic militant group, called Sunday for new attacks on Israel after nine Palestinians were killed by Israel Defense Forces troops over the weekend.

"The blood of our people is not cheap," Barhoum said in a statement.
in Nablus, Tanzim terrorist Amin Mahmoud Amin Lubadeh and Islamic Jihad terrorist Fahdel Muhammad Mahmoud Nur were killed in exchanges of fire with IDF forces during an attempt to arrest them.

According to informed security sources Amin Lubadeh was the leading manufacturer of bombs and explosive belts in the Samaria region and was involved in numerous attacks and attempted attacks against Israelis inside Israel and in the Nablus area. Lubadeh's activity was funded by Iran through Hezbollah and by terror operatives in the Gaza Strip.

Fahdel Nur, a wanted Islamic Jihad terrorist, was the assistant to Islamic Jihad commander Hani Awijan. Nur was considered to be Awijan's successor following his death in July 2006. He was involved in planning suicide bombings and recruiting bombers for attacks inside Israel. In the past few months Nur was closely involved with Amin Lubadeh in bomb construction efforts and other attack plans.

Three other gunmen from the Islamic Jihad branch in Jenin were also killed in a gunfight with IDF forces. While the gunmen were described by the IDF as senior activists, two were twenty-years old, and one twenty-four.

Israel will impose a complete blockade of the West Bank and Gaza over the coming holiday celebrating Israel’s 59th birthday.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Judge Did It

A battle of the giants is going on in Israel as the Winograd Commission investigating the actions of Israel’s government and army during the War in Lebanon II is attempting to have a reversal of the ruling by Israel’s Supreme Court that testimony given during that investigation be released to the public next week.

According to informed sources this is a test of wills that doesn’t even involve the concerned parties, Prime Minister Olmert, Defense Minister Peretz, and former Chief of Staff Halutz.

Rather this is a power struggle between the commission and the Supreme Court with egos and the settling of old scores in the mix. The author Bernard Malamud once wrote, “There is no such thing as an apolitical Jew.” He would not be have been surprised by the behavior of the judges in the highest court in the land, nor the former judges and professors on the Winograd committee.

One analyst claims that part of the committee’s resistance to the Supreme Courts order to release the testimony stems from the bitter resentment two of the commission members have for Supreme Court president Dorit Benesch. Reportedly two of the commission members were previously turned down for seats on the high court by Benesh’s predecessor and mentor, former Supreme Court President Aaron Barak. It is also said that their dislike of Benesch goes back to her time in the judicial system.

The pettiness of the behavior of officials so powerful at so crucial a time in Israel’s history goes nearly unnoticed. The media is barking at the Commission for the report, which is expected to do grave harm to PM Olmert. The court case brought by a Knesset member of the left-wing Meretz Party to release the documents is at the core of this struggle. But that case is ostensibly only an excuse for the airing of old rivalries.

As if nothing is going on, PM Olmert is carrying on with his administration, and adjusting policies to gain public support. Today he announced a multi-billion-shekel plan to help alleviate poverty in Israel. He has also announced that he is in favor of negotiations with the Palestinians according to guidelines set out by the Saudi plan.

None of PM Olmert’s actions will prevent the other shoe from falling, according to political analysts. Once the Winograd Commission’s report is finally made public, all the good will and good intentions he garnered trying to win public support will be buried beneath the revelation of the reportedly amateurish way the war was conducted.

Some analysts have said that through these new initiatives PM Olmert is attempting to repeat former PM Sharon’s actions when beset on all sides by charges of favoritism and corruption. Sharon, according to some cynical commentators, went for the disengagement plan, pulling out the Jewish population from the Gaza Strip, and dismantling the settlements, in order to deflect the courts aim at his honesty.

The height of the disengagement coincided with the second Intifada and then the bubbling pot waiting to boil Sharon alive in the judicial system. But the country was so beleaguered by Hamas in Gaza and the radical Arabs in the West Bank, no Attorney General nor Prosecuting Attorney had the backing or courage to indict Sharon or his sons.Ultimately one of his sons, Omri, was indicted and convicted, but the sentence was so light as to be merely symbolic.

Politics in Israel are intertwined in every facet of life. The fate of Finance Minister Hirschson is also in the hands of the politicians. The fact that other departments under his control have been tainted with scandal only weakens Hirschson’s chances to get out with his skin. The investigation into the head of the Income Tax Authority, a Finance Ministry department suspected of making deals with businessmen favored by the politicians, may well be Hirschson’s undoing.

All this could reach up and pull Olmert from his seat at the head of the government. Olmert’s office manager was also asked to step down from her job as part of the tax break scandal. She’d been with Olmert for over twenty-years. The media is quick to connect her to Olmert, although no proof has as yet been made public.

Ironically, the Israeli currency, the Shekel, has never been stronger. The exchange rate is 4.01 Shekels to the dollar, a drop of nearly 10 percent in six months. Last April, a year ago, the Shekel reached 4.70 to the dollar. Exporters are feeling the crunch, but the little guy benefits, in the short run. As is usually the case the retailers will begin raising prices on imported goods even if they are buying them cheaper.

Meanwhile goods imported from the USA are cheaper, but export payments linked to the dollar suffer. Bank of Israel governor Stanley Fisher, a world-renowned economist, has said that Israelis should consider billing in Shekels since the currency is so strong and stable.

Israel’s 59th birthday is just around the corner. In less than a week Israelis will stuff themselves with barbequed meat, humus, cole slaw and pita bread. Families will make a special effort to travel somewhere, find an empty patch of ground, set up picnic tables, and start a barbeque going.

One wonders though if David Ben Gurion and those other legendary founders of Israel ever expected their noble experiment to last as long as it did? Or if they were convinced that Israel could easily last a thousand years?

In retrospect Israel has soldiered on, fought well until recently, and made astounding strides in nearly every field. One of the wistful thoughts that circulate from those early years was that the founders wanted a country just like any other country, with prostitutes, thieves, criminals, entrepreneurs, scholars, and a surfeit of heroes.

Looking at the gestalt of what is Israel today, they certainly attained their goals. Now, perhaps, a new generation of dreamers will come along and see if some of the more common human traits, all to evident in Israel these days, can be honed to a sharper edge, raising the standard of human behavior up a few more notches to perhaps prove that success and humanity can go hand in hand.

Maybe even the Judiciary will join in.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Riding The Green Line

Adi and a fellow female soldier, Sharona, (not their real names) were both denied entry onto a green Egged intercity bus from Netivot to Jerusalem by the driver. Both the women were wearing Israeli army uniforms, but pants rather than skirts. “You can’t keep us off the bus,” Adi told him, pushing herself on the bus. “I’m a soldier in the IDF and I’ll sit where I like,” corporal Adi told the Egged bus driver.

The bus was loaded with ultra-orthodox Jews, long-bearded, side-curled men in black suits and black hats, women in drab dresses and head covered in wigs or scarves or funny hats, sometimes all three. Once aboard the bus, Adi was told to sit in the back of the bus. Adi and Sharona sat in a pair of vacant seats in the front of the bus. The male passengers, who were joined by the women, berated her. “Sit in the back,” she was told. “I won’t,” she answered. And didn’t. The driver, a non-religious immigrant from the former Soviet Union, ignored the argument.

“You’re the Rosa Parks of Israel,” a visiting American professor from Yeshiva University said, hearing the soldiers tell their story.

Adi and Sharon tell an even more horrifying element to the story. The two women work as “soldier-teachers” in the schools of Netivot, a largely poverty-ridden development town in the south of Israel, between Ashkelon and Sderot, near the Gaza Strip.

The schools are by and large ultra-orthodox, as is much of Netivot. One of the leading Sephardi holy men, the “Baba Sali” lives in Netivot, in what is described as a mansion. Most of the rest of the town is dirt poor.

According to Adi, the textbooks used in the schools have pages ripped out or paragraphs crossed out, that deal with the Zionist history of Israel. The children are taught, according to both Adi and Sharon, that the non-religious is to be ignored and disdained. They are taught, from first grade, to ignore Israeli holidays, and not to obey the siren when it wails marking Israeli’s Independence Day; or any other holiday when one is to stand at attention until the siren ceases.

Adi and Sharon were incensed to see this kind of education, encouraged by the teachers, taking place in Israel. Not only because the schools are all subsidized by the State, but because these teachers are Jewish women, citizens of Israel. It is the state that pays the teachers salaries, and pays for the schools. The only other place one can see such overt anti-Israeli sentiment is in the Arab school system, where the outlines of the map of Israel don’t exist, or if they do the word “Israel” is replaced with “Palestine.”

For the ultra-orthodox, until the Messiah comes, and Torah law rules the country, there is no Jewish State. In that regard the ultra-orthodox Jews have a lot in common with the Taliban, and other fundamentalist societies.

Egged currently runs about 18 bus lines specifically for the ultra-orthodox community. As the price of apartments increases in the major cities, ultra-orthodox families have found better quality of life, and cheaper housing, in the development towns like Netivot, Arad and Beit Shemesh. According to a recent survey published in a Jerusalem Post article, less than 20 per cent of the ultra-orthodox community owns cars. Public transportation is their main mode of getting around the country.

The problem is that Egged is the largest bus company in Israel responsible for nearly all of the bus traffic between cities. Buses are the main form of inter-city transportation, besides private cars. The problem is complicated by the fact that Egged receives government subsidies to run certain lines; as well as subsidies from the government to allow soldiers in uniform to ride for free.

By denying soldiers access to a public bus Egged is probably breaking any number of laws. Egged doesn’t seem to care. They have reportedly found a lucrative market in the ultra-orthodox community, and are bending to the ultra-orthodox demands for separate seating on the buses. Women are relegated to the back of the bus, even asked to enter from the back. The ultra-orthodox women don’t seem to care.

Intracity buses are no different. Stories have begun to appear in Israeli papers dealing with violence on ultra-orthodox bus lines. One woman tells of being beaten riding a Jerusalem bus headed for the Western Wall in the Old City because she wouldn’t move to the back of the bus. The woman, an American immigrant, brought criminal charges against the men who beat her. The case is still pending.

The ultra-orthodox intolerance for democratic principles also extends to advertising. In the ultra-orthodox neighborhoods women are never seen in an advertisement, not in a billboard, not in a magazine, not on posters plastered on the sides of walls, a low-cost and ubiquitous form of advertising in the ultra-orthodox neighborhoods.

The ultra-orthodox even have specialty films that have no female characters in them. Bus stops in Israel went through a phase where advertisers slid posters between the plastic partitions of specially constructed bus stops.

Advertising companies who made the mistake of putting any ads with women in posters found the plastic walls defaced, sometimes doused with kerosene and set alight. Ads placed on signs attached to streetlight pillars were also destroyed if they even hinted at a woman’s visage. Kotex ads, for women’s sanitary pads, only use the name with a small red heart.

One educational institution in Israel ran an advertising campaign using posters on Egged buses. When Egged was shown a poster with men and women learning in the same classroom the non-religious Egged executive in charge of approving the ads turned the institution down. “No women’s ads on Egged buses in Jerusalem,” the institution was told.

Imagine the same restrictions on buses or subways in New York City. The day following the advertiser’s denial to put a woman on a poster, lawsuits would be filed in such numbers that the courts would have to shut down just to process the paper work. In Israel the reverse discrimination seems to be a way of life.

Violence is not unusual in the ultra-orthodox community. While not on the same level of violence as urban street gangs from the USA to S. America, where guns and knives are used daily, the ultra-orthodox can field a solid mass of hundreds, even thousands, of black-suited men and boys and mount an attack which requires police on horse-back, tear gas, and water canon to control the riot.

The Vishnitz Hassidic sect, based in Benei Brak is reportedly in the midst of a power struggle between two sons of the 92-year old Rebbe. The groups have been holding fierce street battles. According to a report in the Jerusalem Post, one group hurled objects at the other group along with epithets of “heathen” and “gentile,” and “non-believer.”

The Talmud offers advice how to force a man who is reluctant to give his wife a “Get”, a Jewish divorce decree: beat him up until he agrees. The issue of Agunot, women who have been denied a divorce by their husbands, has left many women at lose ends in Israel and around the world. Usually, according to experts, the reasons for the man’s reluctance are monetary; he is looking for a settlement. Sometimes it’s just plain meanness.

The courts in Israel have an ultra-orthodox element, the classic “Beit Din”, for those of the religious community who want their case decided by Rabbis. These courts usually throw out a plea to force a man to give his wife a “Get.” Sometimes the reason is that the plaintiff has been to a civil court to seek damages, alimony, or child-support payments. Such a move obviates the religious courts from hearing the case. It’s as if they’re insulted the plaintiff went to a civil court, and are now punishing the plaintiff.

This issue is important if someone wants to bring charges against the ultra-orthodox community for denying soldiers the right to ride a public Egged bus. Since there are no “modern orthodox”, let along Conservative or Reform Jews, on the rabbinic courts, a fair hearing there would be nearly impossible.

Freedom of religion is something to be revered, especially in Israel. But freedom of travel should also be revered. Egged, a national carrier, receiving monies from the public coffers, should not be allowed to restrict travel of non-religious citizens. Public transportation earmarked by Egged as lines specific to the ultra-orthodox should be made private, rented out and paid for by the community.

The resentment among the non-religious against the ultra-orthodox is exacerbated by this kind of indulgence by Egged. The non-ultra-orthodox community is already peeved at the religious community for not serving in the Israeli army, for disdaining the Jewish State’s existence, and for eschewing the payment of taxes. In fact, much of the ultra-orthodox community is supported by the state through welfare payments, housing subsidies, and educational subsidies.

One can only marvel at the absolute perfection in applying to word “Chutzpa” to this kind of behavior.

But the bottom line is that a minority should not be allowed to dictate to a majority, especially when the majority is paying the bills.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Time, Memory and Imagination

When all else fails, kick the tires. Doesn’t usually help, but if you don’t hurt your foot, sort of relieves some of the tension.

Passover in Israel can be like that. Doesn’t do a lot of good, but provides an enforced break from the daily workings of the State, such as they are, and of life in general.

Schools are closed, post offices work part time, banks half-time, that means its nearly impossible to find one open, offices work at a minimal load, and the roads are filled with cars, bumper to bumper, as if going somewhere was important enough to wait in traffic for hours.

The local grocer told us he’d waited an hour just to get into the parking lot at the Tel Aviv fairgrounds. Another neighbor related a two-hour drive from Maale Adumim to Kalya at the edge of the Dead Sea, a distance of perhaps ten miles, normally covered in as many minutes.

Bumper to bumper. Edge of their nerves, top of their lungs, as TV producer Norman Lear once wrote about life in his childhood apartment in Brooklyn, which he used as a model for his enormously successful TV show “Archie Bunker.” Passover holiday. A time to enjoy life. Except there are limitations. Firstly, the issue of Chometz. Forget for a minute that Chometz is really a fiction. What is Chometz? Ask a Rabbi. Some will give you an intelligent answer. Others will mention flour and bread and things that don’t have a Kosher For Passover label. Most of the rational world believes these labels are invented by the Rabbis to help keep the Rabbis in business. Someone, after all, pays to a Rabbi to certify something is Kosher for Passover.

Once a Talmudist told us Chometz is really Time. That’s it. Time. How do you put a label on Time? Flour and water make up Matza. But also bread. What separates the two? Yeast? No. Time. Matza can’t rise. Is given only 18 minutes for the flour and water to mix before they’re rolled out into dough and thrust into the oven. Flat bread, unleavened. Let it go 20 minutes, no good. It rose. It’s bread, can’t eat it. Chometz. Two minutes makes it Chometz. Time.

But this restriction has been with the Jewish people for over three thousand years, since the Exodus from Egypt. As Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion said once in a speech to Americans, ‘Does any American know the date when the Mayflower left on its voyage? Or what the people ate on board? And that was only three hundred years ago. We, the Jews, know the date we left Egypt, the fifteenth of Nissan, and what we ate, Matza. And that was three thousand three hundred years ago.”

Time. And as the Chief Rabbi of England, Jonathan Saks, wrote in his commentary on the Haggadah, Memory. The story of Passover is one of Memory. Memory that stretches over Time. A story that captures the imagination. Like Melville’s Moby Dick. A big white whale. That’s easy to imagine. Six hundred thousand men, not counting women and children and the “mixed-multitude”, nearly a million and a half people, left Egypt. That’s a lot of people. Like the whale, that captures the imagination.

The good Rabbi goes on to relate how the precepts of equality were inherent in the Passover story. How the slaves fled Egypt and the tyranny of the Pharoh and became free men. He further talks about the justice inherent in the Torah, how the fatherless and the widow and the poor were thought about, provided for, explicitly mentioned. We are to leave the corners of our fields unpicked, for the poor and windowed and fatherless. We are to go through our fields only once, leaving the rest of the crop to be picked by those less fortunate. We are not to murder, or steal, or cheat on our spouses. On and on. Lots of good stuff in there.

Of course, applying the good stuff isn’t always so simple. When then Prime Minister Netanyahu thought up his financial plan for Israel, including the Americanization of industry, and cutting back drastically on social welfare programs, it is doubtful he would have approved of leaving the corners of the fields unpicked, or only one pass by those harvesting the crops. He’d probably have said it was wasteful.

Then again, he had people watching out for him. He didn’t need the handouts. The corners of the fields. He had one of the Likud honchos, Hirschson, the present Finance Minister, allegedly embezzling from two charities and putting the money in the Likud coffers, to pay off election campaign debts, while lining his own pockets as well.

The Passover story set the tone for social justice, says Rabbi Saks. Unlike most heroic stories, the protagonist, Moses, did not go through the tale as a pauper only to discover late in life that he was really royalty. Nope, in this tale he starts out as a Royal and gives it all up because some bush burning in a mountainside talks to him. One wonders if they had peyote out there in that desert back then. Lots of Native Americans would probably tell you about burning bushes talking to them, too, but of course, none of them wound up leading a million people across the state line.

The social justice issues are a problem in Israel, where the enemy isn’t interested in social justice for the Jews unless it comes with extinction. But the Jews, ah, they bemoan the plight of the enemy. Gideon Levy, a columnist in the prestigious Haaretz newspaper, is a one-man roadshow for Palestinian rights. And based on the Passover narrative, and Rabbi Saks take on Jewish social justice, Levy is right. Secretly many Israelis side with him.

In our neighborhood a local Palestinian worker wanted a fancy dirt blower to help him clean the sidewalks. Several of the Jewish neighbors got together and raised the money for him, as a show of good faith after twenty years of service. These human-interest stories don’t make the papers, or Levy’s column, but they exist. Other neighbors helped this fellow get treatment and special glasses for his daughter, whom the Palestinian doctors thought blind. Now she’s back in school. When he needed surgery he turned to the Jewish neighbors for help, and they provided it. Does that mean he is against the Palestinian cause? Doubtful. But it does mean that those oppressor Jews are doing little things we never hear about for the needy, Palestinian and Jewish alike.

Passover is like that; bringing up stories of a heroic past, of struggle and freedom and victory. And amazingly, it is a story that has been repeated year after year, generation after generation, for thousands of years. And it is only one story among many. And it is the “story” which keeps the “memory” alive over “time.” The “story” which captures the imagination. The “story” replete with its multi-layered meanings that stokes thought and creates discussion.

Now the holiday is over, again, until next year. The Haggadot are put away in storage along with the Passover silverware and pots and pans and dishes. Stored in a closed space where no “Chometz” will get to them. And next year, they’ll be trotted out and put on the shelves, the Haggadot placed on the table, the story read, once again, retelling the heroic tale of escape from oppression into freedom.

Maybe kicking the tires helps some people, but for a reminder that there are mysteries in the world, besides those involving the ultimate cause of traffic jams, not much beats Passover, and the story of redemption.

Time, memory and imagination.

Now go and tell that to your children. Bet they listen, even if they don’t believe a word of it.