I notice that I have not added to my blog since Purim. Actually, a Jewish publishing house based in Germany (of all places) noticed and asked me to send in samples for possible publication. I would welcome my work being introduced to a wider audience, and a foot in the door of commercial writing would also be welcome.
Probably the most significant event affecting the Jewish world since Purim 5774 was the war in Gaza. Israel finally had enough with the daily rocket fire from Gaza, which they evacuated in 2005 in return for empty promises quickly repudiated by Hamas once it violently seized power. In addition, Hamas was busy digging tunnels under the border, with the intention of kidnaping Israeli civilians and committing other acts of terror. So the Israelis invaded Gaza, destroyed the tunnels and some of Hamas’s military assets and returned. Israel seems to do this every few years, as Hamas quickly rearms and the world does nothing. This strategy is sometimes referred to as “lawn mower operations” since despite all the rhetoric on both sides everybody knows that the “grass” will regrow and Israel will have to enter Gaza later to re-mow it. Every time Israel conducts one of these operations it is excoriated by the United Nations, the European Union and the liberal mainstream media in the United States for the heavy collateral damage, particularly the deaths of many children. This damage is made inevitable by Hamas’s cynical tactic of placing its military assets in hospitals and schools full of children, as well as in private homes whose occupants are not allowed to leave, in order to score propaganda points with the above-named entities. Israel has always done, and still does more than any other army on earth to prevent civilian casualties. It even drops flyers and knocks on roofs to warn civilians of the precise buildings to be attacked, so that civilians may leave. Those civilians must then choose between leaving and being killed by Hamas if they are discovered, and staying and being killed or injured in the military operation. Imagine the United States and its allies doing that in World War II. I say that next time Hamas’s shenanigans force Israel to invade, it should leave the lawn mowers behind, enter with overwhelming force, clean out the vipers’ nests once and for all and STAY. Show the Arabs as much mercy as the allies of World War 2 showed the Germans. Destroy any buildings used to attack Israelis, no matter who else is inside. If so much as a cap gun goes off from a mosque, level said mosque. Let the world rant and rave all it wants to, remind the media that they went in because the enemy deliberately targets Israeli civilians, including children, and that no other country would tolerate such conditions. The world will condemn us anyway, so who cares? Rebuild the settlements that were evacuated; no doubt most of the evacuees will be only too happy to return to their homes and make the land flourish as it did before the expulsions. The war sparked outbursts of anti-Semitism all over western Europe, especially in France. French Jews are still afraid to walk the streets wearing kippot (skullcaps) and police must be deployed around synagogues so that Jews can enter and leave peacefully. Many of them decided that they have no future in France and are leaving for Israel. They can be helped to build homes in Gaza (city and strip) and strengthen the Jewish presence. Same goes for the haredim with their high birthrates and low levels of education; let them work the soil and justify their existence.
Close on the heels of the Gaza war came the Yamim Noraim (high holidays) and my own personal misfortune. On the Sunday morning of Selihot (penitential prayers recited during the season) I missed a step at home, fell sideways and twisted my knee. Somehow I made it to the nearest emergency room, where they took x-rays, ascertained that I did not break a bone, gave me a brace and a cane and told me to see an orthopedist. The orthopedist ordered an MRI and diagnosed a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and meniscus (cartilage). I already had two arthroscopies on the same knee to repair damaged cartilage. So another arthroscopy was done to remove the damaged cartilage and replace the ligament with tissue from a cadaver. The ACL injury is the same one suffered by professional football and basketball players; it inevitably sidelines them for the season and I was promised a similarly long recovery. I am still assiduously doing physical therapy to rehabilitate the injury.
On the evening before my accident I attended the Selihot at Kingsway Jewish Center. For several reasons I found it difficult to relate to. Many of the piyutim (liturgical poems) are very difficult to understand because they are written in an abstruse style of medieval Hebrew (unlike the amidot, which anybody who understands Hebrew can comprehend) and the authors assume a broad knowledge of Talmud and Midrashim that we moderns do not possess. These poems are valuable, but are better studied than recited in prayer. Sefaradim begin Selihot on Rosh Hodesh Elul; perhaps we should convene starting then to study the more esoteric texts. Many of the poems that we do understand portray the Jewish people as weak, helpless and hounded, which was true when they were written but not today, when Barukh Hashem we are witnessing and participating in the unfolding geula (redemption). One in particular describes two nations, Sheba and Dedan, which refer to Arab provinces where Jews were living as dhimmis (second-class citizens), as possessing mighty armies while we are helplessly subjugated to them. Huh? In my mind’s eye I see the piles of shoes and burned-out equipment that the Arab armies left for us in June 1967. Sometimes changing the tense of a verb or two will make the poem consonant with reality on the ground, but sometimes it will not. In that case I cannot get the words out of my mouth; doing so would show a crass ingratitude to God, Who is turning our fortunes around before our very eyes, just as the Prophets told us He would. Finally, the hazzan (cantor) pronounces the holam (vav with a dot above it) as if it was followed by the letter yod, i.e. an “oy” sound. He also, as is customary on the Yamim Noraim, sprinkles “oy vey,” liberally throughout the text. All of this has an unmanly, and therefore unwelcome, ring. We are not an “oy vey” people anymore; we have earned the world’s respect and admiration for our ability to kick butt. Neither the pronunciation nor the textual emendation is wrong per se; I cannot fault a man for following his family minhag (custom), but every “oy” and “oy vey” grates on my macho ears, and the older I get the more it grates. I would like to hear the Selihot and the services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur from an Israeli hazzan who pronounces a holam the Israeli way and does not add “oy veys” that are not found in the printed text. I would also like the piyutim that describe our past subjugation as if it were present, and that cannot be fixed, simply passed over. Perhaps people more creative than I am can compose piyutim expressing our gratitude to God for the unfolding geula; these can be substituted for the traditional piyutim that, praise God, no longer have a basis in reality.
On a happier note, I became a grandfather for the first time when my daughter gave birth to a daughter on the first day of Shavu’ot 5774. My granddaughter was named Lianna Batya or Lilliana Beth, but we call her Lily. We’re all delighted with our cute little girl, but I want her to grow into a big strong girl, in body, mind and spirit, able to advance the geula. My son got married in Israel on 27 Tevet 5775 to a Sabra girl from Yemenite stock. They live in Petah Tikva. I and my wife traveled to Israel for the wedding and sheva brakhot. May it be God’s will that I should soon return to Israel for a brit milah and pidyon ha-ben, and that we all merit to see the completion of the geula and, before I get too old and weak to put one brick on top of another, the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash.