oh forget it, Jerusalem

I read yesterday in a comment in one of the blogs I read about the Tel Aviv tent finish:

“We live in a healthy, vibrant, free Jewish democracy”… Yes, but with one of the largest disparities between Rich and Poor in the Western world. And, it’s getting larger with every passing day. 20 or so families continue to own and run the bulk of Israel’s assets. Cheaper Lego or Dairy Queen CEO, Ofra Strauss promising to drop the price of cottage cheese won’t change a thing. Israel’s real and potentially dangerous poor were not to be found anywhere near last night’s ‘Block Party’, but believe me, when they get really hungry, the music will stop and this year’s London riots will look like a camp fire compared with what will happen here. The government needs to re- institute subsidized housing for young couples, ‘chayalim meshuchrarim’ and the working poor. It needs to set price controls on basic food items – something that once existed. When I made Aliya more than 30 years ago, I never thought that the price of milk and almost every other food item would cost more than in the US (often, several times more). The real price of government and corporate greed has been Yerida. Approximately one of every 5 Israelis, mostly hard working, skilled middle class, has left the country (so embarrassing for the State, the actual statistics are a closely guarded secret).

Now since this is a closely guarded secret that I was not previously privy to, I can’t confirm or deny. But I can say that I saw a whole lot of them last evening at a wedding I went to. It was full of many secular Israelis, most of whom were also of Mizrachi background. I’m not sure they really fit into the description above, but let’s say that they do, since they left Israel in search of money (not fame, just fortune) instead of slogging it out at home. But since they are from the North African community, they share a love/fascination of some sense of the mystical, so they were into the whole brachah from the bride business. It was actually very sweet to see the bride give out the brachot. (I told her just to say to them whatever came to her, and she whispered it into their ears very privately, bringing tears to many. Wow.) But when it came time for the actual chuppah, most of the guests couldn’t be bothered to be quiet/attentive/thoughtful/sensitive–take your pick of adjectives. And it wasn’t just because there were men there, too. Of course, the young children who were being fed in order to be quiet (but only after screaming) didn’t help the situation. One kid was bothering everyone so much that I finally asked if I could take the kid outside (the mother had him in a stroller, but he wasn’t asleep–he was eating.) and she said she would do it. She took him out of the stroller. End of movement. The best line was that one older kid said to his father “Abba, he’s reading so fast I don’t understand.” The funny part was that it was during the reading of the Ketubah. In Aramaic. Yes, better it should be read very very quickly.

So it wasn’t a surprise that even when they were reciting the sheva brachot that one young girl, probably about 4 or 5, was told by her Israeli mother, in English, “When they finish saying this, your job is to say ‘Amen’.” And she did and the mother said, “Good job!”

The fact that she didn’t have any context for the brachah meant that she probably didn’t know what Chanukah was, or at least not attached with any brachah for candle-lighting. No context of anything means that Jerusalem is not in the picture. You can’t mourn something you don’t know exists.

Or doesn’t.

There are two fascinating articles in the New York Magazine that I also read yesterday. The first is about Madonna and her new film:

It’s being reported that her dismally reviewed new featureW.E. whitewashes the Nazi ties of its main characters, Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII; according toVariety‘s Leslie Felperin, the movie “conveniently ignores matters of historical record, such as the fact that the duke and duchess were honored guests of Hitler at his Berchtesgaden retreat as late as 1937.” So that’s one thing, but here’s another: Guess who’s thanked in the end credits? “John Gallianoand, particularly bizarrely, Leni Riefenstahl,” says Felperin, “which suggests Madonna has, if nothing else, reasons to be grateful to other people accused of harboring Nazi sympathies.”

This is a case of the lack of memory, or of true memory, of true knowledge.

But there’s another article that is quite compelling, about the anniversary of 9/11, that certainly should be taking our attention this week. Mark Stilla talks about how there is an expectation of forgetfullness, especially in America, that didn’t happen this time. I’m going to quote just from the end, but please look at the whole thing (not that long):

Fresh memories take up a lot of RAM. They not only slow down thinking, they make it harder to retrieve older memories that once made us wiser. And how much the phrase “Never forget” has made us forget! We forgot why the War Powers Resolution was originally passed. We forgot that nations can’t be built where people don’t see themselves as a nation. We forgot that family-trumps-clan-trumps-tribe-trumps-state in much of the world, and that a police uniform does not a citizen make. We forgot that democratization empowers the demos, not just the bloggers. We forgot that the demos hates the powerful and never forgets humiliations, real or perceived. We forgot that revolutions always provoke reactions.

We forgot that things can always get worse.

The title of the article, by the way, is “Never Forget“.

Ironic, isn’t it, that this week’s Torah portion is Ki Tetze, which ends with the mitzvah of remembering Amalek? Or, more precisely, to never forget?

And haven’t we done such a good job of it already?


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