Why is this Pesach different?

Is it? Well it’s Pesach 5772, spring of 2012, and we should be out there celebrating.

It’s the spring holiday, the festive time of year when we eat dried sheets of cardboard and dream of chocolate Easter eggs. Traditionally, we remember when we, the Israelites, were delivered from slavery in Egypt, and became a free people.

I think it’s highly appropriate that we take this opportunity–when Israel is being vilified in the international media, and when Israeli diplomats get invited only to the wrong parties–and count our lucky stars that we have what we do indeed have. No, I don’t mean shingles. I mean, those everyday parts of our lives that have changed over the years, and which should remind us of how dreadful it used to be. So let’s clap our hands, bang those cymbals, rattle those pots and pans, and thank The One Above for:

  • Cheaper phone calls. Don’t you remember you used to have to argue with Bezeq to get a new line, and then wait for months? And when you wanted to call abroad, you had to stay up till 2 in the morning to get the cheap rate, by which time you’d forgotten what it was you wanted to say? But then the phone sector was opened to competition and we never looked back. In the old days, we would have to make firm arrangements, by letter, three weeks in advance, to meet a friend at 9 (but obviously not turn up till 10 past). Now, however, with the latest smartass-phone technology, and for only 155 shekels a month, I can telepathically send an SMS to my friend who lives in the flat below, who I spoke to, via facebook not 3 seconds ago, just to let them know that I won’t be ready until 10 past! It saves so much hassle!
  • Television programs have got so much better too. There used to be no choice at all. Everyone would be sat at home, watching Upstairs Downstairs on the only channel available, because there was no alternative. Now we have 154 channels, some of them in languages that we understand, offering a non-stop stream of fascinating documentaries, cookery knock-out programmes, and canned-laughter comedies that would bring tears to Mona Lisa’s cheeks. And yet, still, we’re all glued to The Voice, or Big Brother because… er…
  • Political justice. More and more former politicians, cabinet ministers and presidents, are finding themselves where they always deserved to be: Maasiyahu Prison! And in no way does this seem to have affected the quality of our legislation (though it has brought down the quality of our prison population).
  • Currency regulations have gone. Once upon a time, in defense of the shekel, so they claimed, it was forbidden for an Israeli citizen to hold foreign currency. I remember, as a tourist, I was once in Haifa, looking to exchange my pounds for shekels. I asked a kiosk owner, innocently, if he knew where I could change money. He looked left and right (just like in the films) before whispering “I’ll change it for you.” All very hush hush, cloak and dagger stuff. Now we can all hold as much foreign currency as we like, and if you are thinking of selling a few dollars, there’s a distinguished looking gentleman, just call him Stan, who stands on the corner of Kaplan Street, Jerusalem, every morning at 9:30 who’ll be willing to buy any spare dollars you have for a good price. And the shekel doesn’t seem to have suffered, mate.
  • Israelis are far better looking than they used to be. Astonishingly this has happened at exactly the same time as my eyesight has got worse. It must be something in the water.
  • Affordable luxury. It used to be the case that only billionaires could afford the most expensive properties in Israel. But today, what with the purchase-groups, subsidies, social protest tent city domino effect, and the cottage cheese campaign, even common, or garden, millionaires can snap up a luxury apartment or two in downtown Tel Aviv. Apparently the last penthouses are on sale in the Bergen-Gandhi-Yoohu project for a little under 5 million shekels, which includes valet-bicycle parking and a whole week’s supply of cottage cheese.
  • Ethnic diversity and tolerance. There was once upon a time a terrible social divide between the Ashkenazim (the East European establishment of lawyers, judges and poets) and the Sephardim (the North African, swarthy, raucous no-collar workers). But today we are all one, or, in the words of Rav Mecher “We are all kitniyot eaters, now”.

May you enjoy the Pesach/Easter break. Happy holidays.