Balfour or Ball Four?

If only being a supporter of Israel is as easy as it was to be a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays this week.

When I was sixteen years old, my friend Barry Simon (now a prominent Toronto psychiatrist) and I were asked to write a comedy sketch based on the Balfour Declaration (the 1917 declaration of the British Government that endorsed the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine).  The sketch portrayed England’s Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour as the owner of a baseball team who was drafting the Ball Four Declaration to establish a national home plate for the Jewish people in Palestine.

The sketch ended with a song and dance number to the tune of Take Me Out to the Ball Game, which started:

“Abdullah to Balfour to Weizman, what a great double play”.

I was thinking of the connection between Israel and baseball when I went to the now historic Game 5 of the American League Divisional Series on Wednesday in Toronto. If you are not a follower of baseball, this is what happened.

There was a controversial play in the top of the seventh inning with the score tied at two when the return throw by Toronto’s catcher accidentally hit the bat of the Texas batter resulting in the ball trickling to third base rather than to the pitcher, a Texas Ranger on third base seized on this opportunity to run to home, the umpire called time before he reached home and sent him back to third, the Texas manager protested, the umpires caucused, then said the run was good, the Toronto fans erupted in anger pelting the field with spraying beer cans and garbage,  the police were called out on to the field, nevertheless the run counted after the umpires called New York for a rules check, more flying beer cans and garbage, then when Toronto batted in the bottom of the inning Texas made three errors in a row loading the bases, a hit looped in past second scoring a run to tie, Toronto’s Jose Bautista came to the plate and hit a three run homer tossing his bat in the air in triumph which led to two bench emptying altercations between the teams and when it was all over Toronto won the game and the playoff series, and all 50,000 Toronto Blue Jay fans went home happy.

The seventh inning took about an hour. In the top half of the inning when Texas scored the controversial run the Toronto fans in the stadium were frustrated, we thought our beloved home team was being mistreated, that someone in New York didn’t understand what was happening yet had influence over what we were experiencing and more importantly the result of the game, and that all this was unfair. In the bottom half of the inning the injustice was ‎righted, baseball karma caused Texas to make three errors and Toronto triumphantly declared by a three run homer that we are resilient and what was wrong has been made right. We win in the end.  At least from a Blue Jay perspective, justice prevailed.

While all this was going on, Israel, yet again, is under attack and the world just doesn’t get it. Media reports highlight the Palestinians killed ignoring the fact that they were killed while attacking innocent Israelis. Mention is made of a cycle of violence as if killing an attacker who is poised to murder with a knife is equivalent to stabbing an innocent child riding a bicycle.  Israel is criticised for responding excessively as if a person with a knife in mid attack would be treated any differently anywhere else in the world. Most troubling is that nobody really seems to care that Jewish blood is being spilled-again.

We have seen all of this before. Israel is being unfairly treated, our fellow Jews are being killed, a standard is being applied to Israel greater than would be applied anywhere else, this is just not right, nobody gets it, and we are frustrated.

Sadly, unlike baseball, this will not be rectified within an hour by a few errors and a home run. ‎Like the long suffering Chicago Cub fans whose team hasn’t won a World Series since 1908 we must continue to stay positive, believe that things will change for the better, work as best we can to bring on that change and never lose hope.

In other words, we must continue to root, root, root for the Homeland.

About the Author
David Matlow is the Chair of the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto, and a partner at Goodmans LLP. He owns the world's largest collecton of Theodor Herzl memorabilia and produced My Herzl, a documentary film about the continued relevance of Herzl today.
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