Well….if you were planning on a visit to Italy and Venice, I can save you the costs involved. For unfortunately Venice has recently come to Tel-Aviv and Dizengoff Street has become the new Grand Canal. The meteorologists did not give us sufficient advanced warning. I don’t know the depth of the water which I fell into while crossing the street from my home but it was not too far from my kneecaps!
Fortunately, Rishon Lezion was spared the disasters of Tel-Aviv and areas south. Cars were submerged in the heavy rain waters, becoming more like submarines than automobiles. Busses were unable to make their way through streets inundated by flood waters. Police vehicles could not easily reach those trapped in the rushing waters. Sewers were overflowing and could not absorb the torrential rain.
I was looking for Noah, hoping he could haul me up to his ark for safety but it was overcrowded with an abundance of animals.
At this season we are required to pray for rain. Rain is one thing. Floods are another. Rumor has it that one rabbi urged people to stop praying for rain. Maspik. Genug. Enough. Wading through knee-high waters, all I could do was to chant an Italian song, quite fitting for a Venitian scene. O solo mio….
The weather has been very stormy lately but nothing can compare to our stormy parliament. Our Knesset meetings are disastrous. Shameful. Disgusting. All negative adjectives apply. When one speaker ascends to the plenum to deliver remarks, he or she is shouted down by tens of voices all screeching at the same time. No etiquette. No courtesy. No discipline. No respect. We are unlike any other parliament in the world. The Speaker bangs his gavel and urges the members to compose themselves and to refrain from shouting. After demanding order three times, the unruly members of the Knesset are escorted by security guards out of the on-going session.
Unhappily, our Knesset represents some of the worst aspects of our Israeli society. It resembles more of a circus than a democratic parliament. And the worst of the clowns is the Likud member, Oren Hazan, who thankfully has been ejected from attending Knesset sessions for a six month period.
On the topic of parliaments we are all bitter at the very recent Polish perfidy. The Polish Senate, in a vote of 57 to 23, passed one of the most disgraceful and hate-filled laws of the 21st century.
Historically, over a period of one thousand years, Poland has been the most anti-Semitic country on the face of the earth. Our late beloved Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, a Jew born and educated in Poland, once remarked that Poles drink anti-Semitism from their mothers’ milk. And the bitter history of Polish-Jewish relations is testimony to it.
In 1930 (through most of the thirties) Poland had a fascist government dedicated to the supremacy of the vitriolic Polish Catholic church. Augustus Cardinal Hlond, the supreme leader of the Polish church, sent letters to the churches of Poland to be read at a Sunday mass by the priests urging Polish Catholics to boycott the ten percent of the country’s Jews. Do not shop at Jewish-owned stores. Do not seek medical care from Jewish physicians. Do not consult with Jewish lawyers. Jewish university students were required to sit in back benches, away from the main student body. The Cardinal discouraged physical attacks on Jews but closed blind eyes when they indeed did occur.
In 1931 my wife’s grandfather in Warsaw, an Orthodox Jew with a long beard, had to attend the funeral of his mother who had died suddenly in Dzialoszyce. At the railroad station he was attacked by a gang of Polish Catholic ruffians who beat him and cut off his beard. He was unable to attend his mother’s funeral.
Ha maivin yavin… when one sees the light one begins to understand. Several months later he succeeded in getting British permits for himself, his wife, and four of his five children, and they made their way to Palestine. In Tel-Aviv, he built a home in the Montefiore section and opened a textile factory on rehov Hamasger. He is listed in the Encyclopedia of Pioneers in industry as one of the first to bring innovation to the manufacture of textiles which were sold in Palestinian stores and shops in Egypt and Lebanon.
In 1939 Poland was over-run by the German Nazi military forces. Jews were forced to leave their homes and property and move into ghettos. A very few years later, Poland became the grave-yard of its three million Jewish population. Oswiecim (Auschwitz), Brzezinka (Birkenau)., Maidanek, Treblinka, Sobibor, Chelmno were built on Polish soil by the Nazis. Crematoria and gas chambers were built.
Polish Christians saw and knew what was happening. Most of them rejoiced that Poland would soon become Juden-frei. To their credit, some 6,700 Polish citizens did whatever they could do to hide, protect, shelter, rescue and feed Jews. They have been honored as Righteous Gentiles by Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust institute.
Yet other Poles aided the Germans by denouncing Jewish hiding places and turning over Jews to the Nazis for extermination.
Following the end of World War II the few Jewish survivors returned to Poland to reclaim their homes and property and to rebuild their lives. In the large city of Kielce, Polish citizens “greeted” the half-starved Jewish survivors with wooden clubs, knives and other weapons, murdering several dozens of the pitiful Jews.
In Jedwabne the local Polish population rounded up more than three hundred Jews, locked them in a barn and set fire to it. Witnesses to this act of wanton hate and murder, decent Polish citizens, have given sworn testimony to the fact of this event. The Polish government maintained silence.
Under the recently passed resolution in the Polish Senate, it is now a crime for any one to state Polish perfidy to the Jews from 1939-1945. It is a crime, punishable to three years imprisonment, to blame Poland for the massacre of the Jews. The new law now absolves Poland of any responsibility for crimes committed during and after the Holocaust. Germany admits its guilt. Poland denies its crimes.
The Polish national anthem, Jeszcze Polska nie zginiela… Poland’s glory is not lost while her sons remain alive… should now be sung to new words: Poland’s glory is truly lost while her sons remain alive.
With more random thoughts my mind turns to the plight of some 30,000 “refugees” who entered Israel illegally by way of being smuggled across the Egyptian border in Sinai. Some of them are legitimately refugees fleeing from persecution in Eritrea and South Sudan. Most of them have entered Israel only for the purpose of working illegally here. They have turned south Tel-Aviv into filth, corruption and crime.
Residents who have homes in south Tel-Aviv fear for their lives. They are afraid to leave home for grocery shopping, not knowing if they’ll return home alive. Deportation of the African migrants has been discussed in our courts and in our Knesset and is en route to a humanitarian way to enable the migrants to leave Israel voluntarily.
In Iran there seems to be the making of a new revolution. I call it the “war of the hijabs”. A brave young woman stood on a street corner in Teheran, removed her hijab head covering and waved it as a white flag. Her purpose was to declare that the wearing of the hijab by Iranian Muslim women should be voluntary and not mandated by the laws of the ayatollahs. She was joined by a small group of Iranian women who supported the cause for religious freedom. Their fate remains unknown as of this date.
At a lovely Shabbat dinner in Kfar Saba with my cousins Binyamin and Shula from Ramat Hasharon, I was treated to an exciting discourse by their granddaughter Michelle who works as an assistant to a member of the Knesset. She was brilliantly defending the honor and dignity which so many politicians pursue with pride on behalf of the citizens of Israel. Her remarks were inspiring and encouraging for the younger generation. At age 22, I have told her that one day she will be the new Golda Meier of Israel. And I honestly believe it to be true.
Sadly, this week we have lost the greatest poet and writer of our generation. Chaim Guri passed away at the age of 94. During his long life he wrote 30 books and hundreds of poems, many set to music. His first poem was written and published when he was only 16 years old. During our war of independence, Guri served with honor in the Palmach striking force.
Even in his old age he could remember to recite many of his poems by heart and would proudly sing several which had been set to music.
His written words will continue to be read by new generations and hopefully will inspire them to uphold the dignity, courage and pride of the Jewish State of Israel.
Today the sun is shining. The winds have subsided and the rains have ceased to fall.
Perhaps my random thoughts will create happier memories.