Judy Halper
Left is not a dirty word

Read On

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I can’t help feeling we’re living in a dystopian novel. The sheep (I’ll refrain from calling them pigs in light of possible religious sentiment) believe they have hit on a system. Stay close together and follow the leader. The leader, for his part (yes, it’s always a he) keeps the flock far back, behind the goats. The goats think they are in charge, but the sheep know better. There is always nice food to eat – in fact, the farmer saves the choicest grass for the sheep. Goats, as we know, can live on thorny brambles. They’ll do the work of clearing the land, fertilizing the soil and getting the nice, soft grass growing. Goats are always on the defensive, ready to butt heads, so the sheep can walk in their wake with their heads to the ground. That way, when the lions attack, it’s the young goats who will get taken, while the sheep can keep grazing unperturbed. What happens when the goats revolt? (Read on, and remember, it’s a dystopian novel. Don’t expect a happy ending.)

Or maybe we are living in an all-too-graphic novel in which people living in an increasingly militarized society have become numb to the pain and suffering they see around them. The war has become a fact of life to the point that the people have forgotten what life was like “before.” Their leaders have brainwashed them into thinking that everlasting war is necessary. “We’re on the way to winning,” they say to one another as they pass in the street. In the meantime, soldiers are called up to fight for years on end, their draft extended as each new front opens up.

When the lions attack, it’s the young goats who will get taken, while the sheep can keep grazing unperturbed

As the war progresses, people become afraid to speak out, as those who openly oppose the war disappear. They stop using their cell phones, as they fear the government listens to their conversations, and they gather to whisper in dingy apartments after dark. More and more people crowd into the city as their homes in the war zones become unlivable, putting a strain on all of the city’s services. Strikes and the never-ending war lead to roads that are continually blocked, garbage in the streets, smashed-in empty storefronts and disruptive noise at all times of day and night. The people begin to lose hope, and their children draw pictures of planes dropping black bombs, monsters with big guns. What happens when the displaced people band together to oppose the war? (We’re not there yet, but it’s not inconceivable. Read on and pray for a last-minute reprieve.)

At the same time, it feels as though we’re in a movie in which the government has initiated a “gluttony games” series of contests to see who can reap the greatest profit while racking up “extra lives” by successfully blaming others for the failures of the war. As the games progress, the contestants become more and more isolated from the hungry mobs throwing precious eggs outside the carved oak doors of their arena. Yelling and hurling insults will gain a contestant points, as will strategic back-room deals. Extremists develop another strategy: Simply declaring their previously illegal moves are now legal. Apparently this works for them, and they become emboldened to make a grab for more. What happens when the judges insist these yobbos keep to the rules? (Read on. There will be further twists and turns.)

Such stories always need heroes. Einav Zangauker, who was awarded the “William S. Goldman Truth to Power” Award this week is one such hero. Though she does not wear a cape or fight for justice singlehandedly, she and the legion of heroes who struggle on with her for the return of the Israeli hostages, who show up every week to call for an end to the war and an end to this dystopic, dysfunctional government, do so against ever more desperate odds. How much worse will things become before we see a ray of light? (Read on. Despite the odds, such plucky heroes give us hope.)

Like the protagonists of such stories, we struggle on despite the forces arrayed against us, because we feel the injustice of the herder’s system; we do not accept the idea that there is no alternative to war; we oppose the excesses of our leaders. (Of course, I count myself among the good guys). The story might end badly for us, but we cling to our heroes and to hope. (Read on.)

About the Author
Judy Halper is a member of a kibbutz in the center of the country. She has worked as a dairywoman, plumber and veggie cook, and as a science writer. Today she volunteers in Na'am Arab Women in the Center and works part time for Wahat al-Salam/Neve Shalom.
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