1933 Germany. Jew tells the civil servant: I want to change my name. Well, say the public servant, that is possible but not easy. But I really want it. You need to have very serious reasons – otherwise it will not happen. I have the reason – a terrible name. OK, tell me, what is your name? Adolf Schtinkfuss (stink-foot)! O, I see, says the official; and what would you like your new name to be? Moritz Schtinkfuss.
This joke came to mind when I got into a Jerusalem bus tonight. The stink was unbearable. I tried finding out what this could be. Did someone throw up? Had someone lost some bowel movement? It smelled more like stinking feet, but they were all two meters away from my nose (I’m 6′ 5″ — I was standing in the packed bus). What could this be? I didn’t want to embarrass anyone but my curiosity got the better of me. What is this smell, I asked cautiously.
Everyone started to explain it to me, “don’t ask”-style. There were demonstrations and the police had employed a water cannon with stinking water. The bus had gotten a gulf and so did passengers at the bus stop. This was five hours before, but the smell was still there.
Later I heard that overzealous police had sprayed on many people not connected geographically to the demonstration at all. One person threw up from the smell in the street. But in my bus it was a bit more bearable.
O, I suggested, this is just like the smell of very fine French cheese. It’s not so bad if we think that we just got for free some exquisite French culinary perfume. Some people laughed. Only the bus driver volunteered that he already had a headache from the whole story.
In Jerusalem, they don’t know yet how it used to be in Amsterdam, 40 years ago. Three (legalized) demonstrations a day. Traffic jammed all day long, every day. Want to get somewhere, take public transportation or the bike. It’s part of democracy. Freedom of expression, a free press, freedom of congregation, demonstration. Yes, it disturbs, but that’s the whole purpose. Without it, you have dictatorship and that really disturbs.