Ziona Greenwald

The Emperor has no clothes

This week, the Hirsch Theatre in Jerusalem will be hosting performances of “The Tales of Hans Andersen,” a show about famed Danish storyteller Hans Christian Andersen, whose fairy tales have delighted and enlightened readers for centuries. In the model of Midrashic parables, each of Andersen’s stories, including The Princess and the Pea, The Ugly Duckling, and Thumbelina, contains a timeless moral lesson.

Quite coincidentally, another of Andersen’s best-known stories (it’s been translated into over 100 languages) has come to my mind in recent days as I followed the violence on the Israel-Gaza border.

If you don’t remember the tale, in The Emperor’s New Clothes,two weavers, who are actually swindlers, promise a vain emperor a suit of new clothes which they claim will be so fine and magical that it will be invisible to all those who are unworthy of their positions or exceptionally foolish. The “weavers” pretend to toil at their looms creating the special suit, requesting more and more money, expensive fabric, and trimmings which they hoard for future profit—all while making no garments at all.

When the “suit” is ready, no one—not even the emperor himself—dares to admit that he does not see anything, for fear he will be viewed as stupid. Instead, the people all fawn over the emperor and exclaim over his magnificent garb as he parades through the street. Finally, a little child calls out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!” As the child’s words spread through the crowd, the whole town echoes the child’s statement that the emperor has no clothes. But the emperor, not knowing how to stop the charade without looking like the biggest fool of all, marches on.

For weeks, in a calculated tactic that long predated the American embassy’s move to Jerusalem, thousands of Gazans massed against Israel’s border fence—some armed with weapons, firebombs, or fire kites, and all armed with blood lust for our country and its people. They are Hamas’s minions, willing to die for their stated cause of destroying Israel, on the ground or at least on the media stage. And what did the world see? A peaceful protest. An oppressed people fighting for a legitimate goal.

The international media and the usual chorus of world leaders, led by the morally handicapped European powers, have worked themselves into an Israel-bashing frenzy over the loss of life on the Gaza side of the security fence. Dozens of Arabs have been killed, hundreds injured. Israel must be to blame. Isn’t it obvious?

This emperor has no clothes.

Are we here in Israel, and our few friends—in the Trump administration and elsewhere—the only ones who see reality? Have truth and falsehood, right and wrong, become so fungible so as to be indistinguishable?

Falsehood is charming and vanity is beautiful, wrote King Solomon in Proverbs, in his famous paean to the Jewish woman; it is in such a world that valor and godliness shine.

But only for those who value truth and will seek it out even when its defamers try to enshroud it in thick, black clouds of smoke.

About the Author
Ziona Greenwald, J.D., a contributing editor for The Jewish Press, is a writer and editor and the author of two children's books, Kalman's Big Questions and Tzippi Inside/Out. She lives with her family in Jerusalem.
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