The Middle East Hunger Games

Driving through Israel’s major highways, you can’t go one mile without seeing a billboard for Catching Fire, the film adaptation of the second installment of The Hunger Games trilogy. The craze rivals the kind we’ve seen over the Twilight vampire saga, and I believe the reasons for the craze in Israel go beyond the teenage fixation with heartthrob-making, romantic sci-fi adventure films.

The story could be interpreted through a lens that is very relevant for the Jewish state and its battle with her neighbors. While some parents may not want their children to watch teenagers engaged in violent combat, I think the moral allegories that can be drawn from the films (but even more so from the novels), make them a worthwhile read and watch in Israel.

The trilogy is set in the nation of Panem in a post-apocalyptic North America. To ensure its hegemony, the glamorous, scientifically-advanced Capitol has divided the people into twelve Districts that its President strictly controls. The “Hunger Games” is a national reality show—think “Survivor” meets The Truman Show meets Gladiator—in which two teenagers, a boy and girl, from each District fight to the death for fame and fortune. A national celebration, the Games are a tool to get the Districts to submit to the Capitol.

Essentially, the Hunger Games portray child sacrifice. The children of the Districts are not masters of their own fate; they’re its pawns. The Capitol is the “god” they are commanded to worship.

Child sacrifice is a form of idolatry detested by the Hebrew Bible. The God of Israel categorically rejects killing one’s child for His sake when he stops Abraham from sacrificing Isaac on the altar. This moment defines the theological thrust of Judaism: the Hebrew God seeks life from his people—not death—and presents a system of laws and statutes meant, in theory, to safeguard life on this earth. This philosophical tradition may explain why modern Israel has emerged as a country that overall respects individual rights, science, and real peace. The longing for Zion—Jerusalem—is the longing for a state that honors life.

The majority of Israel’s neighbors, on the other hand, have built Islamic states or authoritarian regimes that demand worship to “Allah.” The “Palestinian people” are like Allah’s “chosen people” leading the fight against Zion by sacrificing their children for the sake of “Palestine.” While Mecca is the traditional capital of Islam, Allah’s “chosen people” have adopted a new capital for the state they desire: al-Quds—the Arab name for Jerusalem—the Capitol of “Palestine.”

The “Districts” of al-Quds consist of Palestinian refugee camps whose squalor is perpetuated by Arab leaders and the United Nations, just as the squalor of the Districts of Panem are perpetuated by the Capitol of Panem to keep the citizens in check. The leaders of Al-Quds train the children of these Districts to volunteer as “tribute,” with Hamas terrorist training camps commencing in kindergarden. But while tributes in the Hunger Games must fight to live, the Palestinian tributes fight to die to achieve honor for their Districts, with arenas, sports teams, and streets named after fallen terrorists. Child sacrifice was at its height during the Second Intifada when Palestinian youth routinely blew themselves up in Israeli busses, cafes, and hotels, shouting “Allah is the Greatest” minutes before the bomb belt exploded.

Unfortunately, many Israelis have been dragged into these “Palestinian Hunger Games” by believing the lie that Zion is the evil Capitol oppressing the Palestinians.

In 2005, Israel unwittingly sanctioned the Palestinian Hunger Games by expelling 9,000 Jews out of the District of Gaza and destroying their homes. Instead of exposing Palestinian terror for what it is—child sacrifice to al-Quds—and crushing it, Israel appeased “Palestine” and ran away. Some argue the withdrawal was done for the sake of security—ultimately, for the sake of Zion—but then Israel has essentially treated the Jews of Gaza as political pawns who are forced to sacrifice their lives, their property, their dignity…for Zion.

A year later, Israel responded to Hezbollah’s fatal attacks on the Lebanon border with conventional warfare—at the outset a justifiable act of self-defense. But as a national report revealed, then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sent men into battle grossly unprepared. In August of 2006, Olmert proclaimed that a victory would provide momentum for the now defunct “Consolidation Plan” to expel Jews from Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank), a move that would hasten a Palestinian state. He thus sent ill-trained IDF soldiers—18 and 19 year-olds—into battle not to save Jewish lives, but ultimately to sacrifice the Jewish “settlers” to al-Quds.

After reading and watching the first two installments of the trilogy, I have found that the heroine Kantiss Everdeen is an admirable character who questions immoral authority, takes risks to save innocent lives, and cleverly outwits an oppressive regime, eventually triggering uprisings against the brutal Capitol. Now if only The Hunger Games craze would catch on in the Arab world to trigger truly moral uprisings that overthrow al-Quds and embrace instead the Capitol of life in the Middle East: Zion.

About the Author
Orit Arfa is a journalist and author of "The Settler," a novel following the journey of a young woman into Tel Aviv nightlife following her eviction from her home in Gaza in 2005. Like her heroine, Orit is a good girl gone better.