Esor Ben-Sorek

To Live For or to Die For. Is there a Difference? Ask the Editor

One day in the past February when the coronavirus was still relatively new to us I sat on the bus next to a middle-aged woman who spoke only a few words in Hebrew. She was visiting from Australia or New Zealand, I don’t remember which one, so we conversed in English.

She said it was her third visit to Israel and she was staying with cousins in Rishon Lezion, coincidentally my city.

In our conversation she asked me if I had ever eaten in one of Rishon’s best-known restaurants, the Bukharan Pinat HaShlosha. And she gave a big smile informing me that she loved the food served there.

“I could die for their kabobs and their salads are also something to die for”, she remarked. I was a bit confused. Why would anyone want to go to a restaurant whose meals they could die for?

As we were approaching the final stop at Kanyon HaZahav, Rishon’s largest mall, she said again, “I can’t wait to get into Castro’s. Their prices are to die for. Much cheaper than the stores where I come from.”

“Have you been to the Azrieli mall in Tel-Aviv”, I asked her?

“No, not on this visit. But I’m dying to go there next week”, she replied.

For her, the food was something to “die” for and she was “dying” to go shopping in Tel-Aviv next week.

If everything was to “die” for and if she was “dying” to go shopping in Tel-Aviv, what in the world did she “live” for?

In her English vocabulary was there a difference between living and dying? There certainly is in mine !

I never saw her again after we both left the bus and I certainly hope that now, six months later, she has arrived safely home on a flight that one could “die for because she was “dying” to return to her own country and to tell her friends and neighbors about her pleasant and safe experiences in a country that is to “die” for.

Very sadly we have far too many people who have died here without enjoying the living of full lives.

All languages have their own idiosyncracies but I could never imagine myself saying “ani mamash met le-echol ba misada ha zot” (I am dying to eat in that restaurant) or “efshar lamut al ha mchirim ha fantastim b’Castro. Lo y’uman.” (One could die at the fantastic prices at Castro. Unbelievable).

So please remind me to take a Hebrew-English dictionary on my next bus ride. I am “dying” to meet the next anglo.saxon.

I’ll brush up on my “ta-ta’s” and “cheerios” if they will brush up on their “todot” and “l’hitraots”.

But I will say one thing. And I really am “dying” to say it. Citizen or visitor, we all love Israel.

And most happy visitors are “dying” to come back.

The woman on the bus ride asked me what I thought of the current situation in Israel. Not the coronavirus tragedy but rather our political tragedy. I replied only in two English words. “It stinks”.

Had she remained in Israel for a longer time I would have guided her to the August 21, 2020 edition of the daily Haaretz newspaper and a brilliant editorial opinion. The editor states it so clearly that it was as if I myself had written it.

“What Defendant Netanyahu Really Wants” is a masterful piece of editorial writing, and one that is in English. My bus passenger from abroad would have been “dying” to read it.

As I pointed out the “sins” of Sara in a recent article of mine published in the TIMES OF ISRAEL”, the wise editor of another major newspaper has pointed out the “sins” of Bibi.

His words are exactly like my words. “The only thing that interests Binyamin Netanyahu is Binyamin Netanyahu”. (I couldn’t have said it better myself).

Similarly I had written “the only thing that concerns Sara Netanyahu is Sara Netanyahu”. Egoism must be a family contagion.

The Haaretz editor goes on to write that “all of his moves, statements and threats must be examined through this lens: how they serve his personal survival as prime minister. Netanyahu isn’t thinking of Israel’s political and economic stability but of his own personal interests.”

“Netanyahu only wants to extricate himself from the legal entanglement he’s in which could land him behind lock and key. As a defendant charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust, Netanyahu is incapable of running a country”. There are thousands if not some millions who agree with that editorial opinion.

What a pity that the woman on the bus could not have remained in our country a bit longer. But I’m sure she can log on to the Haaretz editorial and “kvell” from the same opinion held by her fellow bus passenger from Rishon.

Before my wife and I were married on 24 January 1960 in Tel-Aviv, she had been working at the Haaretz newspaper office in Tel-Aviv and was associated with Naftali Lavie, a man who made history by saving his younger brother from the death camps in Poland….. a younger brother who one day became Chief Rabbi in Israel and father of today’s Chief Rabbi. Jewish history was in their veins as writing is in mine.

Naftali Lavie was a guest at our wedding and Haaretz published a very nice piece about the occasion.

To live for or to die for… each one of us makes our own personal choices. And we do make a difference in our lives and in the lives of the many others we touch simply by our being there. You can decide. Ask the editor.

Lichyot v’lo lamut… to live and not to die. At least in the spiritual manner. It is our Jewish birthright. A birthright to live for.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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