Last Sunday, our beloved American Football team, the Philadelphia Eagles (properly pronounced “Iggles”), won the sport’s championship, the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl has been played every year since 1967. We had never won before.
Instantly, tens of thousands of delirious “Iggles” fans flooded the Philadelphia streets — singing, dancing, hugging, crying, becoming delirious and just enjoying being with each other. Given the amount of ecstasy and alcohol, the crowds were incredibly well behaved. Almost nobody got hurt, a few got arrested, a car was overturned, a hotel awning was destroyed and a couple of store front windows were smashed, but nothing of the level seen in other cities. You wouldn’t have known that, however, from the press reports. Some asked if Philadelphia was burning down its city? One guy in South Philly apparently had set a Christmas tree on fire, the crowd cheered and the pictures went all across America as evidence that Philadelphia, which has a reputation for boorish fans, was living down to that reputation. When I reached my office in Center City Philadelphia on Monday morning, I sent pictures around of what the City really looked like.
In that moment, Philly became Israel. It didn’t matter what the situation actually was, the press was going to write a story that fit its pre-conceived narrative. In Philly, that narrative involves abusive and destructive fans. In Israel, it’s oppressive and aggressive Jews.
You know this all too well. Tel Aviv opens itself to the LGBTQ community like no other City in the Middle East and like few in the World. What does the press say? It joins with radical academics to conjure up a new term, “Pinkwashing,” to explain why Tel Aviv’s LGBTQ tolerance actually is a bad thing and should be condemned by liberal minded people.
Israeli hospitals treat Syrian wounded. The press ignores it. Israeli residents near Gaza, who’ve been shelled constantly from those “freedom loving” and “oppressed” Palestinians in Gaza (which is not occupied), cheer when the Israeli Army fires back during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. The press is all over the story confirming Israeli brutality. Israel is condemned every year – every stinking year – at the United Nations Human Rights Commission. The countries that do it, including many European and other Western nations, then profess not to understand why Israelis don’t trust these countries’ concept of morality. Hey UNHRC, checked out the human rights situation in Iran recently?
On Thursday back in Philly, we held our victory parade for the team. Schools and offices closed throughout the metropolitan area. The City was packed. I brought down my son and daughter. Each got a memory neither will forget. Of course the press reports were that the crowd size was disappointing. “Ma Pitoam”? You obviously weren’t there.
After the parade, during the victory ceremony in front of the Art Museum (where Rocky ran up the steps), up to the microphone stepped Jason Kelce, one of the Eagles players. If you ever want to understand us, check out “Jason Kelce Speech” on You Tube.
Kelce came to the parade wearing a Mummers costume, which is totally Philly in itself. Based on old Scandinavian minstrel shows following Christmas, each year on New Year’s Day we hold the Mummers Parade. The average folk of the City dress up in garish costumes, strut down Broad Street and perform in String Band competitions.
Nobody except us ever sees it. The rest of the country watches the Tournament of Roses Parade in Southern California. The weather there is sunny and warm, the floats are decked out completely in roses, the girls wear floral dresses, keep plastic smiles on their faces like they’ve been shot too full of Botox and wave like automatons as if they were shooting a scene from The Night of the Living Dead. Like an East Coast stereotype of a California girl, it is stunningly beautiful to look at and boring as hell (sorry Sarah Tuttle-Singer, Maxine, Bonnie and all the others; like I said, it’s a stereotype and not really true). Nobody in the Mummers Parade ever did the Tournament of Roses wave.
But back to Jason Kelce. After the Super Bowl he cried, overwhelmed that fewer than ten years ago no major college would give him a scholarship to play football. They told him he wasn’t good enough. Now, he was the Super Bowl champion.
Kelce ascended to the bimah, raised his hands and for five minutes extolled the crowd about how nobody thought any of the players on the team was good enough. As he spoke, pounding the podium for emphasis, he WAS the Spirit of Israel. He WAS the Halutzim.
“The land is too dry. Jews can’t be farmers. The Arabs never will accept you. You are too fractured internally. There will be too many immigrants from too many different places. Jews don’t know how to defend themselves…”
Don’t look now, but like our Eagles, Israel in 2018 is damn impressive. The critics can say what they want. We know the reality.
The haters will never stop. The Roger Waters’ of the world will never relinquish their prejudices. The Iranian mullahs will never stop their aggression, but we Jews don’t have to give in. We always will be among our own toughest critics, but we always need to remember to be our own greatest supporters. Future Israeli security and peace decisions will not be easy, but it is impossible to look good when everyone around you is acting bad.
At the end of his speech, Kelse sang the new anthem of Philadelphia. To the tune of the old American folk song “Oh my darlin’ Clementine”, Kelse sang “We’re from Philly, ——-ing Philly and we don’t give a —-.” I’ll never advocate that attitude in a religious context, but when it comes to perseverance in a tough neighborhood, keeping Israeli children safe and the 2,000 year old dream alive, let’s hope the Members of the Knesset do what needs to be done, not what makes them look good to the feckless international community. Let’s hope they remember to channel their own inner Jason Kelce.
The parade was awesome.