It was more than with a modicum of interest that I read a recent article by Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe opposing U.S. aid to Israel. Why, less than two days earlier while seated at the third Shabbat meal (aka Se’udat Sheesheet or Shalosh Se’uodos) I was discussing the very same topic with a former member of our congregation who was visiting from his home in suburban Chicago.
Frankly, I am very much in favor of U.S. aid to Israel, but not in the way you may suspect.
Largely founded by Russian Jews imbued with Bolshevik ideology, the modern state of Israel was plagued by rampant bureaucracy in its first decades of existence. While the bureaucracy malady has greatly improved relatively speaking, there are still more than a few instances where Israelis appear to go to great lengths in making the most simple of tasks unnecessarily complicated.
As one who has rented cars any number of times, both in the United States and Canada, I was dangerously close to taking hostages at an Avis branch in the Israeli city of Rechovot because of the insanely long and complicated process I had to endure. After crying my heart out to the kid who walked me out to the junk heap that passed for a Kia (the rental agent’s retribution for my attitude) by pointing out that in the time it took me to rent this car, I could have rented five cars at LaGuardia, the kid accurately summed it up by explaining: what do you want, this is Israel! When it comes to foreign aid from this country, Israel, in my opinion is in desperate need of foreign aid as far as efficiency and customer relations.
There is a Hebrew word neemoos. It means etiquette or manners. How neemoos found itself into the Hebrew vocabulary, I’ll never know. Boarding an Egged Bus (the national bus cooperative) at the main bus station in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem is case in point, in that trying to get on a bus taking on passengers is a lesson in survival skills. Despite the fact that the concept of lining up appears to exist pro forma at the individual departure lanes leading outside to the where the buses pull up, once the door of the bus is opened, all bets are off as the stampede begins. Neemoos is yet another form of foreign aid from this country that Israel is in dire need of. If neemoos can function at Penn Station in New York City, neemoos can certainly function at the Tachanah Merkazeet (literally Central Station, it refers to the main bus station in any Israeli city that has a central bus station) in Tel Aviv, Haifa or Jerusalem.
One upon a time in Israel, mutual respect existed between the Haredim (ultra-Orthodox) and the Chilonim, secular. There were actually incidents when a Haredi rabbi would be invited to a “house warming” of a newly established Chiloni, secular kibbutz to affix the mezuzah on the doorpost on one of the main buildings. The Haredi rabbi would graciously accept the invitation, knowing full well that the dining hall of that kibbutz would not be kosher. Over time, at least three things happened to destroy that mutual respect. The Haredim multiplied in great number, far outpacing the growth rate of the rest of the country. It didn’t take the Haredim long to realize that in numbers, there is strength. Because Israel is governed by a democratically elected parliament, it also didn’t take long for the Haredim to gain a foothold in the Israeli Knesset and to play a pivotal role in any and every government in power. Among the Haredim, there were those who bared their fangs; among the Chilonim, there were those who arched their backs. Obnoxious behavior permeated the atmosphere in Israel from both the Hareidim and the Chilonim. Before the Hareidim and Chilonim turn against each other in ways that might very well erupt into a civil war, Israel would be well advised to turn to the United States asking for foreign aid as far as mutual respect and tolerance for its population.
The beauty of American foreign aid in the form of efficiency and customer relations, etiquette or manners and mutual respect and tolerance is that the Holy Land will become much more heavenly and that no one in this country will be able to deride the Israeli government as being a group of shnorrers.