Tuesday, January 26, 2016

'Now, Write It 100 Times'

Our Greek Colony home, which my wife Sidra Ezrahi and her then-husband Yaron Ezrahi built with Yaacov and Felice Malkin in the 1980s, was defaced last week by neo-Zionist extremists. On the wall, a painted slogan, "Destruction of Amalek," and a reference to a verse from Exodus. (Amalek is the mythical people that attacked the children of Israel in the desert from the rear, and has become code for unbridled Jew-haters.)

The object of the vandalism was Yaacov, the veteran campaigner for secular and humanistic Judaism, which (a moment's thought would tell you) was the very purpose of the Zionist revolution. We think of the building--where, post-divorce, we, Yaron and his wife Ruth HaCohen, and the Malkin clan, all live as friends--as a kind of tribute to peacemaking. The vandals, for their part, left Yaacov a veiled death threat: "Should you continue your actions following this warning, know that you are yourself choosing to forsake your fate and future." It was signed by "your brother who brings to you the word of God your creator and king, the father still waiting for your return to him."

Yaacov, who is 89, and has never lost his wry sense of humor, will be forgiven for being mildly amused by this warning. His fate is, already, sealed. (You can read about his remarkable career here.) And since Yaacov is also a film buff, and one of the founders of (among other institutions) the Jerusalem Cinematheque, it is hard to conjure our "brothers who bring the word of God," brush-in-hand, and not chuckle, if only for a second, about the benighted hero of the Monty Python film, "The Life of Brian," who can't quite get "Romans Go Home" quite right.

For the vandals hadn't got the verse about Amalek quite right. They had obviously meant to refer to Exodus 17:14, where the "blotting out" of the name of Amalek is promised. Instead, they wrote next to their warning Exodus 16:14, which, touchingly, has a very different implication: "And when the layer of dew was gone up, behold upon the face of the wilderness a fine, scale-like thing, fine as the hoar-frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another: 'What is it?' – For they knew not what it was. And Moses said unto them: 'It is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat."

We will reinforce our front door, yet I can't help imagining John Cleese in the garb of a stern Yeshiva rebbe, catching our young zealots in the act, twisting their ears, and correcting their grafitti. "So what is in the verse?! Not Amalek, but--wait for it!--God's bread! Now, write it 100 times." And the next morning we wake up, not to a single threat, but to neighborhood walls all testifying to God's grace.