Every Picture Tells A Story

Rabbi Stewart Weiss - Jerusalem Post - April 2, 2001

Having just returned last week from a trip abroad, I faced the dilemma of how to catch up on two weeks worth of newspapers in one night. My solution: Look at the pictures. So, to find out what I'd missed while I was away, I skimmed the photos from the last dozen issues of the Jerusalem Post. Every picture tells a story:

Photo Op I: JACKO MEETS THE GENERAL.

So Prime Minister Sharon found time during his busy schedule to meet - and pose with - the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. Talk about your "odd couples:" The elderly & conservative Israeli politician with the hip, reclusive, multi-toned moon-dancer.

What bothers me about this picture is not what I see, but what I don't see: If our PM had some down time on his schedule, why spend it with Jackson? Why not do a real Mitzvah and go see Jonathan Pollard?

Pollard is beginning his 17th year in an American prison, serving a life sentence for providing Israel with classified material. Imagine the emotional and psychological boost such a visit would have given our beleaguered Israeli agent. Imagine how far such a meeting would have gone in reversing the pathetic inaction of previous Israeli governments, who have neglected, even shunned Pollard in disgraceful fashion. Sharon could have given Jonathan one of his legendary bear hugs and reassured him that he had served far too long, that every effort was being made to finally secure his release, that the nation was behind him.

But, alas, Pollard was left to rot in prison, as the PM opted for the cheap "Thriller."

Photo Op II: MENAGE a TROIS WITH YASSER?

Has the singles scene in Israel gotten this bad? The picture of two "unidentified," semi-attractive Israeli women from Peace Now holding hands with Arafat is about as close to pornography as the obscenity laws allow a paper to go. The ladies met with Yasser ("that's my baby") in Ramallah just prior to his leaving for Jordan to attend the Arab summit. They obviously had quite an impact on their man, in convincing him to seek a moderate road to peace, for just a few hours later Arafat was blaming Israel for everything from the outbreak of violence in the region to the earthquake in India.

What exactly were these women thinking? That Arafat is open to compromise? Peace-loving? Human? Do we really have such a pathological need to be loved that we would crawl back to this murderer of children and common hoodlum?

Here's some advice to the lovelorn branch of Peace Now: Upgrade your choice of beaus; personally, I'd rather kiss a lizard.

Photo Op III: ANYONE SEE BUDDHA?

The picture of the gaping hole in the Afghanistan mountain where the giant Buddha (ital)used to be is making the rounds all over the world. In fact, the Taliban are actually encouraging journalists to report on their handiwork; they're downright proud of ridding their country of these disgusting idols.

See? Our holy places are not the only targets for Islamic crazies. These guys are equal opportunity fanatics; they hate (ital)all religious symbols other than their own. The word "pluralism," I guess, does not exist in the Koran. Any non-Islamic expression of faith is considered by Muslim fundamentalists as a foreign body grafted onto the authentic religious body of the planet.

And guess what - nobody cares! Sure, the U.N. and a few individual countries whimpered a little and made some vague threats, but then they shrugged their collective shoulders and went back to their own worlds. So before anyone fantasizes about the world community rising up as one to defend Jewish religious freedom or protect our access to holy sites, you better sober up. (ital)We are the only ones who care enough about our rights to actually do anything about it; the world at large just isn't interested.

Christians in Jerusalem: Are you listening?

Photo Op IV: THEY GAVE HIM THE WRONG CHAIR.

Did you see that photo of the Palestinian terrorist who used his Egged bus to kill 7 of our young soldiers? He is being chauffeured about in a wheelchair by a religious Jew, taken to court after receiving the finest services of our medical system, which nursed him back to health. He was quick to tell the court that he had absolutely no regrets for his crime.

The terrorist's defiant stance bids us to never forget Rule # 1 in warfare: Know Your Enemy. We are not at war with a civilized army that plays by the rules of the military game. Our adversary is determined to wipe us off the map, or die trying. To them, every Jew is a foe, to be dispatched with no mercy. To them, every rock, stick or knife is a weapon, and every Palestinian a soldier. These people have not heard of Geneva or any other convention when it comes to battling Israel; their blinders of hate keep them focused on their one obsession and task: eradicating Israel.

For reference, see that great scene in the movie "Independence Day," when the American President manages to make telepathic contact with one of the aliens attacking Earth. "What can we do to be at peace with you?" asks the naive Chief Executive. The aliens's one-word answer: "Die."

Photo Op V: FANCY MEETING YOU HERE. How about the shot of several Chasidim posing with jeans-clad teenage girls in Leszansk, Poland? Anyone who has been abroad - especially in Eastern Europe - will recognize this scene. Israeli tourists of all persuasions often meet up with Haredim visiting the graves of their ancestors. And there is a definite kinship that Jews find with one another in a foreign land, as we tend to connect with (ital)lantzmen, whom we would never dream of associating with here in Israel.

I can recall numerous positive encounters with visiting Israelis in the synagogues of Rhodes, Krakow, Singapore and other far-flung locales. We shmoozed about "the situation," played Jewish geography, and felt the common bond that we all have just below skin level.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could do this at home, too?

Photo Op VI: THE REAL FACE OF ISRAEL.

What a great pic this was, two Jerusalem second-graders helping each other don their gas masks in a Home Front Command emergency drill. You can see the tender eyes peering out of those masks, and you can almost hear the playful giggles which belie the underlying seriousness of this scene.

Who can believe that in the 21st century children have to prepare to be gassed? And who can truly appreciate the character of our little nation, that, day after day, heroically faces dangers - real and threatened - with courage, resilience and unflinching spirit, shrugging off daily attacks and maintaining normal life amidst the insanity. Stubbornly, we refuse to allow our foes to destroy our pattern of life.

I am reminded of the first Rocky movie, when the hero determined he could not possibly win the fight, but was determined to "go the distance." Pummeled mercilessly by his opponent, Rocky refuses to go down. The amazed announcer keeps on repeating, "What is keeping him up?"

What is keeping (ital)us up, it seems to me, is a national act of will that simply says "No" to every attempt to move us from this place. Every Israeli - like the egg on the upcoming Seder plate - hardens when the fire is turned up, and we stiffen our resolve at the mere thought of being pushed around again. Like Rocky, we also are determined to go the distance.

On Israel's 15th anniversary, Life Magazine sent a team here to report on the root causes of the Arab-Israeli conflict. After a thorough investigation, they concluded that we were to blame for the region's problems: "The Arabs want to destroy Israel," they said, "and the Jews refuse to cooperate." May we continue to refuse for a long, long time to come.

Rabbi Stewart Weiss is Director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra'anana.


See Also:
  • A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words