Photo: GPO

Know it alls

Yair Lapid knew that the disengagement was a correct move. He also knows kissing mezuzahs is a sure way of transmitting diseases

A few months back I was interviewed by a reporter for "Besheva" a publication produced by the Israeli settlers’ movement. Among other things I was asked my opinion of the fact that “politically, the national religious camp’s predictions are always right.”


Truth is the question caught me off guard. The very idea that there is an entire public in this country that is walking around convinced it is, so to speak, always right – how shall we say this diplomatically – is a bit strange.


It’s just that ever since the right wing’s "rightness" began to spread, it has turned into a real epidemic. These good guys are always and consistently right. Every morning someone new appears who informs us that “he knew it.” Our diligent opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu is one of the major "Know It Alls" but he is not alone. There’s an entire choir of them: I knew we should not have given them weapons, I knew Hamastan would evolve, I knew Oslo meant disaster. I knew the Iranians were dangerous. I knew we should have gone full throttle during the fighting in Lebanon. I knew not to talk to Assad. I knew that if you had done what I told you to do, the outcome would have been totally different.


And I admit that I usually ignored most of it but this last week I’ve been experiencing a new and rather pleasant gut feeling: Seems that I am also a "Know It All". At first I hesitated but with time I have become more and more convinced that I knew it too. It was two years ago, during that summer that seems an eternity ago, hot and hazy when I told you that I supported the disengagement. There is no reason for us to be there, I said, it’s better that we get out of there and the sooner the better.


Then came the disengagement and it went on peacefully and today in its wake the Know It Alls have begun their chorus. Every Qassam rocket falling on Sderot is summoned up as proof of "I knew it" that they knew ahead of time disengagement would contribute nothing to security and was doomed to failure, and if we had only listened to them, we would now be living in a peaceful paradise and all the Palestinians would have jobs in high tech.


“We knew it,” they thunder again and again, “How many times do you have to be told before you will start to listen?”


I heard this so many times that I began to question my own opinions. Unlike them, I know that I often err, at least understanding that reality is a much more complex business than solely measuring success and failure.


It’s just that Hamastan (and kudos to Mr Netanyahu on that piece of copywriting) proves the exact opposite of what is said by the "Know It Alls." Hamastan would have evolved eventually. Hamas didn’t win the elections because of the disengagement. It was the result of deeper, longer processes, horrible and painful on their side, a large portion of which has been reaction to our always politically correct settlement movement.


Yes it is terrifying that we have a Hamas state on our southern border but just imagine that 7,500 Israeli citizens were still there, with children needing to travel to school each day, Imagine their vulnerable expansive communities and the three military divisions deployed there to protect them and all the solitary pillboxes erected in the area and the long corridors that are used for security, the hitchhiking stations on the main roads, the synagogues, the cars, everything.


And that is – if you’ll forgive me – exactly what we said then. We have to distance ourselves from the Palestinians, to shut them off, to separate from their impeccable talent for doing the wrong thing. The disengagement – even with its failures and hardships – was the only thing that has allowed us now to carry on almost normally within an insane situation.


And one last thing while still in the "Know It All" mode: The fact that I knew  I was right is irrelevant, because trying to score a couple of public relations points every time something bad happens is dangerous and irresponsible. It eats away at us from the inside and turns us into a paranoid, antagonistic society that is unable to define real objectives for itself.


It is perfectly legitimate for the opposition to say that it would handle the situation much better. However it is impossible to conduct wars if a former general pops up at every opportunity claiming that if he was in charge, fewer people would have died. (Actually, basing your decisions solely on how many soldiers will emerge unscathed is not way to conduct a war but that is a story for another time.)


And it is impossible to conduct a peace process if someone is always there to say that when he was in charge, the price to be paid was much lower. And there is no way to conduct negotiations for the release of the abducted soldiers if you know that your political rivals will boast that they would have been able to do this without having to release Palestinian prisoners that you are willing to free. Saying “I knew it” on issues like these is a cheap shot and way too easy.


The Mezuzah


This week I went to visit someone in Ichilov Hospital in the center of Tel Aviv. I was delayed outside when my phone rang. I stood opposite the large entrance and watched the people going in and coming out. As is tradition here, at least half of them kissed the mezuzah affixed to the doorway. It’s a quick gesture done as they walk, the hand touching the lips, then the mezuzah and moving on.


When I got home I looked for the source of this tradition and found to my surprise there is no explanation. It doesn’t appear anywhere in the Talmud, the Mishnah, the Rambam, the Ramban or Rashi. Yet, according to surveys, 41.6 percent of Israeli youth kiss the mezuzah when entering or leaving a building. It must be one of those things that sort of catch on without anyone knowing how. Not that there is anything wrong with it of course.


It’s just that we’re talking about a hospital. Most of them people who go there are actually sick. The mezuzah is touched by lips who are carrying angina pectoris, from there it is transferred to lips carrying vaginal infection and then jumps to influenza-stricken lips and from there to lips with intestinal worms and lips with herpes that immediately touch lips with ringworm.


Shall I go on? I don’t feel so good. I may not be a religious authority but it seems to me that an urgent halachic ruling needs to be disseminated, something jam-packed with edict and warnings, that will state clearly that mezuzah kissing is perfectly acceptable in any other place. However when visiting a hospital, keep your hands in your pocket, your lips sealed and stop kissing so much.


פרסום ראשון: 07.06.07, 15:38
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