The Yemenite Jews have a saying. ‘There are no fish without bones; no life without troubles’. It rhymes in Hebrew, which gives it a little pizzazz. And knowing that non Jews eat certain sea food that are devoid of bones, I suppose that this pearl of wisdom should be looked upon as a cultural tidbit rather than a universal truth. But as I took my morning walk each day this week, looking at the beautiful autumn colors on the vegetation in the neighborhood and in the park, this saying has been going through my mind again and again.
Here we are in this gorgeous country in the middle east. We have temperate weather. The summer isn’t too hot. The winter isn’t cruel. Nowadays, as we reach the end of fall, and approach winter… after a week of rain, green shoots are seen everywhere, spurred on to optimism by two days of sunshine. We have the sea shore, a short drive from anywhere you might live in the country. A few beautiful deserts, and some mountains too. The lowest land spot on dry land in all the planet, next to the Dead Sea, where you can actually sit on the water’s surface and read a newspaper on a lake that has a depth of three hundred meters, because of the buoyancy of the water. There hasn’t been a serious earthquake in a hundred years, and there are no tsunamis or hurricanes in our area. What more could we request?
Of course, we have a few vocal minorities… but that’s the sort of thing you have to expect in a modern democracy. After all, the discomfort here is less extreme than what a number of other countries face… see for instance, the US. We have had to endure a few wars, now and then. But the cynics among us point out that more people die from motor accidents than from wars.
Yet even though I could argue that we’re enjoying the good life, and are enjoying good fortune, life does have its problems. In fact it seems like it’s a series of ups and downs. And we wouldn’t appreciate the good times without their being interspersed by bad. As we know, when the young have it too good, they often endanger life and limb (or good sense), just to avoid the threat of boredom. In our case, or so it seemed to me this week, our sorrows seem to come from a distended sense of drama.
For instance, there has been some serious debate in our parliament over next year’s budget. A lot of money is going to be spent on ‘security’. That is, we have to have more police and army to deal with an increasing occurrence of terror attacks, plus we have just recently watched millions go down the drain as expenses in the last war. So it seems that we will either have to adopt an austerity plan or tax the middle and upper classes, who are already paying about 50% of their income supporting the general welfare. But at the same time, word has arrived from Berlin, where some Israeli yuppies are enjoying European culture, and sharing their impressions on Facebook. They report that cottage cheese is cheaper there than here. This news has the young middle class up in arms, and they are demanding free baby sitting, free dental care, and cheaper cottage cheese immediately. They feel that these minimal demands are the hallmarks of an enlightened society.
At the same time, there have also been some harsh words exchanged in parliament about the definition of our state. Though it was stated in our Declaration of Independence that we have established the state as a Jewish, democratic nation, there are those among us who believe it is a matter of urgency to pass a law making Israel a Jewish state. At the other end of the spectrum, there are those who see our country as a ‘state of emergency’, while still others claim it is a ‘state of mind’. Members of the coalition government became insulted by their own interpretations of what their colleagues said… and all of a sudden, one year after this government was elected for a four year term, I hear that the government is to be disbanded and a new election about to take place. Of course, elections cost money. The coming election will probably cost many cups of cottage cheese.
And since every one of the public opinion polls in the last few months reveal that the majority of the public see our present prime minister as the most appropriate choice for the job, it is hard for me to appreciate what could possibly be gained. But our dear prime minister assures us that he will be able to do a better job if he gets a bigger majority. The opposition on the other hand, is not impressed by the polls, and assures us that they will do the better job just as soon as they throw out the reigning prime minister and replace him with their own. Still, what about the baby sitting and the free dental care?
The hard part, though, is listening to political propaganda for the next three months. Ear plugs alone can’t guarantee happiness. And even if they could assuage some of our distress, there is always the danger that we’ll find out that they can be bought cheaper in Berlin.