Thirty years ago I wrote my first article for Haaretz. I remember it well, even after many others I wrote are long-forgotten.
Lutfi Mashour, the editor of an important Arab newspaper, his wife and their two daughters underwent a security check at Ben Gurion airport. Mashour’s testicles were probed, while his daughters, Yara, 12, and Varya, 10, had their hair examined. “Don’t touch their hair," I wrote then. “When you mess with the hair of children, you give rise to long-lasting, negative thoughts.”
The two have not been children for many years, but they are still Arab citizens of Israel who are doing well. Ben Gurion airport is still the same, doing what it has always done.
Last week, Amira Hass of Haaretz wrote about Mohammed Juda, a 22-year-old champion athlete from East Jerusalem, who traveled to South Korea last month at the invitation of, and funded by, the International Taekwando Academy.
He was stripped naked, as usual, but this time his jacket and shoes were also confiscated. In Korea they probably wondered about the barefooted guest arriving on their doorstep, concerned about his exposure to the harsh winter elements. However, followers of the Old Testament in that distant and exotic place have learned that here, in the land of the Bible, shoes are removed due to the land’s sanctity.
As the humiliated traveler departed on his way to the cold, a warm and honorable reception was given to another traveler. We learned this week that the X-Ray Rabbi had eluded the customs authorities having his car pick him up on the tarmac.
This exposed a hitherto unknown procedure, which allows 47 rabbis and heads of rabbinical dynasties, among them inspectees who are elevated above us commoners, to completely bypass any inspection on takeoff or landing. Even their eager followers, bankrupt tycoons, organized crime members and judges in singing contests are not awarded such a red carpet.
Lift your heads towards the gates, which are letting through an elusive rabbi who was supposedly blackmailed by a rabbi of criminals in the holy city of Netivot. Another local rabbi, no innocent himself, is suspected of abetting the criminals. Let him too join the list of dignitaries who pass through security unscathed.
Netivot residents were seized with fervor upon hearing of their rabbi's arrest. “In blood and fire will we release the rabbi,” they chanted. Their sorrow and fury know no bounds. But we already know. The salaries of 3,000 beadles and yeshiva students require his signature. “His continued remand will leave many people without their monthly income,” said his lawyers in court.
The world of the Torah cannot be stopped. Who would agree to get off? Hundreds of primary and secondary “Babas,” Ashkenazi and Mizrahi, rule over a financial empire which supports tens of thousands of idlers. Among their people, in the poorest of towns, they sit in their palaces, driving luxury cars and vacationing abroad twice a month, while hiding stacks of green bills among the pages of their books on morality.
Who can know the paths money takes, at the airport and elsewhere? One should follow the footprints in the sand and in holy places. But why should we investigate such mysteries, when the mayor of Netivot himself gives us more than a clue. “Here the rabbis are the crime families.
I don’t understand the police. Instead of going after petty thieves, they should investigate how our rabbis handle hundreds of millions of shekels.” Who would know better than him?
Thus, everything is topsy-turvy. With the grace of God and the community, these lawbreakers allow people to join them in prayers throughout the year.
There is no difference between the assistance of heaven or of some cash, between issuing threats and emotional blackmail, obtained through special kashrut certificates and false blessings, through candles images, amulets and holy water. Protection down here on earth is tantamount to divine protection, both casting a fear of God and men on people.
The face of the land is the face of the arrivals and departure gates. The generation’s face is the face of its rabbinical leaders.