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Newsletter 213: Enemies who rise up against you. (Deu 28:7)


I turned the key, got on my bicycle, turned the handle and the little electric motor on the front wheel pulled me up the hill with just a little help from me pedaling with slight effort.

Up the hill of Hahayil Str. I ride on my way to the bus that will take me to Modiin to visit my grandchildren.

At the top of Hahayil str. I pass a Gas station. I pass this every morning also on my daily half hour walk, which the Dr. at the heart rehabilitation center recommended. Here I turn right up a steep hill, on a road known as Getto Fighters road, towards our shopping center and Bar Ilan Ave. where bus 110 or 320 to Modiin has a stop.

A left turn at the gas station would take me down the hill to the Arab village of Issawiya, where they’ve been making a racket every night, celebrating Ramadan, setting off fire crackers that sound like rockets, but don’t do any damage besides keeping me awake all night and frightening the cats and dogs.

Why can’t they sing and dance like most people do when they’re celebrating? Even a beautiful fireworks display would be a pleasant way to celebrate, but firing rockets into the sky and setting off big bangs is childish.

Actually we, in Jerusalem, don’t go much to that village, not because of the fireworks, but because we had much worse trouble from there in the years of the intifada, between 2000 and 2004. Now it seems they’re getting worked up again.

I parked my bicycle near the bus stop on Bar Ilan Str., removed the battery and stuffed it into my bag, locked the bike with two locks and headed for the bus to Modiin.

Of all the busses going in the direction of Modiin, there is only one that actually enters the town and stops close to Emanuel and Sigal’s apartment, the 110, so I prefer to take one of the more frequent busses instead, even though I have quite a long walk back from the Shilat Junction, where they turn off to go to the Jewish villages in the Land of Benjamin, that some people refer to as settlements in the West Bank.

I think of the Jewish villages which the bus will pass after its dropped me, like Hashmonaim (Village of the Hasmoneans) or Cfar Rut (the village of Ruth) and many others built on places where Jews lived long ago. I think to myself “did they look like these modern Jewish Villages or did they look like the scruffy Arab villages, like Issawiya (mentioned above) whose inhabitants falsely claim to be fighting for their homeland?

In my never tiring search for an answer to this question I attended a seminar on Jewish antiquities found in Jewish Villages in the Land of Benjamin.

Jews have lived in many countries since their exile 2000 years ago, but this is the only country where we find real Jewish roots; tangible proof that our ancestors lived here, on the same spot where I now live. I could dig deep into the rich earth of Krugersdorp, the town in South Africa where I grew up without ever coming across the minutest scrap from my Jewish past, but here, just walking in the hills around this Jewish village I come across remnants which clearly show that my ancestors lived here once, like a tomb with niches for the ossuaries, typical of a burial place of a Jewish family, the walls of the tomb carefully plastered and painted yellow and blue by relatives of one of my ancestors dating back 2000 years, a wine press used 2000 years ago by one of my ancestors, a mikveh, an olive press and so on.

All this shows me that my ancestors not only lived here, they thrived here, producing hundreds of barrels of wine thousands of jars of oil, mostly for export to foreign lands, which they transported along ancient trade routes, which have become modern roads, where the bus travels.

These modern, Jewish villages, which have replaced those of Biblical Times, have smart, western style homes with neat little gardens. They’re a far cry from the Arab villages, like Issawiya, where one dare not enter. Here you can buy an ice-cream or a coke and even drink a cup of coffee made on a modern cappuccino machine.

Most people tend to think that all this modernity has obliterated how the ancient Jewish village of my ancestors must have looked like. While the scruffiness and neglect of a backward Arab Village has preserved the way a Jewish village must have looked in ancient times.

I dare to suggest, however that the contrary is true even if one believes that there can’t be any similarity between the modern Jewish village and the ancient one.

In my opinion the Jewish Village and not the Arab Village resembles more closely the Jewish village of thousands of years ago, not in the materials and modern technology used in construction, nor in its design, but in its general appearance and the life style of the Jewish inhabitants relative to the appearance and lifestyle of villages of other Middle Eastern nations of those distant days.

The Jewish Village is the most modern structure in a modern time as a Jewish Village of Biblical Times was the most modern of its time.

The lifestyle of the people was the most civilized of those days. The Arab village of today and lifestyle of its inhabitants is the most primitive of these days.

It’s a distortion of the facts, therefore to point to an Arab in the 20th century, with an Arab, his head wrapped in a Keffiyeh, riding a half starved, scrawny donkey, shepherding sheep through dusty, untarred streets, where people are still living in caves and draw water from an ancient hole in the ground which they dare to call a well, as Biblical. It’s not Biblical, it’s simply primitive. It’s wrong to equate Biblical or ancient Jewish with primitiveness.

Primitiveness is not indicative of Biblical. Primitiveness is just a bunch of people who haven’t cared to make the effort to improve their way of life. These things only indicate laziness, lack of initiative and backwardness.

We, as tour guides and tourists make a mistake taking primitiveness to be charming, saying “this is how our ancestors lived”. They didn’t live like that.

We can’t even compare houses in 4000 year old Jewish villages with Arab villages of today. They were modern in their day as we are modern in our day. The Arab village is primitive today because it really looks the way we imagine people to have lived thousands of years ago.

It’s an insult to point at a slovenly village of hovels and goats crapping in the streets and say that’s how our ancestors lived.

A city like Tel Aviv resembles more closely the way our ancestors lived than an Arab village.

The Jews lived according to their era in any era one cares to mention. There is no era in which the Jews weren’t in the forefront of civilization of the era.

Sigal took Tamar to the grocery store (here we call it the Makolet. In S.Africa we used to call it the café down the road or on the corner) I stayed at home with Eitan and Leah, one of his favorite girlfriends. He’s a very bright guy and Sigal suggested I play monopoly with him. I thought grandfathers were supposed to teach grandchildren, today I learned that’s not so. Two of my grandchildren, Eitan (4) and Alon (5) both taught me new tricks.

Leah threw the dice and counted the dots, then moved her piece. I took a turn and moved my piece then Eitan turned the table on us and that was the end of the game. So I learned that monopoly can be won by violent overthrow.

Alon also taught me an important principle of Monopoly which I did not know, namely that he always wins. He also taught me that anybody can buy property whenever he wants to. You do this by throwing the dice, moving your piece then, instead of purchasing the property you land on, it goes up for public auction. This is quite innovative because by this method everyone gets a chance to buy property, not as in the old chance method where the only person who can buy property is the one who lands on it according to the throw of a dice.

The bus from Modiin drops me off where I left my bicycle, which means that I have hardly a step to walk to get on my bicycle and ride back home, usually by this time it’s dark.

I welcome our brave soldiers back from war and I hope the people of Gaza have learnt that it’s better for them to live their lives in peace and to forget about annihilating Israel, as the prophet Hoshea (8:7) teaches: “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind”.

Wishing you a great No News day

Yours Truly

Leon Gork

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