November 08, 2006

When G-d has no Proteksia

On my very first trip to Israel as a student, the very first words I learned in Ivrit were: shalom, toda and assimon. I clearly remember one particular early word, and that was proteksia.

In an op-ed this morning, the mayor of Jerusalem pleads for a last-minute reprieve from the spectre of homosexuals marching through his holy city. He claims that, after centuries of conquest and bloodshed, Jerusalem has shown itself to be a model of religious tolerance and co-existence between the many different faiths which hold it dear.

This march – if it needed to take place at all – should have been staged in Tel Aviv or Haifa. Those are Israel’s bastions of the liberal and enlightened. Most of their inhabitants - and particularly their university professors - don’t believe Israel needs Jerusalem anyway.

So, it amounts undeniably to a deliberate provocation of orthodox Jews.

In such circumstances, it would have been easy for the government to ban the march. Even the police recommended it should not go ahead. But the attorney general would not budge. Why? Because it would be an infringement of freedom of expression. A right, it would seem, that can only be expressed in Jerusalem.

Which brings me back to my early Hebrew vocabulary. I have since come to learn that proteksia is a euphemism for corruption; obtaining unfair advantage by money or official influence.

It is no secret that there is hardly a sector in Israel that is not rife with corruption from Sharon’s Greek Island affair to Olmert’s property and banking deals. It is said that half the employees at Ben Gurion’s new airport terminal are connected in some way to one family.

Against this ghastly backdrop, it would have been easy for Mazuz to take a more sensitive view on the meaning of freedom of expression. Had he done so, he would have been ostracised for a week by a few hundred sexual libertines and their enlightened supporters in the staffrooms of a few universities. It would have blown over in a week; two at the maximum.

Instead Mazuz deliberately chose the path of greatest resistance. He chose to violate a holy city and infuriate millions of Jews at home and abroad who still regard Israel as a Jewish state, true to the Almighty and His Torah.

How sad that in an establishment so riddled with corruption, this wretched government, with its record number of ministers, could find no proteksia for G-d.


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