Column for Jewish News May 10 2018
While, as we all know, Yiddish curses are the best, having a flavour and pungency that exists in no other language, the Chinese have their own collection of subtle nudges. One of the best-known is “may you live in interesting times”.
Well, you’ll get no argument from me on that score. The times could scarcely be more interesting or more volatile, with the unexpected becoming the norm: from Trump the Impossible, being lauded as a “genius” by his ex-communications director, Anthony Scaramucci (such a genius that it took him 11 whole days to hire and then fire the Mooch);to the Korean leaders, north and south, going for a short walk in the DMZ between the two countries; and even, dare I say, to the more proletarian vicissitudes suffered by Barnet Labour in its unsuccessful efforts to throw out what was, by a long chalk, one of the most incompetent councils in living memory. Antisemitism has a nasty habit of upsetting things in that last case.
Let us just rewind a tad, here. Before Trump became president, I was driving up Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Street with friends. Two parallel discussions were taking place, which somehow, hilariously, produced the same answers. One conversation was about whether mutual friends would move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, given the innate prejudices of the man and woman concerned. The other, given that we were driving past the American Embassy, had to do with its potential relocation to Jerusalem. On both counts the consensus in the car was “He’ll never do it” — and I am not sure to this day whether we meant Trump or the male friend.
In fact, however, painful and upchucking as it is for me to admit, Trump did what he said he was going to do, and the American Embassy in Hayarkon Street is currently having its exterior signage remodelled to reflect the fact that it is to become a consulate, while the main US address will be in Jerusalem.
And even more remarkably, two South American states, Guatemala and Paraguay, have announced their intention of following suit and moving to Jerusalem, too. There are even noises emanating from Romania. So what is going on? All over Tel Aviv last week I spotted warning green signs on lampposts marking out the “Tsunami Evacuation Route”. Are we witnessing a diplomatic tsunami, in respect of Israel?
Perhaps part of the trouble is that there is a certain mindset which says that because things have always been done in a certain way, that’s the way such things will continue.
So it makes it more difficult to imagine the unthinkable, a parallel universe in which, say, there are no debates about Israel at the UN, where a Palestinian millionaire sponsors a Chair in Peace Studies at the Hebrew U, that Melania Trump turns out to be a Deep Thinker who has privately qualified to sit on the Supreme Court… No, no, stop there. All wishful thinking.
And yet… the American Embassy IS moving to Jerusalem. And Prince William IS going to Israel this summer, God and Prince Philip’s health willing.
(I still think Donald Trump is a paskudnyak, though).These are interesting times, indeed.