Oy Veh

July 1, 2022 by Michael Kuttner
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This Yiddish exclamation or its Hebrew equivalent of Oy Va Voy can be variously translated as “grief,” “pain,” “frustration” or “exasperation.”

Michael Kuttner

Whichever definition you may like to choose, any one of them more than adequately sums up the situation facing us at this current time.

Whether it is the prospect of non-stop political lunacy or the inane utterances of friends and foes alike the fact of the matter is that we face a long hot summer of idiocy and uncontrollable consequences.

As though these challenges are not daunting enough vacationers trying to fly overseas face almost insurmountable barriers in the form of cancelled flights, chaos at airports, soaring fares and a myriad of ever-changing rules concerning covid.

Surveying the ongoing antics of those who purport to lead our country to better pastures I cannot but reflect on one of the salient lessons from the Torah portion of Korach which we read in Synagogues recently. A commentary in one of our weekly Shabbat publications caught my attention and in my opinion, succinctly sums up the pickle we find ourselves in at the moment.

“In the sin of the spies, although God promised the Land to us over and over –many times – the reality of the actual march gave the people cold feet. The sense of inadequacy, of weakness, of lack of confidence, of inferiority in the face of the nations of the Land drove the people to demur. Korach on the other hand, suffers not from a sense of inadequacy but rather the opposite, of inflated self-image. The best person to lead this people is ME.”

 Who does this remind you of?

Whether it’s Bibi in Israel, Boris in the UK or Donald in the USA, they all display the same egotistical and narcissist-like qualities of “I alone and nobody else is good enough to lead.” Never mind indictments, election defeats and character flaws, none of these things matter to those who possess inflated self-images.

Predicting likely political outcomes in Israel is a recipe for failure so we will all have to grit our teeth, tune out from the inflated and bombastic rhetoric and pray that after the ballots are counted we end up with a coalition that will be stable and genuinely concerned for our welfare. The best results would be sending home those for whom the treasury is an endless source of funds and those who stand in the way of making Judaism welcoming.

Meanwhile, some more “oy vey” moments lurk.

The American Ambassador to Israel, the very same diplomat who won’t set foot over the mythical green line but has no problem visiting the “occupied” Kotel (go figure), proclaimed recently: “President Biden loves Israel and his visit will show that.”  Being a Biden appointee and faithful Democrat supporter one would not expect anything less. Reality can be painful and it will be most interesting to see what sort of “love” erupts in the wake of a potentially gaffe-laden visit. The omens do not look promising either on the Iranian appeasement front or the gestures expected to be showered on the PA President for life. Continued efforts to dilute Israeli sovereignty in its own Capital are likely to sour his futile “love fest.”

Given the patently transparent abuse of democratic norms and human rights and the continuing educating of hate plus the payments of lifelong stipends to murderers of Israelis and their families, the anticipated burble of “two democratic states living side by side in peace and security” will ring hollower than ever.

One hopes that he does not mix up his cue cards.

The EU Commission Chief gushed the other day: “Europe and Israel are bound to be friends and allies because the history of Europe is the history of the Jewish People.”

Ironically and somewhat symbolically at approximately the same time, a top German court ruled that the viciously hateful “judensau” carving can be retained on the façade of a Church because even though it is dripping with Jew-hate there is an explanatory plaque that apparently makes the pig analogy perfectly kosher.

For those unfamiliar with this medieval expression of Christian “love” here is a short explanation:

The sandstone sculpture is a once-common form of medieval iconography called a “Judensau,” or “Jew’s pig.” Its existence predates the Nazi period by nearly 700 years. Sculptures of Jews and pigs started appearing in architecture in the 1300s, and the printing press carried on the motif in everything from books to playing cards well into the modern period. Today, more than 20 Judensau sculptures are still incorporated into German churches and cathedrals, with a few others in neighbouring countries. 

This example of a “shared” experience is of course merely one glimpse at two thousand millennia of pogroms and persecution interspersed with a few fleeting years of relative tranquillity. Anyone with even a smattering of historical knowledge would dismiss the inane diplomatic drivel of the EU Commission Chief but unfortunately, ignorance and political correctness contribute to silence by those who should be calling out this hypocrisy and perversion of facts.

Coincidentally, a report has just been issued by a group tracking Jew-hatred in Germany (RIAS) which reveals that in 2021 there were 2,738 incidents of hate recorded against Jews. We certainly have a shared destiny and most of it is lethal as far as Jews are concerned.

In a similar vein and no less appalling was the lack of any reaction to a live streaming speech given by the Ukrainian President to students at the Hebrew University. Naturally, he used the occasion to plug the theme of a Ukrainian Jewish shared history in order to garner support for his country’s struggle against the Russian attempt to extinguish its current independence.

He waxed lyrical about the supposed glorious past and tried to associate this with the fact that such famous Jews as Golda Meir, Sholem Aleichem and Yitzhak Ben Zvi were born and lived in Ukraine. It is a sign of the times and a sad indication of the historical amnesia which pervades the minds of our “educated” generation that nobody challenged his attempt to paint a false rosy picture.

Unmentioned and studiously ignored was the tragic history of Jews in Ukraine from Tsarist times, through to the Shoah years and post-war era. Claiming a former Prime Minister, President and literary giant as wonderful examples of Ukrainian/Jewish love is deceitful and devious. In actual fact these three famous Jews escaped for their lives as fast as they could from the pogroms and Jew-hate which characterized normal life for Jews in Ukraine. Those who did not manage to flee endured unremitting persecution and discrimination from native Ukrainians and ruling Russians alike.

Sure, Zelensky is Jewish, but mark my words whatever the outcome of this current conflict it won’t, in the end, be good for the Jews of Ukraine or Russia.

To conclude on a lighter yet at the same time cynical note these following two events demonstrate once again to all but those hopelessly tuned out from reality that we are living at a time where the imbecilic has become the new norm as far as international relations are concerned.

North Korea has been appointed President of the 65-member State Conference on Disarmament. One couldn’t choose a more “qualified” member of the international community.

In March of this year, Iran was appointed to a four-year term on the UN Commission on Women’s Rights. Indeed, another highly qualified regime fulfills all the required criteria of the corrupt UN.



One Response to “Oy Veh”
  1. Liat Kirby says:

    While what you say about the terrible history of Ukraine where Jews are concerned is absolutely true, perhaps we can forgive Zelensky to an extent using as he did the three esteemed Jews concerned in his speech to the Hebrew University? He had to extract something as an ‘identifying point’ to feature in that speech and he is one man with one brain, one heart and one soul, doing his best under extraordinary pressure. It would hardly have served his purpose to use past history. And currently he must focus on serving his purpose in a desperate effort to survive.

    Nobody has forgotten, or wiped under the table, the atrocities that made up the lives of so many Jews for so many years in that part of the world. (They live in my heart and head and imagination all the time.) What is happening now is also an obscene affair. It may well cloud the judgement of many to remember the past and try to consider the present – I know I am both horrified at what is happening now while simultaneously remembering what happened before. It’s a conundrum. But I can’t not care about what I see Russia inflicting on civilians in the Ukraine and I admire the courage and strength Zelensky is showing in dealing with it. Your criticism of him in this way denies the complexity of the issue.

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