18 November 2012

But It Shouldn't Be

It's said that chickens were first cultivated for the purposes of fighting, perhaps in ancient India, thousands of years ago.  Only later does the gregarious bird get domesticated for food and eggs.  The Greeks employ the chicken as a kind of talisman against evil; and the Jews famously use the chicken each year at Yom Kippur time, to symbolically hoist sins from man to bird with a few turns of the wrist, a quick slaughter and then on to the festival table of the poor.

Chickens are tough, resilient, at times belligerent, and if prepared correctly, delicious.

The best chicken I've ever eaten in my entire life has been prepared by either Jews or Palestinians and the place of repose from which said repast has been enjoyed is, of course, Jerusalem, sacred to both people.

***

Kids play Chicken.  One daring another to move, risking injury, even life.  On the sidewalk, in a field, in a car:  danger of head-on conflict, collision.  Where the one who chooses to preserve life is a "chicken."

***

The Hamas Charter calls for the destruction of Israel.  The language of Hamas leadership, launching rockets made in Iran and smuggled into Gaza through the Sudan and Egypt, are launched with the goal of ending Zionism.  They are the metallic manifestation of the idea that the Jew is a foreign body, a cancer, on any historic claim to the ancient Land of Israel.  The scars left on the ground, the bodies mangled and destroyed and drenched in blood, are so abused by those who say the Holocaust is a lie, a Zionist invention.

This creates fury in the Jew.  It makes him want to slaughter the man who says this, kill him quickly, like a chicken.

***

To not understand the demographic reality of Jewish and Palestinian population growth in the West Bank is to cluck around the yard, pretending that everyone has become a vegetarian.

***

To not pay attention to Hezbollah, armed by Iran, waiting in Lebanon; to not pay attention to the daily slaughter in Syria; to not notice the increased destabilization in Jordan; to ignore the radicalized politics of Egypt; and to not view the Hamas decision to launch rocket attacks on Israel is to be worse than a chicken, it's to be an ostrich, with one's head buried deep, deep in the sand.  How come no one is paying attention to Salam Fayyad?  In contrast to the current violence and destruction, a civiv infrastructure quietly builds.  Getting a state declared in the West Bank might strengthen moderation.  Is support for such an idea "chicken?"  Which chicken?  The valorous, chivalrous kind?  Or the idiotic, hopelessly slaughterable kind?

***

Great winds and rains blew through New York three weeks ago, killing dozens, rendering homeless thousands, traumatizing hundreds of thousands.  And a great love and hard work has sought to forge healing from the damage.  In our community, Congregation Beth Elohim, a synagogue which 150 years ago took its name from the Biblical legend of Jacob, the covenanted Jew, who dreamed a dream of angels ascending and descending a ladder while he slept on a desert floor in desperate flight from his brother Esau, the proto-Palestinian, we have fed thousands of people meals made from chicken.  We've made roasted chicken with potatoes and vegetables; we've made chicken stew and chicken soup; we've made chicken salad sandwiches and thousands and thousands of egg salad sandwiches.

We've made these meals in a synagogue, dedicated to a Jewish God, where people pray in the Hebrew language, where each year dozens visit Israel, the Jewish state, and each week hundreds of Israelis educate their children.

We buy the chicken from two Palestinian grocers who are here in Brooklyn, like us, living in the Diaspora, trying to make sense of it all.  Living life, getting by.  When we first started cooking after the Hurricane we asked for 800 eggs on Facebook and got 4500 eggs.

Chicken redeems Brooklyn and Queens.

***

Rockets drop in Israel.  Rockets drop in Gaza.  Homes fall in the Rockaways, in Gaza, in Ashdod.  Some are playing chicken.  Some are cooking chicken.  Some are eating chicken.

Chicken is he who denies the Holocaust and the Jewish right to live in the historic homeland of the Jewish people.  Chicken is he who denies the Palestinian right to statehood.  Chicken is he who hides behind bombs, hatred, and death, wearing the mask of false heroism, false faith, false life.

***

The best chicken I ever had was in Jerusalem.  Home to two nations, two peoples, two brothers.

I ate, was satisfied, then blessed.  It could be worse.  Today it is.

But it shouldn't be.


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