Moishe’s Dilemma

August 25, 2011

My friend Moishe has been kvetching again.  This time not about his life threatening ailments – it’s his Arab neighbour who is the source of the problem.  He’s worried because he agrees with the man.

I asked what the problem was with that, telling him that some of my best friends are Arabs.  It’s not true, although I have a cordial enough relationship with my Iranian dry cleaner.

The problem, Moishe explains, is that the council is about to introduce even more restrictive parking controls in his neighbourhood and is proposing to increase the permit fees by 200%.

“So what’s this got to do with the Israel – Palestine conflict?” I ask.

“Someone told me he supports Hamas.”

“And does he?”

“He says not but he’s an Arab so you can’t trust him can you?”

“And if he does support Hamas, so what?  What’s that got to do with parking in Hendon?” I query.

“Are you joking?  How can I sit down next to a man that supports Hamas…”

“May support Hamas…” I interject

“May support Hamas, OK, how can I work together with him to fight the council’s proposals.”

“Do you want to stop the council implementing these plans?”


“Does he?”


“So what’s the problem?  You have a common interest, fight together. Be allies!”

Moishe pondered this for all of three seconds before inflicting the coup de grace: “But once we’ve beaten the council on parking, he’ll turn on the Jews!  I can’t let that happen.  No, the thing to do is to withdraw from the whole thing. It’s better that I should have nothing to do with that terrorist. I’ll start my own separate campaign instead and I’ll only allow Jews to campaign with me.  I tell you, the more we mix with these people the more trouble we heap upon ourselves.  All this interfaith stuff, what’s the point? They all hate us.  They’re all anti-semites.  And furthermore, any Jew who stands alongside Mr Khan must be a Hamas sympathiser as well.”  Then he added, but I’m not sure why: “If you’re not with us, you’re against us!”

“There’s another way,” I suggested tentatively. Moishe’s vehemence had taken me by surprise; I hadn’t seen him this worked up since Bloom’s announced it was closing down. “You could show the way forward for peace in the middle east with this opportunity” I told him.


“Seriously.   If you work with him on this campaign he may come to realise that we Jews aren’t so terrible and you might change his attitude about Hamas.  Then he’ll tell his friends and they’ll tell theirs and before you know it, you’ll be off to Norway to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.  You and Mr Khan together.  I tell you, Barnet Council won’t dare raising their permit fees by 200% if it means upsetting a couple of Nobel Peace Prize winners.”

Moishe was pensive for a minute then turned me with that deeply serious look he gives his doctor every time he informs her that he’s finally succumbed to whatever terminal illness he’s just learned about on daytime TV. “You mean today Barnet Council’s Parking department, tomorrow the world”.

“Exactly” I replied triumphantly.

“And join the ranks of those vegetarian liberal self-hating Jews!” he snapped,  “I don’t think so.  Besides, if we made peace with the Palestinians who would there be for me to fear every day?”

“There’s always daytime TV,” I meekly offered.

Passover is Finally Over

August 23, 2011

Passover is finally over.  The more religiously observant amongst you may find this a rather unusual statement to make in the middle of August, but this week I finally found the pizza cutter languishing at the back of a kitchen drawer where we throw all those daft things and tape up for the week of affliction.  I marked the discovery by returning the boxes of Pesach crockery, cutlery and cooking utensils to the garage.  They had been waiting patiently by the front door for me to perform the task.  You’ll have gathered that it’s not something I see as a particular priority, but my wife had, a couple of days earlier, threatened to leave me if she tripped over the frying pan handle that protrudes from the opening of one of the boxes one more time.


August is not my record.  A few years ago I succeeded in not returning the boxes for the entire year simply by hiding them under a large sheet.  However, since we had the hall decorated Mrs J has put her foot down.  Frankly, I don’t see the point of stowing it all away.  It’s always such a balagan unpacking it all.  Inevitably one box of particularly heavy items will collapse under its own weight and all for what, exactly?  A week of eating off the tatty crockery we inherited from my grandmother, that’s what.  It was tatty crockery when I was a child.  Now the dog looks upon us with pity before turning back to eat from his shiny stainless steel bowl.


The almighty will, I hope, forgive me when I tell you that Pesach is my least favourite festival.  It doesn’t even make my top ten.  I’d happily do all the fasts instead of Pesach. In fact the only reason I don’t currently observe all the fasts is in anticipation that the Lord will somehow offer me the deal I have in mind.  If nothing else, such an arrangement would free me from the havoc that Passover food plays with my constitution.  Every morning for days I’m reminded of what a pitiful soul I have become.


Nothing drags on like Seder night, not even 25 hours without food, and from me that’s really saying something; I’m a man who doesn’t eat between meals, but only because I eat eight meals a day.  Having to spend two nights in a row in the company of some fifty family members ranging from screaming overtired infants to snoring overtired geriatrics seems to be a more profound form of penitence than sitting in synagogue without food for a day.  It’s on Seder night that I make my silent petition for forgiveness for the sins I must clearly have committed to be punished in such an excruciating way, not Yom Kippur.


Of course the solution to all this would be to spend Passover in Israel.  That way my wife would never need to clean the house again and I’d be able to put grandma’s crockery on e-bay.  You would find me spending the week waited on, hand and foot.  I would turn up at the hotel dining room in time for the Seder meal and leave just as the songs about goats and counting start, and nobody would care a jot.  What bliss!


Unfortunately this is, and can only be, a dream.  Why?  Because that’s exactly what all the local alta cacas do and there’s no way I’m paying for flights to Israel at their most expensive for Seder night in a freezing air-conditioned warehouse of a hotel when half the guests are the people I see every week in shul.


The good thing is that at least Pesach, like my son-in-law, only visits once a year, and now it’s finally over there’s still 8 months to go before it comes round again.

Funeral Parties

August 16, 2011

Today I wish to turn my attention to delicate subject of death.  I’ll do my best to treat is as sensitively as possible knowing as I do that it’s distressing for all concerned, most especially the deceased.

I’m aware, for example, just how many JC readers anxiously turn to the Social and Personal section before anything else to check if they need to ring round their friends to make up a recently vacated place at the Monday evening kalooki table and I know how inconvenient prayers can be when at such short notice you have to find someone to take Tuesday evening’s Spurs tickets off your hands.

It would be cheap of me to make comparisons with non-Jews, so I’ll get that out of the way quickly.  A notable difference between Jews and Gentiles when it comes to dealing with death is to found in timing; they like to get the drink in their bodies before they put the body in the ground, while we prefer to get the body in the ground before we turn to the drink, which, in our case, happens to be tea.

Irish Catholics treat the mourning period as if it were a party, filling the funeral home with the trappings, sounds and smells of gaiety, while the emotional reality is lachrymose.  Jews, in contrast, conduct themselves in a sober and reflective manner, while talking endlessly about parties.  “On simchas” we all say to each other, “only on simchas”.  And what happens at those simchas?  We remember dear old Harry who would have loved to have been there had it not been for the fact that he died 37 years ago.

Actually this approach is rather clever.  Happiness is not an emotion Jews are comfortable openly expressing for fear of attracting the evil eye.  We therefore choose our moment to be happy precisely when the evil eye is not looking, that is, when it thinks it has already done its vindictive work.  Ha ha! We’ve worked out how to double bluff the evil eye.

Let’s admit it, we Jews love a shiva don’t we?  If you don’t believe me, go to any shiva house and I guarantee you’ll meet several people who have no connection with the family whatsoever.  They’re simply there for the craic.

These hearse-chasers can be seen scouring the streets of north-west London between 7.30 and 8 on any weekday evening, looking for open front doors.  In they slip, shuffling their way toward the mourners where they proffer a sympathetic hand and gently grunt the customary words “Wish you long life”, to which the reply comes, “Thank you.  And how did you know my father / mother / sister / brother?” The answer to this being “he / she knew my father / mother / sister / brother”, a tactic that removes the need for any knowledge of the deceased.  The visitor then takes his place for prayers and is later rewarded for his concern with a slice of cake and a cup of tepid tea, during the consumption of which he will wander around the room gently murmuring the words “on simchas…only on simchas” as if he is spreading information about an illegal warehouse party.

Then, before leaving he returns to his host (for that is essentially the role of the mourner under the circumstances) and repeats the blessing for a long-life, whereupon the mourner will thank him for visiting.  “It’s a pleasure”, will come the honest but somewhat insensitive reply.  Like I say, a Jew loves a shiva.