Saturday, June 6, 2015

I do not like [green eggs and] ham

A recent report from Israel has hit the world press, confusing many readers: Israeli soldier arrested for eating a sandwich with pork.  A person unfamiliar with Middle Eastern culture would find this as absurd as a New Zealander being arrested for having a chicken salad lunch.  In fact, the act of eating pork in Israel, among other regional countries, in any form in public is a political statement with the incumbent risks.

Judaism is as much a way of life as a religion, meaning there are rules for every aspect of living from the most spiritual to the most banal.  An ultra religious Jew strives to follow every rule, quite a challenge. Most Jews in practice make choices, either out of knowledge or ignorance.  For example, a significant percentage of Jews in Israel will not eat a cheese burger because such an act would violate the ban on mixing meat and dairy in the same meal even if they do not go to synagogue.  Thus, a person’s choice of public behavior, at least, defines the level of acceptance of Judaism’s rules.

On the extreme end of accepted are the rules of Yom Kippur and pork.  Only a total anti-religious person would go play tennis on Yom Kippur (I had an uncle that did that, actually.) That choice does not reflect enjoyment of tennis but instead states a philosophical point of few, i.e. I view the rules as complete bubameisis (grandmother’s tales).  Similarly, pigs and pork are persona non grata in Israel, including by the Muslims and Druze.  The name of the meat is even camouflaged, referred to as “white meat.”  The only places that sell it are Russian and Christian Arab stores.  I recently discovered that many of my engineering students had never heard of the story The three pigs and the wolf.   Even Israelis that blatantly consume shrimps and cheeseburgers back down when it comes to bacon, occasionally surreptitiously tasting it abroad. The stigma is so strong that when Dr. Seuss’s book “Green Eggs and Ham” was translated in Hebrew, the ham was left out entirely (as were the green eggs), the title being instead  לא רעב ולא אוהב [lo ohev v lo ohev], meaning I am not hungry and I don’t like it.

So, only the most anti-religious or ignorant Israeli would not agree with Sam-I-Am.

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