Root, Root, Root for the Homeland
If only being a supporter of Israel was as easy as it was to be a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays last week.
When I was sixteen years old, my friend Barry Simon (now a prominent Toronto psychiatrist) and I were asked to prepare a comedy sketch based on the Balfour Declaration (the 1917 declaration of the British Government that endorsed the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine). It was to be included in a musical about the life of Golda Meir called “Golda, the Meir that Made Milwaukee Famous” (picture Golda Meir and Anwar Sadat singing Your Not Sick Your’re Just in Love by Irving Berlin).. The sketch portrayed England’s Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour as the owner of a baseball team who was drafting the Ball Four Declaration to establish a national home plate for the Jewish people in Palestine.
The sketch ended with a song and dance number to the tune of Take Me Out to the Ball Game, which started:
“Abdullah to Balfour to Weizman, what a great double play”.
Referring to Britain in 1921 partially reneging on its commitment to support a Jewish national home in Palestine by severing 80% of Palestine (the portion east of the Jordan River) to become what is now the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the song continued (at the line for buying peanuts and Cracker Jack):
“Make me some promises in the Near East. We can play ball with Transjordan at least.”
Our sketch was a big hit. We got some good laughs. Looking back at it almost fourty years later it was less funny than we thought. The rights granted under the Balfour Declaration are not well known, which means much of the world does not understand how and why the State of Israel came to be and why it has a right to exist, precisely where it is now located.
Some say that baseball is a metaphor for life. A metaphor highlights similarities. Last week, at a baseball game, baseball highlighted for me the opposite, at least when it comes to that portion of my life that cares about Israel..
I was at the now historic Game 5 of the American League Divisional Series last week. If you are not a follower of baseball, this is what happened.
There was a controversial play at the top of the seventh inning with the score tied at two when the return throw by Toronto’s catcher accidentally hit the bat of the Texas batter resulting in the ball trickling to third base rather than to the pitcher, a Texas Ranger on third base seized on this opportunity to run to home, the umpire called time before he reached home and sent him back to third, the Texas manager protested, the umpires caucused then said the run was good, the Toronto fans erupted in anger pelting the field with spraying beer cans and garbage, the police were called out on to the field, nevertheless the run counted after the umpires called New York for a rules check, then when Toronto batted in the bottom of the inning Texas made three errors in a row loading the bases, then a hit looped in past second scoring a run to tie, then Toronto’s Jose Bautista came to the plate and hit a three run homer tossing his bat in the air in triumph which led to two bench emptying altercations between the teams and when it was all over Toronto won the game and the playoff series and all 50,000 Toronto Blue Jay fans went home happy.
The seventh inning took about an hour. In the top half of the inning when Texas scored the controversial run the Toronto fans in the stadium were frustrated, we thought our beloved home team was being mistreated, that someone in New York didn't understand what was happening yet had influence over what we were experiencing, and that this was unfair. In the bottom half of the inning the injustice was righted, baseball karma caused Texas to make three errors and Toronto triumphantly declared by a three run homer that we are resilient and what was wrong has been made right. We won the game. At least from a Blue Jay perspective, justice prevailed.
While all this was going on Israel, yet again, is under attack and the world just doesn't get it. Media reports highlight the Palestinians killed ignoring the fact that they were killed while attacking innocent Israelis. Mention is made of a cycle of violence as if the police shooting a lunging attacker with a knife is equivalent to stabbing an innocent child riding a bicycle. Israel is criticised for responding excessively as if a person with a knife in mid attack would be treated any differently anywhere else in the world. Most troubling is that nobody really seems to care that Jewish blood is being spilled.
We have seen all of this before. Israel is being unfairly treated, our fellow Jews are being killed, a standard is being applied to Israel greater than would be applied anywhere else, this is just not right, nobody gets it, and we are frustrated.
Sadly, unlike baseball, this will not be rectified within an hour by a few errors and a home run. Like the long suffering Chicago Cubs fans whose team hasn't won a World Series since 1908 we must continue to stay positive, believe that things will change for the better, work as best we can to bring on that change, and never lose hope.
In other words, we must continue to root, root, root for the Homeland.
David Matlow is a lawyer at Goodmans LLP in Toronto. He was the co-chair, together with Andrea Cohen, of Toronto’s 2015 Campaign for the United Jewish Appeal. He owns the world’s largest collection of memorabilia of Theodor Herzl, the visionary of the State of Israel. Together with Israeli film maker, Eli Tal-El. he produced My Herzl, a 53 minute documentary about the contemporary relevance of Herzl which is available HERE.