Last Saturday night, I was faced with a dilemma: Should I go to my Brooklyn landsman Neil Sedaka’s concert at the Nokia Arena (Yad Eliyahu) or watch the Hapoel Tel Aviv-Maccabi Tel Aviv derby soccer match? Maccabi was favored by all the commentators.
Instead, I expressed solidarity with the thousands who went to the impressive joint Jewish-Arab solidarity demonstration against the proposed loyalty oath law–held under the slogan, “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies” (Yehudim v’Aravim msarvim lihiyot oivim, it rhymes in Hebrew), which conveniently began in my neighborhood at the entrance to Gan Meir–while busloads of people had to come from as far away as Haifa, Jerusalem, Um El Fahm, Nazareth etc. Prof. Galia Golan even came straight from a meeting of Israeli and Palestinian women held earlier in the afternoon in Jericho.
The issue of the loyalty oath is not about loyalty to the laws of the State of Israel–no problem with that–but to a Jewish state, which is interpreted to mean either Jewish religiously or nationally. The American pledge of allegiance asks for “allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands….” If that was all that Lieberman and Bibi wanted, there would be no problem. I have no doubt that the opposition to the law expressed by Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin, and ministers Benny Begin and Dan Meridor (all Likudniks), reflects what both Menachem Begin and Zev Jabotinsky would have thought about the law.
At the demonstration I met musicologist Oded Assaf who exclaimed “how could I even consider going to see Neil Sedaka?” The truth is that I had already made up my mind not to go, an approach that was reinforced by the inane interviews given by Sedeka on Israeli TV. He is clearly not “the genius of his generation” (gaon hador), neither intellectually nor musically.
Bottom line–despite all the butterflies before the game began–another glorious victory for Hapoel (a team historically associated with the Zionist left), which overwhelmed Maccabi on the pitch by a much greater margin than the 1-0 victory.
One of the pro-Maccabi commentators in the press even viewed the loss with a sense of resigned humor: “At least we [Maccabi] didn’t lose at Nokiya Arena [where Maccabi basketball normally plays], since the only opponent on the pitch was Neil Sedaka.”