Monday, September 29, 2008

Running Out Of Time

There is an innocent moment in Animal Farm that leads to the fable's most chilling one. Adorable new puppies are born; Napoleon Pig gathers up the litter and takes them into his quarters. Then, a year later, they emerge: fierce, snarling dogs, utterly loyal to their spiritual father, ready (even eager) to be unleashed on any opponent.

Here, in this shocking little clip, is a settler-pup turning into a beast before our eyes. One can only imagine the dinner table conversation this benighted youth has been exposed to, and not exposed to, over the past ten years. Arthur Koestler, Orwell's friend, once warned about Jewish "claustrophilia." This boy is a very hard case. One can also imagine the officer he will turn into when he is conscripted in the coming years.

The most pathetic thing he says comes almost as an aside. Apparently, another settler youth passes by while the filming is going on, and shouts from afar: "shabbat shalom," "good Sabbath." Our pup interrupts his drunken curses to fling back, almost without thinking, "shabbat shalom."

I know, so don't tell me, that all faith traditions can produce children like this--that civilized tolerance is a kind of miracle, or certainly an achievement. I know about
Christopher Hitchens' notebook. But as Jews the world over gather tonight to observe Rosh Hashanah, and hence our own faults, uppermost on our famously skeptical minds should be the production of this youth and, worse, what his "Sabbath" could possibly mean. We should also have a look at Ehud Olmert's exit interview. He has much to account for. But we are running out of time.