The POSTman knocks twice: Leopold Bloom’s guest column- Two days in Sodom

“A dead sea in a dead land, grey and old. Old now. It bore the oldest the first race.”

January 28, 2016 20:50
The moon shines in the night sky above the Dead Sea

The moon shines in the night sky above the Dead Sea. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Yes, we do mean the hero of James Joyce’s very-hard-toread- and-understand book, Ulysses.

Leaping over almost a century, Leopold Bloom came to spend a couple of days with me in Sodom and shared his stream-of-consciousness ramblings. He asked many penetrating questions and then spilled observations on the here and now and then. Thus spake Leopold:

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I CANNOT believe my eyes. I knew about Kinnereth villages and orange groves north of Jaffa. But here, the Dead Sea. I beat my heart, as we say on the Holy Day – have sinned. – Because here is the thought I had when I was going to the pork butcher to buy Molly some juicy kidney.

“A dead sea in a dead land, grey and old. Old now. It bore the oldest the first race.”

Here we are in a beautiful hotel with very mixed groups of middle class Jews, working class group from supermarket chain. Kosher, the food is kosher.

Your prime minister is in trouble. Who said, “A house divided against itself cannot long endure?” Lincoln?? Strange how women’s figures change in the buoyant salt water. There are many Jews from the Middle East here, never in Dublin did we see any.

Sodom, there was nothing here in Sodom. Barren, lifeless. His ministers are undermining your prime minister, and even his old stalwarts are not stalwart. Have they never learned of “collective responsibility?” “And the [Dead Sea] Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits.” Many trying to tar Mr. Netanyahu... One ought to show sympathy for a man when he is down.

They predict bad weather, welcome rain and snow but howling winds. Land here needs water. Ireland is so green, so much rain. This was a howling desert, also from Bible.

Fear is a bad tool for political leaders to use. Serbia feared Austria which feared Russia, which feared Germany, which wanted to conquer France which feared Germany. Tens of millions died in stinking trenches, mustard gas, civilians starved and freezing.

How can the poor fellow function? Wife under police interrogation. Must be insufferable for him. Terrible for her. Tar pits are not potash, used for fertilizer and explosives.

When fire and brimstone rained sulfur on Sodom, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda coined a new Hebrew word. Wonderful how everybody speaks Hebrew. Even after their bar mitzvas. Even workers here speak Hebrew, newcomers from all over in paradise of over a dozen hotels, thousands of rooms on once barren soil. Face Masada.

Ben-Gurion was against Masada being a national symbol. It is a model of suicide and death, not a model of life and vitality for our youth. So he said, I am told.

Also some Somali and Sudanese workers, tall, handsome men doing steady work, worried African mothers as chambermaids and dining room employees. Over-tipping is sign of guilt.

Howling wilderness. Now there is water enough here to feed and bathe thousands of guests in hotels, with greenery, living trees and plants. Over 90 years ago, Zionists asked me to invest in citrus groves, Agudath Netaim. Planters organization. Irrigate the parched land.

Life from Dead Sea. Mr. Herzog finally returning to original Mapai defense doctrine. Anticipate, don’t just react. Says Oslo is dead. True, whether you like it or not, knee-jerkers. New expression, “knee-jerkers.”

Molly has beautiful knees. She is not faithful. Food here is kosher.

The Bloom house is not kosher. Unfaithful. A few bathe in the Salt Sea. Near-naked bodies in salacious bathing costumes. A man holds hands with another, and devours him with Sodom eyes. We peer, we look away.

Black-jeaned American man does not read The Jerusalem Post. “It is too far Left.” What does he think? Was the Libby Kahane article in the Post too left-wing? The Liberal party here has Zionist name. Family was in Ireland, his grandfather chief rabbi. Mr. Herzog. Leader of the opposition.

Question: What happens after fencing in settlement blocs? How will Palestinians rule themselves? Lost the Irish brogue of his progenitors, but speaks clearly, who knows what he will yet be? Make all Dubliners proud. Portrait of the Artist as Young Politician.

There is a world forum: United Nations. Almost wrote “Untied Nations.” Ban Ki-moon is as bad as all the other balancers. Europe, Obama, always balance? Ban Ki-moon. Why does the idjit not protest what goes on in Muslim countries? Currying favor. Serving curry on rice tonight. No Guinness, so still not perfect paradise here.

A cool pint of stout, lying on your back on buoyant salt water. Sun beating down. No sun. Indoor pool. Salt burns cuts and bruises.

Heals them.

Fire and burning sulfur the Lord rained down on Sodom and Gomorrah. Again Genesis, Bereshit. The Zionists in Dublin heard from Palestine that a new Hebrew word created for sulfur matches.

First matches made by Chinese 700 years ago, now safety matches use different chemical: phosphate. Sulfur raining on Dead Sea: In Hebrew sulfur=gofrit. Word for “match” was created from root “gofr” – gafrur. What is Modern Hebrew? Facing Masada, would Bar-Kokhba understand?

ALRIGHT READERS. I imagine by now this is a strain, so I will thank Leopold Bloom and James Joyce and go back to rereading Ulysses.

Joyce was fascinated with Jews and knowledgeable about Zionism.

I imagine that Ireland a hundred and more years ago was as anti-Semitic as any Catholic country of the time. Yet here was James Joyce, surely one of the greatest word-artists of the previous century, writing of our people’s tenacity. “The oldest people. Wandering far away all over the earth, captivity to captivity, multiplying, dying, being born everywhere.”

With all his great imagination. Even he could not envision the Dead Sea coming to life.

The “old land: is no longer grey. It blooms.

It is reborn green, painted by the hands of Zionist planters.

Avraham Avi-hai was a speechwriter for prime minister Levi Eshkol, who as minister of finance inaugurated the potash plant at Sodom on the Dead Sea some 60 years ago. Until 1967, the drive to Sodom was via Beersheba and the beginnings of Arad. Today’s modern hotel area is actually around Ein Bokek some dozen kilometers north of Sodom. Comments to Mr. Bloom c/o Avi-hai, [email protected]

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