michael freund 88.
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Any day now, a man named Barry Bonds will step into a batter's box somewhere in America and send a small white baseball hurtling hundreds of feet through the air with the powerful crack of his bat, thereby setting a new all-time record for career homeruns.
Normally, this would qualify as a momentous occasion as one of baseball's most cherished achievements - Hank Aaron's total of 755 round-trippers - is finally outdone.
But there is no joy in Mudville these days, as a growing chorus of fans thumb their noses at Bonds and his accomplishment, because of widespread allegations that he cheated by using performance-enhancing steroids to boost his output at the plate.
As Tom Verducci notes in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated magazine, the accusations against Bonds, which are widely believed to be accurate, "have created the ugly impression of a bastard prince without true claim to the throne." Bonds's pursuit of the record, says Verducci, has been "not only a joyless affair but, far worse for baseball, a public exercise in mockery and ridicule, with CHEATER banners, oversized syringes and "ster-roids" chants the de rigueur accoutrements of a traveling freak show."
Indeed, a poll taken recently found that a majority of Americans are actually rooting against Bonds, hoping that somehow he will fail to break the record.
Nobody likes a cheater, after all. And America's baseball fans feel cheated, and rightly so.
While all this may sound rather quaint, and entirely irrelevant, to a country such as Israel, the fact of the matter is that it couldn't be more pertinent.
FOR ISRAEL has its own "Barry Bonds problem," though it is far more dangerous, and more lethal, than the one across the Atlantic. Because the Jewish state has been cheated as well - by its leadership, which continues to fiddle while the country burns.
Like Bonds, our politicians claim glorious titles for themselves and seek to command our respect, even as they spit upon everything we hold dear.
But whereas America's "Barry Bonds problem" centers around a listing in the record books, Israel's is far more critical, for it goes to our very place in the history books and our future in this Land.
Day after day, I read the headlines and scratch my head in wonderment. How is it possible? How can it be that the once mighty State of Israel, which set the standard for combating international terror, has now become a shadow of its former self?
Six decades ago the Jews stunned the world by marching out of Europe's ovens and back onto the world stage. Renascent Israel's head was held high as it fought to reclaim the Jews' rightful destiny. Now, it seems, the pride is gone, the integrity has dissipated, and our leaders excel only at groveling and appeasement.
Our government releases terrorists on a whim, all because they have signed a piece of paper promising that, honestly and truly, cross their hearts and hope to die, they will never, ever try to murder innocent Jews again.
We hand over funds to the Palestinian Authority in the form of tax money (or should I say protection money?), even though it goes to pay salaries for the leaders of Hamas, as Israel Radio reported on Monday.
Instead of subduing our enemies, the government strengthens them, with seemingly little regard for the consequences.
And while the Palestinians fire rockets into the Negev on a daily basis, the army sits with its hands folded, unable to quell these assaults.
AS IF THAT wasn't enough, our education minister agrees to include lessons in Arabic-language schoolbooks about the "disaster" of the establishment of Israel, thereby reinforcing Israeli Arabs' sense of alienation from the state. Who thinks of such things?
Meanwhile, another headline reveals that Israel's police are allowing the Muslim Wakf to continue with unsupervised digs on the Temple Mount, as priceless historic and religious artifacts from our past are hauled away and destroyed. The Palestinians are actively attempting to erase any trace of a Jewish presence at the holiest site to the Jewish people, and our government stands by doing nothing, complicit in its passivity.
Have our leaders gone mad? Have they lost their senses? The answer, apparently, is yes.
I don't know about you, but I feel cheated. I want my country back.
I long for the day when Israel will once again act with conviction, when its leadership will be one that is anchored in faith and in the justness of our cause.
I dream of a time when Israeli prime ministers will conclude their speeches with "God bless the State of Israel," and when our policy-makers will formulate their decisions based on Jewish pride, Divine truth and Zionist principles. And I pray that the knaves currently in power will be sent packing before they cause any further damage.
Baseball and its fans will undoubtedly survive Barry Bonds, as they wait for someone else to come along and replace him.
I only hope that the people of Israel prove to be as lucky.