A Passover Swim with Big Fish in the Jerusalem Pool and Beyond

On Chol HaMoed Pesach, I took my daughters to the Jerusalem pool for a swim.  I heard of its imminent closure and took the opportunity to enjoy the Olympic size pool a 5 minute walk away from our home.

The four of us, bathing suits, goggles and swimming hats on, jumped into the slow lane so that we enjoy a swim at our pace. We are no athletes, but love the sport and take pride in feeling like fish when in the water.  All went well until an athlete swimmer came into our lane. She was indeed very fast and apparently was bothered by my daughters' slow pace so much so that she asked them to move to another lane. When I saw them swimming beyond the separation line of the lane, I checked with them as to what had transpired. They explained they were asked to move by the athlete swimmer, and had agreed politely.

And to me that felt like my daughters were bullied by an older, stronger and faster woman swimmer to move from the lane that was catered to slow swimmers and I went on to explain my understanding to them.  I assured them they were Ok swimming at the pace they did, and were entitled to return, as the lane was designated for slow swimmers. It felt like the big fish was appropriating the space for itself, leaving the smaller, weaker fish aside, as the small fish was a hindrance to the big fish.

I see the paradigm of big fish bullying smaller fish, putting them aside, and silencing them all the time. The imminent closure of the Jerusalem Pool itself is such a story. Built back in the 1950s the Jerusalem Pool was the first Olympic size pool built in Jerusalem to serve the well-being of its citizens. But here came the developers who care more about their financial interests than the well-being of the public and these few but well connected big fish have managed to eat up the small fish, whose only interest is to enjoy a swim, and keep our bodies healthy and spirits uplifted.

I was shocked to read in the New York Times , April 13 International Edition the story on the discovery of modern day "slavery" in Italy. It is telling how more than 40,000 women are employed to work in the vineyards for 12 hours a day, with the daily salary of Euro 27. The story describes how Paola Clemente would wake up in the middle of the night to catch the private bus that would take her to the vineyards. Paola died of a heart attack in the fields two years ago at the age of 49, and her death has served in revealing what had been kept secret for so long.

And why is it that the main victims behind the story –women—had kept it secret? The answer is out of fear of losing their jobs.  Although, it was clear to them that they were exploited, it was important for them to keep on working, and be part of the productive part of their society.

Clemente's husband recounts how even when feeling under the weather his wife would still force herself to go to work out of fear of losing her job. Their bosses would repeat that there were others waiting in line to be employed which made her feel that she was easily replaceable.

And in this case it is obvious that a few big fish, exploited thousands of small fish, by extorting wages on recruiting and transportation services from poor and desperate women who dared not expose them out of fear of losing their jobs.

And as this is modern type slavery, the Passover story comes to mind. The Passover story being a paradigm of ending slavery and exiting to freedom.

And what did make the Hebrews exodus from slavery successful?

The fact that they did not compete with each other, but rather agreed to cooperate and come to be represented as one group with a shared interest.

The continued exploitation of the women in Italy was made possible by the fact that the women at hand did not unite against the Masters but rather kept competing with each other seeing themselves as individuals in competition with other individuals. Should they had given up on their individuality and seen themselves as belonging to a group with shared interests things would have been different.

The story of the exodus from Egypt teaches us that small fish can fight big fish only when they unite. By uniting they are made strong.

And back to Jerusalem, our pool has managed since 2009 to unite its small fish towards saving the pool and preserving it as a recreation magnet for its young and old citizens alike. In 2017 though, it seems that the big fish have managed to gain control of the pool, to be destroying it soon to build some sort of luxurious complex on its land. A caravan has been placed on the grounds nearby manifesting that developers mean business, while Jerusalem pool swimmers have been notified of the pool's closure.

And for our shared exodus from modern day slaveries to occur, small fish need to unite, against big fish, to safeguard and protect the good of the people and not give in to the interests of a few strong ones that use and abuse the rest of us trapping us in their nets.


Dayenu, Abastavanos, we have had enough!