Analysis: The Knesset's scandalous Purimspiel

Megillat Estherina and a week of parliamentary farce.

mk tartman 298.88 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
mk tartman 298.88 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The first sign that this would be a bad week for the Knesset came on Sunday, when a group of high school students were barred from entering the premises in costume when they came to distribute mishloach manot [holiday treats] to the MKs. Chicago Cubs fans trace their World Series drought to a curse placed on the team by a Greek immigrant who was ejected from a World Series game in 1945 because he brought his goat with him to the game. Perhaps the students placed a similar curse on the Knesset. From then on, it was all downhill for the Knesset, with one scandal after another tarnishing whatever was left of the parliament's reputation. As Jews around the world prepared to celebrate Purim, the focus in Israel was not on Queen Esther, but on Queen Estherina Tartman, whose story filled up enough pages of newsprint this week to fill an entire megilla (scroll). Estherina's story was filled with theatrics and drama and heroes and villains just like the Book of Esther. But unlike Esther, whose heroism led to the downfall of a Persian vizier who wanted to destroy the Jewish people, Estherina's behavior had the opposite effect. Because of the media's focus on Estherina, for a week people in Israel did not talk about the modern-day Haman in Persia, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and his plans to wipe the state of Israel off the map. In the Book of Esther, Haman gets hung. But if the story had happened today, Haman would have been ignored amid the controversy over how Esther got her job. King Ahashverosh of Persia chose Esther for her beauty and didn't ask questions about her background. King Avigdor of Israel Beiteinu said he chose Estherina for her two degrees, and he didn't do any background checks, either. For King Avigdor and Queen Estherina, the true villain this week was the media. They complained about a complete loss of proportion at a time when Kassam rockets were falling in the Negev and IDF soldiers are still in captivity. But the press were just the messengers delivering the edicts of King Avigdor, who summoned them to three press conferences in 24 hours, perpetuating the story and keeping the real Holocaust-denying Haman off the front pages. In the days of Esther it took months to publicize the edicts of King Ahashverosh. Nowadays, the news cycle moves so fast that King Avigdor has already been forgotten in favor of new stories about the antics of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Yoram Marciano, the Labor MK who allegedly got into a 3 a.m. bar fight after introducing legislation limiting who can go to bars in the middle of the night. When Vice Premier Shimon Peres saw Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter in the Knesset cafeteria this week, he asked him whether anyone remembered that the scandals in the police were the center of attention just a week ago. The Purim holiday will give the Knesset a break from its chain of scandals and allow MKs to hide behind disguises and forget about the curse. But as soon as the holiday is over, it will be time to start writing the next megilla.