One day, a family in the United States received a friendly but unsigned letter. For twenty years after that, a letter arrived every day.
Then, one day, the letters stopped, as mysteriously as they had started. The family never found out who the secret writer was or what the motivation was.
I recall this story from Ripley’s Believe It or Not, one of my favorite books when I was a child. I liked this story almost as much as the one about the Chinese, marching four abreast, who would never cease passing a given point (of course, long before the one-child-per-family policy). And then there was the man who could swallow his nose, the girl who gave birth at the age of eight, and the poor man who prepared his own epitaph: “I have nothing, I owe much, the rest I leave to the poor.”
A SIGN OF BETTER TIMES, PERHAPS
Today’s headline “Street signs in the city are being changed” hardly moved me. But the subhead made me laugh so hard I nearly fell off my chair: “A special municipal committee found that many signs in English contain errors.”
They needed a committee for that? And not just any committee, but a special one? Any English-speaker in town could have told you that. One doesn’t have to look far in a city in which the sign that points to the Jerusalem Magistrates Court says, in English, “Court of Peace.”
I’m not a betting woman, but I’m willing to wager that even after the “special” committee concludes its deliberations and new signs go up, any English-speaker in town will still find plenty of errors.
ANOTHER SIGN OF BETTER TIMES
Israel’s attorney-general, Yehuda Weinstein, has ordered all relevant government ministries to take action to end the exclusion of women from the public sphere, the Ha’aretz daily reported this week. Weinstein’s order includes an end to sex discrimination on public buses, in cemeteries, and elsewhere. No longer will it be legal to post signs saying that women must dress modestly or that they can’t walk down a particular street (and yes, this isn’t Tehran). Weinstein also called for legislation that would make the exclusion of women a criminal violation.
BUT AT THE WESTERN WALL, IT WAS BOTH GOOD TIMES AND BAD TIMES
After a recent precedent-setting ruling by the Jerusalem District Court that allowed women to pray at the Western Wall while wearing prayer shawls, the Women of the Wall conducted their monthly worship service ushering in the new month this morning without being harassed by the police or arrested. Instead, the police, who were out in force, formed a human chain to protect the women from a mob of ultra-Orthodox protesters, who reportedly threw water, water bottles, and other objects at the women.
The stones of the Western Wall, having seen their share of baseless hatred and human folly, merely smirked. God, as usual, was silent.
Text copyright 2013 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text may be used without written permission of the author.