Jewish dietary laws were very far from my mind when I booked tickets to a production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, in which much of the second act takes place at a clambake in Maine. The musical came to the Holy City courtesy of Encore, a local amateur theater company whose enjoyable production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Ruddigore I wrote about on January 10. The company includes Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews, as one might expect in Jerusalem. The audience at the matinee I attended was largely Orthodox.
Perhaps someone in the audience flinched when the company sang “Real Nice Clambake,” which describes in great detail a codfish chowder with ribbons of salted pork (I distinctly heard the word “meat” substituted for “pork”), clamshells and red hot lobsters slit down the back, peppered, and doused in melted butter.
But I took it all in stride because, having read the program before the show, I had seen the following disclaimer:
“All the food products used on stage in this production have been certified kosher/pareve under rabbinic supervision. Although reference is made to shellfish, the items in question are only to establish the New England locale of the play and do not in any way constitute an endorsement of such eating habits.
“For further reference, please see Leviticus 11:9–12 and commentaries thereon.”
What Leviticus and the commentaries thereon have to say about clambakes in New England I do not know. What I do know is that no one would have considered a disclaimer like this necessary in Jerusalem 20 years ago. Holy mackerel. When they put on the Mikado again, will they need to write that actors seen bowing to the Japanese potentate are not really worshiping false gods?
From one flotilla fiasco to another
On the morning of June 26, 2011, Oren Helman, director of Israel’s Government Press Office, sent out the following warning to foreign journalists: “I would like to make it clear to you and to the media that you represent, that participation in the flotilla is an intentional violation of Israeli law and is liable to lead to participants being denied entry into the State of Israel for ten years, to the impoundment of their equipment and to additional sanctions.”
That evening, Helman gave a pathetic defense of the policy when grilled by two veteran Israeli journalists, Yaron London and Motti Kirschenbaum, on their nightly TV news show. How could we expect reliable coverage of the event if journalists were not allowed to witness it, London and Kirschenbaum asked. Helman had no answer. But he did say that the policy was the outcome of a series of meetings of top-level government officials. All of them suffering from a severe shortage of cortical neurons, he failed to add.
The following day, however, the light must have gone on in someone’s brain, because the GPO rushed to send out a new announcement: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today (Monday), 27.6.11, instructed the responsible authorities to formulate a special procedure regarding foreign journalists that participate in the flotilla and arrive in contravention of the Entry into Israel Law. When the matter was brought to his attention, the Prime Minister directed that the regular policy against infiltrators and those who enter Israel illegally not be implemented. It has also been agreed that members of the Israeli and international media will be attached to Israel Navy vessels in order to create transparency and credible coverage of the events.”
Text copyright 2011 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text may be used without written permission of the author.