I dunno – I just don’t know. You’d think that after 2365 years the story would be over already. Finished, old hat, dead as a doornail and utterly boring. I mean, how long can the same story keep happening, over and over again, even in up-dated versions? Yet here it is again in all its gory and glory. Although we’re still in the middle and not yet at the end, we know of course that the end will be good. After all, whatever G-d orchestrates in our earthly world is good – but until we reach the last act of the play, hold your breath. Things can get bumpy along the way. But to get on with our tale…..
FROM BADBAD TO KUSHWAIT
A Contemporary Purim Saga
as reported by chronicler Ffaya Zang
ACT I: AN OILY PLOT
Achashdinejad A. Husseini, Glorious Ruler of Shuran, from Badbad to Kushwait, was the new conqueror of old Persia and he was getting skinnier & angrier, day by day. He had no oil to fry his food, no fat to feed his geese, no grease to shine his guns or lubricate his lovely planes and tanks. The wondrous wells of Kushwait had ceased to flow.
“There must be an explanation!” he shouted. “Things like this don’t just happen to happen! Is it the ozone? Acid rain? Radioactivity? Allah knows we have no such things here in Kushwait. Even our poison gas is kept in air-tight containers, sealed with the seal of the Holy Wakf, to be used only in dire emergencies against the enemies of Slam. Is there no one here who can explain what has happened to our wells? No one who can tell me why that delightful sound of black, bubbling oil is no longer swooshing through my kingdom? If the Isforeals were still around, I’d accuse them of poisoning the wells, but not a one of them is left after our last clean-up campaign. Who else is there for me to blame?”
Hamin Houmaini bin Malek, First Advisor and loyal counselor to the King, spoke up.
“I have heard it said that Eshtamir, the Mysterious Maiden in the Holy City of Peace in the Land of Isforeal, knows why the oil has ceased to bubble. But no stranger can speak with her. It is said that her Uncle Multichai guards her zealously. I have even heard it said that she is veiled like our women, although that may only be hearsay.”
“Multichai? Do you mean my old enemy Mortify? How I loathe that man! His memory is blacker than the blackest oil in my kingdom! Ah…if only I could administer some true Slamic justice to him! But now that he is in the Land of Isforeal, he is out of range of my rockets. You say that Eshtamir is veiled? But why? Only our women are veiled. Eshtamir doesn’t even live in Badbad! Maybe someone is mixing her up with my wife Villnisht.”
“Your previous wife, sire. Remember? She’s deceased,” said Hamin with dignity.
“Ah yes, deceased. May she rest, clothed in glory.”
“Amen, and may my beloved wife Tzores soon rest with her! But to get back to Eshtamir, it is said that the women of Isforeal are exceedingly modest and Eshtamir is very beautiful. Perhaps Multi..er..Mortify wishes to protect her from strange eyes. But if she has indeed taken the veil, it is only because she herself has chosen to do so. We all know that the women in the West are highly independent.”
“Hmm… Mortify is clever, but so am I. I will find a way to get my hands on Eshtamir and you, my First Advisor, will assist me. Eshtamir is our only hope. Without our black gold, we are lost! And even with it, the presence of the beautiful Eshtamir could enhance my life. The palace is a lonelier place without Villnisht. Perhaps we could do a bit of convincing. Surely Eshtamir would not refuse the delights of Shuran. And even if she did, we have our means and methods. Nothing crude like terrorists, mind you, but a bit of gentle hostaging. People do find themselves in unexpected places and situations nowadays. It’s a common occurrence, like catching a cold. This would, of course, be a legitimate exercise in self defense, designed to guarantee the continuation of our Divine right to rule the East, control the west and man the oil pumps of the world.”
“Impossible, Sire!” piped in the minor advisor Hebrona. “Now that they have returned to their land, the G-d of Isforeal has promised to protect Mutichai and Eshtamir and their people forever and ever. It doesn’t pay to mess around with Him. Hamin’s revered ancestor Haman tried it once and look where it led him – straight up a tree!”
“But we have no trees in Kushwait, only cactuses,” replied the King. “Besides, Haman was much too crude. We’ve learned a thing or two since then. G-d only protects the Isforeals if they obey His rules, and we all know how lax they have become. Their G-d is called Echad – One, yet they can barely find ten men to agree to pray together in one room. They’re so fractured that it’s a miracle they even use the same bus system. All the Sons of Arobber, however, are united through the spirit of Slam. (Yes yes, I know about the slight differences of opinion between Hamsa and Hezba and problems in the county of Lozleban. It is an unfortunate exception to our united Slamic rule.)
“As I was saying, the Isforeals are absolutely contemptuous – always self-righteously claiming how precious their people are to them. Well, we’re Semites too, aren’t we? It’s all one family. So how can they sit back and watch our children starve and suffer, deprived of their toys and Mercedes, our women shorn of their Gucci gowns, our soldiers languishing for lack of arms and other innocent, simple hardware? Send out a fax to the Central Shuk of Arobbia and we’ll get a macrominyan together in no time.”
“Yes – a macrominyan! The Isforeals pray with ten. We’ll do them one better. We’ll pray with ten thousand! This is an emergency, do you understand? If we don’t get that oil going, we’ll lose our place in the desert sun.
“Let me think… I have the perfect dozen to start! The twins – Iwreck and Yourun – are two. The triplets – Tzoridan, Alergica and Sianide – make five. And we’ll bring the best of our neighbors – Kadoffel of Fibbia, Mubankes of Gyppe, Lozleben the Unfortunate, M’tournit of Tonis, and of course the biggest and the dumbest (and unfortunately the richest…) – Sheroodia of Saudia, 7th of the 37 sons of Arob. Now that’s a family for you!”
“That’s only ten.”
“Ten? Two and three and five make…ten? Of course, ten. I will be the eleventh, or rather, the first. And you, Hamin, will be the twelfth! That’s an even dozen, right? Then we’ll round up another nine-thousand, nine hundred and … let’s see…. eighty six from the mosques.”
“You need two more for ten thousand, sir.”
“No problem we’ll get two more and we’ll have a mass minyan, held in tents in the midst of Arobbia. Now get going or I’ll see that you’re put on dry ice in Siberia. Speaking of Siberia, get hold of Gorbona. Or is it Petunia now? They keep changing leaders out there. There’s absolutely no stability out west. Gorbona won the Nobel Peace Prize a few decades back which makes him the perfect eleventh for my minyan. What righteous god could refuse to answer the prayers of a worldwide Peacenik? And just for good measure, invite whoever is on duty in Lozleben. They’re having a hard time there. Let everyone see how kind and merciful I am. It’s a beautiful plan, if I say so myself.”
“Where will the minyan be?”
“In Makah, of course. Makah was always the Slamites’ holiest city until Al Kuds, the Holy City of Peace, won the title a few years back. But now that the Isforeals are making it difficult to hold massive protests – er…prayers – on the Temple Mount, Makah will have to do. It’s a pity. The sanitary facilities and the satellite connections are much better in Isforeal, but fax Sheroodia and tell him to get the place in shape and we’ll fly in two or three million daveners to answer Amen.
“Last of all, call that new guy Berela Chazan Oiybama from Ameridia. He’s probably somewhere in the District of Golf. Those presidents hang around those holes as if they contained oil. Tell him to send a few Ameridian divisions to protect us from possible attack during our mass prayer. We can’t start throwing stones in self defense in the middle of our heartfelt worship. Besides, it wouldn’t do to throw stones in Makah. Someone might get hurt. Better let the Ameridians do some dirty work for a change. Just make sure he sends the Ameridians and not the other ones – the Ameryidians – by mistake. They’re not allowed on our oily soil. As the conscience of the world, our pure prayers will pierce the seven heavenly veils like a sword slicing smoothly across a heretic’s throat.”
“What if Oiybama won’t play ball?”
“Don’t worry. He’ll play and pray! That Berela Chazan business doesn’t fool anyone. He likes us and he needs our grease as much as we do. Without our oil, we don’t eat, but the Ameridians don’t move! Their automobiles will stall and clog their arterial highways. Hundreds of millions of Ameridians will be stuck in a monumental traffic jam, encased in cages of steel. They’ll never make it home on time for dinner. It’ll make Oiybama shudder just to think of the electoral vote!”
“Thank Allah for our horses,” mumbled the trembling counselors.
“Allah? Allah will be delighted! We will generate a lot of religious fervor and Altzu Shmeera – our National Satellite Station- will have a hey day. I can see the headlines already: Prayers for Peace in the East! Remember, this is our passive, peaceful defense against the aggressive, zionistic machinations of Mortify (make sure the press gets the name straight. I don’t go for that Multichai business!). Mortify is strangling the people of Shuran and the West by keeping back vital information which allows our precious black blood, I mean bubbles, to flow again.” Achashdinejad stopped to catch his breath. But only for a moment.
“One last thing. Send a fax to my cousin Sedom Husseini. We need his Terriban Trio – Chasal, Heres, Hereg – for a few days. Oh, sorry! I forgot. Poor Sedom is also deceased, may he rest in peace with Villnisht. (Sigh.) It’s a truly violent world we live in! Send the fax to Chaleriya bin Asson in Syricide instead. If he can’t get the Terriban Trio, he has good connections with the Al Killya Bullets in Afghastlystan. Soulful prayers mixed with a strong Slamic arm is the name of the game! Both the Terribans and the Bullets will know how to bring the lovely Eshtamir to Badbad!”
“Say Kushwait. It sounds better than Badbad,” suggested Houmaini.
“Badbad…Kushwait. It’s all the same, all part of my kingdom,” said Achashdinejad gleefully. “And once Eshtamir arrives, I have no doubts that she will remove her veil and end her silence. In fact, I expect to extract some very vital information from her which will help us erase the Blot of Isforeal from the map!”
The counselors gasped. Then, finally grasping the greatness of their cunning leader, they bowed reverently, dusting the floor with the tops of their kaffiyas.
ACT II: A PLAN FOR SALVATION
The secret of Achashdinejad Husseini’s plot was short lived. Two of his spies, Pigson and Trash, had been careless with their speech while purchasing hummos in the shuk. It was only a matter of minutes until the information was faxed across the ocean and found its way to Multichai’s shtender. Immediately, Multichai understood what was involved. The Isforeals were again in mortal danger.
“The people of Arob are great in numbers and influence. They swarm over the face of the East,” he said gravely. “Even the Land of Isforeal is no stranger to their plots and intrigues. Like their ancestors Esav and Amalek, the Hands of Arob are stained with the blood of many nations. Our own resources are, as usual, limited. But two can play the game as well as one. We too will attack on two fronts – body and soul.
“The maiden Esthamir incorporates the soul of Isforeal. She must be protected at all costs and I have just the thing to do it. Venahafoch Hu! Camouflage will be our weapon. Eshtamir is known for her veil and her silence. As of now, everyone in the country, both male and female, will wear sackcloth and ashes, topped with black kafiyot or veils. The Trio won’t know where to look first!
“Secondly, I hereby declare the Silent Fast of Eshtamir. As soon as the Terribans arrive, Total Silence will reign supreme. No one in the country will talk. No Altzu Shmeera. No radio! No television! No politicians! It will be a time of guarding our tongues! I guarantee that three days of wandering among four million speechless, faceless black sacks will be sufficient to demoralize even the Terrible Trio! ”
“Last of all, we must get to Petunia in Crussia. That dumb Achashdinejad doesn’t know how to spell. He thinks Gorbona got the Nobel Peace Prize. What he received was the Nebach Piece Prize from the O.N. Even the Obnoxious Nations of the World felt sorry for him. They figured that with all his tzorus, he needed a consolation prize for an empire fallen apart!”
“So why do we need Gorbona?” asked Multichai’s secretary.
“Who said we need Gorbona? I said we need Petunia. We want the Crussian Jews! We’ll offer to take a million Jews off his hands. He’ll be so happy he won’t know what to do first! And all we’ll ask in return is that he stick to Crussian Orthodoxy and refrain from participating in the mass prayer in Makah. It will take some of the wind out of Achashdinejad’s wings. Then we can get on with the last and most important part of our plan – our own mass prayer, together with the Crussian Jews!”
“But, but the Crussian Jews don’t know how to pray,” stammered the secretary. “They haven’t had much experience.”
“Don’t you worry,” smiled Multichai. “A Jew and his G-d can always find a common language.”
ACT III: MISSING THE MARK
A serene silence descended upon the Land of Isforeal. Four million people wrapped in sackcloth went about their work with nary a sound. No screaming children, no cursing drivers, no hawking merchants. Only the melodies of Avraham Fried and Mordechai ben David wafted from open windows. The Terrible Terribans accompanied by their comrades the Al Killya Bullets, under the guise of a friendly, tourist visit, stalked the streets, baffled by the covered, silent faces.
“I’m going back to Kushwait!” whispered one of the Terribans. “You can’t tell the difference between males and females in this country! They all look alike!”
“You can’t go back until we’ve done our job! It’s your national duty! Achashdinejad said so. We’re helping to keep the pipelines of the world flowing free. The entire continent of Arob is depending on us! Just close your mouth and keep your eyes open!”
“Let’s just grab some dame and scram. This place gives me the creeps!”
“How can we tell who’s a dame?” asked his companion.
“The dames wear the veils, stupid! The gents wear the masks!”
Just then, a black limousine with a huge gold mongrammed “O” on its doors pulled up to the curb. Three veiled guards jumped out. A slight, vieled figure remained seated inside.
“Hey! Look there!” cried one of the Terribans. “That woman in the jalopy! I think it’s Eshtamir!”
With split second co-ordination, they shoved the guards aside, jumped into the automobile, and before the guards could tear off their veils to shoot, the Terribans were out of sight.
“Fools! Fools! How stupid can you be? Can’t you tell the difference between a man and a woman??!! ” cried Achashdinejad angrily.
“Not when they look like this! In sackcloth, everyone looks alike! This guy fit the description perfectly! He’s small, he was wearing a veil, and he looked important. He travelled with guards and his initial is “O”, isn’t it?”
“Yes it is!” roared Achashdinejad. “That’s because this worm’s name is Olmert and your names are Stupid, Stupider, and Stupidest!!! Can’t you spell? Her name is Eshtamir, not Oshtamir!”
“How are we supposed to spell in Hebrew? We never went to an Ulpan! ”
Achashdinejad stamped his feet in uncontrolled fury. “No more media scoop, no more righteous protest. Now I’ll never hear the end of all the anti-terrorist lectures. I can’t stand it anymore. I just can’t stand it!”
“My dear man, remain calm,” said Olmert. “There’s no point in getting so excited. Anyone can make a mistake. Even we Isforeals are not immune. I make mistakes all the time. It’s a perfectly human failing. My Kafiyeh tore on the way out of the office so I borrowed my secretary’s veil. She’s a well organized woman who always carries an extra with her for emergencies. But your mistake was in forgetting that we Isforeals live in a sovereign, independent state where we are free to dress as we like within our own safe and permanent borders. Kipa or kaffiya, veil or mask – it’s a purely internal affair and should not be a reason for heightened tensions between nations.”
“Shut him up!” groaned Achashdinejad, holding his head.
“Send him home,” said Petunia who had flown in for diplomatic discussions.
“Home? Are you crazy? I never release anyone, unless it’s worth my while.”
“That’s just the point,” said Petunia. “It is worth your while. He’s out of office any day now and no one will ransom him. But if you release him out of the kindness of your heart, the media will transform you into a fair, reasonable, kind, considerate executioner… uh, I mean executive. Then you can go ahead and stage the Prayers for Peace Protest as planned.”
Which is how Olmert miraculously escaped – again – and returned to the City of Peace no worse than he had left it, except for a few grains of desert sand in his hair and pockets.
ACT IV: THE UISA
In the Great Convention Hall of the Holy City of Jerusalem, the United Isforeal Assembly convened. Multichai had invited the luminaries of the nation. In the hour of need, they came – from far and near, across mountains and oceans and deserts. The Rabbis and Rebbes; the Blacks and the Whites; bearded and cleanshaven; the Knitted Ones, Those Who Wear Gabardine, and the Furlined. Students, soldiers, civilians. Young and old, light and dark, short and tall, thin and stout. Everyone was there including the Women of Isforeal. Their luxurious galleries were filled to capacity. It was a stirring sight to see.
At the head of the dais Multichai sat under a huge, colored UJA banner, his face still covered. Finally, he arose, pulled his kaffiya aside, and spoke for the first time in days.
“All Jews are one – brothers and sisters of our holy Patriarchs and Matriarchs,” he said, “and when we remember that we are one, there is peace. And when there is peace amongst brothers, our G-d, who is called “Peace”, cannot help but answer our prayers. As we sit here together, shevet achim gam yachad, let us ask Him to save our people.
“Achashdinejad thinks there is a mysterious maiden called Eshtamir who holds the secret to his oil, but he is wrong. There are millions of Eshtamirs, each as righteous and modest and precious as the next. Not one of them can make the oil of Kushwait flow. Only G-d Al-mighty can do that. Yet each Eshtamir is part of the secret of Isforeal’s strength and promise.
“Let us pray that Achashdinejad and all the evil he represents, is removed from the world, and that a better future awaits us. Let us pray that David’s seed returns to the Holy City to rule in peace and righteousness forever.”
Petunia, who had been allowed in to witness the proceedings from behind a guarded, diplomatic mechitza, nodded his head in agreement. Some say he wiped a tear from his right eye and whispered Amen.
ACT V: MAKAH
Far away in the city of Makah, an unsuspecting Scottish journalist by the name of McKane had joined ITL-TV crew. Well known for their objective, unbiased reporting, International Trash Line TV was on location to record Achashdinejad’s great pitch for peace.
“McKane!” called one of the reporters.
“McKane? Kayn? Kahn? kohen?” rumbled through the crowd. The Slamites stirred from their prayer and looked around. A kohen? Here? In Makah? They shook their heads unbelievingly and frowned. It was a desecration of holy Slamic soil! No Kohens were allowed in Makah. In the flick of a shutter, bedlam broke out. People were pushed and shoved as the crowds tried to get a glimpse of the Kohen. They started to shout and chant Allah Achbar! Itbach el Kohenin! Allah is great! Death to all the Kohens! Television crews were beaten, equipment smashed. Attempting to regain control, Achashdinejad made the mistake of his life. He entered the crowd. Whether out of adoration or treachery, he was instantly crushed in the rampaging mobs and returned his soul to Allah as a holy shaheed.
In the end, it was all they could do to restore some semblance of order and separate the wounded from the dead. Achashdinejad’s minyan was no more. Lozleban was one of the few still alive. At the last minute, he had been left behind, his plane “borrowed” by Iwreck and Yourun.
“Poor me,” he said in a daze. “How will I ever manage my affairs without the constant protection and loving care of my cousins Iwreck and Yourun? Even Tzoridan and Allergica are gone. Perhaps Isforeal will send me some humanitairan aid…”
ACT VI: A HAPPY END FOR ALL CONCERNED
“It’s always the same story,” said Multichai. “He who lives by evil and violence, dies by it in the end. They never learn.”
And in the end, the world changed beyond recognition. Oil ceased to flow in the East. It remained buried deep in the ground. The Crussian Jews in Isforeal perfected wonderful electric cars which ran on solar energy and transported people all over the world. All the sons of Arobber left the Land of Isforeal and moved to Badbad. Housing and land were left empty and real estate plunged, but not for long. Ameryidians began buying up everything in sight. Everything that was left after all the Crussians were settled, that is.
The Ingathering gathered impetus. Plane tickets tripled in price, if you could get one. Scores of planes landed daily at Isforeal’s Great International Airport. People streamed out across the Land – from North to South, from the Ocean on the West, to the River on the East, they filled the Land. The Crussians, experienced in immigration procedures, formed welcoming committees to help the newcomers in their first difficult weeks, and the gutteral sound of Hebrew was mixed with soft Anglo-Saxon “rrr’s” and liquid Crussian “lll’s”. It was all you could do to pick out an authentic Isforeal accent.
Then came the great day everyone was waiting for. Amidst bringing of gifts of food, and much charity for the poor, amidst much light and gladness, honor and joy, the Isforeals began the great pilgrimage up to the magnificent, newly rebuilt Temple Mount.
“It’s been a long wait,” sighed Multichai, “but it was worth every minute.”
However, it was Achashdinejad’s son, Achashdumb the Wise – who had the last word.
“Dear Multichai,” he wrote…
Now that the Ameridian elections are over and Oiybama is getting his act together, it looks like we may be in for a slight slow down here in the Middle East. To tell you the truth, without my old advisor Hamin Houmaini bin Malek (do you remember him? He had an unfortunate accident.) I am in a bit of a loss. I spoke to Lozleban and he suggested setting up a scrap business – you know, the kind many Jewish grandfathers started with a few generations back. He says there’s a fortune in scrap metal from rockets and tanks and other outdated ammunition plus mountains of aluminun coke cans left by the American forces littering the Middle East. What with all the ecological concerns nowadays, we might as well collect the stuff and send it to Isforeal. Maybe you can find a way to recycle it into those cute electric cars you’re making. I hear they’re really doing a booming business.
As nations who share a common goal and concern for democracy and a special, historical relationship, we’d be pleased to do a little business with you. What are the chances of our receiving Favored Nation Status in the International Isformarket? Heaven knows, we could use it. Looking forward to hearing from you and if you ever need an extra for a minyan, just let me know. Best wishes in your new Temple.
& Your newfound ally and servant,
& Achashdumb the Wise, son of Achashdinejad the Great Ruler of the (Somewhat Reduced) Kingdom of Shuran
© 2009 Yaffa Ganz. Yaffa Ganz is the award winning author of more than forty Jewish children’s books including Sand and Stars – a 2000 year saga of Jewish history for teen readers. Her latest book – “A Different Dimension” published by Hamodia Publishers – is an anthology of essays on contemporary Jewish life.