Thursday, November 16, 2006

Military $$ go for Mezuzahs

It’s no secret that Israel routinely gets multi million-dollar military aid packages from the United States, but I was intrigued to find out that not all of this largesse gets spent on weaponry and armour. Made-in-USA mezuzahs, the little encased scrolls which the Torah requires to be mounted on every Jewish doorway, accounted for at least $30,000 of the IDF budget. How did protective amulets for the new Tel Aviv offices of the Prime Minister, the Defense minister, and their generals get labelled military hardware? Excuse the expression, but it appears to be some pork-barrel project, perhaps cooked up by powerful Jewish lobbyists.

According to Itamar Eichner, a reporter for Yedioth Ahronoth, that’s not necessarily the case. American military aid must be spent on American goods, in batches worth $30,000 or more. Since the state-of-the-art Defense Ministry building at the Kirya in Tel Aviv has hundreds of new entrances and exits which require divine protection, the mezuzah money had to come from somewhere. Why not use some Yankee dollars? Forget the devout scribes who toil away on parchments in Jerusalem’s alleyways or traditional Jewish artisans who have fashioned mezuzah covers for generations. Israeli top brass ordered a big batch of cut-rate Judaica from dealers in the United States in order to meet the foreign aid requirements. The Defense Ministry confirmed, rather sheepishly, that the cheaper American mezuzahs had been ordered. Delivery, courtesy of the American military, was included, I presume.

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