Friday, June 19, 2009

A Bath at Bethpage and Peace for Israel

I spent much of yesterday slogging through the mud in Bethpage, my day at the US Open. At first I told my son that my goal was to follow all the Jewish golfers. Once I realized that that would make for a very short day, I focused instead on merely staying dry.... or, since that was impossible, the goal shifted to merely staying less-than-totally-drenched. Sportscasters kept saying that the record-breaking rain, which got horizontal at times, was "biblical," so I decided to look up Bethpage's biblical roots. According to Wikipedia,

Bethphage (meaning "House of Figs") was a place in ancient Israel, mentioned as the place from which Jesus sent the disciples to find a donkey and a colt with her upon which he would ride into Jerusalem. It is believed to have been located on the Mount of Olives, on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho (Gospel of Matthew 21:1; Gospel of Mark 11:1; Gospel of Luke 19:29), and very close to Bethany. It was the limit of a Sabbath-day's journey from Jerusalem, that is, 2,000 cubits.

It's interesting that this Bethpage is also not far from way of Levittown.

I could have used a donkey yesterday as I trudged toward the fifth green, with my son Ethan and with our friends Rob and Max Lesser joining us. By the time play was halted late in the morning, there were more water traps than greens. We got to see Tiger Woods double bogey, and the water was so deep that, had he wished to add yet another layer to his fascinating. polyglot multi-ethnic profile, I could have converted him in a flash. It was so wet and muddy, and the throngs so cordial and well-behaved, that I suspected they might change the name of the place to "Woods-stock." There was something comforting in seeing that the greatest golfer in the universe is actually human.

So here's the rub. The biblical Bethpage is in precisely the area that is of greatest controversy right now in the discussion about the "natural growth" of Israeli settlements. It so happens that the matter is discussed today in two articles:

Israel Seeks to Keep Jerusalem as Its Capital - Luis Ramirez
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his recent speech, proclaimed Israel's intentions to keep Jerusalem as the united capital of the Jewish state. An Israeli development plan - known as E-1 - seeks to link Jerusalem to Maale Adumim, Israel's largest settlement in the West Bank. With its dry rocky hills, much of this swathe of land resembles a moonscape. Its terrain is barren and unfit for farming, yet its political and religious value is such that for years, Israel has been determined to develop it. Israel's aim is to protect the contiguity of Jerusalem. Author Nadav Shragai, a proponent of E-1, disputes the Palestinians' claims to the eastern part of Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. (VOA News)
See also Protecting the Contiguity of Israel: The E-1 Area and the Link Between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim - Nadav Shragai (ICA-Jerusalem Center)

Here's my idea. If the terrain is a moonscape, unfit for farming, why not turn it into a golf course?

It will solve the President's problem, since he is so concerned about preventing "natural growth" of Jewish settlements, because there is no "natural growth" of a golf course beyond 18 holes, )(even though people did notice that the course has gotten mysteriously longer since it last hosted the Open in 2002). It will satisfy the settlers, because a "par" (a bullock) was one of the animals brought to the Temple for sacrifice, so this golf course could in this way be seen as the first step toward the establishment of the Third Commonwealth.

And if it doesn't work out there, perhaps we might consider rebuilding the temple closer to the other Bethpage, in the Five Towns.

What does this plan offer the Palestinians? Not since the loss of the casino in Jericho has an investment chance like this come along. A golf tournament in this Bethpage would never get rained on. This would be a REAL Desert Classic, with spectacular sand traps and camels as caddies.

I think this has real possibilities.

At the very least, this thought kept me entertained while I sloshed my way through the Long Island swamps, on a very wet day at the Open.

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