TO SUM up the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in one word: kitsch.
To sum up the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in two words: wonderful kitsch.
HONEST DISCLOSURE: I am an Anglophile.
At the age of 15 I started working for an Oxford-educated lawyer. At the office only English was spoken. So I had to learn it, and immediately fell hopelessly in love with the English language and British culture in general.
Some may wonder at this, since at the same time I joined a terrorist organization whose aim was to fight the British and drive them out of Palestine.
Soon after my 15th birthday I faced the admission panel of the Irgun. I was asked if I hated the British. Facing the beam of a powerful projector, I answered: no. Sensing the consternation on the other side of the blinding light, I added that I wanted to liberate our country, and did not need to hate the British to do that.
Actually, I think that most Irgun fighters felt like that. The nominal Commander in Chief, Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky, was an ardent anglophile and once wrote that the Englishman in the colonies was a brutal oppressor, but that the Englishman at home was a decent and likeable fellow. When Great Britain declared war on Nazi Germany, Jabotinsky ordered the immediate cessation of all Irgun actions. The Irgun's military commander, David Raziel, was killed by a Nazi bomb while assisting the British in Iraq.
His successor, Menachem Begin, came to Palestine with the Polish exile army, in which he served as a Polish-English interpreter. In this capacity he was often in contact with the British authorities. He once told me how he brought documents to British officers in the King David hotel, the building which he later -- as Irgun commander - ordered to be bombed. Years later, the Queen graciously received him as Prime Minister of Israel.
Altogether, we had the feeling that we were lucky to be fighting the British, and not, say, a French or American (not to mention Israeli) occupation regime.
AFTER THIS confession, another one: I am not a sports enthusiast. Actually, I have no sense for sport at all.
Even as a child, I was the worst in gymnastics class. A good book always attracted me more than an exciting football game. My father treated sport as "goyim-naches" -- Pleasure for Goyim. (Naches in Yiddish is derived from the Hebrew word Nakhat, pleasure or satisfaction.
BUT BACK to the Olympics. In the summer of their discontent, the British produced something unique: original, exciting, surprising, moving, humorous. I laughed when Her Majesty jumped out of the helicopter, I almost shed a tear when the handicapped children sang "God Save The Queen."
But let us go beyond the pomp and circumstance. Do the Olympic games have a deeper significance? I think they do.
Konrad Lorenz, the Austrian professor who researched the behavior of animals as a basis for understanding human behavior, asserted that sports are a substitute for war.
Nature has equipped humans with aggressive instincts. They were an instrument for survival. When resources on earth were scarce, humans, like other animals, had to fight off intruders in order to stay alive.
This aggressiveness is so deeply imbedded in our biological heritage that it is quite useless to try to eliminate it. Instead, Lorenz thought, we must find harmless outlets for it. Sport is one answer.
And indeed, looking at the various manifestations of this human pastime, one cannot but notice the similarities with war. National flags are carried around by victory-crazy crowds. The defeated feel and behave like armies after a lost battle.
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