It was Passover. The year was 1971, or as we Jews like to call it, 57-something. I was just a kid at his uncle's house looking for the afikomen when life as I knew it began to change. I happened to lean on a wood panel along the hallway wall, and a door slid open. Without thinking, I stepped inside, and the door closed behind me. Behind that door, what I saw was a whole new world.
I had wondered why my Aunt Rivka missed the Four Questions. Turned out she was back here with my Uncle Moishe sitting at mission control. Spread out before them were dozens of television screens displaying assembly chambers, boardrooms, bank vaults, and battlefields. "All right, my sheyn yingl," Aunt Rivka said, "so now you know!"
On Screens 7 and 8 were vast expanses of desert and several long phalanxes of tanks. Uncle Moishe explained that they were Egyptian and Syrian tanks stationed in the Sinai and Golan Heights. With some help from cousin Yentl, Rivka and Moishe were hard at work staging an "attack" on Israel by several Middle East "adversaries." This was a chore -- real tsuris. The Egyptians and Syrians couldn't invade Israel with Israeli tanks, so Yentl ordered a couple thousand T-55s from the Soviet Union. It would take till 1973 to put all the pieces in place, but the end result would be a more militarily dominant Israel.
Over on Screen 11 were several middle-aged men sitting around a mahogany conference table. There were six, to be precise. Uncle Moishe identified the first five: Lucchese, Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, and Colombo. I wondered who the sixth was, and Aunt Rivka told me to look a bit closer. It was Uncle Shlomo. The kids at the Seder had been told Uncle Shlomo was in Long Island Jewish getting a goiter removed. But there on the screen, clearly, was Uncle Shlomo and his goiter. It was all very complicated. But the bottom line was the price of a quart of milk would be going up 10 cents.
Three screens over was a similar scene but with ropes, cameras, and technical people. Cousin Yochanan had just green-lighted a new movie called "The Godfather," the profits from which would be used to purchase the Soviet tanks Moishe had mentioned earlier. Yentl kidded about how Paramount had passed on the picture but then soon found out their credit was suddenly no good on a dozen other movies in production. "It was either that," Yentl said, "or the horse's head." Yentl, Moishe, and Rivka all laughed. I didn't get it.
But it would all work out for the best, they said. If I would just be a nice bubeleh, I could grow up to be a mensch with a studio of my own, a couple of modest West African nations, and a seat on the World Bank. I had it easy, they said. I was second generation. My father's generation and his father's generation had to stage entire World Wars and a Holocaust as a cover. To this day, we had relatives all over Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx living on small, fixed incomes in city housing; On Medicaid, Medicare, and disability as part of the ruse. If they were willing to make that kind of sacrifice to perpetuate worldwide domination by the Jewish people, the least I could do was be quiet and eat my gefilte fish.
I did for a while. I even got into an Ivy League college. Everyone kvelled. But then, I had some ideas of my own. I married a shiksa. We joined a reform temple. We had our daughter's bat mitzvah in the backyard for chump change instead of for six figures at a glitzy behemoth catering hall as called for in the Talmud. And I paid the price. I was shunned -- more or less excommunicated. And then it got worse. My sit-com pilot wasn't picked up.
Well, to paraphrase Groucho Marx, I wanted to be a member of a club that wouldn't have me. I'm back in the minyan again and feeling great. My days are filled with kreplach and warmongering. I'm looking at raising the prime rate again. Lebanon is keeping me busy, as is the fall lineup on FOX.
As for Mel Gibson, I am urging everyone to cut him a break. Not because he is "sick." And not even because his outrageous drunken accusations happen to be true. I appeal to the good people of the planet to cut Mel Gibson some slack, because on that fateful night, Mel Gibson -- movie star, director, producer, lightning rod for controversy -- was simply carrying out orders. If you don't believe me, ask Uncle Moishe.
Rich Herschlag is a consulting engineer and the author of four books. He writes for Freezerbox.com and can be visited at RichsRant.com.