Purim: Could Mordecai Buy Life Insurance?

For me, Purim’s predominant, eternal theme is the precariousness of life for all Jews.   In a land ruled by others, even one that apparently welcomed and accepted us, (according to a Midrash, Mordecai, known to be a Jew, was a member of the royal security police; even if not, he was publicly honored for his action), an anti-Semite was nearly able to wipe us out.  Only a series of unlikely “coincidences” (e.g. a Jew became queen, Mordecai overheard a plot against the King, the King read about it during a sleepless night, he entered the room just as Haman fell into his wife, Esther’s, lap, etc.) saved us – and even then we still had to fight and defeat our many enemies among the populous.[1]

The precariousness of my own life as a Jew was recently pointed out to me in an unexpected way.  My life insurance policy expired, and renewing it proved difficult.  Not for the usual reasons of age and health, but because I now live up to half the year in a place American insurers consider dangerous: the Jewish state!

Actually, I think that my “half-life” in Israel makes me a better life insurance “risk.” While there, I walk 1-2 hours daily; work less; eat less and fresher, more natural foods; attend synagogue (almost) daily, and spend more time in enjoyable activities with friends -- all of which is physical- and mental health-promoting.  In case of a heart attack or accident, Israel’s health care is at least as good as in the US (my US doctors say), and paramedic response time is probably better.  Soldiers and reservists walk the streets, shop, and ride buses carrying their semi-automatic weapons (see accompanying photos I took recently), so drive-by shootings in Jerusalem – unlike in the US, unfortunately -- are almost unheard-of. 

But, of course, the insurance underwriters weren’t thinking about my dying from a random drive-by shooting or heart attack in Israel.   They were likely thinking about the possibility of bus bombs and rockets from Gaza.

Unfortunately for them, though, they couldn’t ask me anything about my life in America as a conspicuous (kippa-wearing) Jew; this would have been illegal.  Yet, the truth is, life as a Jew is precarious wherever we are in the world; arguably less so in Israel even than in the US.  (Indeed, protecting Jewish lives is the most important reason for Israel’s existence!) 

Congressional support for Israel notwithstanding, there are people in the US who resent (or worse) Jews and Israel.  I used to regard as alarmist those who urgently warn about violent, anti-Semitic threats in America; I no longer do so.  I now think that I was comfortably naïve and complacent.  Now, I am more aware that there are American would-be Hamans with guns, grenades, and other weapons who spend hours every day on hate websites plotting against Jews.  We don’t know who they are (I hope that the FBI does), or which of them might take to the street on any given day (I doubt that the FBI does).  If these anti-Semites go looking for targets of opportunity, my kippa will certainly make me one.  Yet, I won’t stop wearing it.  I don’t feel unsafe in America, but I am no longer so oblivious to the dangers.  Purim’s message now means more to me, wherever I am.

I plan to have a very happy Purim in America, B”H.  I’ll celebrate our survival in a threatening world, but no longer take it for granted.  May we all do likewise.   

[1]  One of my teachers, Dr. Tamar Frankiel, has recently written about these “coincidences.”  See: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tamar-frankiel-phd/cast-your-lot-with-goodness-a-2300-year-old-lesson-for-today_b_2718869.html


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A bird that you set free may be caught again, but a word that escapes your lips will not return.
Jewish Proverb