Tuesday, January 1, 2013

"Let's not miss the Messiah in Jerusalem"

Here's a letter from Prime Minister Levi Eshkol to Minister of Housing Mordechai Bentov, on June 24, 1968. The file it comes from must have been opened by a new secretary who was then moved elsewhere, as it contains only two unconnected letters and a handwritten note - so I can't tell anything about the context, or the previous or subsequent events. All we've got is this single letter, standing on its own. (×’-6420.9).

Yet I think that if I quote it in its entirety, it tells a profound story - or three of them, or six - rather well. It does this so very well that I'm not even going to add annotations, even at the risk that some readers will miss some of the layers of this little gem:
To: The Minister of Housing
From: The Prime Minister

You can imagine that I know a bit about creating new townships, and the distinction between founding a town and baking bread is clear to me. Yet even bread rolls need to be baked properly, but sometimes they're baked hurriedly as our fathers baked on their way out of Egypt. But it's possible to stoke the furnace and prepare the dough concurrently, and there's no need to wait between one activity and the next.

History will forgive us if we miss by a centimeter or two, and it won't be important. I took umbrage at the complacence in your words when you said that there's no hurry, nothing is running away, and Jerusalem will remain ours forever. The reality is that the ground is burning under our feet and any delay could cause us to miss the steps of the Messiah.

Sincerely,

Levi Eshkol

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