The baby came, and it was a strong boy whom they named Mordechai, may he grow wise and brave as the hero uncle of Esther’s story. Ironically, it was this baby who ultimately provided a way out of utter destitution. It seems that during these decades before the second World War, Jerusalem teemed with foreign tourists, soldiers, administrators, as well as destitute refugees. The former had cameras, and the impoverished latter, well, they had local color. For example, between their natural beauty, colorful attire, and destitute circumstances, mother Esther and baby Mordechai were exquisitely photogenic. Esther quickly learned to ask for tips from amateur and professional photographers alike. Seeing this, Sa’eed seized an entrepreneurial opening. Sifting through the stinking offal of the garbage heaps, he found discarded pieces of tin and other scrap metals, out of which he fashioned mother and child engraved souvenirs. He was vaguely aware—and somewhat hopeful—that this design would correspond to an important Christian image that related to the Holy Land. However, he was shocked to find the majority of visitors to his wretched stall, taking pictures of nephew and sister-in-law, tossing them coins, fingering his crude talismans, were not just European Christians but European, or Ashkenazi, Jews as well.
His tin figurines depicting Madonna and Child came to decorate their shelves and sukkahs. Designated as authentic folk art of Persian Jewry, some pieces found their way into British museums and universities. Dissertations were written minutely examining the trinkets’ primitivistic origins, while anthropology books cited them as examples of backward and underdeveloped nature of Mizrachi society. With the continued influx of European Jews, these interpretations would seep back into the Israeli social sciences as further proof of the debased nature of their dark-skinned brothers’ intelligence and prospects.
Sa’eed did not need to read any of this to know he hated these light-skinned, privileged Jews from the West.
As the brutality of the twentieth century unfolded, hundreds of thousands of these Ashkenazi Jews migrated to Palestine in various stages of desperation. So also tens of thousands of Sa’eed’s Iranian countrymen fled the fanatical regime of the Ayatola Khomeini. It was the Ashkenazim, however, who were said to be settling the land of Israel, who defined Judaism, shaped the politics, and, ultimately, whose story is remembered in the history books. For the family Mufaz, struggling to maintain their proud Persian Jewish heritage, it is as if they did not exist at all, except as picturesque figures in photographs, or in a designated category of Israeli anthropological demography.
Four generations later, Rashid Mufaz was born in a concrete slum bordering on the Muslim slums of Eastern Jerusalem. A small, compact child, Rashid grew up silent and wary. Studiously avoiding involvement in the internecine warfare between gangs of Arab and Jewish boys in the streets, he quietly observed everything he could about warfare and the weapons. He understood from his father and his father’s father that he was the proud inheritor of the kingdom of Persia. He drank in their stories along with their bitterness. It is this hatred he allowed to direct his young life.
Powerless against the Ashkenazi majority around him, he turned his aggression toward the Muslim Enemy. Carefully he learned everything about them: Their customs, attire, food, and language. As a young teen, he practiced infiltrating Arab Jerusalem. His eyes, hair, and skin were the same as theirs—it was no great feat. One day, he understood, he would use this knowledge to destroy them.
The only way out of this slum for Eastern Jews was the military, and, at 15, he faked the papers to join the Israeli Army. He was not so interested in guns, however. Quietly, he manipulated his way into bomb school, first learning to disarm, and then learning to build. During his second tour of duty, there was an unfortunate accident with a landmine he was sent to disarm. The soldier lost his leg, Rashid part of his hand. They were both discharged, the one-legged soldier returning to his parents on kibbutz, and Rashid was set loose on Israeli society, an angry Farsi with an expertise in bomb making.
With the help of a handful of Evangelicals and Black Hats (Orthodox Jews), it does not take long for Ari and Rashid to find one another, odd bedfellows though they are. Rashid is no religious Jew, and harbors few illusions regarding Moshiach. He frankly considers the bulk of Ari’s mystical preoccupation so much Ashenazi offel, or crap. Given an opportunity to join a plot to destroy the Dome of the Rock, however, he is all in. He will destroy that sacred Islamic shrine just as the Shiites destroyed the magnificent culture of Persian Jewry.
Even though he does not pray, these words like a prayer echo in his chest: May WWIII come in our lifetime and soon, cleaning from the blighted face of Persia the fetid stain of the cursed Ishmaelites.
Selah and Amen.
from The Moriah Kabbalah Copyright 2011 Dawn Ros