It was while watching the first baseball game of the 2013 Maccabiah that I went into a dream, from which I woke up with the long searched for map to peace in the Middle East tattooed across my cerebral cortex.
As Team Israel was being clobbered by Team USA 15-1, my increasingly skittish brain cells had one by one tuned out of the game. With the crack of bats on my television screen providing the soundtrack, I was slowly but inexorably pulled away from the here and now, only to next find myself at home plate of a baseball field in Cliffside Park, New Jersey.
I‘m 11 again, batting 7th and playing right field for a little league club sponsored by ‘Ratner’s Auto Body’.
It’s the summer of 1984 and I’m choking up on my Louisville Slugger metal bat. My stance is open; my grip is firm yet relaxed; the count is three balls and two strikes, bases loaded with two outs in the bottom of the 6th inning. The crowd is on its feet. The air is simultaneously thick with drama and sparkling with electricity.
And I’m blind as a bat.
“Strike three! You’re out!” I am caught looking at an off-speed pitch when I was expecting a fastball.
Truth is, even had I gotten the pitch right, I would have struck out.
And no amount of true grit, wishful thinking or repetition of that at-bat could’ve changed that whiff into a walk-off home run.
After all, it’s kind of hard to track, trace and make contact with a round rubber object that’s coming in hard and fast at 50 MPH when you’re standing there with sightless eyes.
This brief trip down a previously unexplored bunny hole in time ended as effortlessly as it had started, with Don Henley’s ‘Boys of Summer’ fading out just as harsh cackling from my TV set faded back in.
That evening’s coverage of the Maccabi Games had ended. Mercifully, America’s throttling of Israel on the baseball diamond was now history. In its place, John Kerry, representing Team USA, was lecturing Binyamin Netanyahu, captain of Team Israel, on the inevitability of a future Palestinian state existing alongside the Jewish one.
Israel’s premier is also blind as he can be, just seeing what he wants to see. Not for lack of trying does Bibi keep whiffing: his political stance is clear; his grip on the geopolitical facts is strong and his determination to keep Israel safe is unyielding.
Yet, the hour is getting late and the storm clouds are gathering. A couple of more innings like this and the political vacuum created by 45 years of Israeli indecisiveness will be filled by a sovereign Palestinian state that will absorb 700,000 Palestinians who are currently living in terrible conditions in Syria, another 750,000 Palestinians who currently live in Lebanon and hundreds of thousands of others who will flock to the new state from all over, because to them the West Bank and Israel are America.
And while my long ago shot at baseball immortality ended with a called ‘strike three’ by a fair, impartial umpire, Israeli leaders have chosen to outsource their country’s security to supranational institutions such as the United Nations that have repeatedly displayed a pro-Palestinian bias.
And for all the concerted efforts to rebrand the country in a more flattering light for the benefit of the international community, Israel remains stranded in deep right field – on the outer fringe of legitimacy.
Yet, there’s hope. Prime Minister Netanyahu spent a significant portion of his adolescence and early adulthood living in the United States. As such, it could well be that he too played baseball. If so, there’s a slim chance for an outbreak of peace, or at least quiet, in these here parts.
All Bibi has to do is remember a few things he may have first picked up on a baseball diamond very far away and very long ago:
1) Do your homework.
2) Know your enemy.
3) Have all the information processed before you step to the plate.
4) Once you get to the plate, clear your mind of any unnecessary thoughts and simply focus.
5) Wipe out the past and concentrate on the present: this at bat.
6) Tell yourself that you will come through in this at bat.
7) You’re better than the pitcher: show him.
And if none of that works, Mr. Prime Minister, then go get your eyes examined for crying out loud!
Turns out that the road to coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians doesn’t run through Oslo, but rather a dusty old ball park in the borough of Bergen County, New Jersey.
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