Numbers: Breaking it Down with Hadag Nachash on Shavuot

This is a guest post by Roni Levin, St. Paul shlicha (Israeli emissary to St. Paul on behalf of the United Jewish Fund and Council).
This past weekend’s Parashah, Bamidbar (Hebrew for “In the desert”) begins with a census of Israelite men. The Torah lays out, with much precision and numeric accuracy, who should be counted in the census, and its results.
The reading of this Parashah coincided with the holiday of Shavuot, which also encourages us to develop numeric awareness, as we finish the count of 49 days we started on Passover, a count that symbolizes the time between the exodus from Egypt and the Giving of the Torah.
“I am too, like all Jews, obsessed with numbers.” This line is an excerpt from the chorus of a popular Israeli song released in 2003 by Israeli rap ensemble “HaDag Nachash,” which became extremely popular for their non-conformist lyrics. Their songs reflected the sentiment of the Israeli streets, and some were adopted as unofficial pseudo-anthems by political and social protesters.
This song, Misparim (Hebrew for numbers), delivers a powerful message of protest against insecurity (it was written in the heat of the second Intifada) through the eyes of a committed Israeli who loves his country but is troubled by the direction on which he thinks it is headed: growing socioeconomic gaps, raising cost of living, unemployment, car accidents, gender inequality, and it the background – the consciousness of the Holocaust pounding with the number of most magnitude: 6.000.000. Listening to Misparim provides us with a fascinating perspective to learn more about Israeli society in the beginning of the past decade.

NUMBERS – HaDag Nachash

One – is the number of countries
between the Jordan River and the sea
Two – The number of countries
that will be here one day
Three years and four months
I gave to the IDF –
I didn’t sign on I was in the Nahal
It costs five shekels to ride the bus,
well actually four ninety
but you have a few months
till the CD comes out.
I was six when Saadat came to Israel,
seven when they signed the agreements
Eight is Uri Malmilian’s number
who was definitely my childhood hero
Nine times I was to close to a terrorist attack
up to now
Ten – is the most Israeli answer
to the question ‘ what’s up?’
I am too, like all Jews, obsessed with numbers
twenty-four – seven, twelve months X4
My wife is twenty-seven year’s old, I’m thirty.
The moment when we will want to have children
is getting near.
But we will want them to have it all:
food, clothes, soccer, games.
This doesn’t bother
the executive director of Hapoalim Bank –
he brings home every day
twenty nine thousand eight hundred and sixteen shekels.
Every day? God damm it!
Divide it by two or fifteen
and it’s still a pretty good monthly salary for today – thousands of the fired workers from the textile factories
in the south will agree with me.
The growth in Israel in two thousand and one
was minus zero point six percent.
People that up until yesterday had a job
see a tomato in the trash and think
‘what a waste’.
The state of Israel’s economy is the worst it’s been
in the last forty-eight years.
Forty-eight –
that number’s familiar!
Where from…?
Four cellular companies compete over the ears
of seventy five percent of Israelis.
The executive director of Cellcom
goes to the bank once a month
and deposits a salary
of six hundred and seventy four thousand shekels.
There are a quarter of a million people who are unemployed; thirty six thousand were added this year. I guess Elli Luzon is right when he sings …
I am too, like all Jews obsessed with numbers…
twenty-four – seven, twelve months X4
Forgers offer, for ten shekels,
a CD that we worked on for four years.
The Dollar went up in tens of Agurot (Israeli cents) in three weeks
that boosted up the rent
for hundreds of thousand of people.
In your pocket you don’t have enough
for schoolbooks and diapers
and what did the government do in response?
Cut twelve percent off the child support.
When a woman goes to work
she makes per hour
a shekel and seventy agurot less,
on average,
than what a man would make in the same job
and I am not a prophet
Between five hundred and six hundred people
will die on the streets this year –
Dear transportation minister –
how do those numbers make you feel?
And still the biggest number, until today,
that holds hope but represents a disaster,
is one that makes every sane person
stand still
– is six million
I am too, like all Jews obsessed with numbers…
twenty-four – seven, twelve months X4

Chag Shavuout Sameach! (Happy Shavuot!)

(Photo: MervC)