The last stop of this meditation is Zagorsk, Russia, where, troubled by the anti-Semitism he encountered there, my friend Andrew Solomon asked a local peasant why, in his estimation, there was such antipathy everywhere against Jews. Without a moment’s hesitation, the peasant answered, in Russian: “It is because the Jews have a secret vegetable they eat so they don’t become alcoholics like the rest of us. And they refuse to share that vegetable with anyone else.”The peasant's belief is not quite as ludicrous as it seems: whenever I become fed up with living in Israel for one reason or another, I argue with myself: "But the vegetables are the redeeming factor" and immediately relax and move on. However, I'd happily share the secret vegetable with anyone who takes the trouble to visit here (and that includes you, cousin!)
Coincidentally (is God sending me a message?), I attended a lecture on the genetic engineering of plants last week, and learned a lot. I didn't know that the reason Europe has banned genetically engineered plants is not because genetically engineered foods are dangerous for health - au contaire! - but rather to protect its own farmers and to avoid granting Monsanto, which owns key patents, more power over the world's food supply. In fact, third world countries, who don't mind (or in some cases don't honor) Monsanto's patents, are developing rapidly precisely because of their improved nutrition thanks to genetically engineered food. This may not be news to you, but it was to me. Leaders in this research now are India and China. Israel has plenty of plant engineering know-how, but cannot export genetically engineered food to Europe, which is our main close customer.