Only minutes after we arrive at the airport we get the big news from Noam, the eldest of our four Israeli grandchildren and the one whose bar mitzvah we have come to celebrate: “We have a McDonald’s in Jerusalem now—non-kosher!” From the enthusiasm with which he stresses the fact that this new McDonald’s is non-kosher, one might think that Noam was a precocious version of one of those militant secularists who abound in Israel, and especially in Jerusalem where the highly visible presence and power of the ultra-Orthodox haredim have provoked among many people a backlash against religion in general. Not at all: his aim is to underline the difference between the new McDonald’s and the strictly kosher Burger Ranch (or “Boorger Rench,” as the Jerusalemites call it) to which on previous visits my wife and I have sometimes taken him and his three younger siblings (Alon, almost ten, and the five-year-old twins Boaz and Avital) for a special treat. This new McDonald’s in Jerusalem, Noam wants us to understand, is the real thing—exactly the same as the ones he has come to love so well from previous visits of his own to America.
I will remember this little episode a few days later when watching a clip on CNN (that constant companion of the contemporary American traveler abroad) featuring demonstrations by participants at the UN conference on women in Beijing. None of these demonstrations seems to have anything directly to do with women as such. One, for example, is against American imperialism—a theme I naively thought had gone out with button shoes, or anyway the cold war, and whose reappearance makes me feel almost nostalgic. Another is directed against the resumption of nuclear testing by the French, reminding me by the novelty of its target country that the cold war really has ended.
About the Author
Norman Podhoretz has been writing for COMMENTARY for 56 years.