Can we ask you a few questions?
Take a chance.
What was the most moving moment in your life?
I hope you don’t mind if I tell you that I think that’s a ridiculous question. In life, there are thousands of moving moments. How does a person recall every moving moment? Who could tell which moving moment is the most moving moment? Do you sit around with a ruler, judging: “This was more moving than the other most moving moment?”
Are Jews and gentiles really so different?
You sneeze in front of a gentile, they wish you the best. In front of a Jew: “Oh, did you see a doctor?” And if you tell them, “I’m all right”-they say, “No, the way you sneezed-didn’t look all right to me. If I were you, I’d look into it.” You can change the subject and talk about catching Saddam Hussein; an hour later they’re still up to it: “Don’t forget what I told you. I didn’t like the sound of that sneeze. You never know-a cold will lead to pneumonia; pneumonia will lead to lumbago. I read in the paper about two Jews who passed away from salmonella.” I think it has a lot to do with the whole history of persecution. Jews are always worried about their survival and protecting each other from forces that they can’t predict or explain.
Do you enjoy what you do?
You’ll hear of an electrician quitting because he’s tired, a basketball player quitting because he can’t move anymore, a dancer quitting because he’s sweating too much, but I never heard of a performer who’s making a decent living, quitting. The egomania is there as long as you live. It’s like you never hear of a politician quitting. Everybody else is 65, they retire. A politician…is first getting started. At 95, they’re still running some country.
Speaking of elderly politicians, did Shimon Peres invite you to his 80th birthday bash?
Shimon Peres is not too crazy about me. Two years ago I wrote a column on why I consider Arafat a fake, so he wrote me a letter pleading with me to realize that Yasser Arafat is our only hope.
Do you think people still believe that Arafat is our only hope?
I don’t think there are too many Jews waiting for Yasser Arafat to be the leader of a peace movement. When the President of the United States said Arafat is not a peace partner, it became obvious to every gentile in the world, and the Jews couldn’t delude themselves anymore. Wouldn’t it be ironic if somebody is standing over your head with an ax, and you’re the only person who believes it’s a flower pot?
Would having a Jewish President be a blessing or a curse for American Jewry?
I don’t think it will affect the Jews one way or another. It all depends on how effective he is as a President. When Lieberman was running for President, the only people who were talking about him being a Jew were the Jews. You didn’t hear the goyim even mention that he’s Jewish, because they’re past that stage.
What is your opinion of President Bush?
I respect his sense of purpose and dedication to fighting terrorism. Ariel Sharon told me personally that, in his opinion, the best President for the State of Israel, since its birth, is Bush. [Sharon] says, you don’t know how much [Bush is] on our side because he is so hounded by world opposition to his policies.
What is the source of the greatness of the Jewish people?
It’s in G-d’s Torah, it’s all in the Torah: values of scholarship, of study, of learning, of giving, of caring, of sharing, of helping, of doing as much for others as yourself, of doing more for others than for yourself, of bringing nothing but love and peace on this earth.
What is the Jewish people’s greatest contribution to the world?