Tuesday, May 26, 2009


[The newest Kosher Cooking Carnival is here!]

I am forever telling people that Billy Joel's Allentown, which described 1970's economic depression and lost jobs, was not about Allentown at all. It's about the collapse of Bethlehem Steel in the next town over, but nothing rhymes with Bethlehem, so Allentown got the song.

Now there's a new, painful riff on the classic song (hat-tip to Jameel for sending it my way). It was actually written in February 2007, but it's still applicable to today's situation, with more than 1,600 families still in temporary housing. It's about the refugees from Gaza, and it's called Shantytown. The song, written by Shifra Shomron, begins:

Well we're living in a Shantytown
And everyone is really feeling down
At SELA we're all killing time
Filling out forms
Standing in line

Well our fathers fought the Yom Kippur War
Then they settled on the Gaza Shore
Built a house and planted a tree
Life was good
For each family

And we're living in a Shantytown
And the restlessness is all around
And it's getting very hard to stay

There isn't really anything more to say.

I'll just note that a couple of years ago I announced a fundraising drive for the needs of the Gaza refugees, and was challenged by some regarding their status as refugees. They argued that the residents of Gaza could have left willingly and accepted a re-settlement package.

I have no stomach for that sort of posturing; a human being who has been evicted from his home for political reasons is a refugee, regardless of the compensation offered. There is no such thing as appropriate compensation for being kicked out of one's home.

The rule applies to the rest of the world, and it should apply to Jews as well.


  1. i have a friend from Bethlehem who would very proudly inform us of that musical fact every time anyone happened to mention Billy Joel.

  2. He's proud? I wish Billy would have used Bethlehem as the name; who wants their town featured in a song on economic collapse?

  3. it's probably something about a brush with fame or "all publicity is good publicity". eithe rthat, or she was offended by the historical misimpression.

  4. Still better than the reference to another Lehigh Valley town (Nazareth) in The Band's song "The Weight"

  5. What about the people who happened to live in the suburb where Mayor Daley wants to build a new runway for O'Hare, who got eminent-domained out of their houses? Are they also refugees? If it's done fairly, and they are offered fair money for their homes, and the government has reasonable justification for the move, (all big ifs, and not necessarily applicable to the Gush Katif refugees), then I don't see the problem with it. I don't see why any exercise of the power of eminent domain is necessarily creating refugees.

  6. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for your comment, but that's why I stressed "political reasons" rather than the pragmatic needs of the country. As I understand the political philosophy, "eminent domain" is not an unrestricted right of government.