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Jewish World Review Sept. 9, 2001

Julia Gorin

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Consumer Reports

A Peaceful Proposal -- ON a recent trip to Las Vegas, where I spent Thanksgiving dinner at the MGM Grand buffet and the rest of the night at a Blackjack table, my thoughts turned to the Holy Land.

Driving along one day on a new road parting a hypnotic desert landscape on our way to see the latest off-Strip wonder—the Moroccan-themed Hyatt Regency Lake Las Vegas resort—my husband and I marveled at the sandy mountain topography surrounding us on either side for as far as the eye could see. "This looks like Israel!" he remarked. Indeed, we could have been on the desert mountain road leading from Be’er Sheva to the ocean resort town of Eilat in the south of Israel, along which one sloping, majestic dune is more breathtaking than the last.

All of which got me thinking about the following proposal for peace in the Middle East: If we could airlift the Jews out of Israel and transplant them to Vegas—just for a few years—it would set in motion a gradual, less apparent but more organic long-term resolution to the crisis.

There wouldn’t be any justice in the move, of course, given the Jewish labor, time, money and blood invested in the land—not to mention the Jews’ historical claim to it. But that aside, the relocation would make a lot of sense.

O the buffets! This would be the deciding attraction particularly for Israel’s Russian immigrants, who display more than a Semitic partiality to the all-you-can-eat format, as my own family is apt to demonstrate. Poor Brother will discover that in Vegas, one can be near broke and still eat well, without benefit of food stamps ($3.99 breakfast buffet at Circus-Circus Hotel-Casino).

As for the parallels between the two places, they don’t end with the landscapes: Jews made grass grow in the deserts of Israel. So did they in Las Vegas--which is, after all, the legacy and vision of men like Bugsy Siegal and Meyer Lansky.

Sunday in Las Vegas is the day when most visitors leave—especially the weekenders who drive in from California. There is always one final, somber meal at the buffet on this day of departure. So for Christians unable to experience the holy Via Delarosa once Jerusalem falls under Arab control, they can still witness a Last Supper.

Both lands have been the sites of other-worldly events: Israel has had countless miracles; Nevada has Area 51. They also share an enemy: Both places are scorned by elitists. The same people who wrinkle their noses at gambling environments and flashy commercialism display equal disdain for Israeli self-defense.

Unlike in Israel, however, the absorption process in Nevada would be relatively smooth, as the state is more than eight times the size of the State of Israel. Plenty of room for building settlements! Indeed, the Jews’ talent for building can only be matched by Las Vegas Valley’s market for it: Las Vegas, the great, living, last American boomtown, is just what the doctor ordered.

Meanwhile, if this experimental separation period from our Middle East rivals proves too much for some Jews who find themselves missing their tormentors, they can always pay a visit to the most recent addition to the famed Vegas Strip, the Aladdin Hotel-Casino.

Las Vegas is an American patriot’s dream. It is Americana—mixed with Mexicana and native American-Indian culture—encapsulating the country’s diverse charms and parts of it even maintaining a frontier-like flavor of the Old West (which some casinos have used for themes: Westward Ho!; Sam’s Town). So making this rich slice of American culture the Jewish epicenter could settle the issue of divided loyalty that they’re often suspected of.

With its mix of industry, innocence, seediness and glitz, there is something downright divine about the place. Even on my first trip to Sin City in 1996, I discerned something of a "chosen" air about it. In fact, while Jerusalem may be the site of the last stand-off between good and evil in the world, the mid-‘90s TV miniseries "The Stand" had Las Vegas as the last city standing after a pandemic plague. It may prove prophetic.

Nevada as the Jewish State with Vegas as its sacred capital isn’t really all that farfetched. Las Vegas is already home to every other country on the map, with acres of edifice and land styled after them and named Venetian, Monte Carlo, Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Caesar’s Palace, Barbary Coast and Paris with its Eiffel Tower bursting through the ceiling.

Granted, the Arab-Israeli issue may resurface just the same if, say, the U.N. gets wind of the arrangement and decides that the Israelis don’t have any more claim to Vegas than the Arabs, so why should the Jews get it just because the imperialist western power owning it apportioned it for them?

But here again the beauty of the plan kicks in. The Palestinians, having subconsciously dreaded the day that their cause succeeds, will find themselves at a loss for meaning in life without Jews to harass, and at a loss as well for the electricity, clean water, roads and livable income that Israel had been providing them with. Yearning for a return to life "occupied" by a Jewish democracy rather than a life "free" under Arab dictatorship, young suicide bombers will take up their work again, this time because they’re…well… suicidal.

With Israel fast reverting to a desert wasteland and Palestinians angry at Israelis for taking off so abruptly, showing little consideration for the emotional effects of such abandonment and leaving them at the mercy of fellow Arabs, the Palestinians will demand that the Jews come back to reclaim and rebuild the land.

As usual, the Jews will give in to the demands, and will return to rebuild, this time throwing in a casino or two.

JWR contributor Julia Gorin is a journalist and stand-up comic residing in Manhattan. Send your comments by clicking here.

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© 2001, Julia Gorin