(Although one of them, working for AFP, confessed to me that she had no idea how to sell these images to her editors. How would she create the context for them, within which they could understand why this was a thrilling, uplifting event, and not images of barbarian Jews ganging up on two innocent goats.)
The goats were sweet and wooly and tiny. The organizers had promised a “kazayis” (the size of an olive) bit of roasted goat’s flesh to each member of the crowd, but those small creatures didn’t look like they had enough meat on them for even that little. Meanwhile they stayed near the wall of the Matnas, touched and petted and groped and pushed around a bit by a million children – which I’m sure that’s how it felt from the goat’s point of view.
The crowd was so absolutely eager and relentless, it became apparent that the slaughtering of the animals just couldn’t take place over there, in the midst of all the people. It just didn’t make sense for anyone, including a skilled shochet, to be wielding a sharp instrument inside that ever-pressing, shifting, squeezing, pushing and shoving mayhem.
So, once the two animals had been inspected by a Jerusalem Municipality veterinarian—who was an Arab, to make this an even happier story—the organizers decided to shoo away the basketball players from the fenced court nearby and the thick procession was transported over there, with many hundreds now pressing their faces against the cyclone fences.
In the end, one of the goats was shechted, quickly and expertly, and its blood was collected into a special, gold vessel, and sprinklde over the base of the quickly assembled altar.
Then the animal was skinned – expertly, and the parts of its body which would have been sacrificed on the altar were paraded around the inside of all the fences, for everyone to glare at with the yearning curiosity and desire of someone who’s just come home after being away for years and years, and they’re standing outside their father’s place, there’s a light inside and joyous noises are emanating, and any minute now they would come up the stoop and push the doorbell…
It was the most exhausting assignment I’ve engaged in in some time, even though it only lasted a few hours. It was draining, emotionally and spiritually, to be struggling with my camera and tape recorder to get the shot against a sea of humanity, who so obviously wanted to become one with the goat and the knife and the sprinkled blood and the roasting fire. It was love of Heaven pushed through a meat grinder, passion for a better world jettisoned against the walls of a starved gathering.
When the real Messiah comes, I must have a couple of urgent words with him regarding crowd control.