To understand why a stupid pot of hamin bothers me so much, let’s travel in time to a year ago, when a literary agent asked me to write a proposal for a book, The Vegan Revolution in Israel. I met Ronen Bar, an undercover agent for animals, and with his help wrote page 1:
The Arabs get up at 04:00 a.m., drink coffee, and catch a ride from their village to the slaughterhouse. We have to work very fast; the shochat can't wait. There's an atmosphere of murder here, with nonstop shouting in Arabic: "quick, another lamb, another lamb!" They want to finish work and go home. Every lamb wants to escape; they understand what is going to happen. Each one struggles against the screaming humans wielding sticks. A worker picks up a lamb and throws it on the slaughter line.
Because I'm not violent enough and don't yell, kick, drag or clobber the animals hard enough, the foreman sends me to clean up inside the plant. Instead of manhandling the animals before they're killed, I collect body parts. I find an ear in a pool of blood, pick it up and put it in a basket.
After the madhouse on the slaughter line, here I can think in a place of calm, quiet, and a lot of blood. Slaughterhouse floor tiles are always red, but that doesn't conceal the blood, a more intense color. In all this mess I just need to arrange the various parts that had fallen, each in its proper place--body parts do not fight or resist—and I understand a perfect order rules here: four-legged creatures in white wool are dragged and slaughtered by two-legged creatures in white coats. At the end of the day, those on four legs end up with severed heads, and those on two legs go home. It's always like that; every day.
This morning I manage to caress a lamb without anyone noticing.
On a different day I drag a lamb to the slaughter path, and in fact I go with him straight to the shochat. Usually I don't need to go so far, pushing to the last line, but this lamb is the last one and does not want to move no matter what, so I drag him by the leg, and suddenly a flash: the lamb and I both stand before the shochat.
But the system kills only those with wool and fur.
I go on flipping lamb after lamb and clamp their legs to iron hooks. This process renders them completely helpless in front of the serial killings. By now my back is killing me; I can't bear the pain any longer. The lambs are so heavy and strong. The butcher does his job of serial killing.
I am dragging a lamb off the truck by one leg and hope the rest of the lambs will follow; it doesn't always work. The road to the slaughter is long. I sense the lamb is frightened but there's little choice except to carry on; the workers are watching. After a minute the lamb and I are 'dragged along' to a turn in the road, and suddenly the workers don't see us. I pause; the lamb is fine. Then I pat him, and what a great surprise when it licks me and loves me back. After the violent way that I dragged him, he stays calm, gentle, sensitive, looking for peace. I just hope I can protect my peaceful nature throughout the next month and a half, even here at Israel's biggest slaughterhouse, where humans choose to imprison and kill delicate creatures that struggle until the last minute and won't use violence, even against those who come to kill them.
The creatures just try to escape.
[credit: Ronen Bar]
I didn’t get the contract.
However, I refused to buy meat and chicken. I refused to cook it. If my children cooked it, I refused to serve it, sit at the table, or wash the dishes.
The hostilities intensified:
We must eat chicken in honor of Shabbat! Say the children. Rabbi Ovadia said so!
It’s my kitchen! I retorted.
And I heard a small voice: oh, really?
Do you remember that Hassidic rabbi who blessed my house?
Well another child married, thank G-d, and you know what that means.
The new bride arrived, as Hananel cooked a gigantic pot of hamin, full of meat. A mob of exuberant sons and daughters stampeded on the kitchen and served it, erasing every sign of hamin hostilities, though I knew I had been 100% right about the animals.
But the question is: what should I have done?