THE GOLDEN CALF FESTIVAL

It is a scene etched into Jewish historical memory: the people are celebrating – dancing madly around the statue of a golden calf to the hypnotizing cadence of drums. Many are dressed like ancient Israelites: in caftans and long head coverings, colored and bejeweled. They dance and whirl around the statue as the music reaches a frenzy, and a voice thunders from above: “Halt! This is an abomination! Children of Israel, desist! You should be ashamed!”

This is the imposing figure of Moses, bearded and enraged, righteously indignant, brandishing the two tablets of the Law like weapons, although in this case the tablets are made of styrofoam. The large crowd in the Ein Hod village amphitheater parts, and Moses makes his way down the steep steps in the direction of the calf. The people fall silent, shocked, chastised. With the appearance of Moses they have suddenly realized the error of their ways. It wasn’t their fault. The organizers of the party convinced them to dance and make merry. Moses, played by one of our village artists, walks silently among the throng, glowering. He approaches the golden statue and raises his staff. The staff comes down. He gives the calf such a smack on its head that it won’t remember if it’s Pesach or Purim.

He does it again, and the crowd shouts out, “Good for you, Moses!” and soon the multitude joins in, hitting the statue, smashing it to smithereens, then lighting it on fire. The statue is being consumed, and with it the memory of the great sin. Once again the drums begin, a line of people forming up to dance around the burning calf.

This is the Golden Calf Festival at Ein Hod. Artists of the village have labored long and hard to sculpt the golden calf, over a meter and half in length, anatomically correct so as to leave no doubt that it is a well endowed young bull and not a cow, shiny with its skin of golden paint. Now it is the last day of Passover, late afternoon, and the time come has come to destroy it. A procession that wound through the narrow streets of the village has finally borne the statue into the amphitheater, filled with hundreds of people — members and visitors who have gathered to see the sight.

A modicum of liquid refreshment is also available — to make the people happy in their freedom. Because Passover is the festival of freedom! Ein Hod is celebrating! It is spring and we are happy at the end of the holiday. For nearly a decade Ein Hod Artists’ Village has enjoyed this festival – irreverent, good natured, a good way to celebrate the end of winter, the conclusion of Passover.

Of course, there have been voices raised against the festival. How could it be otherwise? If there is fun there must be controversy associated with it. An article in the religious press labeled the celebration a shame and a pagan rite. They questioned our Jewishness. But they didn’t understand us. They didn’t understand that we were celebrating the heady feeling of being free, here in Ein Hod, in Israel, and that we will smash the golden calf in any way that we like.

Now the sun is setting. Passover is coming to an end. At one side of the amphitheater a “taboun” is being fired up – an apparatus that looks like a huge overturned wok upon which pita is baked. We have asked our neighbors from the Arab village of Fureidis to help us in the baking of the bread as night falls and the holiday ends. People line up at the taboun to get a piece of the piping hot pita, sprinkled with olive oil and zatar (hyssop). In the background the drums are still pounding and the dancing continues. The carousing will go on into the night. No golden calf is going to keep us from having a good time.

— Robert Nechin

events_goldcalf11