I admit it. I am a festival junkie. If it is Bastille Day in France, Guy Fawkes Day in England, or Pearl Harbor Day in Japan, I get on a plane to join in the festivities. Naturally, when I realized that Hanukah is approaching, I decided to head to Tel Aviv.
Noticing an extremely beautiful woman in the airport lounge, I sat down next to her and tried to start a conversation.
“Going or returning?” I asked her.
“Going home,” the woman (whose named turned out to be Lital) told me. “I have been flying all over the world for the past three months.”
“You must be an actress or a model on a very busy schedule,” I said to her.
“No,” she said. “I am an international dreydl saleswoman. With Hanukah coming, this is our busiest season.”
The confused look on my face must have shown Lital that I had no idea of what a dreydl is, so she explained.
“It is like any other child’s spinning top, except that it has four sides, and each side has a different Hebrew letter printed on it. You spin the top, Unique Casino guess which side is going to land face up, and if you guess right, you win.”
“You’re selling gambling paraphernalia!” I exclaimed.
“Of course not,” she laughed. “Dredyls are part of the Hanukah celebration, like pumpkins are part of Halloween. The only bets made with them are children betting a piece of chocolate or maybe a penny or two. Actually, any real gambling is illegal in Israel.”
“Except, of course, for Lotto and Totto,” said Shlomi, another Israeli in the bar. “They are State-run lotteries. Totto, which is built like a football pool is especially big. When the jackpot grows enough, you can see people waiting on line to spend thousands of shekels on tickets. But that’s it. There is no other form of gambling in the country. We pride ourselves on avoiding it.”
“Right,” agreed Malka, “I’m in the Israeli police and there is absolutely no other gambling in the country — legal gambling, that is. Of course, we have quite a few illegal casinos in Tel Aviv. It seems that every time we raid one and shut it down, two more open.”
“How do they keep finding customers if Israelis pride themselves on avoiding gambling?” I asked.
“That’s a good question, said Lital. “I’ve never quite understood it myself. Of course, you have to understand that only a small minority of Israelis actually go to these illegal casinos. They are low-lives. Filth. Decent people like me fly to legal ones in Greece and Hungary.”
“But not everyone has the money or time to fly to another country,” I argued.
“You are completely correct,” said a rabbi who happened to be listening in. “That is why the Good Lord, in His wisdom, saw fit to place us next to Egypt. If you are in our southern port town of Eilat, you can just walk across the border and go to the casino at the Hilton.”
“How does that help if you don’t speak Arabic?” I asked.
“What Arabic?” the rabbi laughed. “Everybody in the place speaks Hebrew.”
“I admit that some Israelis do go there,” said Shlomi. “But on the other hand, there is a much closer casino in Jericho, in the Palestinian areas, and no Israeli plays in it. That proves that we are not really gamblers at heart.”
“Actually,” said Malka, “that only proves that we are not suicidal gamblers. The place used to be full of Israelis until the intifada started and they started shooting at us from the roof of the casino. Nobody wants to play blackjack when “hit me” means with an M-16.”
“So when an Israeli wants to gamble he either goes to an illegal place in Tel Aviv or leaves the country?” I asked.
“Not quite,” Lital told me. “After all, Israel is in the heart of the cyber revolution. Everybody in the country in on line and so many of them play at cyber casinos that some even offer games in Hebrew.”
“This is really silly,” I said. “You have children gambling with dreydls, people waiting in line to buy lottery tickets, others breaking the law in Tel Aviv, still others running to foreign casinos, and a load of people sitting at home gambling on the internet. Why not just change the law and allow casinos in the country?”
“We couldn’t do a thing like that,” said the rabbi in shock. “After all, we are the Holy Land!”