Vic Alhadeff and Yair Miller, chief executive and president respectively, of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies were ushered into the noisy classroom.
At once, as befits the status of these two gents, an expectant hush descended. All eyes were rivetted on the pair, whom, if I may be allowed to surmise, the chattering (for they were all, in fact, journalists) multitude would later, among their own, refer to jokingly as Laurel (Vic) and Hardy (Yair), deriving solely from the rather spare dimensions of the former and the more than ample ones of the latter.
Right, I'm Vic, said Vic.
And I'm Yair, said Yair.
And boy, do we - for at this point they spoke as one - have a deal for you, girls and boys. Hands up if you want a FREE, 5-day holiday in Israel.
Lo, a sea of hands rose from wall to shining wall. Sirs! Sirs! Sirs! The former expectant hush was now a cacophony.
Said Vic to Yair, sotto voce, Works every time!
Said Yair to Vic, sotto voce, Like giving candy to babies, my brother in Zion!
OK, boys and girls, commanded Vic, keep those hands up straight! Only those with the most maniacal grins will be chosen.
An epidemic of maniacal grinning swept the journalists' features, stilling the din. You could hear the proverbial pin drop.
Said Vic to Yair, Aren't they adorable, Yair?
Said Yair to Vic, You said it, Vic.
Now to business, said Vic. Hmm... Now doesn't he look eager, Yair? You, come and stand in front of the class... and so it went until 4 had been chosen and were standing, grinning like maniacal monkeys before their now deflated classmates.
Kol hakavod Chosen Ones! said Vic to the chosen 4.
And then, turning to the unchosen, proferred these words of encouragement: Yair and I are off for another bash at BDS in the Legislative Council right now but we'll be back same place, same time next year, so be good, mind what you say about Israel in the interim, drop in regularly at your nearest Max Brenner outlet, and you too could, like our Chosen Ones here, be lucky next time around.
Or at least, in the absence of any inside information as to how the following fab 4 were chosen for their rambamming, that is how I imagine it:
"A two-state solution for Israel and Palestine is an unlikely dream, according to the 4 journalists who recently returned from the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies' Journalists Mission to Israel. SBS Television senior correspondent Brian Thomson, Sky News Business Channel manager Kylie Merritt, Sydney Morning Herald opinion page editor Joel Gibson and Daily Telegraph news director John Rolfe all said that they found the 5-day intensive trip extremely informative, but that they don't see any realistic chance of a compromise between the 2 sides." (Two states is too hopeful, The Australian Jewish News, 10/2/12)
What follows I don't have to imagine. Brian, Kylie, Joel and John sang for their suppers (x5) in the Saunders Hall, Central Synagogue last Thursday night and this is part of what each had to say about this, the most important experience of their lives:
Brian Thomson, senior correspondent, SBS: "Thomson said he could understand the struggles that Israel faces. 'I can't imagine what it would be like to be persecuted for my religion, but after this trip I can understand the Jewish people's desire for a homeland. Wherever Israel looks the picture is bleak, but the economy is thriving and it has a vibrant democracy in a hostile neighbourhood." (Two states...)
"Saying he had returned from the intensive trip 'exhausted, exasperated and exhilirated', Thomson said he 'could not understand what it would be like to have had grandparents murdered in the Holocaust or to be persecuted for your beliefs', but he did 'understand the need for a Jewish homeland'. He also 'seriously questions the viability of the two state solution'." (Four journos report on trip to Israel, jwire.com, 3/2/12)
Oh Brian, you're sooo understanding and sooo focused! And you've mastered the 'v' word. Well done! 10/10 - Vic & Yair
Kylie Merritt, Sky News Business Channel manager: "I was surprised at the depth of information that we received, the level of people we had access to, and the fact that the politicians didn't sugar-coat anything for us, which was a surprise as an Australian journalist... It took me a few days after I got home to process everything I had seen and heard. I really got the sense of two diametrically opposed beliefs that will not be solved anytime soon." (Two states...)
"Merritt and Gibson both expressed surprise at the depth of views they encountered in Israel, and also at the candour of the political and security leaders they met. It was unusual to speak to politicians who answered questions so frankly, Merritt added." (Four journos...)
Kylie, you're sooo right. Israel is about the strewth, the whole strewth & nothing but the strewth. You go, girl! 10/10 - Vic & Yair
Joel Gibson, Sydney Morning Herald opinion page editor: "Gibson said the trip will allow him to make better decisions, as he recalled editing an opinion story when Richard Goldstone corrected his report about human rights abuses by Israel and the Palestinians to the United Nations Human Rights Council. 'The report was 1000 words but I only had space for 800 words', Gibson said. 'Of course the 200 words I left out were important words and I remember the feedback that flooded in, and that experience is the reason I decided to go on this trip. I don't think anyone would argue that sitting at my desk would make me any better to judge which words I should cut next time, but now I hope I am better equipped'." (Two states...)
"Gibson also said the trip was 'not propaganda', but exposed the journalists to views across the spectrum. He had not returned either pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian, but more informed." (Four journos...)
Gibbo, a little ponderous, lad. Really, there's no need to worry your pretty little head anymore about that opinion page of yours. Simply whip whatever over to HQ and we'll knock it into shape for you, OK? Better still, just sit back, sip a hot chocolate (Max Brenner, of course), and just publish what we send you, no sweat. Propaganda? Perish the thought! 9/10 - Vic & Yair
John Rolfe, Daily Telegraph news director: "Rolfe hammered the Marrickville Council resolution to impose sanctions on Israeli products, particularly given that the policy had been adopted by people who had never visited Israel to see and learn for themselves. Rolfe emphasized that it was Palestinian workers who would suffer most from a BDS policy." (Four journos...)
John, hammering BDS! We like! In fact, you took the words right out of our mouths. If we had a hammer/ We'd hammer BDS in the morning/ We'd hammer BDS in the evening/ All over this land. 12/10 - Vic & Yair
[The jwire.com report concludes with this tantalising detail: "The journalists were accompanied by four colleagues who travelled as guests of AIJAC." The plot, as they say, thickens!; For a list of the past few years rambammings see my 30/3/09 post I've been to Israel too.]