Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Greece, the EU, Purim and the Jewish nation

This is not the season to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim. That celebration is almost nine months away (late March, 2016).
Nevertheless, we are looking at a modern Purim story. That story is called, the Greek default crisis.
When you read the ancient Purim story, you might notice something strange. Even though this story (as the Book of Esther) is included in the Tanach, the Jewish ‘Scriptures’, the name of G-d is completely absent. It never appears.
Since this story is about G-d’s miraculously saving the Jewish people, why is His Name missing from the story? Why leave His name out?
The answer, of course, is that this story isn’t about open miracles. Instead, it’s a more modern story, where the Hand of G-d isn’t visible.
In our modern world, we don’t see open miracles. The ground doesn’t move for our benefit. The oceans do not part for our safety. The sun doesn’t stand still for our aid.
In the modern world, the Hand of G-d hides. Instead of doing things openly for us, He puts people into exactly the right place at precisely the right moment so that they will, for their own personal, individual reasons, behave in a way that creates the historic unfolding that G-d wants.
G-d works, in other words, through Man—his beliefs, his anger, his hate/love, etc. The Heavenly miracles come out of the supposed ‘coincidences’ Man’s behaviour creates.
Consider modern Greece. Greece stands at a precipice. It’s broke. It has a ravenous appetite for money. It can’t support its life-style. It lives off of borrowed cash.
Those who have lent it money have had enough. Today (literally) Greece has defaulted on a 1.5 euro debt (which has been reported as a 1.6 billion euro debt). Yesterday, a representative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—the creditor for this specific debt—made a short announcement:
“I confirm that the SDR 1.2 billion repayment (about EUR 1.5 billion) due by Greece to the IMF today has not been received. We have informed our Executive Board that Greece is now in arrears and can only receive IMF financing once the arrears are cleared.
“I can also confirm that the IMF received a request today from the Greek authorities for an extension of Greece’s repayment obligation that fell due today, which will go to the IMF’s Executive Board in due course” (“Statement by the IMF on Greece”, Press Release #15/310, The International Monetary Fund, June 30, 2015).
Just as we saw in the Purim story, this story unfolds because of the decisions of the players involved. For example, the Greek Prime Minister refused to accept a bailout deal offered by the European Union (EU). Instead, he offered a counterproposal: give us more time; give us an extension; give us a two-year rescue plan (“Greece debt crisis: Eurozone rejects bailout appeal”, BBC News, June 30, 2015).
Based on its own motivations, the EU rejected the Greek counterproposal. The Eurogroup chairman said it would be ‘crazy’ to extend the Greek bailout beyond its midnight expiration: Greece was refusing to accept European proposals to raise taxes and cut welfare benefits (ibid).
 Because a default could affect Greek banks, the leaders of Greek banking have, for their own motivations, temporarily shut bank doors. They also decided to limit ATM withdrawals to 60 euros a day (ibid).
On Sunday, July 5, 2015, Greek voters will participate in a national referendum: accept the EU bailout with its requirements for belt-tightening, or reject the bailout. Greece’s voters are angry over belt-tightening demands: higher taxes, a higher retirement age, an end to subsidizing poorer pensioners and an increase to pensioners’ health-care contributions are just a few of those demands (ibid). They will vote to accept or reject the bailout provisions, each voter according to his own motivations.
On July 20, 2015, Greece has another obligation come due. It has to buy back from the European Central Bank (ECB) Greek bonds valued at 3.46 billion euros (app 3.8 billion USD) (ibid). If it fails to do so, the ECB can cut off Greece’s access to emergency loans. At that time, if Greece fails to act, the ECB will, for its own motivations, make a decision. Whatever the ECB decides, other creditors (including, by the way, the United States) will make their own decisions about their own debt—for their own motivations.
Every player here has his own motivations. Each acts according to those motivations.
HaShem—G-d—works His miracles through Man. You may not believe this, but everything He does on the world stage focuses ultimately on the Jewish nation. He did that in the Purim story. He’s doing it again in this Greece story.
What does the Jewish nation have to do with this Greece story? Stay tuned.
You won’t be disappointed.

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