(Tablet Magazine)

The fate of Israel has long been seen by religious people of various stripes as intimately tied to cows. In the beginning, there was Moses’ battle over the Golden Calf, in which he struggled to bring his people around to monotheism. Then came the folks who believe, based on a passage in the Book of Numbers, that an essential step for hastening the coming of the Messiah is the sacrifice of a red heifer.

In this episode of Israel Story, we bring together stories of these and other instances of bovine worship. Yochai Maital traces the origins of 269, a radical vegan movement spawned by Sasha Bojoor and named after a sweet-looking slaughterhouse-bound calf that Bojoor and two fellow activists designated as their mascot. “Free 269” became their rallying cry. Mishy Harman introduces us to Dubi Ayalon, a retired IDF lieutenant-colonel now living in remote Wisconsin and raising water buffalo for milk. Finally, writer and radio host Jonathan Goldstein offers us a sly and bittersweet interpretation of Moses’ battle against idol worship, told from the disaffected perspective of the youngest employee of Gomer and Sons, whose golden calf business faces its fiercest competition yet: God. Listen to the full episode here, or download from iTunes. (You can find all episodes of Sipur Israeli, the Hebrew version of Israel Story, here, and all our English-language episodes here.)

Prologue: Do We Have a Red Heifer Today? (music by Podington Bear and Unthunk)

Act 1: 269

Act 2: Hello, Buffalo (production help from Anny Celsi, and music by Rich McCulley, Nathan Bowles and Angelo Badalamenti)

Act 3: Gomer & Sons (production help from Jonathan Groubert, and music by the Underscore Orkestra, Latche Swing, OK Ikumi, and Alexandre Klinke)