That gas pump is a giant Saudi tzedakah box

The 5767 High Holiday tallies are in from synagogues around the country, and it appears that U.S. Jewry has topped all previous pledge drive records. It is estimated that this year,

American Jews will send approximately $660 million to Saudi Arabia.

Yes, you read that correctly. You didn’t fold a piece of cardboard or stuff an envelope, but the commitment was as good as a pledge. Maybe even better. After all, the Saudis won’t have to harass you to pay up.

The United States imports about 1.5 million barrels of Saudi oil every day. At $60 per barrel, that comes to about $33 billion per year.

Of course, we Jews are a mere 2 percent of the U.S. population, so the Jewish community is only sending about $660 million. With 6 million Jews here, that’s $110 per head.

My guess is the average Jew did not give that much to all the Jewish charities combined. I hope I’m wrong. But that gas pump? It’s a giant Saudi tzedakah box.

To break it down a little further, Saudi Arabia supplies 1.5 million barrels per day — about 7.5 percent of U.S. daily oil consumption. But only about half the price of every gallon of gasoline comes from oil; the other half comes from refining, transporting, storing, marketing and taxes. So, every time you fill up your car, you’re sending about 3.75 percent of the tab — or 11 cents of every $3 gallon — to Saudi Arabia. If you drive 15,000 miles a year and get 15 miles per gallon, you buy 1,000 gallons of gasoline, and Saudi Arabia collects $110 -will that be cash or credit?

Of course, not all Saudis are funding Hamas or Al Qaeda. Still, the Los Angeles Times quotes a senior Al Qaeda operative telling a subordinate, “Don’t ever worry about money, because Saudi Arabia’s money is your money.” The New York Times has reported that at least half of Hamas’ operating budget comes from people in Saudi Arabia. And the general counsel for the U.S. Department of Treasury testified that Saudi Arabia is “the ‘epicenter’ of financing for Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.”

So, there is little doubt that every time we fill our gas tanks, some of our money finds its way to people who want Americans and Jews dead, and who work to achieve that goal every day.

We’ve also pledged money to Venezuela and its dynamic President Hugo Cha A¡vez. You remember him. He’s the charismatic leader who, last year, railed against “some minorities … the descendants of those who crucified Christ [and] took possession of all the planet’s gold.”

Later, he called Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and himself a “great alliance of brothers.” This year, he’s supporting Iran’s drive to acquire nuclear “capabilities.” The American Jewish communal pledge to him? Another $600 million-plus.

I first did this rough math exercise last year, when my Lexus lease was coming to a close. I figured out that with my nice car, which was (realistically) getting about 15 miles per gallon, I was

sending more than $100 per year to Saudi Arabia, $100 to Senor Cha A¡vez and still more to Arab Gulf states and Iran.
It made me sick. So, with the lease coming due, I unloaded the Lexus and purchased a Toyota Prius. My license plate holder now reads: “My car $tarve$ Terrorist$,” although, as a friend told me — from her bike — that’s not exactly accurate, even if it does get 45 miles per gallon. Party pooper.

Still, I feel pretty good. If everyone did this, there’d be no U.S. need for petroleum from despots.

I realize for some, the transition to a hybrid may not be easy. Really, I do. It’s that irksome status factor: “Will my clients bolt when they see me in a Prius rather than my usual Bentley?” you ask yourself.

Relax. In addition to its eco-chic, the beauty of a hybrid — especially the Prius, with its UFO-like styling — is that it screams: “You have no idea how much money I have, but you do know I care about the world we live in.” And you don’t have to feel sheepish when you’re seen driving only a Lexus, Mercedes or Beemer, or — heaven forbid — a lesser car.

I’ve also heard many otherwise-smart people pooh-pooh the economics of hybrids. Assuming the authoritative tone of investment bankers advising on a big IPO, they tell anyone willing to listen that spending extra money on a hybrid “just isn’t cost-effective; it’ll take years to pay for itself.” To which I respond, “What’s the payback on your moonroof? How about those plush leather seats; how long do they take to pay for themselves?”

Why do some people who consider themselves patriots, environmentalists, lovers of peace pull out green visors and their sharpest pencils when evaluating a vehicle that can dramatically cut their oil consumption and thereby reduce terrorism and Islamic extremism, military spending, air pollution and global warming?

Sure, my seat may have been a bit more comfortable in the Lexus, but my head rests a lot more easily in the Prius. Figure that into the price of your car and your gasoline. And then get a hybrid and welch on that pledge.

After all, the Saudis won’t be harassing you to pay up.