Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

What the Jews did

January 30, 2018

What the Jews did was establish about half of the narrative foundation of the Western World.

Their Old Testament, combined with the New, were received as Holy Scriptures  by the Church, which, after Constantine, dominated European cultural development for over a thousand years.

Long about 1500 or so, the Protestant Reformation began the process of unshackling the chains of dogmatic error that the Catholic hierarchy had, over 1400 years, lapsed into. Then Reformation disruption of Papist hegemony broke ground for another new emphasis—the Renaissance. This humanist  arts movement unearthed the  quasi-dormant other half of the Western cultural narrative, the ancient Greeks, most notably Homer, Herodotus, Plato and Aristotle. On the coattails of the Greek philosophers, the Roman writers, most notably Cicero, Cato and Virgil later appended their contribution to the philosophical and governmental legacy of ancient Greece. It later became a bedrock of Western culture and government.

That ancient Greek heritage had initiated an idea called democracy, which was later amended to Republic by the Romans in their Empire.

Judeo-Christian Religion, Greek Democracy and Roman Republic became the religious, philosophical and governmental foundations upon which the Western World was established in Europe and beyond.

In the early stages of Western history, during the period of the Roman Empire, along came a Roman general named Titus. In 70 a.c.e., he ran most of the Jews out of Israel, their homeland, and he sent his soldiers to Jerusalem to destroy the Jewish Temple, even though it had had been constructed by one of the Romans’ own puppet kings, Herod.

Titus apparently thought it was a notable accomplishment that he had expelled most of the Jews out of their own ancient capital;  the Hebrews had previously managed to reclaim Jerusalem after the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar had expelled them about 670 years earlier.

Titus’ Roman victory over the Jews was thought to be quite impressive by his successors. A few years after he died, his brother Domitian commissioned the Arch of Titus to be constructed in the main area of Rome. Among the conquests of Titus depicted in stone on the Arch, the plundering of Jerusalem is plain to see.

ArcTitusMenr

In this picture that I snapped, the Jewish Menorah can be plainly seen. To the victor goes the spoils, eh? The Roman big shots must have thought themselves something special after they ran those upstart Jews out of Jerusalem back in the day. The Jews were infamous among several historical empire-builders for being ungovernable.

One reason that Titus and Nebuchadnezzar and Antiochus and their ilk had so much trouble governing the Jews was because the people of Israel always insisted on being free.

This whole idea of freedom, around which Western culture revolves, originated largely with the Jews.

Long about 1400 or so years b.c.e., Moses rounded up the Jews and lead them out of the slavery that Egyptian pharoahs had inflicted on them.

This turned out to be a major event in world history.

Why? Because Moses and some of his people wrote a book about it. We know it as the book of Exodus. Along with the other books of the Torah/Pentateuch/Old Testament, it later became an international best-seller for many and many a year, many and many a century and several millenia of time.

What later became the Bible was passed down through the ages to many and many a person and group of persons to read and spark inspiration.

That spark of freedom that enabled the Jews to throw off the bondage of Pharoahic slavery—it has been an inspiration to many freedom-seeking people throughout history.

Case in point, within our lifetime. (All ye Boomers out there, hear ye, hear ye. . .)

Dr. Martin Luther KIng, Jr., on the night before he was assassinated, declared this message to his people in Memphis, and ultimately via audiotape to America, and to the world:

“I’ve been to the Mountaintop. . . I’ve seen the Promised Land . . .”

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.

And I don’t mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

We can see that Dr. King was inspired by Moses. A long time ago, I wrote a song about it. Mountaintop

And we know from the Hebrew scriptures that Moses was inspired by God.

Now this may seem a little old-fashioned to you, a little bit religious. But this religious thing is much more than belief in God. It’s not just out-of-style old hat. Faith also includes the idea of freedom. It also includes the idea of freedom of religion , freedom to believe what you need to believe, and freedom to act on what you believe to be true. It goes way back, way back . . .

Here’s another example from American history. A hundred and fifty years ago when black folks in this country were still enslaved . . . in a situation not unlike what the Jews had found themselves in ancient Egypt, one of those black former slaves, Harriet Tubman, started a secret society for the purpose of providing an escape for self-freed slaves who wanted to come up to the free states.

The name that was given to Harriet’s clandestine network was the Underground Railroad. Have you heard of it?

I’m here to tell you that the Underground Railroad has been transporting people from bondage to liberty for a very long time.

Last century,  freedom-seeking people did another version of it to smuggle the children of Israel  out of the Nazi Third Reich. Have you heard of it?

But know this: it’s still going on.

Underground Railroad Rides Again.

 And we can thank the Jews for that, because way, way back in the day . . . they started it; they started the freedom track that runs through human civilization.  The first one ran from Egypt to the Promised Land, and its been going, whenever needed, under the radar ever since.

It will never be shut down.

Glass half-Full 

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Between Jerusalem and Damascus

January 29, 2016

JerGoPeace

Along the regions of the Jordan River valley, about three thousand and twenty year ago, there was a war going on between two descendants of King David. Asa king of Judah, and Baasha king of Israel, were contending for two different regions within the land that had formerly been, in one brief, shining moment of history, Solomon’s united domain. This situation might have been, then between two Hebrew monarchs, a little bit like what they have today in Israeli domains between, say, Likud and Labor. Or maybe not, anyway. .

The dispute was more about bloodshed then, more about politics today.

So in the course of Israeli history about three thousand and twenty years ago, Baasha king of Israel (based in Shechem) went up against Judah (based in Jerusalem). Towards that end, Baasha built a fort in Ramah, just a little ways northwest of Jerusalem, in order to prevent anyone from going out or coming in to collaborate with Asa king of Judah.

Then Asa took all the silver and the gold which were left in the treasuries of the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, and the treasuries of the king’s house, and put them into the hands of his servants, so that they could deliver those precious goods  to Benhadad, king of Aram, who lived in Damascus.

Thus King Asa of Judah was was proposing a treaty between himself and Benhadad, that is–between Judah and Aram, or as we might think of it today–between the Jews and the Syrians.

Asa was saying to the Syrian king, hey look, I have sent you a present of silver and gold; go, break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel so that he will get the hell out of my face and leave us alone over here in Jerusalem.

Well guess what, Benhadad listened to King Asa,  and so he sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of northern Israel.

When Baasha heard about it, he withdrew from his southern position at Ramah, and ceased fortifying it.

Then King Asa made a proclamation to all Judah, and they carried away the stones and timbers that Baasha had used to fortify Ramah. And King Asa used the building materials to build Geba and Mizpah.

Thus we see that not much has changed in the last three thousand years, pertaining to how peoples settle their disputes, except nowadays it’s more about concrete and steel than about stones and timbers. And nowadays how likely would it be that the Judean entity, lead by Benjamin (Netanyahu) would ally itself with a Damascus-based warlord such as Assad?

As for the other events of Israeli/Palestinian territories, are they not written in the annals of Semitic history?

Smoke

After reading Thirteen Days

November 29, 2014

In September of 1978, President Jimmy Carter invited Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to the presidential retreat at Camp David. Mr. Carter’s objective was to forge a peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. Following a 13-day ordeal of tense negotiations that involved the three primary leaders and their accompanying staffs, the summit did ultimately produce a signed agreement.

In 2014, peace still exists between Egypt and Israel.

Lawrence Wright has written a book reporting what took place during that thirteen day period at Camp David in 1978. The book was published in September this year, 2014 by Alfred A. Knopf/Random House.

Here a few things I learned while reading Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin and Sadat at Camp David.

http://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Days-September-Carter-Begin/dp/0385352034

Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan accompanied Prime Minister Begin at the summit. Dayan, born in 1915 in the first Israeli kibbutz, had been Defense Minister during the 6-day War of 1967 and the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

~ Very soon after the war of 1967, in which Israel had gained control of much territory, including the Sinai and Jerusalem, Moshe Dayan met with Muslim leaders in Jerusalem. Although the Muslims had feared that Dayan might allow the Israelis to destroy the mosques on top of the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif), Dayan did otherwise. He told the Muslim leaders, including the Mufti, to “resume their Friday sermons” at the Al Aqsa mosque. He also eliminated barricades and checkpoints that had formerly separated Arab neighborhoods from Jewish areas.

~ In 1972, President Sadat sent Soviet military experts out of Egypt, back to USSR. By “pulling Egypt out of the Soviet embrace” Sadat was able to steer the Egyptian economy away from the socialist model.

~ The 1978 American-sponsored peace summit at Camp David got off to a very slow start. After nine days of awkward, getting-to-know-you sessions between two delegations whose nations had formerly met only on battlefields of war, the “first concrete agreement of the Camp David summit became a reality.” This little breakthrough occurred when an Egyptian lawyer, Osama el-Baz, met with an Israeli lawyer, Aharon Barak, to hash out some legal hurtles. The proverbial sunbeam broke through dark clouds of gloom when the attorneys agreed to delete a phrase. Ironically, the phrase was this sentence: “They have both also stated that there shall be be no more war between them.”  In other words, the negotiators were starting to get realistic about the limitations of their proposed peace agreement.

~ Also on Day 9 of the summit, the issue of Israeli settlements in the Sinai emerged as the main point of contention obstructing an agreement. This became evident after President Carter became furious with the Egyptian attorney Baz and berated him for misrepresenting his boss’ (Sadat’s) position on another issue.

~ On Day 10, Anwar el-Sadat and Moshe Dayan, two men under whose command their two armies had clashed on the Sinai battlegrounds five years prior, met in Sadat’s apartment at Camp David.  Lawrence Wright wrote: “Sadat received Dayan with a polite smile.” Despite Carter’s request to Dayan that the battle-horses “not discuss the issues” lest they descend into entrenched positions, the two peace-seeking soldiers fell into an exchange about the Israelis’ refusal to give up their settlements in the Sinai. But the silver lining behind the cloud was that now the issue of settlements could come full-force to the front lines of their waging peace. Progress, believe it or not,  was at last on their dark horizon as the two sides faced each other face-to-face, but not on a desert battlefield.  (. . .”settlements” dispute sound familiar to our 2014 ears?)

~ The Yom Kippur War of 1973 exposed Israel’s vulnerability in a way that compelled their electorate to turn toward Begin’s hardline defense strategies and the Likud party, in 1977.

~ Menachem Begin, born in Russian Belarus in 1913, survived both the Nazi Holocaust and the Soviet gulag before being sent to Palestine as a soldier in the Polish army in December 1942. When Begin got to Palestine, one might say he never looked back. He had found that home that all Jews await. His persecuted, embattled life-story explains, in my opinion, the extremity of his Irgun military strategies and terrorist insurrections in British Palestine after World War II. His 1978 presence at Jimmy Carter’s peace-seeking marathon for thirteen days, and his consent to its final agreement, was unlikely, to say the least.

But I will not “say the least.” Begin’s concession of the Sinai to Egypt was nothing short of miraculous. There are conditions in this world that can turn a heart of stone into a human heart. A wise peacemaking Christian man who happened to be President of the strongest nation in the world had a hand in this amazing turnaround.

Speaking of which, I’ll skip a Sinai-sized bulk of my notes about this peace-seeking ordeal, to mention a turning point (one of many) that came on the last day, Day 13:

~ As a final signing ceremony was being prepared at the White House, Begin ordered his delegation to withdraw from the Camp David meetings. The thorny issue of Jerusalem was the prickling crown that was about to draw fatal blood from an almost-compete agreement. That old death-struggle between Jew and Muslim had raised its ugly head when Begin’s life-defining resolve was threatened by a letter from President Carter. It was a side letter,  a mere addendum, and not a legal part of the agreement, that came to the forefront of their last-minute contentions. Carter had written the letter as a point of clarification at Sadat’s request. Lawrence Wright wrote:

“If Carter retracted the letter, he would lose Sadat. If he did not, he would lose Begin. There was no way out.”

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. . .er, at the White House, Rosalynn and the staff were making preparations for a signing ceremony to take place in a few hours.

“The true loneliness of leadership is found in such moments, when great gains and great losses await a decision and there is no way of tallying in advance the final cost.”

I will not disclose how this last-minute obstacle was overcome, but I will say this: When Jimmy Carter delivered a photographic gift to Menachem Begin as he was sitting on the porch, the old soldier’s heart of stone  took a back seat, at least for a few minutes, to a heart of flesh. Those photographs were addressed, individually, to Begin’s grandchildren.

Now once again, I will pass over copious notes to offer one final thing I learned while reading Lawrence Wright’s book.

~ In 1981, after all this laborious peacemaking had passed, and after Israel had formally withdrawn from the Sinai peninsula, President Sadat was participating in a ceremonial event to honor Egypt, and to commemorate the war of 1973. Sadat stood on a decorated platform with many other dignitaries, clothed in a field marshal’s uniform, arrayed in his finest honorary regalia. A band played; fireworks were on display. Military jets passed overhead with acrobatics; a military parade passed in front of the platform for their review. But one troop truck halted. Egyptian soldiers leaped to the ground, brandishing automatic rifles and grenades. One of them raced toward the platform.

“Sadat abruptly stood up and saluted.”

~ And that was the last time Anwar el-Sadat stood on this earth. He was a leader who paid the dearest price of all for his willingness to break ranks with Arab intransigence and make peace with Jacob. He recovered lands for the Egyptians that they could not reclaim through war.  That final stand on the platform–that final salute on October 6, 1981–demonstrated his last full measure of devotion to his country, Egypt. It was also courageous expression of his late-in-life enlistment with a fragile project called peace– a process that sometimes breaks through, like a sunbeam from a dark cloud, into our war-torn world.

Smoke 

The Rabbi’s Perspective

July 30, 2014

The book of Genesis gives an account of Jacob wrestling with G_d. I can relate. Sometimes I  feel as if I too am wrestling with God.

We are not alone in this contention. In some ways, Jacob is still wrestling with God. History has shown that Israel’s contention with Elohim often involves strife with other people. In the present day, the IDF’s intrepid excursion into Gaza has called Israel’s credentials as a civilized nation into question. If Jacob began the invasion opposing Hamas, bloody events have conspired to make it appear as if he is contending, not only with the whole world, but possibly also contending with the One who made the world.

Because 1200 people are dead, most of them innocent civilians, and many of them children.

If Israel’s long-range objective is to establish existential legitimacy in the eyes of the world,  who is really winning this contest?

Although I am a Christian supporter of Israel, during this last week that supportive  voice in my soul has been drowned out with the cry of innocent blood that now emanates from Gaza ground.

I know that Israel did not initiate this defensive campaign with the intention to kill more than a thousand Palestinian civilians.

But that is what has happened. There’s no excuse for a thousand dead bodies, most of them innocents and many of them children. Somebody should have had the sense to stop this thing before the loud din of bloody collateral damage drowned out any possible victory proclamation.

In this audio link that I am now recommending, we hear a Jewish voice that is a credible alternative to the Likud/IDF way of doing things. Rabbi Henry Siegman acknowledges that Israel’s initial attempt to end Hamas rockets is justifiable. I agree.

But because of Hamas’ treachery against its own people,  the IDF has suddenly jolted far past the line of what is, among the opinions of mankind, acceptably justifiable warfare.  In Rabbi Siegman’s interview with Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh, he offers an historically-based explanation of why Israel’s defensive sortie could have degenerated into such an excessively lethal assault.

The man has certainly earned a right to offer his perspective. He  is a former President of the American Jewish Congress, and former President of the Synagogue Council of America.

I am fascinated with Rabbi Seigman’s personal history, which includes his family’s escape from Nazi Germany. The Siegman family’s arrival in the United States during World War II was a thankful deliverance after several years of evading the Nazis during the early Holocaust period.

Born in 1930, Henry was one of six children whose parents secreted the family out of Germany in 1935. Their odyssey of survival included temporary residences in Belgium and Vichy France, and attempt to enter Spain, and eventually a boat ride out of Marseille to North Africa and ultimately a voyage to  New York.

In this Democracy Now conversation the Rabbi speaks of his Zionist youth, his later hope that Israeli peace with Palestinians could culminate with Messiah, and his subsequent disappointment that Israel had been unable to reach an agreement with the people who lived in Palestine when the Zionists moved in. The Rabbi’s perspective is a highly credible counterpoint to the Likud/IDF strategy for establishing Israel as a nation among nations. In this link to the July 29, 2014 broadcast of Democracy Now, the interview begins at the 19:00 minute mark:

http://www.democracynow.org/2014/7/30/henry_siegman_leading_voice_of_us

 

Smoke

Israel’s Hamas tar-baby

July 21, 2014

IsraeliFlag

I support our alliance with Israel.

But the Israelis, our only true allies in the Middle East, have gotten themselves into a bad spot in Gaza, and we need to help them. Please pardon me if I use this term: we need to Bail them out.

The present rocket-exchanging debacle with Hamas in Gaza has turned into a disaster. Hamas started it by manipulating their own people into a perilous position that placed innocent, civilian residents of Gaza in harm’s way. Thus Hamas have offered their own women, children and other innocents as victims on the altar of military politics.

Hamas has outfoxed Israel, because Israel now appears to be the aggressor because of the blood on its hands.

But it was Hamas who initiated the aggression when they began firing rockets from heavily-populated civilian locations, to lure the Israelis into grabbing hold of a tarbaby from which it can never free itself.

This is what Allies are for. The Israelis need our help because they’ve been drawn into a hopeless situation that can lead to no good outcome for them.

The theatre of war we have here is like Uncle Remus’ tale of Br’er Rabbit and Br’er Fox. Hamas, playing the role of Br’er Rabbit, has tricked Israel into playing the Br’er Fox role and grabbin’ onto the bloody tarbaby of Gazan atrocity.

“Don’t you be messin’ with my tar-baby in Gaza, Br’er Fox!” This was the ruse with which Br’er Rabbit taunted Israel, while setting up its own rocket-launching offense from tunnels they had dug right in the middle of Gaza’s densely-populated civilian areas.

Unfortunately for Israel, Netanyahu and the IDF were desperate enough to take the bait. Now they be stuck on the tar-baby and can’t get away. Now Israel has tarry blood on its hands in the midst of a massacre that becomes a holocaust for Gazans and a public relations disaster for Israel.

So I’ll tell you, as an American citizen who is entitled to his opinion, what we need to do.  Our United States of America armed forces need to move in. Send in the cavalry.  Do a search and rescue surgical operation. Deliver the innocent Gazans from death and destruction, and rescue  our ally Israel from political and military disaster at the same time:

Send in the yanks! Dispatch the special ops guys to do a surgical strike that will  put an end to this bloody accident of history. Bail out our only true ally in the Middle East. Maybe send the Marines, or the Seals, or the Rangers. I don’t know which team, but this is a job that our guys can do.

1.) Get the Israelis to back off, so we can move in from the Mediterranean side.

2.) Find the Hamas rocket-launchers and run them the hell out of those tunnels. Restore Gaza to the peaceful Gazan citizens.

3.) Clean up the mess. Bring in the UN or Red Cross, Red Crescent, whatever it takes to mend the wounded, bury the dead, and restore the neighborhoods of Gaza to their peaceful conditions.

4.) Destroy the Hamas rocket-launchers. Fill the tunnels with dirt. And don’t let Hamas back into Gaza. Send the Israelis home; tell them to pay better attention next time. No more tarbabies.

If we could take out Gadaffi and Bin Laden, we can take Hamas out of Gaza, and teach our allies a lesson in the process. Mr. Netanyahu, be more careful next time. We don’t want to make a habit of such interventions.

Smoke

The Two-edged Sword

September 15, 2012

In the annals of human history, the invention of the sword is surely a turning point; it’s importance ranks right up at the top of the list, along with the first use of that most laudable invention of all, the wheel.

I suppose the first application of a sharpened implement was  used by prehistoric humans for gathering and preparing food. But I’m sure it wasn’t long before some irate or jealous neanderthal discovered its advantageous wielding for more nefarious purposes, such as murder or maiming.

If you’re not into the neanderthal explanation, think of this bipolar principle of homo sapiensbehavior in terms of Cain and Abel.

Love it or hate it, this sharp implement has been used for many millennia to advance the various purposes of our species, and its power has much to do with our ascendancy over the lesser species of the animal kingdom.

In human relations, the damned thing has been swung forever, by men, to inflict injury, pain, destruction, and death, on other men. On the other hand, the same weapon has long been applied by the nobler ones among us to defend the weak and the innocent against such atrocities, thus administering a thing that we call justice.

In the ascent of human ethics and society, “the sword” became, over time, something more than an implement or a weapon. It became an idea, a two-edged concept. On one edge of the sword is crime cruel atrocity; on the other is justice and defense.

Looking at history, we see undeniable evidence for the frequent use of both edges of “the sword”, the good side and the bad.

It reflects the dual nature of Man. On one side we are rotten to the core; on the other we are redeemed, and noble.

The sword has been used for thousand of years to enforce and extend various religious movements and agendas.

Very controversial in the ancient history of the Middle East is the use of the sword by Joshua and his Israeli tribes to subdue the Canaanites, on behalf of J’…h. Several thousand years later, Mohammed swept across the middle east crescent with his band of conquering Muslims, asserting righteousness with the sword in the name of Allah.

That little skirmish is still at center of all our international politics here on planet earth.

Jewish tradition proclaims that Moses gave us Law, so that men could live with each other having at least some semblance of societal order; since that strategy wasn’t exactly working out as planned, Mohammed came along thousands of years later, to enforce the correction needed to establish righteousness upon the earth.

Neither of these has worked as effectively, to quell the belligerent manipulations of mankind, as their founders might have intended.

In the midst of these two sword-swinging religious traditions, and between them historically, there came Jesus, who grew up in a town called Nazareth, which is somewhere between Damascus and Jerusalem. This Jesus, whom I regard as Messiah, and deliverer of mankind from its evil nature, did not wield the sword, as Joshua and Mohammed had done. Instead, he laid the weapon thing down and preached peace and forgiveness, which is considered foolish and naive in this present arrangement of the world. But in the kingdom of God, which is our fortunate destiny as earth-dwellers, his good news receives more favorable reception.

When his right-hand-man, Peter, drew the sword in retaliation against the oppressive, arrestive Roman sword, Jesus instructed Peter to put the thing away. Their were higher principles at work in those events than the  impetuous power of the sword could impose.

This Jesus is the one about whom I wrote a song in 1979, when the Iranian revolutionaries took our embassy and hostages in Teheran. About ten years ago, some friends of mine gathered in our hometown, Boone, North Carolina, USA, to help me in recording it. I hope you have a few minutes to give it a listen and consider the message therein.

http://www.micahrowland.com/carey/wevegotasong.mp3

Glass half-Full

Dam infidels at it again

November 12, 2011

Wouldn’t you know it. The people of ancient Israel had a great little kingdom going, with the legendary King David establishing for them an impressive niche among the kingdoms of the earth, and then his venerable son Solomon consolidating their collective labor and wisdom into a golden age of excellence. But then Solomon died, and his sons Rehoboam and Jeroboam couldn’t work together, so Jeroboam took some rebels and they struck out on their own to establish a renegade kingdom of Israel at Samaria.
Those dam infidels.
Solomon’s golden age kingdom was eventually ground into dust by Assyrian and Babylonian conquerors. Jewish kingdom was extinguished, but their worship of Y_h, and identity as a people chosen to document God’s work, survived. After their banishment from Jerusalem, captivity in Bablyon,  and eventual return of  some Hebrew exiles to Jerusalem, the Jewish people managed to maintain a unique culture and precious heritage, in spite of later Greek hegemony and Roman domination. Almost a thousand years after Solomon, Messiah finally came, suffered Roman crucifixion, but then triumphed by rising from the dead. Jesus’ disciples, most notably the upstarts Peter and Paul, forsook Jewish tradition to start a new spiritual work on earth, which became Christianity and spread like wildfire through the Mediterranean world.
Those dam infidels.
After centuries of steady growth, suffering bloody persecutions from heathen Roman emperors, Christianity proliferated in spite of the bloody business of feeding them to the lions and such. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church, so we Christians like to say, although I’m not necessarily  volunteering for that role. But then 300 years after Christ, one noble emperor Constantine finally got the light bulb turned on his head and became a Christian. If you can’t kill them, join them, I guess. As lucid as he was, Constantine got the bright idea to require all Roman citizens to be Christians, thus merging the public function of governance with the private practice of worshipping a risen Saviour. It was an idea that looked good on tablets (not ipads though), but it later turned out to be a mistake, although the organizing strategy worked tolerably well for a millenium or so, until Europe-based Christendom ended up splitting in two–Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox.
Those dam infidels again.
Meanwhile back in the mother lands, in 7th-century AD Palestine and Arabia, Mohammed got to looking around and realizing that mankind had a real problem. Even so-called righteous people such as Christians and Jews couldn’t seem to be good and properly serve God, and they had irrepressible reprehensible tendencies toward idolotry and debauchery. So Mohammed took it upon himself a la Allah to straighten the human race out by starting a new religion, which would prove to be more forceful and therefore more effective in its conquest of us unruly humans. So Mohammed and his subsequent imams set out to conquer the world for Allah.
Those dam infidels.
Mohammed and his band of believers did manage to compel a lot of people to their way of worshipping. However, after he died, the surviving leaders of Islam could not agree on who would be the successor, so there were bloody disagreements among them. After a few years, one faction’s acknowledged spiritual leader was recognized as legitimate imam to take up Mohammed’s authority. But by the time some Muslim agreement was reached, the other faction had already recognized three imams. Thus did the first Caliph of the Shi’a become known also as the fourth Caliph of the Sunni. These inceptive infightings resulted eventually in two major branches of Islam. Since the split happened quite early in Islamic history (about 656 AD, just 24 years after Mohammed’s death), the results produced two major branches of Islam–Sunni and Shi’a. This is not unlike the Christian Catholic/Orthodox legacy of two major dogmatic strains.
Those dam infidels again.
Fast forward a thousand years or so, and pan back to Europe, where we’ve got a a Protestant reformation brewing in the northern regions. Eventually Christendom manifests its inability to achieve consensus by morphing to a religion with hundreds, or thousands, of denominations.
Those dam infidels again, and again.
By and by, our perpetual trail of tears and blood gets dammed up into a global reservoir of apostate tragedy. Those dam infidels have been at each other’s throats for millenia. It gets discouraging, not to mention all the oriental religions–Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto, Zoroastrian, and God only knows how many.
An overview of history makes it appear that we humans will never agree on religion. We’ll be disputing about who God is and what he’s up to, or if he even exists,  until such time as we just blow ourselves to kingdom come.
I believe if God were really among us, he would take a real beating for this refusal to whip us into submission.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

The Working Principle of Jubilee

October 30, 2011

In ancient Israel, the land was understood to be a posession of God, with its owners being stewards, or caretakers. When a parcel was sold by one Israelite to another, its transferrance was considered a lease of the land’s use–that is to say, a sale of future crops therein–not an absolute ownership, since that domain was reserved to the Creator alone.

In order that the people of God might establish a manageable economy, their Creator mandated a fifty year cycle–a system of seven revolving seven-year periods, plus one extra year, later called the (50th) year of “jubilee.” By this revolving arrangement the natural inclination of human productivity toward inflation would be neutralized with a built-in systematic deflation. A sale of land in year 1 of the cycle would obstensibly be worth 49 times its value in year 49, since 49 prospective crops were understood to be the virtual substance of the transaction.

Furthermore, the working out of this economy also required that existing debts among Israelites be cancelled every seven years, and also that indentured servants or slaves be freed in that same seventh (sabbath) year. In the 50th year, at the end of the cycle, the land itself was returned to its original family of ownership of fifty years ago.

By this means, incentives for upward mobility of productive people were woven into the economy, and periodic debt forgiveness eliminated accruals of huge, unsurmountable debt among the working people. Accumulations of vast landed estates and monopolistic entities were also prevented, if the system was working as the Creator had designed it.

In this way, the followers of God were set up to prosper, both individually, familially, and collectively, according to the respective levels of their own chosen productivity and stewardship. And a constant deliverance of the poverty-stricken (unemployed) persons from a poorhouse fate would preclude a permanant underclass.

In real time, it didn’t exactly work out that way, but the theoretical principles of Sabbaths, Jubilee, systematic deflation (not as bad as it sounds), and debt forgiveness might be worth considering in light of our presently hyper-leveraged circumstances.

The principle of regular sabbath renewals goes back to God’s original creative work as it is figuratively documented in Genesis. God revealed himself to humans as a Creator. A definitive part of that creative process included rest and introspective recovery for the sake of developmentally corrective alignment.

If you care to learn more about this divine economy, and perhaps to consider its applications to modern existence, read Leviticus 25 and Deutoronomy 15, in the Bible.

Glass half-Full

Judah and Israel

October 22, 2011

Settling back into the Appalachian homing crib now, after a west coast week turnaround, I’m puzzling about the few days I spent observing the Occupyers at Seattle and Vancouver.

Yesterday I get an RSS email from Phyllis Chesler pronouncing the Occupy movement antisemitic.Whoa!

She presents some convincing evidence in her 5-page posting, with video quips of two Occupy LA  protesters whose statements about bankers reveal some authentically deliberate Jew-bashing, and there’s a lengthy, detailed sign about the old bogey Illuminati/Freemason conspiracy, whch was a dark strain of allegedly hidden connections that I had investigated briefly about 33 years ago.

So I get to hypertexting around on the net, and sure’nuff, there’s more to this Occupy movement than meets the all-seeing eye. More evidence shows up on Jeff Dunetz’ yidwithlid blog:
Yid with Lid wrote:
“The MSM (mainstream media) worked very hard to brand the Tea Party Movement as Racist, but it wasn’t. They are working just as hard to ignore the blatant Antisemitism and libelous demonization of Israel coming out of the Occupy Wall Street protests, and they are. It is not just a few nuts within the Occupy Wall Street Movement who are bashing Israel and Jews, it is the leadership and founders.”
A few more clicks mouses us around to a different point of view, the other side of the shekel, from Dave Weigel at Slate:
Weigel wrote:
“There is a problem: The movement isn’t anti-Semitic. It started in New York. Its ideological hero is Naomi Klein. This is a movement studded with liberal Jews! Here’s one video that’s gotten less play than the one of the irate anti-Semitic dipshit with the “Nazi bankers” sign: The Kol Nidre in New York, at the Occupy camp.”

If Naomi Klein is such a formidable player in this Occupying wave, and she is Jewish, then how can the movement itself be antisemitic? Furthermore, If you view the 3-minute video (Kol Nidre, above) that Weigel posted, in which a large group of obviously Jewish dancers joyously stepped into Yom Kippur, it is obvious that the Hebraic delegation is untimidated about putting their best feet forward in the Occupy WallStreet festivities.

So we see one group of Jews who are out to change the world with their involvement in, among many other leftist movements, Occupy WallStreet etc; its the J-Street apologist contingent, the old socialist/labor cadre, the Yid liberal strain whose purpose is to confront the slings and arrows of world injustice and equality, and by opposing end those evils.

And we see another group of Jewish people,  including the grand old man of anti-defamation exposé Elie Wiesel, who have detected (accurately) within that same broad Occupy movement, an insidious strain of nascent nazis nestled nefariously in the shadows of  the sign-wielding rabble. Yes, the Jew-haters are in there; they lurk among thousands of protesters.

So is the Occupy WallStreet movement antisemitic? Yes and no.That makes it like just about any other political movement  in this melting-pot that we call America.
The Judah-apologist school of Judaism and the Israel-defensive school are strange bedfellows nestled within the same religious/ethnic heritage; one is reformative and communitarian, the other is orthodox and conservative. Oy vey. What else is new? It’s been this way since Rehoboam and Jeroboam.

The tension that exists between these two camps of Judaism, as represented by the activist Golda Meir strain and the prosperous Alan Greenspan strain, is as old as the Judean hills, and they have lived with it long enough to convince the world that they are here to stay.  Either way, they’re not going away. Thank G_d.

The contemporary quarrel between liberal and conservative branches of political Judaism is reconcilable when surveyed through this proverbial wisdom  from Yid with Lid:

“Jewish tradition respects economic success, so long as it is obtained honestly, and proper respect is shown for the social responsibility that comes with it. That social responsibility is a personal duty and a job for the community led by its religious leaders, but not for the government.”

Last link. Over two millenia ago, the prophet Zechariah posted this on his website:

“…I took for myself two staffs, the one I called Favor and the other I called Union…I took my staff Favor and cut it in pieces, to break my covenant which I had made with all the peoples…then I cut in pieces my second staff Union, to break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.”

And its been that way ever since. But hey! Mazel tov and L’chaim!.
But if you want to see what occupation really looks like in the here and now, look at this pic I snapped at Occupy Jerusalem six years ago:

Wailing Wall

Glass half-Full

Conquest

March 13, 2011

Several thousand years ago, the people of Israel threw off a bondage of  Egyptian slavery.Then, in a 40-year odyssey toward freedom and their own identity, they wandered through desert areas until the people occupied  a new homeland where they would eventually set up a kingdom.

The establishment of that twelve-tribal homeland required some conquest of the native peoples. Jewish use of military might under the auspices of divine direction was, and is, a matter of perpetual dispute. Even today, the controversy intensifies, with each new generation, about whether or not the Jewish people are entitled to that narrow stretch of God’s earth between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

Their perseverance to build a kingdom secured in righteousness and prosperity reached its golden age of fulfillment under David and Solomon.  But it was a flash in the historical pan. After Solomon’s death, their progress as an identifiable entity among the kingdoms of this world took on a downhill devolution, until finally the descendants of Israel were overrun by  Assyrians,  Babylonians,  Seleucids, and the Romans.

Their collective push to establish a worldly kingdom actually reflect a rather typical pattern in the development of people groups and their respective nations. But one unique element of the Israel contribution to world culture is their legacy of prophetical writings, which have since achieved universal distribution through a myriad of spiritual apropriations, most notably the Bible. The core of that prophetic heritage is a call to righteousness, or living rightly: morality, the Ten Commandments, etc.

About a millenium and a half after the Jewish diaspora, from out of the Arabian desert came Mohammed. He also issued a powerful summons toward righteousness;  he set forth five pillars of right-living upon which the practice of Islam, and its ordained proliferation,  would be founded.
I am not a Muslim, so I cannot claim an authentic understanding of their traditions and intentions, but it seems to me that Mohammed pointed out to the world that  Jewish and subsequent Christian efforts to establish a correct teaching about God–the One true God–had failed. A ubiquitous presence of idolotry and immorality among the people of Arabia and  beyond were evidence that men/women still needed a new infusion of religion, and he, Mohammed, was going to provide it. So he wrote the Q’uran.

But understand this: Mohammend was a conqueror. After his treatise of corrective religious dogma had begun, he went out and conquered multitudes of people, just to teach the world a lesson or two about rigteousness. The conquest of infidels that Mohammed and his immediate successors imposed on surrounding lands was immense. Islam established, through  unprecedented levels of conquest, a religious dominion far beyond anything that Moses, Joshua, David or Solomon ever dreamed of.

In the middle of all this religion-spewing history came a gentle  man from Galilee. His input to the spiritual heritage of mankind was not an advocay of conquest over peoples and nations. Whereas Jewish religion had been founded upon conquest of the Promised Land, and Islamic religion would later require conquest of the Infidels, Jesus’ only advocacy of conquest was a conquest of self.

He counseled people to “take up your cross and follow me.” By allowing the strong-armed conquerers of this world to crucify him, he wielded the ace of eternal life, and demonstrated its authority to trump this world’s  conquestive trick-taking.

He set in motion a narrative of redemptive power that has reined in the depraved hearts of men and women for almost two thousand years now. Jesus’ resurrection out-performed the legalistic limitations of Mosaic and Shariah Law. What better way to assure miraculous spreading of the news than rising from dead.

We don’t need to conquer the world; we don’t need to save it. That’s already been done, in the individual hearts of all persons who are willing to receive that deliverance.

Go tell it on the mountain. Go tell the Israelis. Go tell the Islamists: Forget about your conquests. Instead, let God conquer yo’ bad self so that you can rise to the challenge of eternal life, and therby overcome this goddamned world.

Glass half-Full