Tag Archives: history

Day Of Rage

Israel & Arabs

Today has been declared ‘Day Of Rage’ by the Moslem Arabs of Israel and Palestine. Last night they invaded a synagogue built next to the grave of Joseph, and burned it. I believe this was the third time this has happened. And why the rage? To protest the destruction of the Al Aqsa Mosque, built on Mount Moriah, the site of the ancient Temple of Israel. Of course, the mosque hasn’t been destroyed. Jewish leaders have assured the Arabs again and again, that no such thing is planned. The rights of all, to religious freedom, has been guaranteed for the last 48 years since Jerusalem was reunited. The second Intifada, also called the Al-Aqsa Intifada, 15 years ago, was started by the same sort of lies. 1,137 Israelis were killed and 8,341 were wounded, 80% of them civilians.

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This time, it hasn’t gotten a name yet. We call it a wave of terror. We are told that the Pals who stab us suddenly on the street or in busses or trains are just individuals who are moved by nationalistic or religious sentiments… who are acting out their own private feelings, despair or frustration. Is that what’s really happening? I think differently. It all seems carefully orchestrated. Most of the attackers are young. A few of them have been girls. This is strange for the local Arab population. Usually they are very protective of their women. Women and girls are seldom found doing anything alone. They need their family’s permission to go out shopping. If they’re suspected of not being virgins when they get married, they’re killed. And this is called an ‘honor killing’.

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To me it does look organized. And it does look like a war. Claudine wrote in a comment on my last post, “Right now, all over the middle east the situation is really terrible…” But wait a moment… Israel is unlike the rest of the middle east. Israel is a democracy. We have free speech. Arabs have more rights here than they have in any of the Arab countries. We have Moslem parliament members who help and aid our enemies, and shout lies from the podium… all of this protected by the right of free speech and parliamentary immunity. We have a female parliament member who actually joined a gang of terrorists on a boat which invaded Israeli sovereign waters. So this is not like Syria or Egypt, where the president gets 97% of the vote, and the government decides who can speak on the radio or TV. One has to wonder, how does a democratic society defend itself against hostile insurrections?

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All over the world, there are minorities who do not enjoy sovereignty. I could make you a long list of such people, many of whom have claims no less convincing than the Palestinians. But in our case, the government has already agreed to help in the creation of a Palestine state. So what is preventing this from happening?

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To begin with, The Pals want the separation their way. They want for there to be two states. In what will remain of Israel, Pals who are living here now would be allowed to continue to live here and enjoy all the advantages of our society. In the independent state alongside of it, to be called Palestine, all the Arabs living there would continue to live there, But all the Jews living there would be forced out. They want a state ‘clean of Jews’. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But the government of Israel actually agreed to such a separation. The Arabs demanded that their state be called the homeland of the Palestinians (there has never been an independent Palestinian state in history), but they object strenuously to Israel being called the homeland of the Jews, or a Jewish state. They really believe that Israel belongs to them. They’re just waiting to implement this at a later date.

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Why doesn’t it happen already. Well, before Israel is willing to give them part of its land to declare statehood, there are two demands. One, that the Palestine State be demilitarized. And two, that they recognize Israel as the Jewish state. So far, they have absolutely refused both of these demands.

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Right now, a majority of the murderers and attackers… those who have stabbed innocent civilians on the street, carry an Israeli ID card, and enjoy all the advantages available to the Jews. The conditions they enjoy are hard to believe. Aside from freedom which is unmatched in any of the Arab countries around us, they also benefit from the social security system here. That means that if a terrorist attacks innocent civilians, or blows up a bomb in the middle of the city, and is killed in the process, his widow and children will receive monthly support payments from social security. If he is injured in the attack, he will receive payments for the disabled for the rest of his life. If he is imprisoned, he will receive a regular salary from the Palestinian Authority, paid out of the moneys that the Pals get from donor countries all over the world, including many European countries.

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I hear a constant stream of lies coming out of the Palestinian Authority. In the last two weeks 9 Jews were killed and 92 injured in attacks on the street and public transportation. In one day last week, there were more than 300 such attacks. Fortunately, not all are successful. The police have orders to shoot anyone seen assailing another with a knife. The Pal leaders don’t condemn the violence, but protest vehemently against the ‘excessive force’ of the police. In each case where a knife wielder was shot, the Pal leadership and their news media, have claimed that the assailant was an innocent victim of racism. For some years now, we have been accused of apartheid though everyone who lives here knows that Arabs enjoy the same services as Jews, graduate from our top Universities, and serve as doctors, lawyers, engineers and in many other high profile professions. It is considered well and good that an Arab live in my neighborhood, across the street from me, and go shopping in the same supermarket or department store. But woe to the Jew who might try to move into an Arab neighborhood. This is considered an unforgivable affront.

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I had planned to write about some of my literary adventures. A much more personal post. But listening to the way the facts of what is going on here in Israel are distorted in the world’s news media, I feel that if I write anything at all, I must write the truth of what’s happening here and now. The photos shown here are of the rose garden opposite the Knesset, our parliament here in Jerusalem. I found comfort, walking there yesterday.

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Shimon in the park – photo by Chana

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stabbed in the back

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I don’t usually write about the internal politics of my country. Nor do I write about the endless conflicts between Israel and the Arab world. I know that it is very difficult to understand such things without a lot of research into the subject. It is too easy to adopt an image already familiar to us, and to project that image on the situation less known, and draw conclusions. For instance, since childhood, I have had a tendency to look at molecular and atomic physicality in much the way I see astronomical spaces. Each realm of space seems a parable on the other.

I can assure you, my dear reader, that I am not a racist, and have no desire to see people in stereotypes. My first housemate, a man I lived with before I got married, was an Arab. We were friends and lived in harmony together, here in Jerusalem. I got to know his family and friends, and through the years… up until the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, I had a number of Arab friends, with whom I shared common interests.

I know there are fine Arab people living in our country who wish no harm to anyone, and wish to live their lives in peace; wish to enjoy their careers, their learning, their worship of god, and bringing up a family. Not all Arabs are terrorists. But 99% of the terrorists in our country are Arabs.

It’s been a little over a year since our last war, with the Palestinians of the Gaza strip. We had given them a piece of land, in which Jews had lived for more than a hundred years, pulled out all the Jews… given them all the land… plus farms and factories… and they had immediately gone on to fight us in every way they knew how. Including shooting rockets at innocent people within our borders. The so-called ‘occupied territories’ were taken in war, after we were attacked. We have been attacked long before the modern state of Israel came into being. Before there were ‘occupied territories’, and before there was a state. Our communities, and people within our communities were attacked when we were an English colony, and even before that, when we were a Turkish colony. We have heard ideological explanations for rape, murder and stabbings for generations. We have continuously searched for peace, and only fought when our backs were to the wall and we had no choice but to fight.

I have had friends killed for no other reason than that they were Jewish. I have had close family members murdered.

At present, we are facing a new wave of violence in our country. Not surprisingly, it started during our holiday season. They have tried different methods in the past. They have organized in different ways, and tried everything from sabotage to suicide bombings. They have been promised 72 virgins in heaven if they die fighting the Jews. Some of them are convinced. Others have sympathy. Right now, there is a wave of seeming ‘individuals’ who pick up a knife or a stone and try to murder a Jew.

I’m an old man. I’m too old to fight. Too old to help keep the peace. All I can do, is try to survive the heartbreak. I can’t share my thoughts on philosophy, art, or learning while suffering from the needless violence and chaos around me. I mourn the murdered, and cry for the wounded and deranged. I have nothing to say.

Succoth 2015

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At the synagogue in Mazkeret Batya

life and times of a species

We are by nature very self-centered. At every stage in our lives, we look at those younger than us as being ‘young’. And those who are older than us are ‘old’. People from other countries, or other cultures, are ‘alien’. But we’re okay, we’re ‘normal’.

When relating to the animal world, I myself have a special regard for butterflies and frogs. Both of them have two incarnations, and I can very well identify with them. I have a feeling that we too have more than one incarnation, so to speak. The butterfly starts out as a worm, and the frog as a pollywog. Anthropology has always fascinated me because of both the similarities and the differences between people around the world.

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I remember reading an article many years ago about the life of species. I don’t remember who it was that wrote it, and don’t remember the name of the article. But what impressed me then, was that some researchers had found a type of snail that had lived slightly off shore of a Greek island, and they were able to evaluate the age of the shells by carbon dating. They came to the conclusion that they had before them the history of that species; from when it was a very young species till it had grown old, and was nearing extinction. As the species became more mature, the form of the shell became more beautiful. But at a much later stage, some of the round areas became more angular. The species was getting decadent.

This same process is seen in individual people, and in societies… and in nations. Sometimes it evokes sadness. More often contempt. Life at the height of its development, has contempt for weakness… but even in decadence we often see ourselves as superior to others, more aware… more connected to the truth. It takes a rare wisdom to be aware of the world as a whole; to leave our egocentric point of view and start searching for the wonders outside of ourselves.

Why do it? Because we are connected to all of the world, and the more we learn, the more we understand the world around us, the richer this life of ours becomes.

idolatry

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In my previous post last week, I mentioned that the study of sculpture had been neglected in our culture because of the prohibition of idol worship. And this raised the question of why. Many in the west have accepted the concept of monotheism. And many are atheistic or agnostic. Because of the free thinking attitude towards faith and belief, many believe that the issue of whether it is proper or not to pray to, or worship an image seems irrelevant in our time.

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My dear friend Janet reminds us often that ‘everything in this world is interconnected’. This is the basis of monotheism, and one of the most important tenants of our religion. There are those who see powerful forces in this world as gods. The sea is a god to some, and there is a god of reproduction to others. Some people have a need to relate to an inspiring picture of a saint or a prophet in order to remind themselves of the virtues they believe in. There are so many pictures of saints, and medallions, and symbols of all kinds, that we have become accustomed to seeing such things. But our sages warned us that focusing on an image might distract us from our awareness of a god who is an intricate being reflected in all we sense in the world around us.

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I believe that those who coined the expression, ‘the almighty dollar’, meant to laugh at the phenomenon. But there is no doubt that a large portion of the population in the west has raised the importance of money to god-like proportions. Is it important? To some it is. To others not. For those of us who believe in god, it is important to consider what we receive from him, what sort of inspiration or example we envision when contemplating his presence in this world of ours, and how or if we choose to worship him.

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I have studied a bit of other religions, and found wisdom that has enhanced my own beliefs and worship of god in my religion. I have also found things that I cannot accept. Today is Friday, and this evening my Sabbath begins. And an essential part of my religion is not to work on the Sabbath. That is a day of freedom and appreciation of life, and it is set apart for contemplation and joy. This Sabbath is called the ‘Sabbath of consolation’, for on this last Sunday, we remembered the destruction of our holy temple. It was a very sad day for all. My best wishes to my readers for inspiration and delight from life. We all have our ups and downs. And how important it is, to maintain our perspective, to remember that there is beauty and pleasure in this life, despite the disappointments and pain.

Sculpture and the Jews

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We have a problem with art. In Hebrew, art and craft are almost the same word. They come from the same root, which is also the root for the word ‘faith’, from which the English word ‘amen’ is a derivative. Amen simply means ‘(I) have faith’. It is a Hebrew word. And though sculpture of a certain kind was found in the holy temple, it has most been associated with idol worship. And there are specific laws found in the bible prohibiting making reproductions of men or women, animals, or even objects found in nature. Throughout our long history, the plastic arts have been avoided by most of our people and those artists who did produce something, were always the exception to the rule.

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During the 18th century, there was a movement that gained some popularity among our people who were living in Europe, called ‘the enlightenment’, which tried to import some of the cultural standards and the knowledge which had been accepted in the west into our own culture. Despite the opposition of most of the religious leaders of the time, the movement became quite popular, and is credited with easing some of the anti-semitic laws which severely restricted us, as well as promoting greater integration between Jews and non Jews in Europe. It also brought about the modernization of a great many Jewish communities. Scientific and literary texts were translated into Hebrew, and absorbed into our common culture.

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But influenced by cultural prejudices an ingrained attitudes, even the non religious, secular, and highly educated creative souls among us were reluctant to express themselves in the arts. And when they did, they often chose some sort of abstraction or embedded a flaw in the image so as to make it clear that the work could in no way be interpreted as idolatry.

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The concept of one god who could not be represented by any image was in direct opposition to art as understood by other cultures. Sculpture suffered the worst. And to this day, one can find numerous abstract works of sculpture on some of the streets of Jerusalem, but the more realistic, representative pieces are hidden away in private spaces.

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One of the most interesting sculptures in modern day Israel was created as a memorial to the holocaust, and is hidden away in a forest, and completely unknown by most of the citizens of Jerusalem. It presents images from the history of our people and particularly from the holocaust in a series of reliefs found on a large column.

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Aside from the religious injunction prohibiting idolatry, modesty is considered one of the most important virtues. This too, has dissuaded many artists from using nude images. Even so, the restrictions inspired a creative spark as well, and I have seen fascinating two dimensional sculpture, and other variations on the use of three dimensional media by a number of our local artists.

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The conflict between the arts and our traditional view of the world is felt in other areas as well, including music. I hope to write about that one of these days. And because I feel limited regarding how many images to show on a blog post, I might add another post regarding the many ways Jewish artists have tried to express themselves in sculpture while still respecting the prohibitions of our culture.

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my kind of town

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walls of the old city and David’s Tower

In an ancient city, such as Jerusalem, a study of history leads one to an ironic perspective. Some of the finest neighborhoods of the past are overcrowded and burdened by poverty, while other neighborhoods which were once occupied by the helpless and poor now feature the most expensive housing available. In the west, this phenomenon is known as ‘gentrification’. Yesterday, while walking from Mamilla through Yemin Moshe, opposite the walls of the old city, and marveling at the beauty of the place, I couldn’t help but remember its history.

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a glimpse into the old city through one of the gates

Yemin Moshe was built as the first neighborhood outside of the walls. And in 1860, only the poor and desperate were willing to live there because it seemed exposed to danger. But the over crowding in the old city was difficult to bear, and little by little more streets and homes were built outside the walls. Today, the old city only holds a fraction of the city’s population, with most people enjoying a more comfortable life in what is now called the western part of the city.

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And those first neighborhoods, outside of the walls, which were once filled with small apartments, most of them having only 1½ rooms of living space, after having been repeatedly damaged by two wars and numerous acts of aggression by our neighbors, have since been rebuilt, and are now the most beautiful and luxurious areas of town. The poor, of course, were given minimal compensation for their property. And some of them still harbor resentment when seeing what has become of the area where they used to live.

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The Teddy Park, named after our legendary and longest reigning mayor ever, is a recent addition, hosting children during the day, and tourists in the evening and night. Slightly behind it, is the first row of houses built in this neighborhood, which was turned into guest housing in the 70s for visiting men and women of letters, artists and musicians. The environment is considered ideal for the creative process. There is also a music center there which was inaugurated by Pablo Casals.

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Within easy walking distance, one can visit a concert stadium, or the Jerusalem Cinematheque which moved to this location, close to the city walls, in the early 80s. My walk in the neighborhood yesterday concentrated on the little lanes and foot paths of the neighborhood, where cars have no access. Though overlooking the main highway which circles the walls and then continues by the Cinematheque, the inner neighborhood is very calm and quiet, decorated by a never ending assortment of attractive plant life and cultivated gardens.

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I went all the way, past the windmill erected by Moses Montefiore at the end of the 19th century in order to provide jobs and inexpensive bread to the population, and reached the Lions’ Fountain, which is in itself a public landmark. Perhaps I’ll post a number of pictures of that, one of these days, together with some thoughts about sculpture and the Jewish people. It’s an interesting subject.

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Similar homes to these can be seen in many other neighborhoods of the city, but they seem to have reached an ideal of balance and aesthetics here. For they were renovated in the last forty years, and many of the residents have a leaning towards the arts. Because space is at a premium, most of the houses are modest in size. Some of the gardens are tiny. But there is impressive scenery all around, and public gardens which serve all.

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There’s a foot bridge which stretches over the cross-town highway, from this neighborhood to the Cinematheque, and the view of the city walls and the Hinnom valley from that bridge is so impressive that I have gone there many times just to photograph the scenery. It invites panoramic photography. I’m very fond of the panoramic format, but have been reluctant to share those photos on the blog because they are far less impressive when viewed on the computer screen.

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you can see a glimpse of the windmill there in the background

Which brings to mind a tension I have felt at times, when writing my blog. If a picture is, in fact, worth a thousand words, just how many photos dare I use as illustrations between the lines of my text, without overwhelming the blog post? Some time back, I planned to link certain blog posts to collections of photos on the same subject. But that takes quite a bit of time. And because I wanted the immediacy of telling my story shortly after having lived the experience, I haven’t yet explored this possibility. For instance, if I were to provide such a link some weeks or months after publishing this blog post, it would have much less exposure than the original article. Ah, I just got an idea…

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this wonderful water fountain has been built to offer its water to everyone. for all sizes. it offers a comfortable drinking height to grownups and children. the bowl at the bottom gives drink to pets and birds as well