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November 28, 2015 / 16 Kislev, 5776
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Posts Tagged ‘jesus’

Book Review: Simon Sebag Montefiore’s ‘Jerusalem: The Biography’

Friday, October 18th, 2013

By Henry Goldblum

At first glance, Simon Sebag Montefiore’s best seller Jerusalem: The Biography is surely impressive. Media critics as well as Henry Kissinger have showered it with praise, and the BBC devoted a timely three-part TV series to the author, providing invaluable publicity. Indeed, the book is not dull by any standards. Drama abounds – be it in chapter headings (take chapter 5, “The Whore of Babylon”) or in the description of events, such as the Moloch ceremonies in the days of King Menasseh, “the sacrifice of children at the roaster…in the Valley of Hinom…as priests beat drums to hide the shrieks of the victims from their parents” (p. 39). The Muslim invasion is depicted in graphic detail, particularly the battle of 636 CE, which took place “amidst the impenetrable gorges of the Yarmuk River” (p. 172) – although the area through which the Yarmuk flows is in fact more of an open plain.

Renouncing Uniqueness

Sebag Montefiore has clearly invested much effort in conveying his vision of Jerusalem – past, present, and future. The result reflects thoughtful study of many sources relating to different features of the city, and the author certainly recognizes its special status. However, in his apparent desire to deal evenhandedly with the various local religions, he fails to make it clear that it is only for Jews and Judaism that Jerusalem is, was, and has always been the sole spiritual center on earth. This omission is unacceptable. The author rightly refers, if only en passant, to Midrash Tanhuma and the writings of Philo of Alexandria as two examples of this basic, constant belief, unlimited by time or circumstance. The intensity of Jerusalem’s sacred status for Judaism is such that later monotheistic faiths have attempted at various times to gain a foothold in the city, despite their having other, holier places (Mecca and Medina, Rome and Bethlehem). Perhaps recognizing the significance of capturing the “chosen status” of Judaism, they have utilized diverse strategies to prop up their variant “histories,” including reinterpreting Muhammad’s miraculous night visit to the “Farthest Mosque” on the outskirts of Mecca to include a stopover in Jerusalem.

It has always been fundamental for the Jew to appreciate this imbalance, and it cannot be overlooked in any attempt to describe Jerusalem. Sebag Montefiore has downgraded this uniquely Jewish aspect of the city; as far as he is concerned, Judaism’s monopoly on Jerusalem is limited to part 1 of his book, extending until the year 70 CE. Parts 2-8 belong primarily to other faiths and peoples, and the final section of the book, dating from 1898, is titled “Zionism,” as if the re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty is a separate chapter in the history of the city rather than the restorationof a violently interrupted continuum. Significantly, he neglects to emphasize thata Jewish majority has dominated the citywhenever circumstances have permitted,including from the early 19th century onwardwithout interruption; nor does he remind thereader that only when Jews have ruled thecity have all other faiths enjoyed full rights ofworship there.

Historically Dubious These omissions are partially explained by the almost complete absence of references to classic Jewish works compiled in the Land of Israel – despite their obvious relevance in terms of place, time, and subject. Thus, the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds are together accorded a mere four quotations; the output of Jewish historians from Graetz to current Israeli scholars not of the revisionist mode is similarly glaringly absent. In contrast, detailed descriptions of events and individuals taken from non-Jewish sources abound – even when their relevance is historically uncertain or unsound – notably the passages on Jesus in chapter 11. The sole reference to Jesus in Josephus (Antiquities, book 17, 63-64), whom Sebag Montefiore cites among other non- Jewish sources as confirmation of his existence as a historic character, is widely regarded as being of dubious authorship (see Emil Schürer’s History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus, vol. 1, p. 428ff.).

The reliability of the author’s statement at the opening of the Islam section is similarly questionable: Muhammad is said to have come “to venerate Jerusalem as one of the noblest of sanctuaries” (p. 169). With all due respect, the Koran never mentions Jerusalem, and by beginning his discussion of Islam with the reinterpretation of the passage regarding “the furthest place of worship,” Sebag Montefiore creates a false impression, especially since in Sura 2, the Prophet commands that prayer be directed exclusively to Mecca. The other quotes on page 168 are all from later Muslim sources. The term “Iliya,” a corruption of the pagan name Aelia Capitolina coined by Hadrian, continued to be used by the Muslim conquerors of Jerusalem for a generation or more following Muhammad’s death, with examples from as late as the end of the 10th century. This is the name of the city appearing on the milestones of Caliph al-Malik, who built the Dome of the Rock in the 690s. The name Al-Quds, “The Sanctuary,“ came into common use only in the 11th century, in the context of the struggle between Crusaders and Saracens for dominion over the Holy Land (see Moshe Gil, The Political History of Jerusalem in the Early Muslim Period, p. 10). The anecdote concerning Caliph Omar’s tour of the Temple Mount (p. 175 in Sebag Montefiore’s book) only reiterates the secondary status of Jerusalem in Islam – the caliph rebukes Kaab, a converted Jew, who suggests praying in the direction of the Temple on the mount rather than toward Mecca. As Bernard Lewis has stated in The Middle East, “Much of the traditional narrative of the early history of Islam must remain problematic, whilst the critical history is at best tentative” (p. 51). Why, then, has Sebag Montefiore adopted Islamic accounts regarding this period so readily? Is he perhaps playing to Muslim sensibilities? All this leads us to an epilogue that looks forward, as might be expected from the previous sections, to a permanent division of the city into two capitals for two states, in accordance with current liberal and revisionist dogma. The hope of witnessing such a chapter in the history of Jerusalem rankles coming from a scion of the illustrious Montefiore family, whose philanthropy was once invested in the furtherance of a quite different destiny for the city.

Admittedly, Jerusalem: The Biography provides an enjoyable ride. A more appropriate destination and a less controversial and dangerous route might be preferable, but that, presumably, would require a change of driver.

Dr. Heny Goldblum is a lawyer and a scholar of history

Visit Behind the News in Israel.

Israeli Sheikh Tells Arabs: Israel behind Cairo Coup (Video)

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

Ra’ad Salah, head of the radical Islamic Moveent’s northern branch, incited Arabs with Israeli citizenship on Friday, telling them in no uncertain terms that Israel was behind the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi last month.

In a speech marking the 44th anniversary of a crazed, Christian Australian’s attempt to burn down the Al Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount in 1969, Salah blamed Israel for the attack and for the coup in Egypt.

“The Israeli occupation stood behind the burning of the Al Aqsa mosque and it stands behind the destruction in Egypt,” he said in Kfar Kara, located less than 10 miles from the Mediterranean Coast, between Haifa and Tel Aviv.

The attack on the Temple Mount was carried out by Denis Michael Rohan, who set fire to the Al Aqsa mosque. He was arrested immediately, and the court sent him to a mental institution after declaring him insane. Israel deported him to Australia in 1974, and he died in 1995 while under psychiatric care. He had claimed he tried to destroy he mosque because he was the “Lord’s emissary” to destroy the mosque in order to  allow Jews to rebuild the Temple Mount and speed the Second Coming of Jesus.

No sane person believe Israel was involved or behind the attack, but Israel insists on giving Salah the freedom of speech to incite hate and violence in Israel, ignoring the principle once established by the U.S. Supreme Court that freedom of speech stops at “yelling fire in a crowded theatre.”

The theatre is Israel and Salah, much more than Mahmoud Abbas, is leading the incitement as a Fifth Column within Israel.

Salah is from Um el-Fahm, an Arab Israeli city where he was elected mayor three times and where he has established his Islamic Northern Branch headquarters in the north. Jews don’t dare venture into the city unless they have pre-arranged business. It is one of the country’s fiercest anti-Israel hotbeds of incitement, hatred and terror.

Salah has a long record of crime and anti-Israel activity that could have kept him behind bars for years. He was arrested in 2003 and was convicted of funding Hamas and having been in contact with an Iranian intelligence agent, for which he was sentenced to prison for a grand total of two and a half years.

He has frequently whipped up violent riots in Jerusalem, where he has been banned several times from entering.

In 2009, he stated in Um el-Fahm, “In spirit and blood we will earn Al-Aqsa. We will be martyrs for Allah and Jerusalem. We will bless holy death in the name of Allah in the courtyards of the blessed Al-Aqsa.”

His open incitement against Israel is enough to put him in jail time and time again, but Salah keeps coming back and Israel insists on ignoring him, as if he will fade away.

Instead, Salah wins more followers every day. He has reached incitement against Israel to Bedouin in the Negev, where Jews already are a tiny minority outside of Be’er Sheva.

The London Guardian’s Mick Dumper noted as far back as 2009 that Salah’s “initial convention in Um el-Fahm has now evolved into an annual rally, drawing around 50,000 supporters and inspiring similar solidarity events across the Arab and Islamic world, from Lebanon to South Africa.

“This is extended by subsidized trips to al-Aqsa for Palestinians in Israel, with more than 2 million visits to the site since 2001….

“By its use of different media, the Islamic Movement has positioned itself as a key agent in both the struggle on the ground and the regional and international debates over al-Aqsa and the status of Jerusalem. Some senior PA officials now recognize that Salah’s public speeches and activities within Jerusalem have an impact upon their scope for negotiation and will undoubtedly influence future policy.

“In the words of one such official, ‘This self-appointed sheikh of al-Aqsa has built his own kingdom within Jerusalem. He is seeking to capture the hearts and minds of Jerusalemites as victory in Jerusalem offers him the greatest platform to Islamic victory in the Arab world.’”

Salah was on the Mavi Mamara, the lead ship in the  May 2019 flotilla to Gaza that was organized by the Turkish-based IHH “charity” foundation, whose Turkey branch been defined by Germany as in illegal terrorist organization.

Exacting Vengeance on the Gentiles?

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Once again we are treated to the sight of very religious looking Jews acting like a street gang. A statue of a cross with a figure of Jesus on it was defaced by a group of Breslover Chasidim in Uman. The cross was recently erected opposite the grave of the founder of this Chasidus, Rav Nachman of Breslov – located in the Ukrainian city of Uman. From JTA:

“To exact vengeance on the gentiles,” reads the message, which was scrawled across the torso of a figure of Jesus. A further inscription on Jesus’ leg reads, “Stop desecrating the name of God.”

This kind of thing would not surprise me if it were being done by extremists from a community that embraces an isolationist lifestyle. But although they are hardcore Chasidim who dress and look much the same as Satmar Chasidim – Breslovers do a lot of outreach. I would expect them to know how to behave in a more civilized manner. They must have had a socialization process that taught them that or they could not do outreach. And yet here they have acted in a completely uncivilized way.

So it comes as a bit of a surprise that a Christian symbol near their venerated Rebbe’s grave site was desecrated with graffiti. I guess their socialization process goes just so far. A statue of Jesus so close to their Rebbe’s grave site was too much to handle.

I don’t know why the Ukrainian Government chose that site for its statue. I don’t think it was a wise decision. But at the same time, I don’t think it was necessarily meant to ‘stick it’ to the Breslovers either. It was probably just not a well thought out plan.

I can understand why these Chasidim felt outrage. They consider the Breslover Rebbe’s gravesite to be so holy that make annual pilgrimages to it. Tens of thousands of Jews (mostly Breslover Chasidim) from all over the world visit it during Rosh Hashanah – one of the holiest times of the year. It is almost as though they were making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem’s Holy Temple. Seeing the sight of Jesus on a cross must have made them feel like they were seeing Avodah Zara in the Beis HaMikdash.

The outrage is understandable. But their expression of it is inexcusable. It is the kind of behavior that can bring tragedy upon the Jewish people. Uman is not Jerusalem. R. Nachman’s gravesite is not the Beis HaMikdash. The citizens of Uman are their hosts. Breslovers are guests. And the guests have just defaced the image of the god their hosts worship.

The more responsible Breslover leadership has apologized. Sort of. From JTA:

“We respect other religions, and don’t wish to damage symbols of other religions. But, unfortunately, not all of our coreligionists understand this. They could break or destroy the cross. That would lead to a genuine war between hasidim and Christians. We cannot allow that, so we request that the cross be moved to a different location,” said Shimon Busquila, a representative of the Rabbi Nachman International Fund…

It may have been a legitimate request. But it was made too late. If made at all it should have been made politely before the statue was vandalized. Nonetheless the deputy mayor of Uman agreed with it.

On the other hand the citizens of Uman were so outraged by the vandalism – that they will have no part of moving the statue. They promised retaliation against Rav Nachman’s grave if it is moved. I can’t say that I blame them.

I think the point to be made here is contained in the response made by Shimon Busquila: ‘…not all of our coreligionists understand this’.

That is exactly the problem. Why don’t they understand this? It is not enough for a leader to simply say that some of their co-religionists do not understand the consequences of being uncivilized – thereby damaging the property of their hosts.  Especially their religious symbols. No matter how upsetting it is to them.

The Chasidim who did this are taught to hate non Jewish religious symbols much more than they are taught to behave in civilized ways when encountering them. So when they get upset at the sight of one of those hated symbols, they react in ways that bring ill repute upon – and ill will against – our people. They do so without thinking or perhaps even caring about the consequences.

Maryland Jews Battle $1 Million ‘Jewish Christian’ Crusade

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

The war to assimilate has gone for the “soft sell,” with a Christian missionary blitz trying to convince Jews in Maryland and other states that it is okay to have a double identity as a Jew and a Christian.

Ten young women from a Baptist college in California have fanned out in Greater Baltimore’s highly concentrated Jewish community to try to convince them to accept Jesus while remaining Jews.

Unlike the Jews for Jesus movement, the new missionary program carries an even more dangerously tempting message for wavering Jews.

Arthur C. Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, told the Baltimore Sun that even the most liberal rabbi would reject the notion of a “Jewish Christian.”

The proselytizing program is particularly offensive to the area’s Jewish community because it replaces the clearer and less acceptable notion of outright conversion to Christianity.

The missionary effort is being financed by Tom Cantor, who was born into a Jewish family and who is the president of a medical products company in southern California. He said he spends more than $4 million a year to push his concept in the United States and elsewhere. The $1 million summer blitz focuses on Jewish areas in Baltimore as well as in other major East Coast cities.

The Jewish community in Baltimore is highly cohesive and includes one of the highest percentages of orthodox Jews in the country. It also suffers from the same crisis of assimilation that threatens every other Jewish community in the Diaspora.

The Baptist girls approach them in modest clothing, giving the impression that they may be Orthodox Jews, although Lou Rossi, a pastor of  church helping the campaign  told the Sun he does not think the women are trying to deceive anyone.

Abramson last week decided to meet with Rossi, pastor of the Granite Baptist Church, which furnishes a van for the missionaries.

“Our goal has never been to disrupt or violate the Jewish community, or any community,” said Rossi, but he admitted that touring Jewish neighborhoods with a van marked “Granite Baptist Church”  is a cause of complaints from Jewish residents.

“This is not talking to Jews,” Ruth Guggenheim, executive director of Jews for Judaism in Baltimore, told the Baltimore newspaper. “This is no different than the Jehovah’s Witnesses coming to your door.”

The women often try to open a conversation by telling people in their homes that they want to talk about Israel, and they go into their sales talk on Jewish Christianity.

Cantor insists he is a Jew. “I love my people. … I don’t want any of them going to hell” for not having accepted Jesus.

Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg of the Beth Tfiloh  Congregation, the largest modern Orthodox synagogue in Greater Baltimore, told the Sun that if Cantor really cares about Jews, he can contribute his money to Jewish causes.

Here is one suggestion:  Organizations that fight missionaries.

PA Resurrects ‘Palestinian Authority Descending from Jesus’ Gospel

Monday, May 20th, 2013

The official Palestinian Authority daily has figuratively crucified the New Testament to show that Jesus not only was “the virtuous patriotic Palestinian forefather” but also that “the Zionist movement… wanted to falsify historical facts, to exile and crucify the Palestinian Arab nation and then murder it.”

It has to be true because ‘The Bible tells me so,” if the over-60 crowd remembers what Pat Boone used to croon, except that Boone and the Palestinian Authority have different versions.

In the past, Muslim clerics in the PA have rewritten the Torah to explain that the forefather Abraham actually led Ishmael and not Isaac (Yitzchak) to be sacrificed. For the uninformed, Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, as related in the Torah, actually is a Muslim holy place, although Islam was founded more than 2,000 years after she died.

And, of course, the Biblical accounts of the First and Second Temples never existed.

Now, thanks to a translation by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) of an article in the official Palestinian Authority Al-Hayat Al-Jadida two weeks ago, the world knows that the entire story of Jesus “reflects the Palestinian narrative.”

The headline “The resurrection of Jesus, the resurrection of the state” makes it clear that Jesus and the Palestinian Authority are one, forever united – a wonderful way to convince Christians that they actually are Muslims whose heritage dates way back to Ishmael and that the modern  Zionist movement has robbed the “Palestinians” of their ancient history. That might be true if  Yasser Arafat were the 3,000-year-old man, but on second thought, he was born in Egypt, so that won’t work.

Remember the Christian holiday Easter? It is not about colored eggs at all. It also not just for “Christian Palestinians.”

Easter is a holiday for Palestinian nationalism, because Jesus, may he rest in peace, is a Canaanite Palestinian,” according to op-ed that was translated and reported by PMW.

“His resurrection, three days after being crucified and killed by the Jews – as reported in the New Testament – reflects the Palestinian narrative, which struggles against the descendants of modern Zionist Judaism, in its new colonialist form, that conspires with the Western capitalists who claim to belong to Christianity,” the official PA daily’s op-ed stated.

Jesus “rose from the dead…to spread his teachings that still exist and will exist as long as mankind exists.”

And what is his gospel?

His story is the “Palestinian people’s story,” the article continues.

Is the Palestinian Authority twisting history?

No, God forbid. The guilty party is “the Zionist movement – tool of the capitalist West – [that] wanted to falsify historical facts, to exile and crucify the Palestinian Arab nation and then murder it by means of ethnic cleansing… “

And now the pièce de résistance.

“The Palestinians, Jesus’ descendants, rose from the ashes, like the phoenix, from the ruins of the Nakba.” the Arab term for the re-establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.”

Pat Boone must be crying in his grave.

One Strike and You’re Out?

Monday, April 29th, 2013

The news over the last few weeks of the sockpuppet scandal of Rabbi Michael Broyde is disturbing, but not for the reasons you might imagine. On the face of it, this is the story of a Rabbi regarded as brilliant and erudite, both in Jewish and secular law, who destroyed his career by using an alias to engage in online Rabbinical conferences and discussions. Furthermore, his denial of the alias sealed his fate. He was forced to resign from the Beth Din of America, where he was one of its most prominent judges, and his name has become sullied.

I do not know Rabbi Broyde and cannot recall if we ever formally met. But I do know this. The growing American and Jewish culture of “one-strike-and-your-out” is tragic and disturbing.

Say a Rabbi like Broyde makes a terrible mistake. He assumes an invented identity on the internet and even uses it – so it is alleged – to promote his candidacy as potential Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom. Does that mean he has nothing left to contribute? That because we discover he can be deceitful that it negates any good thing he may have done? Does he really now have nothing more to teach us? And should this be the end of an otherwise distinguished career?

Whatever happened to the idea of repentance, predicated as it is on the larger idea that a man is not merely the sum total of his most recent actions. That there is something that lies beneath his mistakes, a plane of innocence, into which he can tap in and resume his course on the path of righteousness.

By all accounts Broyde was a pathfinder in areas of Jewish law. By all means, let him be censured and punished for his error. Rabbis must act with ethical excellence. Let us also encourage him to go for counseling so that he can heal from his mistakes. But then let us allow him, should his repentance be complete, to resume his communal offerings and be restored to a position of significance.

New York is right now speculating whether Anthony Weiner will run for Mayor. His poll numbers are growing stronger. That gives me hope. He had a sex scandal where he tweeted pictures of his crotch to women who were strangers. He then denied it and was caught. He paid a huge price, losing his congressional seat and faced public disgrace. I personally have never cared much for Weiner or his politics. I am a Republican and he is a partisan Democrat. But enough is enough. Stop punishing the man. He has suffered enough. Allow him to contribute, now, to the public good and stop reminding him always of his failures. I do not wish to live in a world where a man is only remembered only for his mistakes and never for his virtue.

I am a Jew and as such I am part of a religion that has no perfect Jesus figures. In Judaism no woman is divine and no man is the son of God. In the Hebrew Bible everyone is flawed and everyone makes mistakes. Moses, the greatest prophet that ever lived, was so imperfect that God denied him entry into the Holy Land, the only personal wish the lawgiver ever had. Yet we Jews do not remember him for his errors, but for the glorious deliverance he gave our people from Egypt and for the even more glorious Ten Commandments.

Three years ago I traveled with a Christian evangelical organization to Zimbabwe to distribute food and medicine. In Harare I met three young doctors who were volunteering. They spoke of the difficulties of treating AIDs patients in one of the poorest, most oppressive societies on earth. “But what about medicines?,” I asked them. “Do you have any antiretrovirals?” “Oh,” they said, “those we have in abundance, teeming from the shelves, thanks to the Clinton Global Initiative.” And yet some want to remember the former President just for Monica Lewinsky.

I for one never focused my ire on President Clinton for his sex scandal and saw it more as a sad and private matter. I was much more interested in his failure to stop the Rwandan Genocide and I am pleased to see that he is attempting to repent of that monumental failure with his focus on saving as many African lives as possible.

The Palestinian Holy Trinity: Jesus, Arafat and Abbas

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reports that The Palestinian leadership’s falsification of history by presenting Jesus as an ancient Palestinian has increased in regularity as Christmas was approaching this year. In the last month alone, the PA media has transmitted six additional PA misrepresentations of Jesus as a Palestinian, including a statement by the Governor of the Ramallah district Leila Ghannam: “The Palestinian pain is one and the joy is one. We all have the right to be proud that Jesus is a Palestinian and that Palestine is the birthplace of the religions…”

A Palestinian historian, Khalil Shoka, further added on Dec. 16: “The Christian religion started here [Bethlehem]… The entire world is focused on this city because of its important historical and traditional role… because, in the final analysis, Jesus is a Palestinian.” Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, Mufti of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territories, said on PA TV on Nov. 30: “The Palestinian nation is rooted in this land since the Canaanites and the Jebusites. The Arab presence – Christian and Islamic – on this land is uninterrupted. Jesus is a Palestinian par excellence.”

In addition, there is an attempt to connect Jesus to the Palestinian leaders themselves. Senior PA leader Jibril Rajoub, a Fatah Central Committee member, said on PA TV on Nov. 29: “The greatest Palestinian in history since Jesus is Yasser Arafat,” and an editorial in the PA official daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida referred to Arafat, Jesus and Abbas as the Palestinian “holy Trinity”: “Jesus is a Palestinian; the self-sacrificing Yasser Arafat is a Palestinian; Mahmoud Abbas, the messenger of peace on earth, is a Palestinian. How great is this nation of the holy Trinity!”

PMW has documented the ongoing PA historical revision, which falsely connects the current Palestinian-Arab population to a fabricated ancient Palestinian-Arab nation. Although there is no record of any Palestinian-Arab history and no people ever identified as being part of a Palestinian-Arab nation until very recently, the PA claims they are an ancient Palestinian people in an attempt to compete with Israel’s well-documented Jewish history in the land.

While Christian tradition and the historical writings of the period portray Jesus as a Jew living in the land of Judea in Israel, the PA consistently tells its people that they are the ones connected to Jesus. This is not only a distortion of Jesus’ personal history as reported in Christian writings, it is also an anachronism. The Romans changed the name of Judea to “Palestine” in order to punish the Jewish nation after its unsuccessful rebellion, a 136 years after the alleged birth of Jesus.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/the-palestinian-holy-trinity-jesus-arafat-and-abbas/2012/12/27/

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