Das Biblikon-Projekt – Die Entschlüsselung des Bibel-Codes

December 3, 2013

Gut ein halbes Jahrzehnt hat sich der Politikwissenschaftler und Historiker Tomas Michael Spahn neben seinen beruflichen Aufgaben als Berater für politische Kommunikation und Analytik dem Alten Testament der christlichen Bibel – dem Tanach der Juden – gewidmet.

Was als der Versuch eines kurzen Essays über die Lebenswirklichkeit des biblischen Königs Josia begann, wurde zu einer Analyse dieses Werks, die mittlerweile ziemlich genau 1.350 gedruckte Seiten umfasst und die Spahn jetzt unter dem Titel „Das Biblikon-Projekt – Die Entschlüsselung des Bibel-Codes“ veröffentlicht hat.

Die Ergebnisse dieser Analyse sind – zurückhaltend formuliert – sensationell. Denn im Grunde stellt Spahn 2.500 Jahre gelebte Menschheitsgeschichte auf den Kopf und entlarvt die Wirklichkeit der Religion als etwas, das er als “sacred fiction” – heilige Fiktion – bezeichnet.

„Schon Gandhi erkannte: Das Grundproblem bei jeglicher Betrachtung menschlicher Interaktionen und historischer Vorgänge ist die Unterscheidung zwischen Wahrheit und Wirklichkeit“, sagt der frühere Leiter der Öffentlichkeitsarbeit einer Berliner Landesbehörde und Ressortleiter einer deutschen Tageszeitung.

“Wahrheit ist das, was war oder ist – was tatsächlich war oder ist. Nicht das, was gewesen sein soll oder sein könnte oder von dem wir glauben, dass es war oder ist. Sobald wir letzteres jedoch zu unserer persönlichen Scheinwahrheit machen, wird es zur Wirklichkeit. Wirklichkeit kann also sein, ohne auf Wahrheit zu beruhen – und gleichwohl unterstellen wir, dass es so sei.“

Wer in dreißig Berufsjahren als politischer Redakteur und als Kommunikationsverantwortlicher in Unternehmen und Verwaltung tätig war, lerne den Unterschied zwischen Wahrheit und Wirklichkeit zu erkennen, meint Spahn. Als Redakteur sei es seine Aufgabe gewesen, die ihm präsentierte Wirklichkeit auf ihren Wahrheitskern zurück zu führen. Als Öffentlichkeitsarbeiter hingegen habe er das genaue Gegenteil gemacht: Aus der Sache wurde eine Wirklichkeit für die Öffentlichkeit, die mit der Wahrheit nicht immer etwas zu tun haben musste.

Damit schließt sich für den Analytiker der Kreis zur Bibel. Eines der faszinierendsten Phänomene der gelebten Wirklichkeit sei es, dass selbst in den renommiertesten, historischen Fachbüchern die im Tanach geschilderte Geschichte als historischer Tatsachenbericht eingeflossen ist.

Spahn: “Sachlich betrachtet hat die Bibel erst einmal nicht mehr historischen Wahrheitsgehalt als beispielsweise die Ilias oder das Siegfried-Lied. Kein Historiker würde auf die Idee kommen, diese literarischen Werke ungeprüft als geschichtliche Wahrheit in seine Werke zu schreiben.“

Ganz anders bei den Erzählungen zum Ursprung des Monotheismus: Jenseits jeglicher Fremdquelle, die die Geschichten belegen könnte, seien die biblischen Darstellungen als vorgebliche Wahrheit in die Geschichtsschreibung eingeflossen und fänden sich dort bis heute. Für Spahn ist dieses der trotz abendländischer Aufklärung nachwirkende Wahrheitsanspruch der Kirche, der “als Wirklichkeit derart tief in unserem kollektiven Bewusstsein verankert ist, dass sich kaum einer traut, ihn als das zu bezeichnen, was er ist: Eine Fabel, deren Wahrheitsnachweis bislang ausgeblieben ist.”

Als der Publizist und Nahostkenner begann, sich intensiv mit den Geschichten des Alten Testaments zu beschäftigen, stieß er schnell auf Ungereimtheiten, die seit geraumer Zeit die historische Wissenschaft zu Korrekturen hätten bewegen müssen. “Eine der grundsätzlichen Fragen ist es, in welcher Schrift der eine Gott seine zehn Gebote in den Fels des Berges Sinai geschrieben hat”, befindet Spahn. Laut biblischer Darstellung habe sich dieser Vorgang auf der Flucht der Hebräer, die korrekt als „Seitenwechsler“ zu übersetzen seien, aus Ägypten ereignet – und damit viele Jahrhunderte, bevor die legendären Könige David und Salomo das Großreich Israel gegründet hätten.

“Wenn es so ist, wie der Tanach es darstellt, stehen wir vor einem Problem. Die Wissenschaft weiß heute, dass die hebräischen Schriftzeichen sich keinesfalls vor der letzten vorchristlichen Jahrtausendwende entwickeln haben. In welcher Schrift also schrieb der Gott Jahuah Jahrhunderte vor dieser Zeit seine Gebote in den Sinai?” Hinzu käme, dass auch die Geschichte von der gewaltsamen Übernahme des “Landes Kanaan” – und damit der gesamte Komplex der fünf Bücher Mose sowie die Josua-Geschichte -zumindest dann nicht in Ivrit geschrieben worden sein können, wenn sie als Tatsachenberichte zum Zeitpunkt des geschilderten Geschehens verfasst wurden. Diesen Eindruck jedoch vermittelten diese Geschichten – und da nicht sein kann, was nachweislich nicht möglich ist, müsse es sich bei diesen sechs Büchern um deutlich später schriftlich verfasste Erzählungen handeln.

Damit jedoch müssten ihre Inhalte nicht zwingend unrichtig sein. Sie könnten immer noch auf tatsächlichem Geschehen beruhen. Wenn sie allerdings, wie der israelische Archäologe Israel Finkelstein nachgewiesen hat, eine Welt des achten oder siebten vorchristlichen Jahrhunderts beschreiben, dann haben sie in etwa den gleichen historischen Wert wie jene mittelalterlichen Kunstwerke, die die Juden zur Zeit Christi in der Garderobe der mittelalterlichen Ghettos zeigen. Von einem wäre in diesem Falle jedoch zwingend auszugehen: Eine möglicherweise wahre Geschichte hätte über die Jahrhunderte zahllose Veränderungen erfahren können, wäre erweitert und glorifiziert worden. Insofern bliebe vielleicht ein Kern an Wahrheit.

Die Frage sei dann jedoch: Welches ist dieser Kern. Denn es gibt auch andere Ungereimtheiten, die nicht passen wollen. So kauft der aus Mesopotamien zugewanderte Urvater Abraham einem Hethiter ein Grundstück ab. Das Problem: Die Hethiter waren erst deutlich später in der Region anzutreffen, als zu jenem Zeitraum, in dem die Abraham-Geschichte historisch zu verorten ist. Andererseits waren “chét”, wie die Hethiter im Original heißen, eine gängige Bezeichnung der assyrischen Herrscher in Ninive für die Bewohner der Region zwischen Jerusalem und Anatolien. Die assyrischen Konflikte mit diesen Chét wiederum fallen in die Zeit des achten und siebten vorchristlichen Jahrhunderts und stützen so die Erkenntnis Finkelsteins, dass wesentliche Teile des Tanach nicht vor dieser Zeit verfasst wurden.

Der Kommunikationsexperte Spahn wandte sich in einem weiteren Schritt konkreten Fragen der Sprache und des erzählerischen Aufbaus des Alten Testaments zu. Dabei kommt er neben zahlreichen anderen neuen Erkenntnissen zu der Feststellung, dass die Autoren der Bibel, vergleichbar den Kolportage-Autoren des 19. Jahrhunderts, über Master-Stories verfügten, die mit unterschiedlicher Besetzung zu unterschiedlichen Zeiten in das Gesamtwerk einfließen. Beispielhaft wird dieses aufgezeigt an der Erzählung von der verschacherten Ehefrau, deren Muster sich dreimal findet und die sich am Ende als Lagerfeuer-Erzählung der Nomaden erklärt, in der diese den Reiz ihrer Frauen und die Dummheit der von ihnen verachteten Städter feiern.

Werkzeuge der Statistik halfen, einzelne Erzählkomplexe bestimmten – bis heute weitgehend unbekannten – Autoren zuzuweisen.

Spahn: “Autoren sind oftmals daran zu erkennen, dass in ihren Texten spezifische Begriffe und Floskeln Verwendung finden, die bei anderen Autoren und zu anderen Zeiten nicht zum Einsatz kommen. So können wir beispielsweise davon ausgehen, dass ein deutschsprachiger Text, in dem eine Häufung des Begriffes ‘Nachhaltigkeit’ auffällt, keinesfalls vor den achtziger Jahren des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts verfasst worden sein kann. Umgekehrt finden wir beispielsweise in den Originalen der Romane der Volkschriftsteller May und Gerstäcker Begriffe, die schon einhundert Jahre später kein normal gebildeter Leser mehr kennt. Eine lebendige Sprache unterliegt einem permanenten Wandel. Begriffe, die keinen Nutzwert mehr haben, verschwinden, werden durch neue abgelöst. Andere Begriffe wandeln die mit ihnen verbundene Assoziation und können so – durch spätere Generationen gelesen – zu gänzlich falschen Interpretationen des geschriebenen Wortes führen.”

Wenn dieses heute so sei, fügt der Autor hinzu, dann sei dieses auch in der Antike nicht anders gewesen. Und so stelle sich die Frage, ob das, was wir heute in der Bibel selbst dann lesen, wenn wir auf den Aleppo-Codex des Tanach als älteste verfügbare Quelle in Ivrit zurückgreifen, tatsächlich so darin gestanden habe, wie wir es heute verstehen wollen oder sollen.

Nach diesen grundsätzlichen Fragestellungen richtete Spahn sein Augenmerk erneut auf den ursprünglichen Untersuchungsgegenstand: Dem König oder Mélék Josia, der in der hebräischen Originalschrift Jéáshéjah, der das Feuer des/von Jah ist, heißt. Die Bibel schreibt diesem einzigen Herrscher von Jahudah, dessen Erscheinen im Tanach prophezeit wird, zahlreiche Leistungen zu. Obgleich als Heidenkind – also Anhänger der assyrischen Götterwelt – aufgewachsen, bekehrt er sich zu dem einen Gott Jahuah, lässt dessen Tempel in Jerusalem renovieren und anschließend in einer großangelegten Aktion das Land von allen Stätten der Nicht-Jahuahisten “reinigen”. Bei der Renovierung des Tempels wird zufällig ein antikes Textwerk gefunden: Das Gesetzbuch des Mose. Und hier beginnen für Spahn die ebenso offensichtlichen wie bis heute verdrängten Ungereimtheiten. Denn das Buch Mose ist weder dem Herrscher noch seinen Getreuen als mosaisches Basiswerk bekannt. Theatralisch zerreißt Josia seine Kleider, klagt: „Wenn wir das gewusst hätten …!“

Wenn nun aber dem vorgeblich mosaischen Josia das Buch Mose nicht bekannt war – wäre das nicht ungefähr so, als wenn der katholische Papst ohne Evangelium oder der Ayatollah Chamenei seine klerikale Funktion ohne den Quran leben würde? Was also kann das für ein jüdischer Glaube gewesen sein, dem dieser Mélék vor dem Fund des mosaischen Gesetzes anhing?

Es ist nicht die einzige Ungereimtheit in diesem Text, die Spahn aufzeigt. Am Ende seiner Auseinandersetzung mit dieser Person und ihrem Umfeld steht für ihn fest, dass es “einen jüdischen Glauben in der Form, wie wir ihn heute kennen, vor 622 vor Christus nicht gegeben haben kann”. Seine in umfassender Analyse erarbeitete Darstellung der nahöstlichen Geschichte zwischen 630 und 580 liest sich dann auch gänzlich anders, als in allen Geschichtsbüchern und theologischen Werken beschrieben.

Spahn geht davon aus, dass es ein wirklich unabhängiges Königreich in Jahudah vor und nach Josia nicht gegeben hat. Die im Tanach beschriebenen “Könige” waren in aller Regel nichts anderes als Statthalter der jeweiligen Hegemonialmächte Ägypten, Assyrien und Babylon. Vor allem waren sie eines nicht: Genetische Nachfahren eines legendären David. Sie entstammten aus den führenden Familien Jerusalems – und “Söhne Davids” wurden sie nur deshalb, weil die Königschroniken zu jener Zeit von Indus bis Nil den jeweiligen Nachfolger im Amt als “Sohn” bezeichneten. Leibliche Söhne – so wird unter anderem anhand der Königschronik des assyrischen Herrschers Sanherib nachgewiesen – erhielten den Hinweis auf die Zeugung “aus meinen Lenden”, der sich in ähnlicher Form gelegentlich auch im Tanach findet.

Als Josia – vermutlich in Folge einer priesterlichen Intrige – an die Macht kommt, hat die vom Nil bis zum Tigris ausgedehnte Macht der Assyrer ihren Zenit bereits überschritten. Im fernen Babylon erhebt sich ein ehemaliger Offizier, dessen leiblicher Sohn Nebukadnezar dereinst zum Herrscher der damals bekannten Welt aufsteigen sollte. Nachweislich ist der Babylonier mit den Medern verbündet. Spahn geht davon aus – und findet dafür eine plausible Beweiskette – dass auch der assyrische Vasallenkönig Josia zu den Verschwörern gehörte. Um 626 vc stieß er zu den Aufrührern, schloss mit ihnen einen Geheimvertrag, den der Tanach als den “Bund des Jah” in zahlreichen Details beschreibt. Dem Jahudahi wurde unter dem Dach des künftigen Herrschers in Babylon absolute Selbstverwaltung garantiert. Das Land solle ihm auf alle Ewigkeit gehören, das Volk von Jahudah – im Gegensatz zu den gewaltsam unterworfenen Stämmen – als “sein Volk” im Reich eine privilegierte Stellung unter dem allmächtigen Herrscher am Euphrat erhalten. Mehr noch: Die damals als Handelszentrum aufblühende Metropole Jerusalem solle künftig der Hauptverwaltungssitz des zu schaffenden Großreichs für den Westen des Reichs werden. Dorthin hätten die Völker zu pilgern, ihre Abgaben zu entrichten und dem fernen Herrscher der Welt zu huldigen. Der Wohlstand der Region wäre damit langfristig gesichert gewesen, die Jahudahim von ewigen Vasallen zu Mitherrschern aufgestiegen.

Da es auf dieser Welt nichts umsonst gibt, erwartete der Rebell im fernen Babylon allerdings auch eine Gegenleistung. Josia sollte die Herrschaft der Assyrer in Jahudah und in den angrenzenden Ländern Israel – das niemals zuvor Teil eines jüdischen Reiches gewesen war und das die Jahudahim als Kénéýn (Kanaan) bezeichneten – und in der Mittelmeerküstenregion – dem assyrischen Land Chét, das für die Semiten auch das Land der Féléshétjm (korrekt übersetzt als “Eindringlinge”) ist – übernehmen.

Die Verbündeten gegen Assyrien verfolgen damit ein doppeltes Ziel: Zum einen sollten die Jahudahim eine zweite Front im Südwesten eröffnen. Die alliierten Babylonier und Meder drangen im Osten gegen die langjährige Hegemonialmacht vor. Josia sollte Kräfte binden, damit die Eroberung des assyrischen Kernlandes erleichtert werden konnte. Wichtiger noch aber war es, die damals ebenfalls zu Assyrien gehörenden Ägypter daran zu hindern, die Zentralmacht mit Nachschub und militärischen Kräften zu unterstützen.

“Jahudahs Hauptgegner in diesem Konflikt sind nicht die Assyrer, denn diese sind durch ihren Abwehrkampf gegen Babylon und Medien gebunden, sondern die Ägypter”, erläutert Spahn. Tatsächlich wird Josia seinen vertraglichen Verpflichtungen gerecht. Er schaltet das ehedem assyrische Jahudah gleich, erobert weite Teile der assyrischen Provinz Samaria (Shémérunah) – dem Israel des Tanach – und stellt sich dem ägyptischen Heer entgegen, als dieses im Jahr 609 vc entlang der Küste nach Norden zieht, um die zwischenzeitlich nach Haran geflohene assyrische Regierung zu entsetzen.

Damit dann allerdings endet der jahudahische Ausflug in die Weltgeschichte keine zwanzig Jahre, nachdem er begonnen hat. Bei seinem Versuch, sich dem Pharao, der zuvor noch in Unkenntnis des Geheimabkommens eine Neutralitätserklärung für das Reich des Josia abgibt, in den Weg zu stellen, wird der Herrscher Jerusalems getötet oder zumindest tödlich verwundet – womit der Tanach Jahuah ungewollt einer Lüge überführt, denn zuvor hatte der eine Gott seinem Anhänger einen friedlichen Tod voraussagen lassen. Das ägyptische Heer zieht weiter nach Norden, unterliegt dort jedoch militärisch den babylonischen Alliierten. Auf seinem Rückzug an den Nil besetzt der Pharao dennoch das geschwächte Jerusalem und setzt dort einen Statthalter ein, den der Tanach in seiner Legendenbildung ebenfalls zu einem davidischen König macht. Im Jahr 605 vc ist Babylon stark genug, nach Süden gegen Ägypten vorzugehen. Nun sind es die Babylonier, die Jerusalem übernehmen und dort Statthalter etablieren.

“Bemerkenswert dabei ist, dass Nebukadnezar sich immer noch der Verdienste der Jahudahim im Befreiungskampf erinnert. Der von Ägypten eingesetzte Statthalter ist der Spross eines der Männer, die maßgeblich am Zustandekommen des Geheimbundes mitgewirkt haben. Als dieser sich nun dem Babylonier unterwirft und Nebukadnezar in Babylon als seinen Allmächtigen anerkennt, darf er sein Amt – nunmehr von Babylons Gnaden – weiter ausüben”, so Spahn.

Doch die Nachfolger des Josia verspielen ihre Chance. Sie konspirieren weiter mit Ägypten und provozieren damit zwei Strafexpeditionen der Babylonier. 598 vc wird das abtrünnige Jerusalem erneut besetzt. Nebukadnezar sieht abermals von einem Strafgericht ab und setzt einen anderen Spross aus der jahudahischen Elite zum Statthalter ein. Auch dieser konspiriert mit Ägypten – 586 vc wird die Metropole erneut erobert und nunmehr zerstört. Nicht allerdings ohne dass die Babylonier zuvor mehrfach den Versuch unternommen hätten, über den im Tanach als “Jahuah Zébaut” bezeichneten, babylonischen Militärbefehlshaber und Gouverneur über die babylonische Provinz Israel die belagerten Jahudahim mit zahlreichen Zusicherungen für Leib und Leben zur freiwilligen Übergabe zu bewegen. Doch der vorgeblich letzte Mélék von Jahudah, der von Nebukadnezar mit der Bezeichnung Zedekia (Zédéqéjah – der Gerechte des/von Jah) eingesetzt worden war, ist längst nicht mehr Herr des Geschehens. Der Kampf wird von einer Militärjunta geführt – Zedekia ist nur noch ein Marionettenkönig.

“Mir ist bewusst, dass diese Version der Geschichte allem widerspricht, was für die Menschheit seit Jahrtausenden als Wirklichkeit gilt”, stellt Spahn fest. “Aber”, so fügt er hinzu, “die Analyse des Quelltextes und der Abgleich mit historischen Quellen lässt nur diese eine einzige Version als plausibel erkennen.”

Wie nun aber sind in diesem Kontext all die biblischen Erzählungen einzuordnen, die von früheren, monotheistischen Herrschern in Jerusalem zu berichten wissen?

Spahn hat auch dafür nachvollziehbare Erklärungen, die er mit Texten des Tanach und Fremdquellen belegen kann: “Die Bücher Mose – vielleicht nicht alle, aber deren Kernelemente – entstanden zwischen 626 und 622 vc als Arbeit einer kleinen, im Geheimen agierenden Schriftstellergruppe unter Leitung des Josia-Getreuen Chéléqéjah, den die Griechen als Hilkia übersetzt haben. Er, der ursprünglich ein Priester der weiblichen Regionalgottheit Ýnét (Anat) war und zum ersten Hohepriester des Jah wird, ist der eigentliche Strippenzieher im Hintergrund. Er macht das Kind Josia zum Mélék, er organisiert den Geheimbund des Jah mit den Babyloniern. Er leitet die aus Spenden der polytheistischen Bevölkerung finanzierte Renovierung des großen Tempels in Jerusalem, der zu diesem Zeitpunkt wie seit eh und je ein Tempel der weiblichen Gottheit Ashera gewesen ist. Er sorgt dafür, dass sich die Assyrien-treue Priesterelite arglos im Baals-Tempels zu Jerusalem trifft, um sich dort auf die Einsegnung des frisch renovierten Tempels der Ashera vorzubereiten. Er hat das Konzept entwickelt, die Elite des assyrischen Glaubens dort durch das königstreue Militär niedermetzeln und anschließend alle Stätten der Polytheisten niederbrennen zu lassen. Die Ausführung überlässt er dem Feuer des Jah – seinem Produkt Josia. Und Hilkia ist es auch, der im Geheimen das Gesetzbuch des Mose formulieren lässt, das der Bevölkerung als Glaubenskonzept des einen Gottes, der ausschließlich für das Volk von Jahudah zuständig ist, präsentiert wird und das die Initialzündung für den Befreiungskampf gegen Assyrien und Ägypten liefert.”

Deshalb, so der Politikwissenschaftler, muss beispielsweise Abraham aus Mesopotamien kommen. Die Babylonier werden so von einem fernen Stamm zu nahen Verwandten. Deshalb führt Abrahams Weg über Haran, das zu diesem Zeitpunkt Regierungssitz der Assyrer ist.

“So schreibt der Tanach den Anspruch fest, auch gegen Haran militärisch vorgehen zu können und die Illegalität der assyrischen Regierung darzulegen”, ist sich Spahn sicher. Deshalb auch werden die Ägypter, die Palästina seit Urzeiten als ihren Vorgarten betrachten, im Tanach zum Hauptfeind erklärt. Das Volk von Jahudah soll darauf vorbereitet werden, sich im äußersten Notfall gegen die Nachbarn vom Nil zu rüsten.

Nach dem dennoch durch falsche Einschätzung der weltpolitischen Lage unvermeidbaren Untergang Jerusalems setzt der entgegen seinem Bild in der Geschichtsschreibung für seine Zeit überaus humane und bedachte Herrscher der Welt, Nebukadnezar, mit Gedelja einen weiteren Spross aus befreundetem, Jerusalemer Hause ein. Der wird von seinem Jugendfreund Ismael als Verräter ermordet – und Judäa wird abschließend zum Teil der babylonischen Provinz Israel. Die überlebende städtische Elite der Jahudahim zieht es nach Babylon, wo die Männer Karriere machen und die kurze Geschichte ihres Staates mit Billigung der babylonischen Staatsmacht in ein religiöses Manifest verwandeln. Die pro-ägyptische Militärelite zieht es – begleitet von einem langjährigen Agenten und Propagandisten Babylons, den die christliche Bibel unter dem Namen Jeremia kennt – nach Ägypten, wo sich ihre Spur verliert. Im Land selbst verbleiben die sogenannten kleinen Leute. Ihre Herkunft ist teilweise semitisch, teilweise anatolisch, teilweise griechisch, teilweise vielleicht sogar kurdisch. Ihnen gemein ist, dass sie nach wie vor an ihre polytheistische Götterwelt glauben und sich in der aramäischen Sprache der Assyrer verständigen.

“All dieses steht – wenn auch verklausuliert – im Tanach. Die Bücher Josua und Könige werden im Wesentlichen in Josias Herrschaftsjahren zwischen 622 und 609 vc verfasst worden sein. Sie schaffen mit einer großartig angelegten Gründungslegende den politischen Anspruch auf die Herrschaft über die Region zwischen Mittelmeer und hinaus über den Jordan, zwischen dem östlichen Mündungsarm des Nils und Haran. Sie greifen wie die späteren Werke des Buches Jesaja, eines Propheten, den es nie gegeben hat und der ein literarisches alter ego des Hilkia ist, und die Chronik auf zeitgenössische Königsannalen anderer Archive zurück, wenn beispielsweise der Mélék Hiskia, der als chéßéqéjah niemand anderes als ein Starker des beziehungsweise von Jah ist und sich mit Sanherib anlegte, zu einem Vorläufer des Josia verklärt wird oder dem ebenfalls dokumentierten assyrischen Vasall Jehu die tatsächliche Vorgehensweise bei der Vernichtung der polytheistischen Elite zugeschrieben wird.

Die Judäababylonier, Männer wie der Schriftgelehrte Esra und die Bruderschaft der Leviten, welche sich unmittelbar aus jener geheimen Kerngruppe um Hilkia entwickelte, sind die eigentlichen Väter der jüdischen Religion. Ohne sie wäre das aus propagandistischen Gründen klerikal verbrämte, machtpolitische Projekt des Josia nach dessen Tode im Sande verlaufen. Eigentlicher Gründervater dessen, aus dem sich das moderne Judentum entwickelte, ist ausgerechnet ein Perser. Es war ein persischer Nachfolger auf dem Thron des Nebukadnezar, der sich von den Judäababyloniern von dem Konzept einer wehrhaften, anti-ägyptischen Kommune im nach wie vor assyrisch geprägten Palästina überzeugen ließ und die Mittel bereit stellte, um seinen Siedlern, die sich zu einem Großteil aus den Nachfahren unter Sanherib verschleppter Israeli rekrutierten, mit einem zentralen Tempel in Jerusalem das Zentrum einer gemeinsamen Identität zu geben, die die jüdische mit der israelischen zusammenführt. Es war dieses der erste Tempel in der Heiligen Stadt, der zu Ehren eines Gottes Jahuah errichtet wurde. Er stand, bis die Römer ihn im Jahr 70 als Reaktion auf einen Aufstand der Juden zerstörten.“

Spahn hat all diese Überlegungen, die für ihn keine Gedankenspiele, sondern die Basis der historischen Wahrheit sind, in vier Bänden veröffentlicht. Und ihm ist bewusst, dass er damit die theologischen Fundamente dreier Weltreligionen berührt.

„Je länger ich mich mit meinen Analysen beschäftigte, desto deutlicher wurde mir, dass die Ergebnisse im Zweifel auch politisch missbraucht werden könnten. Denn sie machen beispielsweise deutlich, dass es einen Glaubensjuden namens David, auf den sich der gegenwärtige Premierminister Israels gern zur Begründung seines Handelns beruft, nie gegeben hat. Sie machen auch deutlich, dass die Urväter Abraham, Ismael und Isaak, auf die sich drei Weltreligionen berufen, nichts anderes als Sagengestalten sind, die aus politischen Gründen Einzug in das religiöse Basiswerk finden mussten. Aber rechtfertigt das, die Ergebnisse der Untersuchung der Menschheit vorzuenthalten? Die Religionen werden nicht daran zu Grunde gehen, wenn sie sich mit einer Geschichte ihres Ursprungs beschäftigen, die anders aussieht, als sie es in ihre Heiligen Bücher hineininterpretiert haben.

Vielleicht aber auch mögen die Ergebnisse meiner Untersuchung ein Anstoß dazu sein, die eigentliche Funktion von Religion in das rechte Licht zu rücken. Den Glaube ist nichts anderes als die Wahrheitsunterstellung einer nicht beweisbaren Annahme. Er bedarf weder der Historizität noch scheinhistorischer Begründungen. Glaube ruht in uns – nicht in der historischen Wahrheit. Das Konzept des Josia war ein politisch motivierter, gemeinsam mit mächtigen Verbündeten perfekt erdachter Masterplan, um sich und das eigene Volk von einer im Bewusstsein der Betroffenen schon ewig währenden Fremdherrschaft zu befreien. Es musste ein religiöses werden, weil es damit für die Zeitgenossen unangreifbar wurde.“

Schon vor dem selbstverschuldeten Untergang Jerusalems sei aus dem Bündnispartner erst eine Figur geworden, die die in der griechischen Übersetzung zu Propheten mutierenden, babylonischen Verbindungsleute wie Jeremia und Hesekiel in ihren Unterlagen mit den hebräischen Buchstaben für J-H-W-H abkürzten. Über den Weg der in babylonischen Archiven wirkenden Schriftgelehrten wurde der allmächtige Herrscher der Welt namens Nebukadnezar zu dem Gott, den Juden, Christen und Muslime bis heute als himmlisches Wesen verehren – und der als historische Person auch gerade deshalb zutiefst diffamiert wurde.

Spahn: „Der Tanach ist ein auch nach heutigen Maßstäben perfekt verfasstes Propagandastück mit dem ausschließlichen Ziel politischer Weltveränderung. Dass es dabei die lebenslustige Vielfalt des sehr menschlichen, polytheistischen Götterhimmels durch einen einzigen autoritären Allmächtigen ersetzte und die bis dahin in der Religion gleichberechtigte Frau in die gesellschaftliche Bedeutungslosigkeit schob, war durchaus gewollt. Die stammesdemokratischen Elemente, über die selbst der Tanach zu berichten weiß, gehörten abgeschafft, um einen aus der Sicht der Mächtigen effektiven Staat zu schaffen. Und die Frau? Sie fand sich bis zum Zeitpunkt des Staatsrevolution des Josia als ‚die Gebährende‘ in der Stellvertretung der Ashera in Jerusalem als höchste klerikale Instanz wieder. Mächtiger noch als der Mélék selbst. Deswegen machten die Autoren des Tanach sie einerseits zur Prophetin, andererseits erniedrigten sie die Dame hintersinnig mit nur einem Federstrich zu einem gebärfreudigen Nager. Aus der h‘lédah, der für Fruchtbarkeit stehenden Leda der Polytheisten, wurde chélédah, das gebärfreudige Nagetier. Kennern der griechischen Bibel ist sie als Hulda bekannt. Pointierter konnten die antiken Autoren vom Männerbund der Leviten ihre Verachtung für die Frau nicht dokumentieren.“

Tomas M. Spahn: Das Biblikon-Projekt – Die Entschlüsselung des Bibel-Codes

Band 1 – Von Adam zu Mose, ISBN 978-3-943726-01-5 (EP 17,80 €)

Band 2 – Das Feuer des Jah, ISBN 978-3-943726-02-2 (EP 17,80 €)

Band 3 – Der Erhabene des Jah, ISBN 978-3-943726-03-9 (EP 19,80 €)

Band 4 – Demokratie oder Gottesstaat, ISBN 978-3-943726-04-6 (EP 22,80 €)


Geschichte der Hamburger Juden: Familie Levi in Altona

September 25, 2011

Betty Levi (née Lindenberger)

von Ulla Hinnenberg (Stadtteilarchiv Ottensen)

Betty Levi, geboren Lindenberger, geb. 10.3.1882, deportiert nach Auschwitz am 11.7.1942, Todesdatum unbekannt.

Betty Levi, Tochter von Isaac und Ernestine (Esther) Lindenberger, stammte aus dem ostpreußischen Labiau, einem Zentrum der Fischindustrie. Sie wurde im Standesamt als Berta registriert, nannte sich jedoch zeitlebens Betty Lindenberger, später Betty Levi.

Berufliche Gründe brachten einen Ortswechsel mit sich; der Vater wurde in Berlin Geschäftsinhaber in der Fischverarbeitungs- und -konservierungsbranche. Betty erhielt eine profunde, vielleicht professionell geplante, Ausbildung als Pianistin, die sie bei ihrer Eheschließung abbrach.

Die 22-jährige Berlinerin heiratete 1905 den neun Jahre älteren Altonaer Rechtsanwalt Dr. Moses Levi; die Brautleute kannten sich seit einem Hochzeitsfest, an dem sie als Gäste teilgenommen hatten. Moses Levi gehörte einer alteingesessenen Altonaer Familie an, deren Stammbaum mütterlicherseits bis in die Anfänge der Altonaer jüdischen Gemeinde zurückreichte und in direkter Linie und verwandtschaftlichen Verzweigungen eine Reihe von Rabbinern hervorgebracht hatte.

Das Ehepaar Levi bekam vier Kinder, geboren zwischen 1908 und 1916, und wohnte zunächst in einer Etage in der Königstraße 76, bis es 1920 das Haus Klopstockstraße 23, in bester Ottenser Elblage, erwarb.

Betty Levi lebte das Leben einer angesehenen bürgerlichen Hausfrau. Sie zog vier Kinder groß, führte den Haushalt, war eine Meisterin im Kochen und im Backen, widmete sich in Mußestunden dem Klavierspiel und ihrer zweiten Begabung, der Anfertigung kunstvoller Handarbeiten. Sie war eine Perfektionistin und legte in allen Dingen größtes Gewicht auf Sorgfalt in der Ausführung. Sie war auch eine Frau, die sich nicht duckte, als die Jahre der nationalsozialistischen Herrschaft anbrachen. So weigerte sie sich etwa beharrlich, den Namen des neuernannten “Adolf-Hitler-Platzes” zu verwenden oder auf ihn zu reagieren.

Im Mai 1932 verheiratete sich die älteste Tochter Elisabeth mit einem Studienfreund und zog mit ihm nach Kopenhagen. Die jüngste Tochter Herta musste im Herbst 1933 das Gymnasium verlassen; sie ging nach Berlin, wo sich ein Ausbildungsweg in der angestrebten musikpädagogischen Richtung auch ohne Abitur gefunden hatte. Der Sohn Walter wanderte 1936 nach England aus, um dort sein technisches Studium abzuschließen, was ihm in Hamburg nicht mehr möglich war.

Am 4. März 1938 wurde Betty Levi Witwe. Ihr Mann, der renommierte Strafverteidiger und ehemalige Notar Dr. Moses Levi, der 1933 Berufsverbot erhalten hatte, erlag einem Krebsleiden. 1939 konnten die Töchter Käthe und Herta mit einem Haushaltsvisum nach England emigrieren. Versuche, auch für die Mutter, die qualifizierte Hausfrau, eine Einreisegenehmigung zu erlangen, scheiterten an deren Alter.

So blieb Betty Levi allein zurück; ihre Lebensumstände wurden hoffnungslos, sie litt Hunger. Eigentümerin ihres Wohnhauses war seit 1938 die Hansestadt Hamburg, die es per Zwangsverkauf für einen geringfügigen Betrag an sich gebracht hatte; das enteignete Haus stand den geplanten Monumentalbauten der “Gau-Hauptstadt” im Wege.

Was von Geld und Vermögen in Sachwerten noch vorhanden war, hatte sie ebenfalls abliefern müssen.

Die einzige, die ihr vor und nach der “Übersiedlung” ins Hamburger jüdische Altersheim Sedanstraße 23 beistand, war eine couragierte ehemalige Hausangestellte, die ihr die Treue hielt und sie ein wenig unterstützen konnte.

Am 11. Juli 1942 wurde Betty Levi, sechzigjährig, von Hamburg aus ins Vernichtungslager Auschwitz deportiert.

Seit dem 27. Januar 1997, dem Gedenktag zur Befreiung des Lagers Auschwitz, gibt es in Sichtweite der Klopstockstraße ein Straßenschild “Betty-Levi-Passage”, das nach einer Feierstunde im Altonaer Rathaus von der Tochter Herta Grove aus Philadelphia enthüllt wurde.

Diese Ehrung Betty Levis geschah zugleich stellvertretend für die große Gruppe der Hamburger und Altonaer Opfer, die als Hausfrauen und Mütter ein alltägliches Leben als Gleiche unter Gleichen führten, bis ihnen durch Staatsverordnung Menschenwürde und Lebensrecht genommen wurden.


Earl Shugerman’s Corner: Passover and Freedom in the Middle East

April 1, 2011

Earl Shugerman brings every week a serie of stories about Anglo-Saxon immigrants to Israel. This project is aimed to promote a more realistic view of life in Israel.

Passover is a predominantly Jewish holiday and festival. It commemorates the story of the flight for freedom of the Jewish people from the days of Moses. I feel that Passover of 2011 is especially significant due to the struggle for freedom of both Israel and many of Israel’s neighbours.

Festive Seder table with wine, matza and Seder plate.

Festive Seder table with wine, matza and Seder plate.

Many of our neighbours are struggling to replace monarchies and dictatorships with democracy. It commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt. Passover begins on the 15th day of the month of Nisan, which is spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and is celebrated for seven or eight days. It is one of the most widely observed Jewish holidays.

In the narrative of the Exodus, the Bible tells that God helped the Children of Israel escape slavery in Egypt by inflicting ten plagues upon the Egyptians before Pharaoh would release his Israelite slaves; the tenth and worst of the plagues was the slaughter of the first-born. The Israelites were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a spring lamb and, upon seeing this, the spirit of the Lord passed over these homes, hence the term “Passover”. When Pharaoh freed the Israelites, it is said that they left in such a hurry that they could not wait for bread to rise. In commemoration, for the duration of Passover no leavened bread is eaten, for which reason it is called “The Festival of the Unleavened Bread”(flat unleavened bread) is the primary symbol of the holiday.

The Jewish people experienced a second historical Exodus following the horrors of the Holocaust.  The survivors of history’s greatest injustice and Jews throughout the world claimed the right to return to “Eretz Israel”. History has taught the people of the book that a national homeland is a necessity for survival.

Palestine was a British colony. The Jews, Christians, and Muslims were refused freedom and justice by the leaders of Great Britain. The United Nations Partition for Palestine in 1947 established both a Jewish and a Palestinian homeland. The members of the Arab League refused to accept the plan and invaded both Israel and Palestine in 1948. Many of those nations- which included: Syria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia- led the Arab invasion.  These were nations whose citizens never enjoyed democracy and true freedom and refused to give that right to their neighbours.

Sixty two years later these same nations refuse to grant their citizens with freedom and equality. Today, the citizens of these countries are fighting to obtain a democratic lifestyle that they have only learned about from observing Western Nations. They have chosen to fight for the unknown- a life of democracy- even though they know that their life could be lost in the battle.

Most of us cannot imagine what it is like to be a citizen in many of these countries. Marshal Law has ruled the regime in Syria for thirty years? Saudi Arabia is feudal monarchy where people lose their limbs for stealing a loaf of bread. Egypt was ruled by a dictatorship for the past forty years. Egypt’s citizens were not granted civil rights and most in live extreme poverty.

This year in Israel we are celebrating the sixty second Passover in the modern Jewish state. Many of us celebrating here place emphasis on the fact that Moses and the ancient Israelites wondered the dessert for forty years before they entered the land of Canaan. Yahu wanted our people to think as free people- not as slaves- before they were given their own nation.

Seeing as we are a considerably new country, we do our best to maintain that state of mind. Let us hope that the people in Syria, Libya, Egypt and Yemen obtain and enjoy freedom now.

About the author: Earl Shugerman is a retired American Government public relations specialist,  currently spokesman in Haifa for The Jewish Agency and a writer specializing in interfaith relations. He has worked together with the Catholic and Southern Baptist Movements, the Reformed Jewish Movement and Muslim groups in interfaith activities.


Earl Shugerman’s Corner: Tu B’Shvat or The New Year of the Trees

January 19, 2011

Earl Shugerman brings every week a serie of stories about Anglo-Saxon immigrants to Israel. This project is aimed to promote a more realistic view of life in Israel.

The most famous tree in history is the Tree of Life (Etz Ha Haim). I am writing this story from Israel during the Jewish holiday that celebrates trees and nature- Tu B’Shvat. Trees hold a special significance to the people of Israel and to the Jewish people. Trees represent the beauty of nature, the tenacity of growth, and the yearning for roots by the Jewish people.

One of the most beautiful things about life in Israel is that ancient history and modern life are so intricately entwined. This holiday is on the fifth month of the Jewish calendar- Shvat. Modern Israel uses both the ancient Jewish calendar and the Latin one- which of course is universal. Tu B’Shvat is celebrated as a national holiday even though its’ roots date back to the ancient Mishna– a collection of ancient interpretations of the Old Testament. These interpretations have guided the daily lives of Jewish people all over the world for centuries. The Mishna states that Tu B’Shvat is the time of year when the trees begin their new cycle and soon blossom.
 
Tu B’Shvat has become a very significant holiday in modern Israeli reality, since it connects the Jewish people with Eretz Israel (the land of Israel). There is a good reason Tu B’Shvat was declared as Israel Knesset’s birthday.

In the Talmud times Tu B’Shvat represented an argument between Bait Hillel and Bait Shamai as to when should taxes on fruit be paid. Bait Shamai said it should be paid on the first of the month of Shavat, Bait Hillel said it should be paid on the 15th (T”u) of the month of Shvat.

Almond tree in blossom on Tu B’Shvat (Photo: Lourdes Cardenal)

Almond tree in blossom on Tu B’Shvat (Photo: Lourdes Cardenal)

In Middle Ages Tu B’Shvat was a day Jews remembered with yearning and longing for the fruits of Israel. During the 15th century, the Cabalistic Jews in the city of Tzafad created a Tu B’Shvat Seder, in a similar manner to the Pesach Seder. Slowly and over time, this Seder took a firm hold and in modern days have become one the main leading aspects of the holiday.

In early 20th century, at the beginning of Zionism, parents used to take their children to plant trees all over Israel and this is how Tu B’Shvat became the holiday of planting.
 
In religious practice, this a time that emphasizes Mitzvah connected to nature. In Israel, during this holiday, there is not a piece of land unworthy of the planting of a tree. From the forests in the North, to the dessert in the South- you will see students, soldiers, seniors and even tourists tilling the soil, planting trees, and irrigating the land.
 
This holiday includes a gathering of neighbours and family to celebrate the gifts of nature and the rewards that come from the earth. The Tu B’Shvat Seder, much like the Passover Seder, has an organized program. The program includes the eating of thirty different kinds of fruit, and drinking four glasses of red and white wine. The eating of the fruit has a symbolic value to it. Tradition has it, that eating fruit from the tree, and therefore taking part in the abundance of nature has a strong element of spiritual growth. The union of mankind and the rewards from the earth is the essence of spiritual fulfilment in this holiday. People drink wine at the Seder to symbolize joy and happiness. Wine is a symbol of happiness and that is why it is blessed at parties and important Jewish ceremonies such as holidays, Shabbat, weddings or circumcisions.
 
The greatest joy to the people of Israel is to celebrate the rebirth of an ancient nation blessed with prosperity and hopefully peace.

Thank you for allowing me to share some of this joy with the readers!

About the author: Earl Shugerman is a retired American Government public relations specialist,  currently spokesman in Haifa for The Jewish Agency and a writer specializing in interfaith relations. He has worked together with the Catholic and Southern Baptist Movements, the Reformed Jewish Movement and Muslim groups in interfaith activities.


Happy HANUKKAH! – The Jewish Festival of Lights

November 30, 2010

A message from Norbert Wied
CEO Carl Schurz Foundation

Frankfurt am Main, Germany, November 30, 2010

From December 1-9, 2010, Hanukkah (Chanukah), also known as the Festival of Lights, will be celebrated by Jews around the world. It is an eight-day holiday that starts on the 25th of the month of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar, and continues till the 2nd of the month of Tevet.

Hanukkah commemorates the miracle that happened after the Jew’s 164 B.C.E. victory over the Hellenist Syrians. Antiochus IV, the Greek King of Syria, had forbidden the observance of Judaism under penalty of death and had forced Jews to worship Greek gods.

After the victory, a Temple lamp has been lighted and although the lamp had oil for only one day, it stayed miraculously lit for eight days until a new supply of oil could be prepared. Hanukkah is observed by lighting one Hanukkah light of the Menorah (candelabrum) on each of the eight holiday nights, progressing to eight lights on the final night of Hanukkah.

Hanukkah festivities include games (especially Dreidel), gift-giving to children and gathering for enjoying traditional foods. Hanukkah is a minor Jewish holiday and its religious significance is far less than that of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Passover, and Shavu’ot. It is roughly equivalent to Purim in significance. On the other hand, Hanukkah is probably one of the best known Jewish holidays because of its proximity to Christmas. Some orthodox groups criticize the adoption of many Christmas customs, such as gift-giving and decoration, making Hanukkah the most secular holiday of the Jewish calendar.

Hanukkah began to find new expression in the years leading up to the founding of the modern state of Israel and has developed into a holiday rich with historical significance, physical and supernatural miracle narratives, and a dialogue with Jewish history.

I wish all Jews around the world: CHAG CHANUKKAH SAMEACH!

♪♫ “Chanukah, Oh Chanukah!” – A traditional Hanukkah song,  sung by Theodore Bikel, first in Yiddish, then in English, then in Hebrew: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxH0xF84h_0

♪♫ “Ma’oz Tzur” – a Jewish liturgical poem or piyyut. It is written in Hebrew, and is often sung on the holiday of Hanukkah, after lighting the festival lights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7U1CHqe9eg

♪♫ “Mi Yimalel” (Who can retell) – A traditional Hanukkah song here performed by Craig Taubman, The Tribe & Alberto Mizzahi: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPUUjmn_Wk0

♪♫ “Lich’vod Hachanukkah” – by Chaim Nachman Bialik, a traditional Chanukah song sung by THE WESTERN WIND and Fran Avni: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FbooXzSiQk


The Meaning of Hiram in Freemasonry and Judaism

November 27, 2010

Forever Faithful and Forthright, We Pledge Ourselves to Guard The Light. (The Magic Flute, Mozart)

All men are equal; it is not their birth, but virtue itself that makes the difference. (Voltaire)

It is a fine thing to be honest, but it is also very important to be right. (Winston Churchill)

HIRAM

HIRAM

Hiram Abiff & the ever-dying gods

by Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple, Emeritus Rabbi of the Great Synagoge, Sydney. Past Grand Chaplain of the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales.

This paper was delivered at the Discovery Lodge of Research, Sydney, on January 27, 2010.

***

In the third degree ritual the central feature is the death and upraising of Hiram Abiff. It brings solemnity and drama into the occasion, though our version lacks the theatricality of some other rites which use costumes and elaborate dialogue. All versions believe it is a true story that happened at the time when Solomon constructed the Temple in Jerusalem, but those who look for Biblical backing are bound to be disappointed.

In an article I wrote for the “NSW Freemason” in 1978 I examined the view of W. Bro. Rev. Morris Rosenbaum concerning the Biblical account as found – with intriguing differences – in the First Books of Kings and the Second Book of Chronicles. The relevant chapters are I Kings 5, where Solomon asks his friend Hiram king of Tyre for building materials; and II Chronicles 2, where he asks him also for an expert artisan. Both passages feature a – non-royal – Hiram, who in one account appears to be an architect-craftsman and in the other an artisan skilled in working with brass. Both are called Hiram in tribute to the king: it is possible that Hiram was a generic name for a king of Tyre, like the title Pharaoh for a king of Egypt.

Rosenbaum thought there were two separate Hirams. The Hiram of the Book of Kings is the son of “a widow of the tribe of Naphtali”: the one in Chronicles is the son of “a woman of the daughters of Dan”. If there are two Hirams the mother of one is from Naphtali and the mother of the second from Dan; if there is only one, which I will argue in a moment, his father is from Naphtali and his mother from Dan. The connection with Tyre is more than geographic co-incidence, since there was a Tyrian school of craftsmanship and Solomon wanted to use Tyrian expertise.

Next problem: if Hiram (or at least one of them) is the son of a widow, his father is dead. II Chronicles mentions Hiram aviv, “Hiram his father”. Maybe Hiram the father started the work and Hiram the son completed it. This is the view of the 19th century commentator Malbim, who quotes I Kings 7:40 and II Chron. 4:11, though Malbim may have been influenced by the Masonic legend that Hiram was murdered; when I Kings 7:13 says that Solomon “sent and fetched Hiram out of Tyre” it may mean that an escort was sent to bring the younger Hiram to Jerusalem to finish his father’s work.

This in outline is Rosenbaum’s theory, but I believe he has read too much into the scriptural account. The Books of Chronicles are not always objective history and it is possible that we have not two Hirams but two versions of the one narrative with slight differences between them.

If then there was only one Hiram, how are we to handle the reference to “Hiram his father”, with its implication that father and son were both involved in the work? The answer is that av, a father, does not necessarily mean a parent. It can also be an originator or master. Hence the title “Hiram Abif(f)” tells us of Hiram’s professional status as a master craftsman, not about his parentage. Even so, there is no objective evidence that one Hiram dropped out and another replaced him. It is more likely that there was only one Hiram and the Bible does not record his eventual fate.

For that we have to go to legend. In a moment we will examine the Masonic version, but first we need to know whether Jewish Midrash knows of a murder during the building works and whether the victim could have been Hiram. There are Midrashim (e.g. Pesikta Rabbati, Friedmann ed., 1880, p. 25a) which hold that some of the builders met an unusual death, but Freemasonry compresses the tragedy into the death of one builder, the foreman, and though the midrashic material speaks of the dead men entering the afterlife, Freemasonry thinks the foreman was restored to earthly existence, though it is silent as to his subsequent life.

The Midrash asserts that whilst the Temple was being built none of the workmen died or even became ill, enabling the project to proceed apace – presumably illustrating the principle that God protects those who are engaged on a sacred mission (Talmud Pesachim 8a). However, once the project was completed, they all died, for God wished to prevent heathens using the Temple builders to erect idolatrous shrines, illustrating the rule that one must ascend in sanctity and not descend (Talmud B’rachot 28a). The builders were assured of a rich heavenly reward, and as for Hiram the master craftsman himself, he went straight to Paradise and never tasted real death (Louis Ginzberg, “Legends of the Jews”, vol. 4, page 155 and notes).

There is a midrashic idea that nine people did not die in the usual way but entered Paradise alive. These included Enoch and Elijah… and Hiram king of Tyre (Derech Eretz Zuta 1:9; Yalkut, Gen. 42 and Ezek. 36:7).

The commentators debate whether Hiram really deserves a place in the list, but in any case the reference must be to Hiram the craftsman and not Hiram the king. The formulators of Masonic ritual possibly knew enough Hebrew to access rabbinic works, but they totally changed the Midrash to make Hiram die a very earthly death at the hands of the other workmen and then rise from the dead. They must have been influenced by Christian tradition about the death of Jesus, though they were careful not to turn the story into an antisemitic canard. However, we should not read too much theology into the Masonic story, which probably has contemporary political motives.

If the story as we have it has been deliberately crafted (I dislike the stronger term “fabricated”) with a basis in the Hebrew Bible and the Jewish Midrash, we must still investigate whether there are additional sources from other cultures. But first we have to add one more attempt, over and above those of countless historians, to posit a theory of Masonic beginnings.

There are three main historical theories about Masonry. One begins at the time of Creation with God as Great Architect, Grand Geometrician and Master Builder, Adam as the first Grand Master, and Masonry as a thread running through ancient history. The second does not make claims about Biblical times but posits a fellowship of builders working on the great edifices of the Middle Ages. The third sees Enlightenment man creating cultural-scientific societies to study ideas and ethics and giving them a pre-history, a well-known habit developed in the interests of credibility.

The third theory is bound up with 17th and 18th century events. The Stuarts ruled England from 1643-1688, except for 1649-1660 after Charles I had been executed by Parliament under Oliver Cromwell. The last Stuart, James II, had to abdicate in 1688. After the Hanoverian George I assumed the monarchy in 1714, the Stuarts mounted invasions in 1715 and 1745 via Scotland but failed to win back the throne. They lived in exile in France with support from some quarters in England. They were called “Jacobites”, from the Latin (and prior to that the Hebrew) for “James”. Some Jacobites were Masons, including Bonnie Prince Charlie, the grandson of James II; some French and Italian lodges were entirely comprised of Jacobites, who may have adopted or invented Hiram Abiff to represent the executed Charles I and to express their belief in the restoration of the Stuarts.

Plans for the return of the Stuarts were made in secret vaults which may have been Masonic lodges. HA’s refusal to divulge a secret bolstered the pledges of confidentiality which these Brothers made to each other. This theory implies that Jacobite influences were involved in the development of Masonic ritual, which was the combination of the ideas and efforts of a number of men, notably Anderson, Desaguliers and Preston, though they might have been kept in the dark about the hidden agenda of Jacobite lodges.

Hiram’s name was not new to the authors of the third degree since he is referred as the master artisan in the Regius Poem of c 1390. The first time we find the Hiram legend in a degree ritual is in the 1730 pamphlet, Freemasonry Dissected, by Samuel Prichard, though there was a rival attempt to give Freemasonry a death/resurrection story in the narrative of Noah and his sons (Graham MS, 1726; cf. Harry Carr, “Hebraic Aspects of the Ritual”, Ars Quatuor Coronatum, vol. 97, 1984, page 77).

Hiram Abiff conveyed the message better because the Noah story lacked betrayal, violence, martyrdom and revenge, even though there was a theory that his sons put his body together again after he died. Hence HA supplanted Noah and settled into the newly created third degree.

The idea of Hiram as Charles I might derive from Elias Ashmole (1617-92), the antiquarian, lawyer and alchemist who is the first (or second) known Speculative Freemason, initiated in 1646. Ashmole (like other early Speculatives, Robert Moray, Inigo Jones and Nicholas Stone) was a Royalist and a supporter of Charles II, and his lodge may have practised Masonic ritual with a Royalist meaning. However, we do not know enough about the ways of early Speculative lodges and can only conjecture.

C.S. Madhavan of the Grand Lodge of India notes that a drastic change entered Freemasonry between the first and second editions of Anderson’s Constitutions. In the first edition in 1723 we read only that “The king of Tyre sent (Solomon) his namesake Hiram Abif, ‘prince of architects’”. The second edition in 1738 speaks of the sudden death of Hiram Abiff who was interred “in the Lodge near the Temple”. The new wording shows that the displacement of Noah by HA had taken place between 1723 and 1738.

The change must have had something to do with Prichard, whose work was published in 1730, but we need more than circumstantial evidence. English Masons would presumably have welcomed the general idea of a good man who died and rose again and would have been on familiar territory in linking royal history with poetic symbolism in view of the well-loved legends of King Arthur, the symbol of chivalry and idealism, about whom Tennyson later wrote, “He passes to be King among the dead/And after healing of his grievous wound/He comes again” (Idylls of the King, 1859).

The Hiram Abiff story was not concocted out of thin air. On the other hand no-one has found any proof that there really was a Hiram Abiff who was murdered on the Temple site and then brought back to life by his supporters. Nor has anyone proved that there was an Israelite custom to pray at “high twelve”, to bury a person in proximity to the Temple, or to place an acacia sprig on a grave. There is also no proof that the real Hiram (unless he was the king of Tyre) was on close terms with King Solomon.

HA is a cultural typology developed at and reflecting the mores of a later time. Its lineage appears to have travelled through two disparate lines:
• the well known concept of gods and messiahs that die and overcome their death (examples are Osiris, Isis, Horus and Tammuz), an idea that appealed to members of secret or other societies who saw true believers martyred but the cause survive;
• widespread accounts of disasters that occurred during the building of churches, palaces and other major edifices.

The first idea has a modern equivalent in Nietzsche’s Death of God theory, plus the religious insistence that God will make a comeback. In Jewish thinking the Death of God is inconceivable, since it is an article of faith that God was not born and cannot die (“I am the first and I am the last”: Isa. 44:6), though in a metaphorical sense it could possibly tolerate the Nietzschean notion that human beings had “killed” Him. Christianity might be thought of as receptive to a Hiram Abiff narrative as consonant with the history of Jesus. However, it is difficult to reconcile a pro-Christian interpretation with the Andersonian dechristianisation of Masonic ritual, though there is admittedly a more Christian element in the Royal Arch.

Whatever the case, it is likely that this is one more example of how Masonry utilised well-known strands of folklore to construct its narratives and rituals, often starting with sketchy Biblical material but adding so much from other sources that it almost completely changed the original story. Other examples are the stories about King Solomon and the dedication of his temple, which, though crucial to the craft, should not be taken literally but understood as an amalgam of folk ideas and literary imagination.

All Masonic writers attach symbolic significance to the HA story, regardless of its origins and political significance. A popular interpretation links it to the three stages of life; as the first degree symbolises birth, when one begins to glimpse light, the second stands for manhood, when one toils toward wisdom and experience, and the third represents old age, when human powers gradually wane but one yearns for a life after death.

Perhaps Anderson and Desaguliers, unaware of or unconvinced by Jacobite political theories, decided to incorporate HA into the third degree because the death/resurrection theme appealed to them as Christians. In 1775 William Hutchinson wrote in his Spirit of Masonry, “The Master Mason represents a man under the Christian doctrine, saved from the grave of iniquity, and raised to the faith of salvation”. The dechristianisation of the craft must inevitably have been difficult for some Masons.

However, with or without christological issues the narrative illustrates and justifies the doctrine that goodness must and will prevail over doubt and difficulty, and is evidence of the common phenomenon whereby a custom or story loses its original significance, undergoes reinterpretation and rationalisation, and gains a new message and mission.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Raymond Apple, “Who was Hiram Abiff?”, The NSW Freemason, Dec., 1978
Harry Carr, “Hebraic Aspects of the Ritual”, Ars Quatuor Coronatum, vol. 97, 1984
W.W. Covey-Crump, The Hiramic Tradition, 1934
Louis Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, various eds., vol. 4
R.F. Gould, History of Freemasonry, 5 vols., 1905
W.B. Hextall, “The Hiramic Legend and the Ashmolean Theory”, Transactions of the Leicester Lodge of Research, 1903-04
Bernard E. Jones, Freemason’s Guide and Compendium, 1950
Jacob Katz, Out of the Ghetto, 1978
C.S. Madhavan, “The Hiramic Legend” (http://www.freemasons-freemasonry.com)
Alexander Piatigorsky, Who’s Afraid of Freemasons?, 1997
Morris Rosenbaum, “Hiram Abif: The Traditional History Illustrated by the Volume of the Sacred Law”, Transactions of the Leicester Lodge of Research, 1903-04
Gershom Scholem, Kabbalah, 1974

 Copyright © 2010 Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple & HIRAM7 REVIEW


Earl Shugerman’s Corner: NES AMMIM 2010 – Interfaith Dialogue in Israel

November 25, 2010

Earl Shugerman brings every week a serie of stories about Anglo-Saxon immigrants to Israel. This project is aimed to promote a more realistic view of life in Israel.

NES AMMIM 2010

 

Nes Ammim (Hebrew: נֵס עַמִּים‎, lit. Banner of the Nations) is a Christian community in the northern district of Israel.

Nes Ammim (Hebrew: נֵס עַמִּים‎, lit. Banner of the Nations) is a Christian community in the northern district of Israel.

 

An important fact that people should know about Israel is that roughly twenty percent of Israeli citizens are Muslim, Christian and Druze. The seven million citizens of pre-1967 borders manage to live together in a fairly democratic, but far from perfect society. Many Israelis of all backgrounds are trying to improve our society and its political awareness.

Once a month I participate in a joint prayer meeting with the Focolare. The Focolare is the largest Catholic outreach movement with five million members. The Focolare movement is an international organization based on ideals of unity and universal brotherhood. The movement was founded in Trent Italy 1944 by Chiara Lubich. Chiara was just a teenager when she decided to found the movement. During this period, Italy was occupied by the Allies. Chiara made a choice to stay in Trent to help the wounded and the homeless. Seeing the horrors of war first hand she and her friends had vowed to live a humble life and yet to promote peace and brotherhood throughout the world using Catholicism as their base. However, they have strong connections to different denominations and various faiths. The Focolare movement is present today in 182 nations. Through a network of eighteen branches the Focolare has an impact on both eclectic and secular life. Our meetings are held at Or Hadash Synagogue in Haifa, and hosted by Rabbi Edgar Nof.

Each summer the movement holds local retreats over 100 worldwide, where members and new comers come together to discuss the movement and enhance spirituality. The first such meeting was held in Italy in 1949, while today 200.000 people participate from all over the world. Many of the people who attend are Catholics, but members of other faiths participate as well. I and my fellow congregates from Or Hadash attended this year’s event in Israel. Kibbutz Nes Ammim hosted the activity.

The Nes Amim Christian kibbutz is located between Naharia and Nazareth (all in the area of west Galilee) the home of Mary Magdalene and residence where Jesus was raised. The kibbutz was founded by various Christians from different European backgrounds. The term “Nes Amim” means “banner of nations” it was used in Isaiah 11:10. The theology of “Nes Amim” refers to the need for dialogue between Jews, Christians and all religions.

Nes Ammim 2009 was a successful and memorable experience. It was the first time in history that Jews, Muslims, and Christians from both sides of our borders participated in the convention. We were blessed be chosen as the first Jewish attendees. This year the attending participants came from very diverse backgrounds. There were individuals from Ramala, Ra’anana, Haifa, Jerusalem and even Egypt. There were also participants from Italy, Brazil and Uruguay, who traveled half way around the world to attend the occasion. The convention’s program was similar to last year’s. The three hundred participants were divided into several small groups to enjoy spiritual, artistic, and social activity. There were art classes, drama exhibitions, knitting instruction, meditation, and of course the beloved hiking trails and swimming pools. Nes Ammim hosts a church, a synagogue, and mosque. Many of us attended each other’s weekly prayers.

The three hundred individuals that attended Nes Ammim had their own beliefs, values, goals, and lifestyles. These diversities are a reflection of life in Israel and Palestine. That is the reason that this type of activity should continue in growing numbers, and that the world should be aware of them. I firmly believe that the people of this region can be an example to the rest of the world that the ploughshare can indeed replace the sword.

About the author: Earl Shugerman is a retired American Government public relations specialist,  currently spokesman in Haifa for The Jewish Agency and a writer specializing in interfaith relations. He has worked together with the Catholic and Southern Baptist Movements, the Reformed Jewish Movement and Muslim groups in interfaith activities.


David Harris 20th Anniversary

October 19, 2010

Dear Friends,

This year, David Harris celebrates his 20th anniversary as American Jewish Committee Executive Director – marking two decades of his passionate and devoted service to the Jewish people, American society and the global community.

As president of AJC, I’m asking you to make a gift to commemorate this milestone. Please click here to contribute.

No single professional has epitomized AJC’s values, vision, activism, humanitarianism and achievement more than David Harris. David has been hailed as one of the Jewish people’s foremost advocates and most distinguished and eloquent spokesmen.

In fact, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon recently said, “David Harris is the consummate Jewish diplomat of our time.”

Looking to the future, David will continue to advocate for the issues most important to the Jewish people, including:

  • Supporting a democratic Israel in its quest for peace and security
  • Speaking out against Iran’s mission to build nuclear weapons
  • Building mutual respect between different religious and ethnic groups, leading to a more tolerant world
  • Moving America towards energy independence – critical for both our national security and our environment
  • Seeking a world in which all people are afforded human rights, human dignity and human freedom

Of course, David’s vision has always relied upon an informed, motivated and active young generation prepared to take on the responsibilities and challenges of Jewish communal leadership. As such, he continues to champion our ACCESS program, which focuses on developing young Jewish leaders.

Your participation will be deeply meaningful and greatly appreciated by David and everyone at AJC. Your special gift will go a long way to support the vital work and global outreach that have become AJC trademarks.

Please click here to contribute to David’s 20th Anniversary celebration today. Please give as generously as you can – any amount would be appreciated.

Sincerely,
Robert Elman
President, American Jewish Committee (AJC)


Celebrating the Jewish Holiday of Sukkot

September 24, 2010
The festival of Sukkot (September 22 till September 29, 2010), the nine-day festival also known as Chag’ha Succot, the “Feast of Booths” (or Tabernacles), is named for the huts (sukkah) that Moses and the Israelites lived in as they wandered the desert for 40 years before they reached the Promised Land.
Moses and Joshua in the Tabernacle, c. 1896-1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902), at the Jewish Museum, New York

Moses and Joshua in the Tabernacle, by Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902), at the Jewish Museum, New York

Adonai says: “Chazak ve’ematz — Be strong and resolute; do not be terrified or dismayed, for the Eternal, Adonai, is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). This custom developed over the course of Jewish history connected with Adonai’s first revelation to Joshua after the death of Moses.

Three times at the conclusion of a book of Torah, we tell one another to be strong: Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek — Be strong, be strong, and together we will be strengthened.


Israel – a Jewish State

May 1, 2010

A Fact Sheet by David Berger

The following facts show that the modern State of Israel was created in Palestine because of the historic connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, and not in response to the Holocaust, as many Holocaust deniers and Antisemits falsely argue.

Fact 1: The Jewish people have had a continuous presence in the Land of Israel for nearly 3500 years.

  • Circa 1400 B.C.E. – Joshua leads the Israelites into Canaan.
  • 866 B.C.E. – King David declares Jerusalem capital of Israel.
  • 825 B.C.E. – King Solomon builds the First Temple in Jerusalem.
  • 423 B.C.E. – Destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians.
  • 325 B.C.E. – The Second Temple is built in Jerusalem.
  • 70 C.E. – Fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the Second Temple.
  • 135 C.E. – Defeat of Bar Kochba by the Romans.
  • 231-254 C.E. – Early Church Father and theologian Origen “visited Erez Israel a number of times and came into contact with leading Jewish scholars there.”1
  •  614 C.E. – “The Persian army of Chosroes II approached Jerusalem in 614 and besieged it with the help of its Jewish allies.”2
  • 670-740 C.E. – “During the first century after the Arab conquest, the caliph and governors of Syria and the Land [Palestine] ruled entirely over Christian and Jewish subjects.”3
  • 985 C.E. – The Arab writer Muqaddasi states that “The mosque is empty of worshippers…The Jews constitute the majority of Jerusalem’s population.”4
  • 1099 C.E. – A synagogue is burned during the Crusader conquest of Jerusalem. Jewish correspondence following the destruction of Jerusalem marks “the earliest account on the conquest in any language.”5
  • 1267 C.E. – Ramban moves to Jerusalem.
  • 1492 C.E. – Mass immigration of Jews to Palestine following the Spanish expulsion.
  • 1884 C.E. – Beginning of the First Aliya.

Fact 2: Throughout the ages the Jewish people have kept Jerusalem and Zion foremost in their prayers. 

Preceding the Shema Israel

Bring us in peacefulness from the four corners of the earth and lead us with upright pride to our land.

In the Amidah

Sound the great shofar for our freedom, raise the banner to gather our exiles and gather us together from the four corners of the earth. Blessed are you, God, who gathers in the dispersed of the people of Israel.

And to Jerusalem your city, may You return in compassion, and may You rest within it, as You have spoken. May You rebuild it soon in our days as an eternal structure, and may You speedily establish the throne of David with in. Blessed are You, God, the builder of Jerusalem.

Psalm 126:

A song of ascents. When God will return the captivity of Zion, we will be like dreamers. Then our mouth will be filled with laughter and our tongue glad with song. Then they will declare among the nations, ‘God has done greatly with these.’ God has done greatly with us, we were gladdened. O God – return our captivity like springs in the desert. Those who tearfully sow will reap glad song. He who bears the measure of seeds walks along weeping, but will return in exultation, a bearer of his shaves.

Psalm 137:

By the rivers of Babylon – there we sat and also wept when we remembered Zion. On the willows within it we hung our lyres. There our captors requested words of song from us, with our lyres playing joyous music, ‘Sing for us from Zion’s song!’ ‘How can we sing the song of God upon the alien’s soil?’ If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill. Let my tongue adhere to my palate if I fail to recall you, if I fail to elevate Jerusalem above my foremost joy. Remember, God, for the offspring of Edom, the day of Jerusalem – for those who say Destroy! Destroy! To its very foundation.

Musaf for the High Holidays, Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot:

Draw our scattered ones near, from among the nations, and bring in our dispersions from the ends of the earth. And bring us to Zion, Your City, in glad song, and to Jerusalem, home of Your Sanctuary, in eternal joy.

Fact 3: As the First Aliyah brought large groups of European Jews to Palestine, the leadership of the Zionist movement expressed their claim to a Jewish state in their ancestral homeland.

“Zionism seeks for the Jewish people a publicly recognized legally secured homeland in Palestine.” (From the program of the First Zionist Congress, Basel, Switzerland 1897.)

“My plan is simple enough. We must obtain the sovereignty of Palestine – our never-to-be-forgotten, historical home.” (Theodor Herzl, quoted in The New York Times, August 31, 1897.)

“That the Zionist Congress firmly maintains the principle for the foundation of the colony in the Jewish-father-land, Palestine, or in that vicinity. The congress thanks Great Britain for the offer of African territory, the consideration of which, however, is terminated…” (Resolution adopted by the Seventh Zionist Congress, July 1905.)

Fact 4: Following World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the victorious nations began the re-division of Ottoman territory. Recognizing the historic connection between the Jewish people and Palestine, they committed to establishing a Jewish state therein.

“When it is asked what is meant by the development of the Jewish National Home in Palestine, it may be answered that it is not the imposition of a Jewish nationality upon the inhabitants of Palestine as a whole, but the further development of the existing Jewish community, with the assistance of Jews in other parts of the world, in order that it may become a centre in which the Jewish people as a whole may take, on grounds of religion and race, an interest and a pride. But in order that this community should have the best prospect of free development and provide a full opportunity for the Jewish people to display its capacities, it is essential that it should know that it is in Palestine as of right and not on the sufferance. That is the reason why it is necessary that the existence of a Jewish National Home in Palestine should be internationally guaranteed, and that it should be formally recognized to rest upon ancient historic connection. (British White Paper of 1922)

“Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration [the Balfour Declaration] originally made on November 2nd, 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, and adopted by the said Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people…

Whereas recognition has thereby been given to the historical connexion of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.” (Conference of the Principle Allied Powers at San Remo – July 24, 1922.)

Fact 5: Even before the wave of Jewish immigration to Palestine as part of the First Aliyah, a Jewish majority has existed in Jerusalem.

***

Notes:

1 Encyclopedia Judaica. Jerusalem, Israel: Keter Publishing House, 1971, Page 1467.

2 Encyclopedia Judaica. Jerusalem, Israel: Keter Publishing House, 1971, Page 1971.

3 Parker, James. Whose Land? A History of the Peoples of Palestine. Great Britain: Harmondsworth, 1970, Page 66.

4 Kahler, Erich. The Jews among the Nations. New York City, NY: F. Ungar, 1967, Page 144.

5 Kedar, Benjamin Z. “The Jerusalem Massacre of July 1099 in the Western Historiography of the Crusades.” The Crusades. Vol. 3. Aldershot, England: Ashgate Publishing, 2004, Page 63.

6 Tal, Eliyahu. Whose Jerusalem. Tel Aviv, Israel: International Forum for a United Jerusalem, 1994, Page 94


Earl Shugerman’s Corner: My Aliyah

January 22, 2010

Earl Shugerman brings every week a serie of stories about Anglo-Saxon immigrants to Israel. This project is aimed to promote a more realistic view of life in Israel.

In many, if not most cases, the decision to make Aliyah involves a lot of anxiety. There are many things to give up, including: your home, friends, family, employment and mother tongue-to build a whole new life. There are no guarantees that this move will be a successful one. For me it was easier, because I had already reached retirement age and already had family and friends in Israel. Even then, friends and family here had urged me to think long and hard about this bold move.

There is a support network available to make the move less difficult. The first step in the alley of process is to contact the local Shaliach-the local Jewish agency representative. The Jewish agency has been a semi independent government organization that was formed 1929-well before the founding of Israel in 1948. At these times, the organization was busy raising money to buy more lands in Israel, and also encouraging Jews to immigrate to Israel. I turned to the local Shaliach in Pittsburg who initiated and monitored my Aliyah procedure.

This procedure takes three to six months. Personally, I began this process during the second war in Lebanon. Family and friends around me were even more apprehensive towards the move due to the war. I also enlisted help from Nefesh b’Nefesh-an independent American based group that tries to increase immigration from North America-and Britain. These two agencies-The Jewish Agency and Nefesh b’Nefesh- offer services that, at times, supplement each other.

These services include-pre-Aliyah and post-Aliyah counseling, and flight payments are covered by the agencies. Arriving in Israel, new immigrants get a six months financial supplement-called Sal Klita. It was not much-but offered some support-in my case paid half my rent. The agencies involved in the Aliyah- from the United States-have loans available that are for people who commit to stay in the country for at least three years.

On the first six months of the arrival every immigrant receives an intensive Hebrew class, called “Ulpan”, which is a part of the “Sal Klita”- the basic financial support. Students spend four hours a day, five days a week- for six months. The classes are composed of students from all over the world-which also makes it a social base- there are trips and social activities in which I participated and met a lot of friends.

As good as my experiences were at the “Ulpan”, I ended up learning Hebrew through teaching sport’s at an afterschool program. The people of my community warmly accepted me-and served as my primary support system-rather than the Ulpan-the formal Hebrew class .

Three years later, I’ve gone from living at the Shulamit-an apartment hotel-to my first real home. Right here, in the community that accepted me so warmly. I’m fulfilling my lifelong dream of being a writer-journalist. The wonderful climate and beautiful city of Haifa is now my domicile. In conclusion, I’m glad I made the trip, but it’s important for me to let the readers know that it’s been a bumpy path. 

About the author: Earl Shugerman is a retired American Government public relations specialist,  currently spokesperson in Haifa for The Jewish Agency and a writer specializing in interfaith relations. He has worked together with the Catholic and Southern Baptist Movements, the Reformed Jewish Movement and Muslim groups in interfaith activities.


World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder calls on Pope Benedict XVI to clarify Vatican’s stance on Pius XII

January 17, 2010

 

Pope Benedict & Ronald S. Lauder

Pope Benedict & Ronald S. Lauder

The following opinion article by World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder was published by the leading Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on the eve of Pope Benedict’s visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome.

Time for a few illuminating words

By Ronald S. Lauder

When a Catholic bishop visits the main synagogue in his diocese it is first and foremost a mark of friendship and an expression of the good relationship between the two local religious communities. Things are somewhat different when such a visit occurs in Rome, as the Bishop of Rome is also pontiff of the Catholic Church, representing more than a billion Catholics world-wide.

It is therefore important to Jews around the world what Pope Benedict XVI has to say this Sunday in Rome’s main synagogue on the Jewish-Catholic relationship and on a number of sensitive issues has already caused a sensation during his pontificate thus far.

Benedict XVI has often emphasized how important good relations to Judaism are to him. Through his trips to Israel, to Auschwitz, and his visits to synagogues in Cologne and New York, he has proved that he is sincere.

The German-born Pope has always been an outstanding theologian and a sharp-witted thinker. And yet, sometimes we see another Benedict, one who surprises us with decisions that – even for the well-meaning amongst us – are difficult to comprehend.

We Jews are generally very sensitive folk; some would say over-sensitive – although history has given us enough reason to be vigilant, given that anti-Semitism was very widespread and deeply rooted in the higher echelons of the Christian churches until a few decades ago.

Moreover, we Jews are an emotional people, and in public life we don’t always judge a statement or a decision made by the Pope by purely rational or intellectual criteria which perhaps are the hallmarks of a theological seminary. We pay close attention to gestures and symbols, especially from a Pope of German origin.

And we are quick to interpret his decisions in a certain way, even when they do not appear entirely obvious to us, because we always fear that others will deliberately interpret them in a way that one could regard as offensive to us.

All of this wouldn’t matter much had not dissent and controversies between our religions often served as justification for exclusion, persecution, and even violence. We need to make sure that we overcome former divisions and do not repeat the mistakes of the past.

Certain reasoning and decision-making by the Pope that is perfectly logical within the framework of Catholic theology and teaching can have a completely different meaning for the outside world (the same also applies to Jewish thinking), hence the need to explain and communicate these decisions in a comprehensible fashion.

When the Pope allows the use of the Good Friday Prayer of the old Tridentine liturgy, which calls for Jews to acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Savior of all men, some of us are deeply hurt.

When the Pope decides to lift the excommunication of bishops of the ultra-conservative and anti-Semitic Society of St. Pius X, among them a notorious Holocaust denier, we are upset.

When we have the impression that the beatification process of Pope Pius XII is being rushed through before all the documentation kept by the Vatican on this pontificate is revealed, many of us are disturbed. During that Pope’s pontificate, six million Jews in Europe were murdered by the Nazis, and there is an on-going debate about whether Pius XII really did all in his power to save at least some of them.

Holocaust survivors in particular feel upset when “heroic virtues” are accorded to Pius XII, even though that may make perfect sense within the inner-Catholic framework and may have nothing to do with his actions during World War II. To be clear: is it neither up to us Jews, nor to other outsiders, to decide who should be declared a hero or a saint of the Catholic Church. I also do not presume to be in a position to render a final judgment on Pius’ actions – or inaction – during World War II.

Yet those who view Pius XII and his behavior during that period critically – among them many historians – should be heard before irreversible decisions are taken hastily. Until all papers relating to Pius XII during the crucial period are accessible, the Vatican would be well advised to pause for a moment. Otherwise, even Catholics might have great trouble in recognizing the “heroic virtues” of Pius XII, and the reputation of the present Pope would consequently also suffer some damage.

Despite all these differences in opinion between Catholics and Jews – and it is only normal that they exist – the relationship between Jews and the Vatican is based on a solid foundation. We have managed, since the 1965 Declaration Nostra Aetate, to maintain a dialogue based on mutual trust. This dialogue is much more advanced than that with other Christian denominations, or with Islam.

I harbor no doubts whatever about the positive attitude and open-mindedness of Pope Benedict XVI vis-à-vis the Jews. He is more than welcome in our synagogues and I hope there will be many more such important occasions in the future.

However, on Sunday, when he pays a visit to Rome’s main synagogue on the invitation of the local Jewish community, we would welcome a few illuminating answers to some of the questions I outlined above. That could help dispel some of the irritations of the past months that have unnecessarily strained Jewish-Catholic relations.

Many Jews would recognize that as a small “heroic virtue” of the Pope.


Earl Shugerman’s Corner: Chanukha in Haifa – The Holiday of Holidays

December 31, 2009

Earl Shugerman brings every week a serie of stories about Anglo-Saxon immigrants to Israel. This project is aimed to promote a more realistic view of life in Israel.

We’re writing this while the Jews are enjoying the holiday of lights: Chanukah. Chanukah is celebrated as a holiday of joy and memorial to our past.

For eight days we light candles in the Channukia – which represents the miracle of the Menorah in the Temple in the days of the Maccabim.

Haifa, though, is not just a home for the Jews, but also Christians, Catholics, Muslims, Bahai and other religions. The beautiful thing about Haifa is that we celebrate together the differences in our faiths rather than see it as a source of conflict. Each year we have the annual festival of Hag ha Hagim-the holiday of holidays. This festival attracts each year to Wadi Nisnas tens of thousands of visitors.

This year, is the 16th year of the festival. The neighborhood –  has maintained its’ Arabic-Christian atmosphere and identity, and is known for the three churches and the market in the center. The festival takes place at this very lively market. At these times of the year, as Christmas approaches, the neighborhood is ornamented beautifully with Christmas ornaments that add a lot of color to the festival. This celebration is just one of Haifa’s advantages.

Another one of Haifa’s qualities is that you have a variety of lifestyles from the academic environment of the university to the orthodox Jewish community in Hadar to the Christian society in Wadi NisNas where the stores are adorned with Christmas lights and you can buy a real Christmas tree. Of course, there is also the Cababbir neighborhood where the Muslim majority lives peacefully-in a simple yet elegant middle-class environment. One of my favorite activities is to seat with my friends at the Cabbabir center, and enjoy the beautiful view of Haifa.

As we come to the close of the Roman calendar – I say to myself – if the people of Haifa can live in relative peace and harmony – why can’t we do it elsewhere. One of the most inspiring rewards of being an immigrant to Israel is that you have a chance to encounter different religions and cultures, and the personal growth that comes with it as result.

Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas from Haifa!

About the author: Earl Shugerman is a retired American Government public relations specialist,  currently spokesperson in Haifa for The Jewish Agency and a writer specializing in interfaith relations. He has worked together with the Catholic and Southern Baptist Movements, the Reformed Jewish Movement and Muslim groups in interfaith activities.


Happy Chanukah!

December 11, 2009

At this time of year, we recall how our people prevailed against those who would deny them the right to live and express their Jewish identity.

What better time to take a step back and reflect on how important the work of HIRAM7 REVIEW to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism?

The next generation will thank us for our efforts to act against those who would delegitimize the state of Israel and/or the Jewish people. In this regard, it is incumbent upon us to be modern-day Maccabees.

With sincere appreciation to you for your partnership,

David Berger – Editor & Publisher


Earl Shugerman’s Corner: Finding Faith in Israel

November 22, 2009

 Earl Shugerman brings every week a serie of stories about Anglo-Saxon immigrants to Israel. This project is aimed to promote a more realistic view of life in Israel.

Finding Faith: Abraham risked all for the Promised Land

Finding Faith: Abraham risked all for the Promised Land

Many Israelis follow the age old tradition of the Friday night dinner and prayers to honour the beginning of the Sabbath. Friends and family meet to share companionship and pray together. This Friday I celebrated the start of the Sabbath with my friend Zehava and her family.

Zehava and her husband Leon are French born, old timers in Israel. They immigrated to Israel in 1980. They have two teenage sons and a six year old daughter Shira who is the “Apple of My Eye.” They also invited their American cousin Linda to join us.

Linda is a fifty’s year old single female with a 16 year old daughter. Linda was born, in France, but lived in California most of her life. We enjoyed a wonderful meal and then went to sit on the veranda to drink coffee and chat.

Linda was married to a “wonderful Christian man for 14 years.” “We respected the differences in our spiritual backgrounds and praised our daughter for exploring faiths independently”, added Linda. ” I belonged to a Reformed [Jewish] Congregation when we married and my spouse was a self proclaimed agnostic”.

“However, in the course of time I found that I needed to be more in touch with my Jewish roots. I took classes in the Talmud and Torah through Chabad House and found [the] spirituality that I had been missing in life. My husband explored his Catholic heritage. I found myself, after a two-year process, even considering a life in Israel. I lived in a beautiful home, had a great job, and a fine partner but decided to risk it all to try life in Israel”.

“My husband insisted on staying in the States. We agreed to a one-year trial separation period to see how we did on our own.  [This would] allow me to taste the life in Israel”.

“Three years later, I am still in Israel, employed as a clerk in a Tel Aviv bank. We decided to end our marriage and allow our daughter to spend the school year in Tel Aviv. She stays in California during her vacations. She sees this as a great adventure, and loves learning about new cultures and languages. Arabic is her second language in school”.

“ Did I make a mistake?” I ask myself that question many times a day. “Time will tell”. “Life here has many challenges”. “We need to learn a new language, a new culture, face a less luxurious lifestyle and there is still the struggle for peace”.

It is impossible to understand the invisible Hand that shapes our destiny. However, many Jews have felt the magnetic allure of Israel. The patriarch Abraham was the first. He left the comfortable trappings of ancient Babylonia to undertake an arduous emigration to the “ land that G-d would show him”. Evidently this demanded a great deal of faith. To mere mortals of the modern age, doubts can always surface to challenge our thinking.

 Although Israel is not a Utopian society where the streets are paved with gold, it is an integral part of Jewish heritage. Today record numbers of Global Jewry are returning to their ancestral homeland. They are undeterred by the challenges that face them. The obstacles are merely there to be overcome. And after 60 years in the remaking, Israel continues to thrive thanks to the new found faith of Linda and many others.

About the author: Earl Shugerman is a retired American Government public relations specialist,  currently spokesperson in Haifa for The Jewish Agency and a writer specializing in interfaith relations. He has worked together with the Catholic and Southern Baptist Movements, the Reformed Jewish Movement and Muslim groups in interfaith activities.


Did You Ask A Good Question Today?

November 8, 2009

Judaism is a religion of questions.

Rabbi Sacks

by Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth

Isidore Isaac Rabi, winner of a Nobel Prize for physics, was once asked why he became a scientist. He replied: “My mother made me a scientist without ever knowing it. Every other child would come back from school and be asked, ‘What did you learn today?’ But my mother used to say, ‘Izzy, did you ask a good question today?’ That made the difference. Asking good questions made me into a scientist.”

Judaism is a religion of questions. The greatest prophets asked questions of God. The Book of Job, the most searching of all explorations of human suffering, is a book of questions asked by man, to which God replies with a string of questions of His own.

The earliest sermons usually began with a question asked of the rabbi by a member of the congregation. Most famously, the Passover Seder begins with four questions asked by the youngest child.

So I can identify with Rabi’s childhood memories. When I left university and went to Israel to study in a rabbinical seminary, I was stunned by the sheer intensity with which the students grappled with texts. Once in a while the teacher’s face would light up at a comment from the class. “Du fregst a gutte kashe,” he would say (you raise a good objection). This was his highest form of praise.

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski tells of how, when he was young, his instructor would relish challenges to his arguments. In his broken English he would say: “You right! You a hundred prozent right! Now I show you where you wrong.”

Religious faith has suffered hugely in the modern world by being cast as naive, blind, unquestioning.

The scientist asks, the believer just believes. Critical inquiry, so the stereotype runs, is what makes the difference between the pursuit of knowledge and the certainties of faith. One who believes in the fundamentals of a creed is derided as a fundamentalist. The word fundamentalist itself comes to mean a simplistic approach to complex issues. Religious belief is often seen as the suspension of critical intelligence.

As Wilson Mizner once put it: “I respect faith. But doubt is what gets you an education.” To me, this is a caricature of faith, not faith itself.

Questions testify to faith – the universe is not impervious to our understanding, life is not chance.

What is the asking of a question if not itself a profound expression of faith in the intelligibility of the universe and the meaningfulness of human life? To ask is to believe that somewhere there is an answer. The fact that throughout history people have devoted their lives to extending the frontiers of knowledge is a moving demonstration of the restlessness of the human spirit and its constant desire to transcend, to climb. Far from faith excluding questions, questions testify to faith – that the world is not random, the universe is not impervious to our understanding, life is not chance.

That, I suspect, is why Judaism encourages questions. On the phrase: “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness,” Rashi, the 11th-century biblical commentator, says: “This means, with the power to understand and to discern.”

Critical intelligence is the gift God gave humanity. To use it in the cause of human dignity and insight is one of the great ways of serving God. When faith suppresses questions, it dies. When it accepts superficial answers, it withers.

Faith is not opposed to doubt. What it is opposed to is the shallow certainty that what we understand is all there is.

Reprinted with kindly permission of Aish HaTorah International.


Alan Poseners Kolumne: Henryk M. Broders Farce ist vorbei

November 5, 2009

Der britisch-deutsche Journalist Alan Posener kommentiert wöchentlich das Zeitgeschehen in Politik, Gesellschaft, Wirtschaft und Kultur für HIRAM7 REVIEW.

Von Alan Posener
Die Welt / Welt am Sonntag  / HIRAM7 REVIEW

Nach zwei Wochen war die Farce vorbei. In der letzten Ausgabe des Nachrichtenmagazins Der Spiegel zog Henryk M. Broder seine Kandidatur für den Posten des Zentralrats der Juden in Deutschland zurück.

Buchen unter eiaculatio praecox, mochte man meinen, und zu wichtigeren Dingen übergehen, wozu ziemlich alles gehört, was man sich denken kann – hätte der Spiegel nicht in der „Hausmitteilung“ vom 2. November 2009 behauptet, der „Meister der gezielten Provokation“ habe deshalb auf die Fortsetzung seines Wahlkampfs verzichtet, weil er bereits sein Ziel erreicht habe. Denn „die subversive Kraft der Provokation entfaltete ihre Wirkung – eine ernsthafte Diskussion über die Vertretung der Juden in Deutschland ist jetzt entbrannt.“

Ach ja? Über das Niveau dieser brennenden Diskussion, die wir so nötig haben wie die „Sarrazin-Kontroverse“ oder den „Sloterdijk-Streit“, und über ihre Nutznießer, habe ich in meinem letzten Posting geschrieben. Nun hat sich auch Henryk in meinem Sinne geäußert und damit den redaktionellen Bullshit von der „ernsthaften Diskussion“ entlarvt.

In einem zweiseitigen Beitrag über sich selbst schreibt er im Spiegel:

„Zugleich scheint der Übergang zwischen echtem Leben und virtueller Welt immer einfacher zu werden. Die Linke nominiert für das Amt des Bundespräsidenten einen TV-Kommissar, der davon träumt, Banker eigenhändig zu verhaften. Schauspieler, die in Soaps Ärzte spielen, machen in Talkshows Vorschläge zur Optimierung der Gesundheitsreform. Der FDP-Veteran Rainer Brüderle traut sich zu, den Wirtschaftsminister zu geben. Da könnte auch Boris Becker Familienminister werden und ich – Präsident des Zentralrats der Juden“

Genau. Wobei die opportunistische Attacke auf Brüderle, um dem besserwisserischen Spiegel-Leser zu gefallen, typisch ist – der ausgewiesene Wirtschaftsfachmann gehört weiß Gott nicht in die Reihe Peter Sodann, Soap-Stars, Boris Becker, Henryk M. Broder. Eher fallen einem zur Ergänzung dieses Ruhmesreigens Oskar Lafontaine und Gregor Gysi ein, ebenfalls Selbstdarsteller, die immer bloß so tun, als könnten sie ein Amt ausfüllen, und die beide nach kurzer Zeit in der Verantwortung die Brocken hingeschmissen haben.

Was an Henryk seit einiger Zeit so peinlich ist – das ist die Tatsache, dass er sich zum Ausleben seiner Provokationssucht immer Objekte vorknöpft, die ihm nicht Paroli bieten können oder wollen – intellektuelle Fliegengewichte wie Frau Hecht-Galinksi; Leute, die ohnehin von der antisemitischen Meute verhasst sind wie Michel Friedman; oder Institutionen, die sich zu schade sind, sich mit ihm in der Gosse zu prügeln: das Zentrum für Antisemitismusforschung etwa oder eben den Zentralrat. „Pick on someone your own size“ hieß es in meinem britischen Internat, wenn sich etwa einer der pubertierenden Rüpel einen kleinen Jungen vornahm. Der Appell an die Mannesehre verfehlte selten ihre Wirkung.

Gut, das war England. Und dennoch möchte ich an Henryk appellieren: „Pick on someone your own size“; zum Beispiel deinen Arbeitgeber, den Spiegel. Was kann der schon machen, hat er dich nun ganz offiziell in einer Hausmitteilung zum „Meister der gezielten Provokation“ erklärt? Nichts kann er machen, du gehörst doch zum Inventar.

Wie du weißt, vergeht kaum eine Woche, in der nicht irgendeine anti-israelische Spitze in diesem „Nachrichten“-Magazin erscheint – just in jener Ausgabe, in der deine heldenhafte Provokation des Zentralrats gefeiert wurde, endete ein Artikel, in dem es um den von Israel vereitelten Versuch Syriens ging, einen Atomreaktor zu bauen, mit dem Hinweis, „viele radikale Israelis“ wollten einen Staat, der vom Euphrat bis zum Mittelmeer reicht. Will sagen: kann man es den Syrern verdenken, wenn sie sich wehren wollen?

Pick on someone your own size, Henryk. Man überlebt es. Schau mal:

http://www.kaidiekmann.de/friendly-fire/2009/11/04/

Und weil es so schön war, hier das Ganze noch einmal live:

http://www.welt.de/videos/debatte/article5070626/Broders-Bullshit.html#autoplay

Die in HIRAM7 REVIEW veröffentlichten Essays und Kommentare geben nicht grundsätzlich den Standpunkt der Redaktion wieder.


Earl Shugerman’s Corner: Hannah’s Aliyah to Israel

October 18, 2009

Earl Shugerman brings every week a serie of stories about Anglo-Saxon immigrants to Israel. This project is aimed to promote a more realistic view of life in Israel.

Aliyah is the word that describes the return of the Jewish People from the exile in the Diaspora back to the Land of Israel. The word Aliyah is derived from the verb “laalot” which means “to go up”, or “to ascend” in a positive spiritual sense. A person who makes Aliyah is called an Oleh, meaning “one who goes up”. Making Aliyah heralds a new dawn. People redefine their aspirations and focus on a positive future. Finding a meaningful and loving relationship is an inherent feature of Israeli culture. As Hannah discovered, help was close at hand.

When I came to Haifa for a family Seder in 2006, I decided I could retire here.  I had wanted to retire for some time but didn’t know where.  I had lived in Massachusetts for 28 years but couldn’t imagine spending my winters there as a retiree.  When I got to Haifa, a very big light bulb came on!

I had a very good life in the States but there was one goal I hadn’t been able to reach.  I wanted to meet a kind, intelligent, sexy, fun Jewish male around my age and for years I put this goal on my “top goals list” but never reached it.

When I got to Haifa, one of the first things I did was to attend services at Or Hadash, a reform synagogue in my neighbourhood.  I met a very kind Israeli woman called Pnina there and she made me feel very welcome and introduced me to many members of the congregation. I immediately felt very comfortable and “at home” and Or Hadash became my shul.

One day Pnina and I were looking over at the male congregation and every man I asked about was married. She asked me if I wanted to meet someone and I said yes.  She arranged for me to meet the father of one of her friends – an Australian widower, a year older than me. We had a blind date and continued seeing each other on an irregular basis. After seven months of getting to know each other, we began a more serious relationship and now, just over a year later, we are very happy doing many things together. He has introduced me to his children and grandchildren and has met my mother, sister, brother-in-law and various friends. In October we are planning to travel to Australia together to welcome his son’s first child there.

I was already enjoying my Aliyah here and meeting Shmuel was the “icing on the cake.” 


Rosh Hashana 5770 – Neujahrsgrüße an die Diasporagemeinden

September 18, 2009

Israels Präsident Shimon Peres hat zum jüdischen Neujahr 5770 ein Grußwort an die jüdischen Gemeinden in der Diaspora gerichtet:

„Das herannahende neue Jahr wird hoffentlich von der Verwirklichung unserer Ziele gekennzeichnet sein: dem Erreichen von Frieden, der Erhöhung der Sicherheit, der Förderung wirtschaftlichen Wachstums sowie der Gewährleistung der Zukunft des jüdischen Volkes und der Stärkung der Beziehungen zwischen Israel und unseren jüdischen Brüdern in der Diaspora.

Die Gelegenheit zum Frieden winkt, und sie muss selbst zum Preis schmerzlicher Zugeständnisse ergriffen werden. Die hartnäckige Position der arabischen Welt, „Nein“ zu Verhandlungen, „Nein“ zur Anerkennung Israels und „Nein“ zum Frieden zu sagen, ist heute dem dreifachen „Ja“ zur saudischen Initiative gewichen. Die internationale Gemeinschaft ist sehr daran interessiert, die Bemühungen um den Friedensprozess zu unterstützen, und ich bin zuversichtlich, dass die Vision eines umfassenden Friedens mit konzertierter Anstrengung realisiert werden kann. Dies wird unseren Kindern und ihren Kindern nach ihnen Stabilität, Ruhe, Sicherheit und Wohlstand bescheren.

Atomwaffen in den Händen eines extremistischen Fundamentalisten stellen eine Gefahr für die gesamte Menschheit und nicht nur für Israel dar. Ein breites und vereinigtes Eintreten der internationalen Gemeinschaft gegen den Iran ist vonnöten. Ich bete dafür, dass die gesamte Menschheit von dieser schrecklichen Bedrohung befreit und die Welt eine neue Ära von Frieden und Sicherheit genießen wird.

Israels Wirtschaft zeigt erste Anzeichen der Erholung von der globalen Wirtschaftskrise. Die makroökonomischen Signale sind vielversprechend, und diese Indikatoren spiegeln sich im wachsenden Umfang von Investitionen wider; die Hightech-Industrie lebt wieder auf, und Startup-Unternehmen sprießen von neuem aus dem Boden. Es ist Zeit, die Gelegenheit zu nutzen. Es ist Zeit, in Bereichen wie alternativer Energie, Wasserproduktion, Heimatschutz-Infrastruktur, Erziehungs- und Lernprogrammen und Stammzellenforschung in Israel zu investieren. Darin liegt unsere Zukunft, und wir haben sie in den Händen.

Es ist unabdingbar, mit unseren Brüdern in der Diaspora Beziehungen aufzubauen, die auf den soliden Grundlagen von Partnerschaft und Erziehung stehen. Tatsächlich kann die Rolle der jüdischen Erziehung in der Diaspora nicht überbewertet werden. Sie liefert die Bausteine der Brücken, die die jüdischen Gemeinden im Ausland und in Israel miteinander verbinden. Sie bietet die  Bedingungen des Engagements zwischen der jungen Generation von Juden und unserer Nation und die Sprungbretter für ein größeres Bewusstsein für die Bedeutung der Beziehungen zwischen Israel und der Diaspora.  Sie wird dazu dienen, unser Erbe und unsere Tradition in ihrem ganzen Reichtum zu bewahren.

Der Geist der Partnerschaft muss in jedem Bereich der Beziehungen zwischen Israel und der Diaspora verstärkt werden. Vor uns stehen dramatische Herausforderungen, die abermals die Notwendigkeit unterstreichen, in Augenblicken der Prüfung zusammenzustehen, der eine für den anderen verantwortlich, wie es die Propheten bestimmt haben. In der Tat ist eine Bedrohung für das Wohlergehen der jüdischen Gemeinden auf der Welt gleich einer Bedrohung für Israel selbst, und das Schicksal des Diasporajudentums liegt im Herzinnersten Israels.

Liebe Freunde, da wir uns nun ins neue Jahr aufmachen, möchte ich dem ganzen jüdischen Volk in der Diaspora von Herzen meine guten Wünsche übermitteln, in der Hoffnung, dass dies allen ein Jahr der Freude und des Glücks sein wird.

Und lasst uns für die sichere Rückkehr der Geiseln und vermissten Soldaten beten.

Shana tova umetuka.“

Israels Ministerpräsident Binyamin Netanyahu lässt das folgende Grußwort an die Diasporagemeinden übermitteln:

„Liebe Freunde,

da die jüdischen Gemeinden auf der ganzen Welt Rosh Hashana 5770 feiern, möchte ich Ihnen allen ein Shana Tova aus Jerusalem wünschen, der ewigen ungeteilten Hauptstadt des Staates Israel und des jüdischen Volkes.

Rosh Hashana ist für uns alle eine Gelegenheit, nicht nur eine Bilanz des vergangenen Jahres zu ziehen, sondern auch unsere Hoffnungen und Gebete auf das vor uns voraus liegende Jahr zu konzentrieren.

Viel hat sich im vergangenen Jahr verändert. Letztes Jahr sind israelische Städte unerbittlich von iranisch unterstützten Hamas-Terroristen mit Raketen beschossen worden, und unsere Wirtschaft, wie vie viele auf der Welt, steuerte in eine ernste Rezession hinein. Heute genießen die Bewohner des Südens eine Zeit der Ruhe, wie sie sie seit vielen Jahren nicht erlebt haben, und die Wirtschaft zeigt erste Anzeichen einer Erholung.

Obgleich erst fünf Monate im Amt, hat unsere Regierung der nationalen Einheit bereits eine breite wirtschaftliche Koalition aus Regierung, Handel und Arbeit geschmiedet, um einen beispiellosen Zweijahreshaushalt und eine historische Landreform zu verabschieden, was das Wirtschaftswachstum für die kommenden Jahre erheblich ankurbeln wird.

Aber viel Arbeit bleibt noch zu tun. Wir müssen weiter unsere nationale Sicherheit gegen beträchtliche Bedrohungen gewährleisten. Wir müssen ein robustes Wirtschaftswachstum schaffen, die Erziehung in unseren Schulen verbessern und der Kriminalität auf unseren Straßen Einhalt gebieten. Und wir müssen einen verantwortungsbewussten Friedensprozess voranbringen, mit dem Ziel, einen historischen Frieden mit unseren Nachbarn zu schaffen.

Vor allem müssen wir vereint bleiben. Unsere nationale Einheitsregierung hat dem breiten Konsens, der in diesem Land existiert, Ausdruck verliehen. Nationale Einheit ist stets ein wichtiges Gut, aber in Zeiten der Herausforderung ist es unverzichtbar. Daher werde ich, während wir in den kommenden Jahren auf das Erreichen unserer ambitionierten Ziele hinarbeiten, alles in meiner Macht stehende tun, um unser Volk zu einen.

Diese Einigkeit ist sowohl innerhalb als auch außerhalb Israels notwendig. Die Bande zwischen Israel und den jüdischen Diasporagemeinden auf der ganzen Welt sind eine ungeheuerliche Quelle der Stärke, und ich werde in den kommenden Jahren an der Stärkung dieser Bande arbeiten.

Mögen Sie alle in das Buch des Lebens eingeschrieben werden, und möge unser Volk ein Jahr der Sicherheit, des Wohlstands und des Friedens genießen.“


Guest Editorial by Rabbi Benjamin Blech: Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life – The film’s powerful Rosh Hashana message

September 13, 2009

by Rabbi Benjamin Blech

It’s a wonderful life.

At least that’s what a movie by that title, considered a classic of American cinema, wants us to believe. George Bailey, the hero of the film powerfully acted by James Stewart, finally decides upon suicide as his only recourse to solve his financial problems. Because he has a $15,000 life insurance policy he feels he’s worth more dead than alive. Acting on his desire to help his family he’s ready to jump off a bridge when the angel Clarence intercedes not only to save his life but to make him realize that it is really worth living.

The way the angel accomplishes this incredible transformation from a man anxiously seeking his own annihilation to a person perceiving the true value of his existence and the ultimate meaning of his life contains a powerful Rosh Hashana message.

How should we fulfill our obligation to better ourselves as we reach the 10 days of repentance on the Hebrew calendar? Many of us emphasize focusing on our sinfulness. It is a time to seek out our flaws, to seriously consider our failings. And of course that must be part of our personal stock taking.

First become aware of the positives in your life.

But that cannot be the whole story. If we spend our time only in self-condemnation we stand in danger of losing sight of the ways in which we have been successful. If we stress only the ways we’ve gone wrong we won’t ever be able to notice our accomplishments. We need to first become aware of the positives in our lives.

This point explains the sequence of the days book-ending our spiritual journey from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur. On Yom Kippur we fast. We beat our breasts in confession of all of our sins. We cry out to God, “Who are we? What is our lives? We come from the dust of the earth and we return to the dust of the earth.” It is a recognition of how much we have failed, how far we have come from reaching our fullest potential. Yom Kippur is a necessary restraint to our egos. Before we can feel fully reconciled with God it is essential for us to demonstrate our understanding of our imperfection.

But it is not Yom Kippur that begins the process of our purification. The 10 days of repentance start with Rosh Hashana for good reason. Rosh Hashana doesn’t mark the first day of creation, but rather the last — the day on which the first human beings were created. Just as a host fully prepares for his guests before they enter his home, so too, the Midrash explains, God filled the earth on the first five days of creation with everything people might need before He brought them into being. Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day to endow them with a sense of their uniqueness and spiritual stature. It is we who were created in the image of God. Realizing this is a necessary prelude to leading a life worthy of our divine origin and our sacred nobility.

So on Rosh Hashana we begin getting closer to God by reminding ourselves that we are Godly, that we have a pure soul. On Yom Kippur we conclude the journey by acknowledging that we have not yet achieved all that of which we are capable.

Rosh Hashana asks us to remember how much we are worth to God, to our families, to our friends, and to the world. We feast as an expression of the joy we find in our life. And that understanding must precede the Yom Kippur emphasis on our failings that prompt us to fast and to cry over our imperfections.

To lead our lives only from a Yom Kippur perspective is to insure discontent and despondency. To be overwhelmed by a constant feeling that we are failures is to invite the pernicious desire to end it all. Why bother going on if we can never do anything right, why continue the struggle if we are doomed to always losing the battle? Suicide is the response chosen by those weighed down by a devastating sense that they accomplished nothing in their lives. It goes against God who as the ultimate giver of life decided that we still have a positive role to play here on earth.

In the film, after suffering a financial setback of $8,000 that puts his small saving and loans bank at risk, George feels his life is worthless. Despite the serious consequences this entails, if George would have framed his life as a balance sheet of accumulated good versus the mistakes and bad things he has done, he would have been able to put events in a more balanced perspective and not judge himself so harshly.

In the cosmic balance sheet of one’s life, sin does not wipe out the positive gains.

In business, your losses can wipe out your balance sheet. But in the cosmic balance sheet of one’s life, sin does not wipe out the positive gains. You are not your business or profession.

When George bitterly wept that he wished he would never have been born, Clarence, with his angelic power, showed him what the world would have been like if his wish really came true. He showed him his life’s balance sheet. George never realized how many people he had affected during his lifetime. He had no idea how different his community, his family, his friends, his neighbors, and indeed the world would have looked had he never been on earth.

When George comes to realize how many lives he has touched and how much of an impact he has had on so many others, he can at last acknowledge the truth of his brother’s toast that he is “the richest man in town.”

There are countless “Georges” among us. There are all too many who deserve to be recognized as successes when we consider the ripple effects of their deeds translated into the achievements of others. And perhaps most relevant of all, in the time of our own introspection, as we feel ourselves burdened by the sins of our failures, we ought to make room for the contentment and peace of mind that comes from knowing that God also weighs the good we inspire in all those around us.

Perhaps the most powerful irony associated with “It’s a Wonderful Life,” is the message implicit in its reception when it was released in 1946. The movie was a box office failure leading critics to say that Frank Capra, producer and director, was past his prime and no longer capable of producing a major motion picture. What an incredibly mistaken evaluation for a film that today is ranked by the American film industry as one of the top 10 classic movies in its genre ever made. What appeared at first glance to have been a failure is in retrospect one of the most outstanding successes. Isn’t that the whole point of the film itself?

As we reflect upon the meaning of our earthly existence before the High Holy days, keep in mind that sometimes it takes years for the beauty of our own lives and its significance to be fully recognized.

***

About the author: Rabbi Benjamin Blech,  is the author of 12 highly acclaimed books, including Understanding Judaism: The basics of Deed and Creed. He is a professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University and the Rabbi Emeritus of Young Israel of Oceanside (California) which he served for 37 years and from which he retired to pursue his interests in writing and lecturing around the globe. He is also the author of If God Is Good, Why Is The World So Bad?


Earl Shugerman’s Corner: Jerusalem

August 24, 2009

Earl Shugerman, will bring every week a serie of stories about Anglo-Saxon immigrants to Israel. This project is aimed to promote a more realistic view of life in Israel.

Chaya is a form of the Hebrew word for life. It is also the name of my favourite cousin in Jerusalem.

She is Orthodox and by the age of thirty has six wonderful children. She is also an American Oleh. Her family immigrated to Israel, two decades ago. Their intention was to be in the holiest city of the holiest nation on earth. My pride and joy is her three year old son El Chanon. El Chanon is a handsome, brilliant, and very precocious young man with dark hair, brown eyes, and a very enchanting but somewhat sly smile. His mom refers to him as a walking Chamsin (turbulent storm), and his proud grandma jokes that he is Israel’s greatest threat to stability. 

Needless to say, life has special meaning to the Jewish people considering the struggles of the past five thousand years culminating with the Holocaust. The heart of Israel is the holy city. For two thousand years Jews living in exile annually chanted “Next Year in Jerusalem”. Jerusalem is the soul of Judaism, the heart of the Jewish homeland. 

 “Without Jerusalem there is no Israel“. David Ben-Gurion stated emphatically to Mickey Marcus, Israel’s first Aloof (General) during the 1948 battle for the city.

Marcus was an American volunteer. Chaya, like most residents of the holy city takes great pride in giving guided tours of her beloved metropolis.

During my last visit, we enjoyed touring the city on Israel’s double decker bus 99. El Chanon managed to get into everything and talk to everyone to the merriment of all, including our bus driver Haim, a resident of the city for forty years and proud grandfather.

Jerusalem Bus

The 99 bus navigates a route of both scenic and cultural interest. Mount Scopus boasts a visage encompassing the Old City, the Temple Mount and Bethlehem. As the Old City passes into the remote distance, the New boasts iconographic sites. The Knesset houses Israel’s parliament. The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial is a poignant reminder of a lost world – the 6 million Jews that perished in humanities most insidious crime.  However, the Israel Museum is a testimony to Jewish endurance. It exhibits Judaic items both past and present.

By the end of the tour many of the travellers felt like old friends. Next year in Jerusalem is now.

About the author: Earl Shugerman is a retired American Government public relations specialist,  currently spokesperson in Haifa for The Jewish Agency and a writer specializing in interfaith relations. He has worked together with the Catholic and Southern Baptist Movements, the Reformed Jewish Movement and Muslim groups in interfaith activities.


Israel – ein jüdischer Staat

July 11, 2009

DIG VORTRAG


Terrorist Plot in New York against Synagogues

June 2, 2009

Four New York residents have been arrested for an alleged plot to attack two synagogues in the Bronx and to shoot down planes at a military base in Newburgh, New York.

The men, who were fuelled by their hatred of America and the Jews, reportedly began surveillance of several synagogues and a Jewish Community Center in the Bronx in April. The plot is one of several terrorist plots in the U.S. in recent years motivated by anti-Semitism and radical interpretations of Islam.

Several terrorist plots in New York were also motivated by a hatred of Jews or Israel.  These include:

  • A group of men plotted to attack New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in 2007, in part because they wanted to take revenge on the U.S. for its diplomatic relationship with Israel.
  • James Elshafay and Shawar Matin Siraj plotted to bomb New York’s Herald Square subway station in 2004 to show solidarity with the Palestinians because of their hatred of the “Zionists.”
  • In July 1997, Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer plotted to blow up a subway station in Brooklyn in order to “kill as many Jews as possible.”  He testified that he chose the Atlantic Avenue station as a target because there are “a lot of Jews who ride that train.”
  • Ali Abu Kamal, a Palestinian man who went on a shooting spree atop the Empire State Building in 1997, carried a note in his pocket indicating the attack was meant to vent his anger at the U.S. for using Israel as an “instrument” against the Palestinian people.
  • In 1993, five Islamic extremists detonated a car bomb below Tower One of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing 6 people and wounding more than 1,000 others. Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind behind the attack, first planned to bomb Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn, but settled on the World Trade Center because “the majority of people who work in the World Trade Center are Jews,” according to Abdul Rahman Yasin, a co-conspirator in the attack.
  • Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, an Egyptian cleric and alleged leader of the terrorist group Gama’a al-Islamiyya, plotted to bomb five major landmarks in New York in 1993, including the United Nations Headquarters, the Lincoln Tunnel, the Holland Tunnel, the George Washington Bridge and the FBI office in New York.  In addition, he plotted to attack New York’s diamond district, an area largely populated by Jews, which according to one of his co-defendants would be like “hitting Israel itself.”
  • In 1973, Khalid Al-Jawary plotted to blow up cars parked out of three Israeli targets in Manhattan to coincide with a scheduled visit to New York by then-Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.  The targets included El Al air terminal at John F. Kennedy International airport, the First Israel Bank and Trust Company, and the Israel Discount Bank in New York City.

Read full story.


Austrian Jewish community concerned over anti-Semitic rhetoric of Jörg Haider’s followers

May 26, 2009

The head of the Austrian Jewish community, Ariel Muzicant, has accused extreme-right politicians in his country of stoking hate in the run up to elections for the European Parliament in June 2009. Muzicant said in an interview that the tone of the campaign by the far-right Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) was directly responsible for a recent series of anti-Semitic incidents in the country.

The FPÖ encouraged “right-wing extremism in their own ranks and systematically want to make it socially respectable,” Muzicant said. He also likened the agitation of the party’s general secretary, Herbert Kickl, to those of Nazi Germany‘s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.

FPÖ leader Norbert Hofer demanded in a statement released Saturday that Austrian president Heinz Fischer and Parliament speaker Barbara Prammer condemn Muzicant’s words, but there has been no official response.

While most Austrians are likely to support the governing Social Democrats (SPÖ) and Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) in the elections, far-right parties won nearly 29 percent of the vote in last year’s national elections. Recent incidents in Austria include an attack by four right-wing youth on Holocaust survivors in the town of Ebensee; anti-Semitic statements made by Austrian students visiting the Auschwitz memorial; the refusal of a hotel in Tyrol to accept Jewish guests; and an Austrian far-right columnist blaming Jews for the current world financial crisis. An FPÖ campaign ad suggested that not only Turkey but also Israel, which is not a candidate for accession, should be prevented from joining the European Union.

Meanwhile, the Simon Wiesenthal Center warned that voter indifference across Europe could empower anti-Semitic parties in the upcoming European Parliament elections. “In the past, low voter turnout has played into the hands” of European parties and their allies which “are openly anti-Semitic and some include convicted Holocaust deniers,” said a statement released by the center. The Wiesenthal Center is arguing that votes can influence the Israel-Europe relationship and Jewish life in Europe because the EU Parliament will address issues such as anti-Semitism, the Iranian nuclear threat, dialogue with Hamas and Hezbollah, and trade agreements with Israel. Some 736 members of the European Parliament will be elected by proportional representation to represent 500 million Europeans in the 27 member states.


Jüdisch-arabischer Fußballverein zu Gast in Berlin

May 20, 2009

Pressemitteilung des Zentralrats der Juden in Deutschland

Berlin, 20. Mai 2009 – Nächste Woche kommt die Jugendmannschaft des israelischen Fußballvereins FC Hapo”el Abu Gosch – Mevasseret Zion nach Berlin.

Auf Einladung des Zentralrats der Juden in Deutschland hält sich die Jugendmannschaft des israelischen Fußballvereins FC Hapoel Abu Gosch – Mevasseret Zion vom 25.-28. Mai 2009 in Berlin auf. Mit der Einladung würdigt der Zentralrat das Engagement des Vereins für die Koexistenz jüdischer und arabischer Israelis und möchte das von den Spielern und Amtsträgern des Vereins vorgelebte Erfolgsmodell des gutnachbarlichen Zusammenlebens auch in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland vorstellen.

FC Hapoel Abu Gosch – Mevasseret Zion ist der einzige jüdisch-arabische Fußballverein Israels. Selbstverständlich spielen jüdische und arabische Fußballer in vielen anderen israelischen Teams zusammen, doch hat sich FC Hapoel Abu Gosch – Mevasseret Zion nicht nur sportliche Erfolge, sondern auch die Förderung der Koexistenz beider Volksgruppen ausdrücklich als Ziel gesetzt. Der Verein stellt eine volle und paritätische Partnerschaft zwischen den beiden westlich von Jerusalem gelegenen Ortschaften, dem jüdischen Mevasseret Zion und dem arabischen Abu Gosch dar. Der sechsköpfige Vorstand besteht aus drei Arabern und drei Juden.

Zum Turnier zwischen FC Hapoel Abu Gosch – Mevasseret Zion, Hertha BSC und der Axel-Springer-Journalistenschule sowie zum Freundschaftsspiel zwischen der israelischen Mannschaft und Makkabi Berlin sind Medienvertreter herzlich willkommen.

Das Turnier findet am 26.05.2009 im Amateurstadion Hertha BSC, Hanns-Braun-Straße, am Olympiastadion statt. Der Anpfiff ist für 17.30 Uhr geplant.

Das Spiel gegen Makkabi Berlin findet am 27.05.2009, Julius-Hirsch-Sportplatz, Harbigstraße 40, Berlin-Charlottenburg statt. Spielbeginn: 18.30 Uhr

Eine Akkreditierung ist nicht erforderlich. Ansprechpartner vor Ort ist Wladimir Struminski, Tel: 00972-522 576 865.


Guest Editorial by Rabbi Benjamin Blech on Pope’s Visit to Israel

May 17, 2009

Our beloved friend and colleague Rabbi Benjamin Blech took time to serve as guest editor, commenting the Pope’s visit in Israel. In January 2005, Rabbi Blech became one of the first rabbis in history known to confer the priestly blessing on a Pope, when he visited the Pope John Paul II  in the Apostolic Palace.

My Encounter with the Pope

by Rabbi Benjamin Blech

New York, May 17, 2009

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Was I wrong at that moment to believe it’s at last possible to cast off centuries of mistrust, misunderstanding and religious intolerance?

How does a rabbi feel when he meets the pope?

As a 10th-generation rabbi who has spent a lifetime teaching Torah to Jews, that’s something I thought was about as likely to happen to me as winning a gold medal at the Olympics. My world is the ivory tower of Jewish academia, not the Vatican. The people I’m used to seeing with yarmulkes on their heads are congregants, not cardinals. The holy city I most often visit isn’t Rome but Jerusalem.

But sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and Divine providence put me together not just with one pope but with two.

Before I share with you the circumstances of these remarkable meetings, a little personal background is important. My parents came from Poland, and when I was a child they would tell me about their early lives there. On Christmas and Easter they knew they could not dare be out in the street. Their church-going neighbors would search for any of the Jewish “Christ killers” who their priest had impressed upon them in his sermon were guilty of killing their Lord. Anti-Semitic attacks were almost everyday occurrences, the expected price that Jews understood they had to pay for residence in a non-Jewish land. It’s sad to say but for Jews, Christians were the villains – because we were constantly victims.

If my parents ever wondered whether a time might come when this would all change, the Holocaust put an end to whatever optimism they dared to allow themselves. No, they concluded, and constantly reinforced in their admonitions to my siblings and to me. The rift between us and “them,” as they saw it, was unbridgeable. Only a fool, they never failed to tell us, would deny the lesson of so many centuries.

So in my mind, the pope became the general of an opposing army. Nothing personal, mind you, but surely sufficient to make me suspicious of any gesture on his part to improve our relationship.

It was with this mindset that I fortuitously became involved with a gentleman who had connections with the Vatican and offered to help when I informed him that there were many precious Jewish items in the hands of the church that we would love to bring back to their original owners. With his assistance and unbelievable good fortune we were invited to the Vatican Library to view some extremely precious manuscripts and initiate plans to bring some of them out on exhibit in Israel.

And then there was one more remarkable thing that happened. It explains what a nice Jewish septuagenarian like me was doing in the Apostolic Palace standing before the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics in the week before what proved to be his final illness.

Pope John Paul II was a different kind of pope. With all of my mistrust ingrained since my youth I had to attach significant meaning to the things I learnt about this spiritual leader of others who ironically enough was born in Poland, not far from my ancestors. I discovered that he was someone sensitive enough when he assumed the papacy to make one of his very first acts a visit to Auschwitz to in order express remorse at the fate of the 6 million victims.

More, he became the first pope since Saint Peter to visit a synagogue. He journeyed to the Western Wall in Jerusalem and left an inscribed message within one of its crevices asking for forgiveness for the sins Christianity committed against the Jews throughout the centuries. He denounced anti-Semitism as a “sin against God and humanity.” He normalized diplomatic relations with the State of Israel. He epitomized love, reconciliation and the healing of ancient wounds.

And because he had a profound feeling of affection for Jews, he made an amazing decision. Realizing his advanced age he made a personal and private request that was relayed to me. Pope John Paul II indicated that he would like to receive a blessing – a blessing from the spiritual leaders of the people who had for so long been the victims of its misplaced, virulent hatred. That is how I came to be a part of 150 rabbis and cantors who went to meet with the pope and fulfill his request.

At this historic moment three of us stepped forward to personally recite a blessing. It was then that I uttered the words recorded in the Talmud for a time when a Jew meets a great leader of the nations of the world: “We bless You O Lord for having granted of Your glory to Your creations.”

Was I wrong at that moment to believe it’s at last possible to cast off centuries of mistrust, misunderstanding and religious intolerance?

What went through my mind?

I heard the past speaking to me. I don’t know how it was possible for time to become so compressed that in those few moments, I could clearly make out so many conversations in my mind, all of them vying for my attention, all of them claiming my conviction. Some were filled with anger. Some were disbelieving. Some advised caution. Some were overcome with joyous emotion. All were battling for my agreement. It was simply too difficult for me to decide, too momentous a moment for me to come to any conclusion.

But with all the voices fighting to be heard within me one seemed most recognizable. I could swear that in the Vatican itself I heard my father, of blessed memory, whisper in my ear,” Perhaps. Perhaps.”

Not too long after that I was invited to be a member of the group that accompanied Pope Benedict, newly appointed after the death of John Paul II, when as one of the first acts of his papacy he too went to Auschwitz to pray, to request forgiveness, and to vow that civilized mankind would never again permit an atrocity of this horrendous magnitude to every again occur. I know that this pope is a German whose biography leaves us with some unanswered questions. I know that he has committed some serious errors of judgment in his response to Holocaust deniers within his own faith. And yet I saw him at Auschwitz. I heard his words. I spoke with him. I know that he, too, in his visit to New York last year chose to go to a synagogue to make clear his warm feelings towards Jews.

Pope Benedict was in Israel last week. He too has placed a prayer in the wall. He too has gone to the memorial for those who perished during the Holocaust. For some he didn’t say enough and he didn’t do enough. For others there is still the lingering and strong suspicion that he is the head of an organization that forever stands in opposition to our survival, at the very least theologically.

Only time will tell whether we may place our trust in the sincerity of these new gestures of friendship. But I would like to believe, seeing things with my own eyes that I know my parents and grandparents would never have deemed possible, that it is not too far-fetched and too naive to respond to these apparent attempts at reconciliation, with one word: “Perhaps. Perhaps.”

About the author: Rabbi Benjamin Blech,  is the author of 12 highly acclaimed books, including Understanding Judaism: The basics of Deed and Creed. He is a professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University and the Rabbi Emeritus of Young Israel of Oceanside (California) which he served for 37 years and from which he retired to pursue his interests in writing and lecturing around the globe. He is also the author of If God Is Good, Why Is The World So Bad?


Joining Hands with the Pope in Nazareth

May 14, 2009

Rabbi David Rosen, American Jewish Committee (AJC) international director of interreligious affairs, joined with Pope Benedict XVI and a group of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Druze religious leaders in Nazareth, Israel, for an oecumenical meeting and to sing a song of peace.

“It illustrated dramatically that religion does not have to be the problem but the solution and that it is up to politicians to engage religious leaders in the search for peace,” Rabbi David Rosen said.