Thursday, December 28, 2017

Medieval Jewry in Western Europe

Before TED talks there was Norman Cantor; but what a TED talk!  

Medieval historian Norman Cantor, from Manitoba, taught at Princeton, Columbia, Tel Aviv, Chicago and many other illustrious places. The judgment, perhaps unkind, on his Wikipedia entry, is that he was a pretty boy talker and popularizer of medieval history more than a contributor of original scholarship.  

Works for me here . . . In 1997 he participated in a symposium at the International Center for Humanistic Judaism.  The institute "celebrates cultural Jewish identity through a human-focused philosophy of life." It offers professional training as well as general adult education courses.  I'm glad I ran across Cantor's presentation at this 1997 colloquium.

Cantor's topic at the '97 symposium was "The medieval Jew." Here's the summary if you have just eight minutes, but listen for yourself, below: 

A 500-year Banking Monopoly

A terrible disaster struck Western Europe in about 500 CE.   The great invasions of the 4th and 5th centuries from the Germanic north, and the Mongol east, brought an end to the 500 year "safe and secure" (tongue firmly in cheek) rule of Rome. New kingdoms replaced the "benign and beautiful Roman Empire." It was good for the Jews who had been discriminated against, isolated, and ghettoized under the late Christianized, Roman Empire in the West. 

The collapse of the Roman Empire ushered in the rise of Ashkenazi Jewry.  For the next 500 years Jews had a virtual monopoly on banking and credit. It allowed the formation of a Jewish elite of large scale bankers. Great Jewish merchant families accumulated the capital, commercial capability, and courage to engage in long distance trade. This trade was facilitated by a Jewish network along the shores of the Mediterranean, and into Asia. Jews were the great merchants of the early Middle Ages. They brought Jewels, perfumes, and spices, from around the Mediterranean, and from as far away as India: things the feudal aristocracy of Western Europe wanted "to make their crude lives a little more pleasant and beautiful."

These Jewish merchants exported furs, swords, and lumber from the great forests of Europe. And slaves. Jews were very much involved in white slave traffic in the early Middle Ages. They provided credit instruments, bridge loans when great lords died (to allow settlement of estates); they funded armed conflict. After around 750 AD the Jewish importance accelerated with the great Muslim expansion.  Jews were uniquely positioned and able to trade across the frontiers between Christian and Muslim lands.

These great capitalists of the early medieval world were protected by Christian nobility who protected them against Bishops and meshugena monks. 

A Rabbinic-Capitalist Elite

The Jewish community in Western Europe in this early medieval period was dominated by a rabbinic capitalist elite. Most Jews were craftsmen, small farmers, carriers of wood and water. But this community of craftsmen, small farmers, and carriers of wood and water came to be dominated—until the late 19th Century—by a narrow band of capitalist families who intermarried with great rabbinical families. Together these families formed an aristocracy. There was a small degree of upward mobility. A very bright young man, excelling at his studies, might marry into a rabbinic family, or a capitalist family, and start his own line. But it was rare.

This capitalist-rabbinic dynasty was accompanied by the rise of Jewish law (halakha). Halakha spread westward from the great schools of Iraq towards Western Europe, but the strict observance of the law took hold very slowly in Western Europe. By 1000 CE, however, Talmudic schools had been established in the West and the law became the dominant way of life, imposed on the Jewish masses by this narrow capitalist-rabbinic elite. 

Rashi (1040-1105) wrote his commentary on the bible in Troyes (northern France) to justify the halakhic code that Jews in Western Europe had come to live by. But the great Ashkenaz was already past its glory.

Christian Competition, Rise of Christian Religiosity, and Revival of Roman Law

After the middle of the 11th century three changes brought an end to the good fortune of the Jews of the early middle ages: the monopoly on banking and credit ended, there was a great revival of Christian spirituality, and there was a revival of Roman law.

The emergence of Christian merchants, bankers, and creditors provided intense competition to the Jewish capitalist hegemony. The field of competition was tilted when bishops and princes placed restrictions on Jewish trade.

At the same time there was a revival of Roman law with the founding of Roman law schools in Bologna and elsewhere. When Roman law was revived, those old late-Roman discriminatory statutes came roaring back. Roman law, complete with its anti-Semitic elements, was taught in law schools, and was enforced by Christian beurocrats.  It was a disaster for Jews.

There was a great upsurge of Christian spirituality starting in the mid-eleventh century. This reached far beyond liturgy and worship: it enriched the arts, literature, and music--the sublime. But it also revived and generated a great Jew-phobia among Christians. Jew-phobia and anti-Semitism was at the very heart of the flowering of Catholic spirituality.  Chaucer, St. Anselm, everyone, was consumed with the hatred of Jews. Jew hatred was central to this great Catholic culture of the High Middle Ages.

This presentd a terrible problem for the Jewish community.  The European nobility, who had been protective of the Jews, were overcome by mass hysteria against the Jews.  Pogroms, intense ghettoization, and exclusion of Jews from the business world they had participated in followed. This resulted in a great decline of the Ashkenaz. The crusades took their toll. There was a great diminishment of wealth. The Virgin Mary cult went up, and Jews went down. 

By 1300, Jews were expelled from England and they did not return until 1653. By 1350 Jews were expelled from almost all of France except for an eastern province of Alsace. Jews fled eastward into Germany. There they picked up German and carried it with them to Poland, as Yiddish, in the 16th century. Jews continued to live in Germany, but in the late middle ages there were terrible pogroms in Germany, too, and Jews moved eastward. 

Jews were blamed for the black death of the mid 14th century. Doctors testified in court that it was due to Jews poisoning wells. 

The Move to Poland and Eastern Lands

Jews moved to Poland in the 16th century, carrying their Yiddish, their rabbinical elite, and their law with them. There they were useful to the Dukes of Poland and the Polish aristocracy to stimulate international trade and to provide credit instruments. They served the Polish aristocracy by managing estates in Ukraine, recently captured by Poland. In exchange they were given a monopoly over the liquor trade in Ukraine. It did not endear the Jews to the greater population. 

Internal Decline

In response to this decline of the Ashkenaz during the high Middle Ages, in the 12 and 13th centuries there was a crisis in intellectual life among the rabbis and among Jewish intellectuals. Western Europe was undergoing a revival of Aristotelian philosophy and science, which was hard to square with revealed religion. It presented a great challenge to the traditions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism alike. In all three there was an intellectual crisis. How do we reconcile theistic traditions with philosophy and science?

Among Jews, Maimonedes (1135-1204) advocated a reconciliation between science and strict observance of Jewish law. He wrote his Guide for the Perplexed, attempting to show how you could be a devout Jew and still a believer in modern science (of his day). It's unconvincing, this Guide, says Cantor. And it was unconvincing to the rabbis of Southern France. They rejected Maimonides' philosophical works, and instead kept only his biblical commentaries. Instead of moving toward science, the rabbis moved towards the kabbala, and "the accentuation of a Hellenistic astrological mystical pastiche." Judaism moved towards an irrationalist, mystical  culture. The Jews of Ashkenaz were not only ghettoized externally, they withdrew into an irrationalist culture internally. 

Iberian Jewry

Spain was different. Jews had been there for centuries. They lived there peacefully during the Roman empire, and they accommodated themselves well to Muslim Arabic rule. Muslim Spain was a Golden Age of sorts. Jews were able to build up the great commercial corporations as they had in Northern Europe, and they developed a rich culture of Hebrew literature, liturgy, and music; and at the same time they pursued Greek and Arab philosophy and medicine.

The conditions of Iberian Jewry deteriorated in the mid 12th century, about a century after the decline of Ashkenaz. New Muslims from Africa, fundamentalists, arrived. A cold wind of intolerance blew. Christian princes invaded from the north to reconquer Muslim lands. By the middle of the 13th century, most of Iberia was back in Christian hands. In 1492 the last of the Muslim principalities (Grenada) was overcome. 

A practicing Jewish presence disappeared from Spain between 1390 and 1500.  The Jewish population in 1390 was perhaps one million in an overall population of 10 million. After 1492 no more observant Jews were left in Spain. 

Many converted. Pogroms were stirred up against this highly visible and  successful minority. But mass conversion in the 15th century was also the result of Jewish internal developments. Kabbala had transferred to Spain. The Zohar, the main text of Jewish mysticism, was written down in Aragon in the 14th century. Intellecutal leaders of the Jewish community in Spain, as in Europe, now rejected rationalism, and science, and learning. Instead they held fast to a marginal mystical culture. Young Jews were not attracted. Cut off from the learning of the late middle ages, which flowered into the Renaissance, conversion was an attempt to breach this intellectual chasm. Jews saw great things going on in the gentile world. It was an impetus to conversion.

And conversion worked. Jews rose to important positions in courts and the Church in Spain upon conversion. Some of the greatest scholar of early Christian Spain were converts from Judaism in the 16th century. 


Norman Cantor, "The Medieval Jew" (1997)
Cantor died in 2004

Follow me on Twitter @RolandNikles

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Christmas Letter to Nikki Haley

Nikki Haley exercising veto in SC, December 18, 2017

Dear Nikki:

The Economist says you were unsure which party you should represent when you first entered politics. But you are ambitious . . . and from South Carolina . . . so you chose the Republican party. You joined the local religion, too. Good for you.

On this Christmas Day, we recall that near Bethlehem, there were shepherds out in the field, “and an angel of the Lord appeared to them. . . and the angel said. . . I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people.”  Luke 2. And we behold: the angel did not say “America First!” He said “This will be a sign for you,” and “suddenly there was … a multitude of the heavenly host … saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men.’” And I’m sure the angels meant “women,” too.

When we contemplate the good fortune of these United States, we see that we have secured peace among men through the rule of law. We have strong independent courts. Our courts are not immune from politics, but they are independent all the same. Judges are deliberative; they must justify what they do with reasoned arguments. We have a Supreme Court as a “decider” of last resort. Mostly the executive follows what the courts say, even if not always. And we think of that infamous son of the Carolinas, Andrew Jackson. See, Worcester v. Georgia. We like living under the rule of law. It’s a good thing. Surely you agree.  

Now that you are in a position of influence, Nikki, how will you help secure peace on earth among men? You are the daughter of immigrants. You’ve been blessed that your parents have made a home in our land of freedom under the rule of law. And you’ve done us proud, becoming a South Carolina legislator, governor, and now ambassador to the United Nations. How will you use this platform to secure peace among men (and women too)?

You were born in 1972, and you have not seen the scourge of war up close. Your husband has done good work in Afghanistan, helping farmers improve their agriculture, to help them transition to cash crops other than opium poppies. But in order to make this transition successfully, they will need the peace and stability that comes with the rule of law. They will need the support of the international community, working together. It means we can’t always act unilaterally; it means we can’t always do exactly as we please.

After the horrors of World War II, the nations of the world got together in San Francisco and adopted the United Nations Charter:

To maintain international peace and security,  . . . ;To develop friendly relations among nations . . . ;To achieve international co-operation . . . ; and To be a center for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.

Surely you agree, to secure peace among men and women is doing God’s work.

The nations tried to delegate more authority to the UN than they had granted to the League of Nations. Notably, in Article 41, the UN was given powers to implement measures not involving force, such as interruptions of economic relations, and severance of diplomatic relations; and in Article 42 the UN was given authority to raise an armed force to maintain or restore international peace and security.

Article 24 of the charter provides that the members of the UN grant to the Security Council the primary responsibility to take prompt and effective action to secure the peace as it sees fit. Article 25 provides that each member shall “agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council.” As you know, as a permanent member of the Security Council, the United States has special privileges: it has the power to veto Security Council resolutions.

This week you rallied the nations of the Security Council to support you in new sanctions against North Korea. These measures will require cooperation from Russia and China. How will you feel when the Chinese and Russians undermine these sanctions? You won’t like it, and you will be right, because it will demonstrate a lack of commitment to international law by these nations, a lack of commitment to stand shoulder to shoulder to secure peace among men and women.

So we are surprised that this week you seemed annoyed that anyone should question your unilateral action to not accept and not implement Security Council Resolution 478. This 1980 resolution resolved that the nations of the world shall not maintain their embassy in Jerusalem until Israel complies with existing Security Council resolutions, or until a final status agreement is reached with respect to Jerusalem by the parties.

SC478 states in relevant part: 

The Security Council . . . .Reaffirming its determination to examine practical ways and means, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Charter of the United Nations, to secure the full implementation of its resolution 476 (1980), in the event of non-compliance by Israel, . . . 5. Decides not to recognize the "basic law” (annexing East Jerusalem) and such other actions by Israel that, as a result of this law, seek to alter the character and status of Jerusalem and calls upon: (a) All Member States to accept this decision; (b) Those States that have established diplomatic missions at Jerusalem to withdraw such missions from the Holy City. 

As you know, Israel benefits from the legitimacy conferred by the United Nations with its 1947 partition resolution 181, which divided Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem to be administered as an international district. The sanction of SC478 that states shall withdraw their diplomatic missions from Jerusalem pending Israel’s compliance with prior UN resolutions, or a final status agreement (meaning the end of occupation), is surely the mildest of sanctions. It is symbolic, and it adheres to the oft repeated collective judgment of the UN. Standing together behind this collective judgment, in which we acquiesced, is an important endorsement of the rule of law.

You say “it’s what the American people want,” but you know this is not true. Polling released a week ago indicates that a mere 36% of the American public supports the move. And, of course, you are aware that fewer than half the people voted for Donald Trump for president, and that nearly 3 million more voters cast their ballot for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. Don’t turn into an infamous daughter of the Carolina’s, Nikki.

Adhering to the rule of law in the context of the UN requires political will. The UN lacks enforcement mechanism, so it requires a commitment to collective action. The US could have vetoed SC478 in 1980, but we elected not to. By signing the UN Charter, we committed ourselves to “accept and carry out” the decisions of the Security Council that make it past the veto gauntlet.

By moving our embassy to Jerusalem we are violating SC478 and we are undermining the rule of law in the international sphere. We are setting a bad example. This is not a move to secure peace among men and women.

Your threat to reduce funding for anyone who has the temerity to object to your violation of SC478 further undermines peace and harmony of the international sphere. Don’t back away from the rule of law, Nikki. That is our wish for Christmas.

Follow me on Twitter @RolandNikles


A Dance for Christmas



Irish Fiddler Kevin Burke, who lives in Portland, Oregon, has been playing this 19th century barn dance since the 1970's. At The Session B Maloney reports:  "According to Kevin, this tune was originally a 'Sand Jig' a strange kind of jig in 12/8 with more of a 4/4 feel than a slide: it has elements of a slide, a hornpipe & a barndance."

The skeleton dance is borrowed from a 1929 Walt Disney short.  The Morris Dance is from Oxford, England. Brian O'Broin came across these dancers on a cycling tour of England in 2006, after completing a stay at the Summer Research Institute in Manchester.

The skeletons here bring to mind the wonderful new Pixar film, Coco (directed by Lee Unkrich), a fantasy on Dia de los muertos, which is celebrated in Central and South America at the end of October each year. Families gather to pray for and to remember loved ones who have died in order to support their spiritual journey. Coco presents a liminal journey from the material world to the spiritual world, and back--not so different from Jesus's journey from his godly state to the material world in Bethlehem.  And what better way to celebrate such a trans-substantive journey than with a Morris dance--which likewise is associated with godly journeys between life and death--between matter and spirit.

Merry Christmas to all . . .

An earthly journey to witness a liminal journey



Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Blessing After Meals: a Concise History of Jewish History up to Yavne

David Ben-Gurion's library, Tel Aviv/Ron James
Our Talmud Circle met at the JCCSF on December 2, 2017. We dedicated our learning to David Ben Gurion, who read the whole Talmud and did not believe a word of it. He read it as an Aristotelian, like an archeological text. And Ben Gurion recognized that this is a great document for the Diaspora. It is of no use to a sovereign Jewish state: it gives no guidance for governing a sovereign state that has a standing army inside of it. Modern Israel and the IDF was beyond the imagination of the Talmud. The idea of the Talmud as a constitutional document for the state of Israel was laughable, thought Ben-Gurion. Halakha, as it moves through time, provides us with Jewish law, but it does not predict how we will live in modernity. It cannot imagine it. But Talmud does set a framework for how  to think about it. 

A Palimpsest of the Middle-East

November was a big month in Jewish history. Or is it Israeli history? The beginning of the month marked 100 years since Britain issued its Balfour declaration (November 2, 1917):
"His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."
The end of the month marked 70 years since the United Nations adopted its partition resolution (Res. 181, November 29, 1947). Although the Hebrew calendar does not contain a month of "November," Jerusalem and most other Israeli cities contain a 29th of November street to honor this UN Resolution. It marked the beginning of a civil war between Jews and Arabs as partition was rejected by Syria, Egypt, and Iraq—all recent British colonies who had just been granted their independence. The Arab states sacrificed the Palestinian state to attack the Jewish state, but Palestinians did not have a vote. In Israeli and American right wing circles, says Peretz, 29 November marks the creation of the Jewish state—and everything else was Jordan.  They are rewriting history, although Jordan did (in the end) take control of the West Bank.


When we look back at a map of Talmud Centers in the time of Mishna, there are no borders, no countries.  There are rivers: 

The Orontes, Litani, Jordan, Euphrates and Tigris
The Tigris and Euphrates dominate the landscape, but the distances are small. Rabbis UllaRava, and  Dimi travelled to and fro between Palestine and Babylonia during the 3d century CE. They may have followed the Jordan river to its main tributary, the Hasbani, and up to its source at Wazzani Spring. From there it is just a few kilometers across to the Litany river, which drains the Southern Beqaa, entering the Mediterranean north of Tyre. Following the Litany upstream, the rabbis would soon have reached the headwaters of the Orontes river, the chief river in the Levant in ancient times. The Orontes drains the Northern Beqaa as it flows through Syria and towards Antioch.

If this is of interest, read the rest at Talmud Circle Blog. 

Follow me on Twitter @RolandNikles

Saturday, December 16, 2017

"Tits and Ass" to "fetus" and "evidence-based"

George Carlin set the bar on making fun of the Orwellian speech police in the U.S. government back in 1972.  Six years earlier, Lenny Bruce claimed he was arrested for saying "ass, balls, cocksucker, cunt, fuck, motherfucker, piss, shit, tits" in a comedy routine.

Here is Lenny Bruce on tits and ass in Las Vegas in his 1961 Carnegie Hall concert.  [Bruce died of a drug overdose in 1966 at age 40; damn]

Yesterday, the Trump administration issued an edict, prohibiting officials at the Center for Disease Control from using a list of seven words and phrases in any official document being prepared for next year's budget. What are they afraid of? It's not like this is prime time television.  Budget reports?

Here's the list to be avoided for budget documents: “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

Let's tune in to Steven Colbert tonight!

Follow me on Twitter @RolandNikles


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A small step back from the Room of Untruth and Illogic

Don Shearn over at Don's Basement ran across this clip from the Twilight Zone, the television series created by Rod Sterling that ran on CBS from 1959-1963.
You walk into this room at your own risk, . . . the room where logic is an enemy and truth is a menace.


It is not a new world, it is simply an extension of what began in the old one. 
The voter turn-out in Alabama's special Senate election for the seat vacated by Jeff Sessions was higher than expected: 38 percent of registered voters came out to choose Doug Jones over Roy Moore.  Not impressive, but considerably more than expected for this special election.

Something for the Democratic Party in Alabama to build on.

Donald Trump walked through that door described by Rod Sterling the day he decided to start campaigning with his ludicrous birther untruth. Sixty-three million voters followed him through that door. Trump's illogic, the GOP Congressional majority's illogic and untruths, . . . they continue to stalk and menace the country.

Tonight, the voters of Alabama took one small step, backing away from this new world of untruth and illogic.

It's a small step away from the New World, back towards the Old; its a small step for the country to build on . . .

Follow me on Twitter @RolandNikles

Saturday, December 9, 2017

"The goal is to see the Conflict Resolved;" "Long live the Conflict!"

Gilead Sher/from his law firm website
Gilead Sher, Israel's chief peace negotiator with the Palestinians at Camp David (2000) tells Gilad Halpern and Dahlia Scheindlin at the Tel Aviv Review[1]: "My aim is not to resolve the conflict. My aim is to secure a Jewish democratic Israel . . . the Zionist vision that came true 70 years ago."  If you ever wonder, why is there no peace with the Palestinians, you need look no further than this.

Gilead Sher, is an attorney and served as Israel’s chief negotiator with the Palestinians under Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001) for the Sharm el Sheik Agreement[2], the Camp David Accord[3], and the Taba Agreement[4].  Today Sher heads the Center for Applied Negotiations at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies.  The program discussed Sher's co-edited book Negotiating in Times of Conflict[5], which offers a panorama of perspectives on how to overcome obstacles in peace negotiations, looking at examples from around the world. The Institute does good and valuable work and Sher has helpful insights to offer. But when it comes to Israel, Sher's focus appears to be all tactics and manipulating advantage. Based on this interview, justice is not the focus.

Gilad Halpern states the obvious:
Halpern: "The end goal is to see the conflict resolved." 
Sher:  "Right." 
That seems correct, and should go without saying. But Sher is not at ease with his answer, and he quickly goes back to revise.
Halpern: "Going back to the settlers . . . . they live in many ways much better with the conflict going--meaning that they can settle the land in the West Bank--than (they would live) with the end result of resolution (of the conflict), which would most probably mean their evacuation from the land."
Sher:  "Well, there is a few points that I have to address about your question. First, my aim is not to resolve the conflict. My aim is to secure a Jewish democratic Israel based on the fundamental principals that are encompassed within our Declaration of Independence of 1948. The basics of the Zionist vision that came true 70 years ago. So in order to do that we have to possibly disengage with the Palestinians and hopefully through a negotiated agreement. 
"Second, when you look at the settlers, 80% already live adjacent to the Green Line in major blocks, and they will become part and parcel of Israel in any agreement. You are dealing with maybe up to 100,000 settlers that would have to be resettled in a permanent status agreement if Israel and Palestinian disengage one from the others. And for that an internal dialogue is needed."
End of conflict is not the goal, suggests Sher.  If the conflict must continue in order to preserve the Zionist vision as expressed 70 years ago, with permanent IDF occupation of all of the West Bank and "separation" with the Palestinians, so be it. The goal, says Sher, is to preserve the Jewish state as envisioned in its declaration, and "in order to do that" he says, "we have to possibly disengage with the Palestinians." But we have seen what disengagement means: it means walling off Palestinians from Jewish settlements, walling off Palestinians from their farmlands, walling off Palestinians from their watering wells; it means checkpoints and separate infrastructure; it means military rule for West Bank Palestinians and civil courts for West Bank Jews. It means institutionalized violence, intimidation, discrimination, and control of Palestinians. It means turning Gaza into an open air prison. It means no justice. It means continued conflict.

I'm sure Sher would say he is in favor of ending occupation, in favor of civil courts for West Bank Palestinians, and harmonious relations with Gaza. [If only the Palestinians were more peaceful!] But this is not realistic. If your goal is "separation, hopefully through a negotiated agreement" over "resolution of the conflict" what you'll get is conflict and military occupation.

And I'm sure Sher would point to some of the idealistic provisions of the Israeli Declaration of Independence [6]: " [Israel] will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex," it promises.  And it's true, Israel is struggling and making an effort to meet this promise within the Green Line. But Israel is making no effort to honor this promise for Gaza or the West Bank. If the border is at the Jordan river, Israel has abandoned this promise.

The Declaration promised "equal citizenship" to its Arab inhabitants, but Israel then played fast and loose with the concept of citizenship, by differentiating between citizenship and nationality. It's akin to placing a big brown "A" on the lapels of its Arab citizens.

The Declaration asserted that Israel "is prepared to cooperate with the agencies and representatives of the United Nations in implementing the . . .  economic union of the whole of Eretz-Israel" (meaning Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank).  Israel has not been serious in this enterprise. It is fundamentally incompatible with occupation.

Prioritizing separation over conflict resolution assures the conflict will not be resolved. Israel's negotiators need to make conflict resolution their top priority if the conflict is to be resolved.

References:

1.  The Tel Aviv Review (12/8/17). The Tel Aviv Review is presented by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, "which promotes humanistic, democratic, and liberal values in the social discourse in Israel."
2. ECF.org Sharm el Sheikh Memorandum (1999)
3. Institute for Middle East Understaning, What did, in fact, happen at Camp David; see, also Nikles, Pundak is Dead; Long Live Pundak!
4. Haaretz, Akiva Eldar (2/14/02) The Peace that Nearly was at Taba.
5. Negotiating in Times of Conflict (2015), Gilead Sher and Anat Kurz editors.
6. Israel Declaration of Independence, May 14, 1948.

Follow me on Twitter @Roland Nikles

Friday, December 8, 2017

"Religio" to Religion and Secularism

Saints Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) and Augustine of Hippo (354-430)/
image www.catholic365
Yaacov Yadgar in his new book Sovereign Jews [1] makes an interesting point: secularism and our modern understanding of religion arose hand-in-hand during the Renaissance. It has allowed us to compartmentalize civic life--our work life, our political life, our recreational life--from religious life. It has allowed us to formally separate church and state. The Romans, the Greeks, and Western Europeans during the Holy Roman Empire knew nothing of the separation of church and state because they had no separate concepts of church and state.

Religio as a Word through Time

Before the Reformation we had no word corresponding to "religion" as we understand it in the West today. In pre-Christian Latin, the term religio meant “social duty,” says Yadgar. Ancient Christians ignored the term (and Hebrew had no equivalent). When early Christians used religio in their Latin writings (or translations), they meant 'ritual practice,' 'clerical office,' 'worship,' or 'piety,' says Yadgar. In other words, religio referred to a subjective disposition of the worshipper toward God, reflecting a type of social duty. For Augustine in the late 4th century, religio meant “worship,” the action by which we render praise.

The term religio was generally absent in the Middle Ages. When it was used it still referred to various rules of Christian life (i.e. duty). For Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)[2] religio had to do with virtue: the term was ethical, not theological.

For more than a thousand years, therefore, Christians had no notion of Christianity as a separate sphere from government and civic life. Some of the hallmarks of this pre-religion Christianity, says Yadgar, are: 1) religio was not a general notion, of which Christianity is supposedly an exemplar; 2) religio did not denote a statement of beliefs regarding reality; 3) noone thought of it as some pure inner impulse borne by the soul; and 4) Christianity was not seen as an institutional power that can be distinguished from “non-religious” powers. Medieval Christendom was a theo-political whole!

In this theo-political whole, princes and kings were subordinate to the Church, popes had armies, and bishops had the power to launch reigns of terror like the Inquisition. The Enlightenment disarmed the Church. The bishops lost their authority to use force and the secular state came to claim the exclusive right to use deadly force. The Church was shoved into a corner to concern itself with the inner life of men and women, the afterlife, saints, and charitable works.

Our modern concept of religio(n) in the West is very different from this medieval theo-political whole: we now think of religion as 1) a universal genus with different species; 2) with each species demarcated by a set of propositions; 3) as concerned with a private inner impulse; and 4) this inner impulse is seen as distinct from the secular pursuits of politics and economics.

Theologians have also claimed five aspects as common to religion in general, says Yadgar: 1) that there is some supreme divinity; 2) that this divinity ought to be worshipped; 3) that virtue joined with piety is the best method of divine worship; 4) that we should return to our right selves from sins; and 5) that reward or punishment is bestowed after this life is finished.

Religious Bigotry in the Secular State

By making the secular state supreme, relegating religion to the inner and private, and removing from religious authorities the power to coerce with violence, we have not, of course, isolated the secular state from the influence of religious bigotry in politics. Evangelicals made up 26 percent of the electorate in the last presidential election and 81 percent of them voted for Donald Trump as president. Nearly half the electorate, and a majority of states (30), voted for Donald Trump and his misogyny, his hostility towards non-whites and non-Europeans, his discrimination against Muslims, his disdain of the poor, his vulgarity, hypocrisy, and lying.

We have taken the power from religion to coerce, we have separated church and state, but we have not removed the power of the religious to give us Donald Trump. The saving grace is, Donald Trump will be easier to remove from power than the Catholic Church in the 16th Century.

Reference: 

1. Yaacov Yadgar, Sovereign Jews: Israel, Zionism, and Judaism (2017)
2. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Thomas Aquinas.

Follow me on Twitter @Roland Nikles



Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Religious Right and the Struggle for a Tolerant Secular State: it's about more than separation of church and state


It feels like the modern secular state is under assault. At the Forward, Batya Ungar-Sargon [1] reports on the phenomenon of the American Jewish Orthodox aligning with American Christian Evangelicals and she suggests that, together, these groups are attempting to weaken the separation of church and state. But is the problem really violation of the separation of church and state, or is this a more wide-ranging political fight over fundamental values in our society?

We liberals have made tremendous progress in advancing a tolerant society that looks out for the less advantaged. Let us count some of the ways: the New Deal ('30's), the Great Society ('60's), programs that advance educational opportunities for all, investments in workplace and consumer safety, food stamps and other welfare programs, protecting the environment. And all this with a broadly progressive tax structure.

These programs exist because the values of a tolerant, liberal state have been broadly in ascendancy. It has never been easy. Conservative forces, including the Religious Right, have opposed this progress at every step. The fight over broadening health insurance is just the latest example.

Have we come to take the the liberal order for granted? Was it complacency, in part, that accounts for the defeat of Hillary Clinton? Either way, it's time to redouble the fight.

The Religious Right has found itself on the short end of the stick in some prominent battles over values, including the battle over abortion (Roe v. Wade)[2], the right to marry someone of the same sex (Obergefell v. Hodges)[3], and the empowerment of women in the workplace. Good for us! But now that conservatives and the Religious Right are in power in most states and in Washington, liberal values of tolerance are under attack.

The Religious Right has fought back, in part, by wielding separation of church and state as a sword. Separation of church and state, they say, is less to protect civil society from the imposition of a dominant religious culture, and more to protect the dominant religious culture from the secular state. And the dominant religious culture to be protected from the secular state, says the Religious Right, is the Judeo-Christian culture--thus violating a key concept of separation of church and state, neutrality.

Push-back from the Religious Right has manifested itself in fights over the right of businesses to abstain from providing medical insurance that includes abortion services on religious grounds (Hobby Lobby[4], Little Sisters of the Poor[5]), the right of a bigoted Christian baker not to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple [6]. The Religious Right are pushing against constitutional boundaries with  the argument that  personal belief and conscience of the religious should trump the state's power to protect the right to an abortion after 20 weeks.  The Religious Right say the state should be allowed to keep out Muslims because of the Judeo-Christian nature of the state, and to keep out Mexicans because of the white European nature of the state, all without worrying whether this throws the power of the state behind a particular religious tradition.  

Batya Ungar-Sargon is correct that all these efforts are an attempt to blur the separation of church and state. But preserving the separation of church and state, of course, is not sufficient. Separation of church and state does not in itself protect minorities. Secular states--see the fascist examples of the 1930's--are not necessarily just or tolerant. 

In addition to separation of church and state we need universal values that are enshrined in our constitution, such as equal protection, free speech, and due process. And these constitutional values are not sufficient either. Most of the accomplishments of the liberal secular state that are enshrined in New Deal and Great Society legislation are not constitutionally mandated, and they are not affected by a separation of church and state. They are just good policy.

Liberal Jews (most Jews in America), have found from bitter experience that less tolerance results in anti-Semitism and is bad for Jews. Jewish history provides powerful incentive to stand up for tolerance and to fight for the equal and just treatment of all minorities. 

The Jewish Orthodox and the Christian Right, says Ungar-Sargon, have common cause on many of these issues, and they share the belief that the Trump administration is sympathetic to their view. They may be a minority, but they have political power[7], and visions of more political power in the future. With the ability to support a right wing government that is intolerant, but tilts toward their world view, Christian Evangelicals and Orthodox Jews currently share the view that less tolerance is good for them.

The Religious Right are cheering on the GOP's dismantling of environmental protections, the slashing of corporate tax rates and individual tax rates in order to reduce the redistribution of wealth from the top to the bottom. They are cheering on increasing the national debt by more than $1 trillion to get this accomplished. They will cheer on attempts to eliminate food stamps, to increase the rolls of the uninsured, to undo Social Security and reduce Medicare and Medicaid.

The result is a fight for the liberal conception of tolerance and universal values that lies at the heart of the secular liberal nation state. The fight is joined. It is not about religious values or secular values, it's just about values. And thus it ever was.

References:

1.  Batya Ungar-Sargon, Are Orthodox Jews Assimilating to the Christian Right?The Forward, December 3, 2017. 
2. Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood website.
3. Obergefell v. Hodges, SCOTUS blog.
4.  Here's What You Need to Know about the Hobby Lobby Case, Washington Post, March 24, 2014.
5. The Little Sisters of the Poor are Headed to the Supreme Court, Atlantic, November 6, 2014; 
7. Pew Research 2016 Election Analysis: Evangelicals are 26% of electorate and 81% voted Trump.

Follow me on Twitter @RolandNikles

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Internet Neutrality: It Doesn't Seem Simple

Quid analysis of 250k comments to FCC on net neutrality/NPR
The internet is a wondrous thing: at the click of a computer stroke it opens the world to us. It enables us to form far flung communities, to stay in touch with family, friends and colleagues across continents, to communicate with anyone, anytime, to keep up with the news from a myriad of perspectives. It provides us with a platform to get our views out into the world (e.g this blog). Recently, it has enabled us to shop online, to read books in far away libraries, and to watch movies. The internet has enriched us. It has become an indispensable tool for innovation, free expression, and growth in the modern economy.

There is a dark side. The internet has enabled all manner of frauds. It allows us to find, share,  engage in, and encourage the worst part of our natures. There is identity theft. There are pishing scams, snuff films, child pornography rings, hate groups, trolling, and bullying of all kinds from behind a veil of anonymity; there is the willful and negligent dissemination of falsehoods, conspiracy theories, and political disinformation and misinformation.

There are kittens.

The internet both facilitates democracy and undermines democracy.

The Mission of the FCC

The mission of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is to “make available, so far as possible, to all the people of the United States, without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex, rapid, efficient, Nation-wide and world-wide wire and radio communication service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges.” [1]

So why are the United States, where the internet was founded, such laggards in making the full benefits of the internet available to its citizens?

Inadequate Plumbing, Compromises, and Incentives of Natural Monopolies

In order to function, the internet needs common carriers that provide the plumbing for the free flow of all this information. In the United States the plumbing is getting better, but it remains inadequate.  We just recently cracked the top 10 [2] of countries with high average internet speeds, but our capacity is still just 65% that of South Korea.

What we have here is a failure of private enterprise. Private enterprise has no incentive to build out broadband services in rural communities, where build-out is expensive, and potential revenue is small. By relying on private enterprise, therefore, we are leaving those who live away from dense urban areas without access to the full wonders the internet can provide.  Even in urban areas, connecting each house is expensive: as much as $2,500 per connection. With revenues in the $100 per month/household range this represents a large up-front investment. It discourages competition. It makes internet providers natural monopolies. [3] Just four companies, Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and Charter account for 76% of the 94.5 million internet subscribers in the United States. [4]

As a country we have made an insufficient commitment to build out sufficient broadband so everyone is fully connected to the internet.  We have relied on private businesses to do it, but the incentives are not sufficiently aligned for private businesses to get it done. As a result, the basic transmission tools of the internet, TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) [5], don't come with a guarantee that a packet of information will reach its target "fast" or "at all." This necessarily results in compromises.

Some of the factors that may go into the making of such compromises include: (a) which uses consume more broadband; (b) which uses are more sensitive to delay; (c) which uses generate more revenue; and (d) which traffic is more socially useful.

Which raises the question: do we really trust Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and Charter to make judgment calls based on these factors? If we let ISP's make these decisions in an unregulated environment, it seems safe to say they will invariably make decisions based on which traffic, and which shenanigans, generate the most revenue for Comcast, At&T, Verizon and Charter.

The ISP monopolies do not share the mission we set out for the FCC.  The goal of private Internet Providers is to make money, and making money is not necessarily consistent with providing fast and unfettered access to all that the internet has to offer to everyone "at a reasonable price."

Net Neutrality

Net neutrality refers generally to the idea that ISPs should not treat traffic traversing their networks differently based on its source, content, or use. In other words, the idea is that ISP's should be passive conduits that treat all data the same. It requires regulations, rules, and oversight.

Advocates of net neutrality say this promotes innovation. For example, when Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook in a dorm room he didn't have to ask ISP providers to give equal treatment to his new application as established players. Without net neutrality, new players might be charged an access fee, thus stifling innovation. [6] On the other hand, Zuckerberg started Facebook without the benefit of net neutrality rules.

Timothy Wu, who first coined the term "net neutrality," is concerned that the Trump administration's change in course is removing "even the most basic" regulations, and, that as a result, ISP's would be free to block or slow traffic that interferes with their parochial business interests, or to make distinctions and charge for free passage in order to maximize revenue. [7] What games ISP's will play to benefit the bottom line at the expense of consumers and competing services--assuming the regulatory roll-back goes through--remains to be seen.

Proponents of eliminating net neutrality argue that in an era of insufficient broadband--likely a chronic condition--ISP providers need to be able to determine how to get the most content to customers in the best manner.  For example they should be able to prioritize services that are more sensitive to delay over services that are less sensitive to delay (e.g. email vs. movies). And in order to make this work most efficiently, variable pricing for different traffic may have a role. As long as we rely on private enterprise to both fund the build-out of broadband networks and to administer them, they may have a point.

The whole  question becomes moot, it seems, once there is sufficient broadband to move all traffic to everyone at a reasonable price. If there is enough bandwidth what possible justification could there be for slowing, or blocking, or impeding any of it?

But as long as we lack sufficient bandwidth to move all traffic, and broadband is not available to all, compromises must be made. What those compromises should look like, and who is best placed to make them, this would seem to involve expertise beyond this superficial review.

I'm convinced that we should build out our broadband so that all can have access to all the wonders of the modern internet at a reasonable price. I'm agnostic about how we can best get this accomplished.

I've put my vote in to the FCC in favor of keeping the net neutrality rules, but I'm not confident enough to shout.

References:

1.  47 U.S.C. Section 1511.
2.  FastMetrics, internet speeds with First Q 201 update
3.  See, Orin Kerr at Volokh Conspiracy
4.  Inverse Innovation, On Net Neutrality, what AT&T, Verizon, Charter, and Comcast say (11/25/17).
5.  Christopher Yoo/John Wu article
6.  Vox explanation of net neutrality
7. Timothy Wu, New York Times Nov. 22, 2017 "Why the Courts will have to Save Net Neutrality."
8 Internet Society, Policy Brief Net Neutrality (10/30/15)
9. Farhad Manjoo, NYT (11/29/17) "The Internet is dying . . . "

Follow me on Twitter @RolandNikles


Monday, November 20, 2017

Whose Jerusalem? Whose Land? The Meaning of Jerusalem to Jews, Christians and Muslims

R. J. Zwi Werblowsky/Emet Prize photo
Some people have all the luck when it comes to living a purposeful life. R. J. Zwi Werblowsky [1] was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1924. Frankfurt at that time was a vibrant place, Jewishly speaking. The philosopher Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929) [2] founded a school for adult learning Lehrhaus Judaica. Martin Buber [3] taught there; so did Gershom Scholem, Leo Loewenthal, Benno Jacob, and Shmuel Y. Agnon. Thus, Werblowsky emerged from a vibrant modern, assimilated, Jewish culture in Germany that was so bitterly stamped out starting in the 1930's. 

As a teenager Werblowsky studied in Yeshivas in Jerusalem. During the war he studied in London, receiving his B.A. in 1945.  Post-war, Werblowsky worked in an orphanage in the Netherlands where he helped to prepare survivors of the Holocaust to move to Palestine/Israel.  

He obtained a PhD from the University of Geneva and commenced an academic career in comparative religion at the University of Leeds. 

In 1956 Werblowsky moved to the new state of Israel, where he was a founding member of the Department of Comparative Religion at Hebrew University. He rose to serve as Dean of Faculty of Humanities 1965-1969, and he remained at Hebrew University until 1980.  

Werblowsky founded the Interfaith Committee in Jerusalem in 1958. He also worked at UNESCO serving as vice-president of the International Council for Philosophy and the Humanities.  He was the primary editor of the premier journal on comparative religion, Numen [4]. He also co-edited the encyclopedia of Jewish Religion.  He died in Jerusalem in 2015. 

From his perch atop the world of comparative religion, Werblowsky was in a unique position to recognize and describe some of the contradictions, dilemmas, and pitfalls faced by the new state of Israel. One example is his insights regarding Jerusalem and the relationship that each of the three monotheistic traditions have to confront with respect to that city.

Three Conceptions of Jerusalem

In 1978 Werblowski published a book The Meaning of Jerusalem to Jews, Christians, and Muslims.[5] He summarized the thesis of his book in an article recently handed to me by Rabbi Peretz Wulf-Prusan, Whose Jerusalem? Whose Land? The Meaning of Jerusalem to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. [6]

One way in which people have experienced and crystallized their sense of holiness, said Werblowsky, is in relation to space. There are holy lands. For example, said Werblowsky, there is a temple in Benares, India, in which the object of worship is a map of India.  We might look to similar spaces in American Indian religions [7]. There are holy places, as distinct from land, where the holy became manifest. And there are holy cities. Some cities are holy because they possess a shrine or holy object. When it comes to Jerusalem, the city is part of a holy land for the  Jews, it is a holy city for Christians because of things that happened there, and it is a holy place for Islam because tradition holds Muhammad ascended to heaven from that location. 

1. Islam

For Muslims, Jerusalem is Al-Kuds (the holy one). The holy status of Jerusalem in Islam, says Werblowsky, is derived in part from Judaism and Christianity. As best as historians can tell, Muhammad never set foot in Jerusalem.  But Muhammad looked to Judaism and Christianity for some of the core ideas of Islam. For example, the ideas of monotheism, judgment day, and man’s moral responsibility for his actions all were derived from the earlier religions. The Koran adopts and accepts the stories of the patriarchs as handed down by Judaism and Christianity. This inheritance necessarily brings Jerusalem into the picture. 

Sura 17:1 says “Praise be to Allah who brought his servant at night from the Holy Mosque to the remote Mosque.” This has been interpreted, from early days of Islam, as a miraculous journey by Muhammad from Mecca to Jerusalem . . . . and it was from there he made his ascent to heaven. The capture of Jerusalem by Kalif Omar in 638 was instrumental in the development of this belief and tradition, and it was consolidated with construction of the Dome of the Rock in 691 CE and the Al Aqsa mosque in 705 CE.  Over time, the Al Aqsa Mosque became identified as “the remote mosque” of Sura 17:1, said Werblowsky. 

For Islam, then, the city of Jerusalem is holy because it contains a shrine, a holy place where--according to tradition--Muhammad ascended to heaven. 

2. Christianity

Christianity has facts on the ground in Jerusalem: the last supper, the crucifixion, the resurrection of Jesus. Jerusalem is holy because of what happened there. But, significantly, Christianity also developed a heavenly abstraction of Jerusalem. Christians focused on a Platonic form of Jerusalem in heaven, which served to relegate the earthly Jerusalem to a kind of memento, said Werblowsky. 

Werblowsky refers to a story about the pilgrimage of Philipp from Lincoln in 1129. Philipp did not get very far on his pilgrimage. He made it as far as Clairvaux (half-way between Paris and Switzerland). From there the bishop of Lincoln (on the east coast of England between Nottingham and Hull) received a letter from the Abbott of Clairvaux. The letter said:  “Philipp has entered the holy city and is no longer an interested onlooker but a devout citizen of Jerusalem. But this Jerusalem is Clairvaux. She is the Jerusalem united to the one in heaven through whole-hearted devotion, by conformity of life, and spiritual affinity." In other words, said Werblowsky, the true home of the Christian, according to the medieval conception, is the heavenly Jerusalem. Not that the good Christian must despise the terrestrial Jerusalem, but the true terrestrial Jerusalem “which is united to the one in heaven” is wherever the perfect Christian life is lived! 

St. Augustine promoted this deterritorialization of Jerusalem: in John 7:37 Jesus said “let him who thirsts come to me and drink,” and St. Augustine wrote, this means not a pilgrimage to a physical place, but to wander with the heart (on a spiritual journey).  The abandonment of concrete historical eschatology in the centuries between Revelation and St. Augustine, said Werblowsky, resulted in a Christian vision of the heavenly Jerusalem that is purely spiritual.  

Christian hymnology, notes Werblowsky, is almost exclusively heavenly.  For mainline Christians, to the extent Jerusalem has a terrestrial geographic location, it is mainly as a memento of holy events that occurred in certain places.

But the tendency to worship the place(s) and the tendency to de-territorialize have always been in conflict in Christianity, notes Werblowsky. Some Christians after St. Augustine re-focused on Israel as the holy place where all these events transpired, and where further things must happen before the second coming will transpire.  For example, evangelical pastor John Hagee and his followers [8][9] take a literal territorialist view of Jerusalem, as do American evangelicals in general [10]. It's what makes them staunch supporters of Zionism. 

3.  Judaism

The Jewish tradition is very different from St. Augustine's spiritualized Jerusalem.  

Jerusalem, of course, is not part of Jewish stories from Abraham through the Exodus; it was David who first turned Jerusalem into a cultic and religious center, and who made it a symbol of the national unification of Israel. Jerusalem became the symbol of transition from peoplehood to nation state. 

But Jerusalem was never completely identified with the state during temple times, said Werblowsky, so when the state ceased to exist (in 70 CE) Jerusalem survived as a symbol of importance for the Jewish people. “Jerusalem consciousness” continued into rabbinic Judaism. Jerusalem was the city God had chosen and the city became as much a part of the covenant with his people, as the covenant with David and his seed, said Werblowsky.

In the Talmudic vernacular, Jerusalem and Zion became synonymous and they came to mean not just the city of Jerusalem but the land of Israel as a whole, and the Jewish people as a whole. City, land, and people became one in a grand symbolic fusion.  Zion/Jerusalem is the “mother” says the Talmud, and upon the destruction of the second temple, the “mother” is widowed and orphaned and longs to rejoice one day upon the return of her children.

Rabbinic Judaism did take up a pale version of the Christian notion of a heavenly Jerusalem. For example, in midrash Tanhumah, section Pequday, said Werblowsky, there is a Jerusalem above. But in this rabbinic conception, God made himself a Jerusalem in heaven for sheer love of the earthly Jerusalem.  In other words, in this Talmudic conception the earthly Jerusalem does not reflect a heavenly archetype, but the other way round! The Jerusalem in heaven is a snow globe to remind God of the real thing.  

In rabbinic Judaism, piety, religious symbolism, and messianic hope are directed first and foremost to the earthly Jerusalem.  A definite strand of this-worldliness permeates all of normative Jewish religion, says Werblowsky. Jerusalem and Zion became geographical terms beyond geography, but not without geography.  It’s an existence that for religious Jews has religious dimensions, and that could be reformulated by secular Jews for Zionism.

Al Aqsa, Dome of the Rock and Western Wall Plaza at left/
photo Andrew Shiva/Wikimedia 

A Troubling Legacy and a Challenge for the Modern State

This historical and living symbolism that Jews have about Jerusalem--and that is supported by evangelicals--is troubling in the context of the modern state of Israel, notes Werblowsky.  Religious or secularized symbols drawn from mythological roots too easily become catch-words at odds with the needs of a modern and just nation state. 

This traditional Jewish symbolism of Jerusalem and Zion, drawn from mythological roots, said Werblowsky, is of dubious vitality as justification for a modern nation state. Can Israel engage in constructive and morally responsible politics by making itself a prisoner of symbolisms, no matter how venerable and hallowed? he challenged. These are questions not easily answered, suggested Werblowsky, because symbols cannot always be dismissed by a mere wave of the hand. 

Sometimes symbols are the conscious and unconscious repository of life-giving truths to a community. Nevertheless, concluded Werblowsky, all those who love Jerusalem and seek peace must not forget that part of the meaning of Jerusalem was expressed two and a half millennia ago by the prophet Isaiah (1:27) “Zion will be redeemed by justice and its inhabitants by righteousness.” 

He leaves it to the reader to ask himself or herself: if Judaism's ancient mythologies and religious symbolisms interfere with the creation of a Zion that is just and righteous, what has to change? How do Jews negotiate these symbols handed down to them in order to achieve a state redeemed by justice and righteousness?  

 References:

1.  EMET Prize biography: R. J. Zwi Werblowsky 
2.  God in the Age of Reason, My Jewish Learning
3.  Martin Buber (1878-1965), Jewish Virtual Library.org.
4.  Numen on JSTOR
6.  R.J. Zwi Werblowsky, Whose Jerusalem? Whose Land? . . . 
7.  Native American Netroots: American Indian Sacred Places
9.  Hagee's organization Christians United for Israel is reported to have 1.8 million members; his Global Evangelism Television is said to have "several million" viewers. 
10.  According to Pew Research, 31 percent of Americans believe scripture should be read literally--which would be incompatible with a "purely spiritual" Jerusalem; one in four American households identifies as Christian evangelical.


Follow me on Twitter @RolandNikles