Leon the tourguide

Leon the tourguide
Leon the Tour Guide

Friday, April 29, 2011

Arab unity and the peace process

The show of unity between Hamas and PLO has all the trappings of peace and hamony; handshaking, kissing on both cheeks, words of good intent towards each other and of course hints at joint action against Israel.

The show has achieved all round response from Israeli leaders, even Mr Perez, our veteran president and eternal optimist, has warned of the dire dangers that the moderate PLO is being manuouvred to an extremist anti Israel position by Hamas.

According to the common opinion, (Perez, Netanyahu, Barak and the general public) unity between the Arabs is bad for Israel. This is based on a principle that an enemy divided is easier to vanquish than an enemy that stands united in itself.

This is probably good strategy for two armies against each other on the battlefield but not for a dozen different nations attacking us at different times from different directions in a myriad different ways.

One enemy is better than a dozen different enemies.

We should rejoice at Arab unity because it's easier to deal with one enemy, either making war against him or making peace with him.

If this agreement between Hamas and PlO really succeeds it offers hope of either final victory over a single Arab nation or a peace agreement with them.

Monday, April 18, 2011

love and atonement in the three monotheistic religions

According to Judaism there is only one doctrine:the law to love God and to keep His commandments (the “Shema” prayer), Deuteronomy 6:4, and this is man’s response for God’s creation.

Adam, the first man God creates, the first one to benefit from the wonders of creation, more than anybody else should be grateful for God’s bounty and should love God and carry out His commandments, doesn't and thereby becomes the first sinner.

As far as I know, nowhere in the Bible (Old Testament) does it say that man has to atone for Adam’s sin.

Yet,Man’s sin and atonement is the reason d’etre of Christianity and Islam, in Judaism it is the creation.

Christianity and Islam have turned the idea of loving God and carrying out His commandments into a punishment to atone for Adam’s sin, whereas in Judaism it's a way of showing joyous gratitude for creation.

Christianity’s attitude towards sin, atonement and love, is most clearly stated in the famous verse, John 3:16 that teaches that love is the way to atone for Adam’s sin, the opposite of Judaism's idea, above, that love is a form of gratitude:

According to Judaism God never stopped loving man or never even threatened to do so. Even though Judaism requires atonement, it’s got nothing to do with our love of God or with God’s love of us.

Love is pure and simple the reason why God created the world and love is a way man has of showing gratitude for this creation.

This idea is most beautifully expressed in Psalm 100

1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
  come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the LORD is God.
  It is he who made us, and we are his,
  we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
  and his courts with praise;
  give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
  his faithfulness continues through all generations.

God showed His love of man by creating the world. The crucifixion of Jesus was a tragic event but was not God’s way of showing love.

The Bible (Old Testament) recounts the wonders of creation as being sufficient evidence of God’s love of mankind.

Atonement of Adam’s sin is taken care of, in the Bible (Old Testament), in a completely different way that has nothing to do with love or performing God’s commandments.

Atonement is dealt with extensively, in the Book of Leviticus, only in relation to sacrifices of animals in the temple. Atonement is only limited to sacrifices of certain specific animals, performed only by Priests and not the general population, only in the temple and nowhere else. When the temple was destroyed prayer took the place of sacrifices.

According to Maimonides, the Spanish, Jewish scholar of the 11th century, sacrifices were introduced because the Bible is aware of man’s natural inclination, on the one hand to sin and on the other to want to atone for sin.

Even though atonement serves a purpose it’s a negative activity and, like any negative activity, can’t be permitted without setting bounds to it.

Unlimited atonement is like unlimited sin; both can lead to the performance of terrible acts of suffering even murder and self inflicted death.

The specification of sacrifices is so clear and precise (one turtle dove for this, two for that, a lamb for this, another for that, this burnt completely, that burnt partially etc. etc. see Leviticus) that it’s clearly intended to limit man’s boundless need for atonement to those specific sacrifices at specific times and a specific place and performed only by the Priests.

Atonement needs to be limited. Its function is to limit sin and it, like sin must be limited. Through the many laws of sacrifices atonement acquires a confined method, time and place, making it unnecessary for man to be continuously worrying about atoning for sin.

In any case there wasn’t anything the individual could do about atonement because the priests did it for him. The people weren’t allowed to make sacrifices themselves.

Love and obedience are boundless. All people are obliged to show love and to be obedient, not only the priests and Levites, as in sacrifices. All people can love and be obedient anywhere and everywhere and at any time. They don’t need to be confined to a temple or any other place and it can’t be done for them by priests. People have to love and obey God themselves.

It doesn’t make sense to Love and be obedient as an act of atonement or to make a sacrifice as an act of love. A sacrifice isn’t an act of love. How can slaughtering an animal be considered an act of love?

Atonement takes the form of destroying something or causing suffering (this is why it takes the form of slaughter and it’s carefully restricted), love and obedience take the form of creating and bringing happiness, that’s why everybody must do it, everywhere, at all times.

After he’s given the Priest or Levite the animal or bird for the sacrifice, he has done his duty and doesn’t need to do anymore.

(today, without the temple, Priests and Levites don’t have this function and the individual makes a prayer instead of bringing an animal or a bird to the priest.)

If he does more than this, for example by making himself suffer and calling this love and obedience, he is being foolish because he’s bringing unnecessary destruction to the world which God has created. The key word here is “created”. We are obliged to create not to destroy.

The idea of a boundless activity, Loving God and keeping His commandments, is the complete opposite of atonement.

Man isn’t required to punish himself; he’s required to make the sacrifices (through the Priest) or prayers as specified and to love God and do His commandments boundlessly and this isn’t done as a punishment to atone.

A person who forever punishes himself, fasting, not eating certain foods, not marrying, not listening to music, not wearing fancy clothing, wearing special kind of clothing not suitable to the time and place, not going to the theatre, not admiring art and myriad other activities that are available in the world which he denies himself to make himself suffer as atonement for Adam’s sin, causes misery to be the natural way of life.

On the other hand a person who shows gratitude to God by loving Him and performing His commandments causes happiness to be the natural way of life.

In my opinion atonement by admiring the suffering of someone else is the same as suffering oneself.

Judaism cannot accept the Christian adoration of the suffering of Jesus on the cross, considering it to be atonement for their sins or the sin of Adam.

Therefore the statement in John 3:16 is unacceptable to Judaism.

Judaism believes that we show love by bringing life in joy, not by slaughtering the object of our love. Christianity has erred in making Adam’s sin central to creation and so forgetting creation itself.

The central point of the story of Adam is that he didn’t show enough love and obedience in gratitude for creation.

The conclusion to come to isn’t that we must atone for his sin but that we should love and be obedient, lest we too fall into sin.

Obviously atoning for sin is a part of life but not the most important part of life.

Unfortunately Christianity and Islam have exaggerated the importance of atonement.

Christianity does this by encouraging monasticism, asceticism, penance etc. considering this praiseworthy behavior.

In Islam non believers are the guilty ones and must atone for their sin by converting to Islam.

Many Jews also, mistakenly, observe the laws as if they were punishments but this isn’t the way of Judaism as it says in Psalm 100: Serve the Lord with Joy. Do His laws with joy in the way of joyful gratitude for a wonderful world.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Gaza debacle

Like most Iseaelis I believe in democracy. I think that even though we were disappointed that Hamas won the elections in Gaza in Jan 2005 we felt that at least the voice of the Palestinian People is being heard.

Naturally we didn't expect them to attack us the way they're doing now but we basically believe in the ultimate victory of democracy.  People who believe in democracy are patient and know that it takes time for all the people of a democracy to know that it's good to live in peace with other democracies.

I think that Ariel Sharon's policy to withdraw (2005) Jewish settlements from Gaza http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel's_unilateral_disengagement_plan was an expression of the optimism we had in Palestinian democracy. I think we believed that once they had acquired democracy the Palestinians would realize the advantages of living at peace with Israel.

Now, however, that the whole Arab world is demonstrating for democracy we should be less naive than Sharon was and should realize that the Arabs in Gaza are showing what the Arab world expects of democracy, namely national support for all out war against Israel.

The democracy they achieved already in Jan 2005 has brought them together in a unity of people with individual rights, who have each made a choice to make war against Israel. Unlike the previous situation where a tyranical leader made the decision and the masses blindly followed.

This doesn't happen in a democracy the mass doesn't follow blindy. Individuals, open minded with clear individual intention have the same goal.

This individual clear mindedness is what makes a war launched by a democracy much more fierce than a war lauched by a tyrant. Untill now all the wars the Arabs have launched have been wars launched by tyrants where the voice of the people was silent.

Now the voice of the people will speak. Individuals speaking like one man.

This is why a democratic decision to go to war commits each individual member of the group. Which means that each individual is prepared to bear the consequences.

This is why a democracy can't afford to launch an unjust war like tyranies may do. Tyranies fight unjust wars democcracies only fight just wars.

A democracy goes to war only if it's sure of it's justness.

The Arabs consider that they have a just cause for war. That's nothing new. Israel has always considered that it's justified in going to war. Israel has always had the power of the voice of the people behind every war. Now the Arabs want the voice of the people behind their war.

Now the odds are more even. It's a war between two democracies and God help the loser.

This is not some Arab tyrant who has launched a war in Gaza, it's the People of Gaza. The democratic state of Gaza who has launched a war against the democratic state of Israel.

Democracy is a power to be wary of; the Arabs have yet to learn the true price of democracy.

O' Arabs of Gaza please be careful of the power of democracy!!!!!