To commemorate Jewish martyrs you don’t have to like Jews

A lit candle for the Jewish day of commemoration

People dislike Jews up to a point. Beyond that point Jews not only are tolerated they are  venerated. Of course we’re talking of dead Jews. The mere name, ‘Israel’ can make anti-Semites want to vomit, but to memorialize the dead and the martyred they will go the extra mile.

Among egregious examples two stand out. Linda Sarsour, a brazen hater: (“Israel is built on the idea that Jews are supreme to everyone else”; “nothing is creepier than Zionism”; fundraising for a Palestinian murderer convicted for planting a bomb in a Tel-Aviv store), and yet has a deep respect for dead Jews. The scarf clad woman made headlines, for helping repair a Jewish cemetery. Next to her Jewish President of choice, Bernie Sanders, Sarsour will observe her minute of quiet for Jews butchered on a factory scale.

Another stand out is South African Nava Pillay an ex UN High Commissioner. Throughout her term Pillay kept the bad eye on Israelis and her good eye on their killers. Israelis could do no right and Muslims no wrong: infamously for the wife-beating rife in Palestinian society, Pillay blamed Israel. None of this stopped her conducting a seminar on Holocaust victims, of eulogising a boy from Prague named Petr Ginz who died in the gas chambers. She held up his photograph. At the end of her presentation Pillay called for a minute of silence.

Of course commemorating the Shoah is a virtue signaller for countless celebs. But for greater interest we must go to the psychosis of commemoration. Jean-Paul Sartre wrote of a wartime friend who had no problem with the Nazi death camps, yet on his mantelpiece stood a photo of a Jewish friend shot by the Gestapo. No one better than Sartre has picked out the sadistic fascination for dead Jews.

Anti-Semites combine hatred for the living Jew with reverence for the dead – unless they were killed by Palestinians. Linda Sarsour respects Jewish graves in a St Louis cemetery but says ‘hard cheese’ to Israeli victims of terror. It could be a natural law that when Jews offend the correct notion of where Israelis may and may not live, they forego the right to life. We’ve heard or read the catchphrase, ‘cycle of violence’. In the media, on CNN or Time Magazine or the New York Times or Guardian or the BBC the ‘violent cycle’ means that Jews got their just deserts.

‘Death to Jews’ is a war cry common to jihadists and to educated Wokes. The one shouts aloud while the other internalizes the cry. The idea of Jewish death excites and satisfies your professor, news caster or politician as much as your ISIS decapitator. Not enough Jewish death maddens them both.

Take the documentary maker John Pilger and the writer Robert Fisk. Both openly begrudge Israel being more than a match for the warlords of Gaza, Ramallah and Beirut. With bitterness they harp on a death toll skewed in favor of the Jews, and complain about the imbalance. A higher number of Israelis, they believe, ought to have died in the fighting. This is nothing we didn’t know. Again the Holocaust generation philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, made it clear: anti-Semitism is not a bad opinion of Jews but a warped personality.

Problem is, Jews can also have it, that ghoulish fixation with dead Jews. In the main we find Jews with that sick mind active in Woke movements: BLM, LGBTQ, open border wackose, BDS cultists and academia. Even rabbis can be knee deep denying Jews the right to live. One such rabbi conducted the Passover seder for the White House – a Sharon Brous from LA whom Joe Biden picked to do the business.

The same Rabbi Brous once said that she felt comfortable about her alignment with anti-Zionists. About her alignment with apologists for wife beaters and genital mutilators, Brous said nothing. The rabbi will pick out Jews but Muslims, never.  

To value truth is to accept that there will be times when truth is not very likeable. In truth Jews may have entirely proper feelings about the Shoah yet be willing to exploit it for gain. As much as we find Israel-hating Norman Finklestein distasteful, he correctly in his books calls out the Holocaust industry. On the evidence there’s no denying the big money to be made on the back of Holocaust memory and study.   

Look at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a monolith which had the great survivor’s blessing but not his involvement. The SWC is a full global enterprise. The Forward ranked its head, Rabbi Marvin Hier as Jewry’s highest paid ‘non-profit’ leader. Back in 2017 Rabbi Hier was taking home $818,000, not to speak of family members getting $600,000 out of making sure the world would not forget the Holocaust.

Exuberant HQ of the SWC

There’s no getting away from ubiquitous Holocaust museums and centers being a honey trap. For all one knows they do some good, but Holocaust experts and the like make glamorous careers from genocide. There is something wrong when tens of thousands of the survivors are institutionalized and have to limp along on handouts.    

The fictional run up to Pharaoh’s intended genocide of the Israelites

They are living a benign dream in Goshen, Egypt. Jacob’s seed have yet to encounter Balaam – the name would mean nothing to them. It will be hundreds of years before it does, and then it will be contiguous with trouble. Balaam will be more than known. When a stored up grievance gushes out he will entice the tribes into calf worship and internecine killing. He will make God want to wipe the whole lot out. There will also come a time when the Israelites parody the clown God made a donkey make of him. In a roundabout way Balaam will have the last laugh. The nation he set out to curse and got paid a king’s ransom to curse, recites to this day the divine blessing he gave it

Is there nothing, people ask, that Balaam can’t be or can’t do. Yet to look at him…That crooked back and missing eye and weak knees that bend under the strain of a corpulent belly: surely Balaam, son of Be-or the beast, son of Laban the  swindler must be hard put to swat a fly.

A knack for dire mischief making has brought him together with a priest from Midian and a magnate from Canaan and the King of Egypt. They have to make the fate of a multitude, grouped into thirteen prolific tribes, fit their crime. Egypt had offered the circumcised Hebrews a helping hand. They took half the body and corrupted the soul. Jacob’s brood have turned Goshen into a Hebrew enclave. The king assembled a brains trust to approve the remedy that came to him in a dream.

He kept three wise men waiting half the morning in a stifling anteroom ill served by an unapologetic under-butler. To make the ordeal tortuous, each one had scant respect for the reputation of the other two. By the time the great doors opened and the chamberlain signalled them into the interview chamber, their brows beetled with hostility.

How copper coloured and puerile Pharaoh is, like a figurine on dry parchment; how liquid his flat grey eye. There is a crowd of attendants behind the royal chair; at a signal from the king they retire to different corners – adult goats protecting a kid. Slow finger motions beckon them to three chairs around the slippered feet. They feel at pains not to disturb the quiet when taking their seats. The king inclines his head and the Chamberlain melts backwards out the door.

Pharaoh inspects his fingernails. ‘Long travels, ‘he says. You weren’t expected so early.’ He waits for some gratifying reaction. The brains trust nod, taking it for granted that he knew how long they had been waiting.’ Well, he says, ‘the conditions were favourable – I’m glad.’

Camels. Dry wells. Sand storm. Desperate bandits. They’d set out half a week ago – not that they complain – at the king’s summons.

The chairs are marble, with the Pharaoh image inlaid in gold. He’s the new Pharaoh, the one who forgot Egypt’s two hundred year old debt to Joseph. He has forgotten but not forgiven the son of Jacob for bringing the whole family up from Canaan to settle Egypt. To him it feels the whole country is occupied, but he means Goshen, the part that a Pharaoh of old promised Abraham to compensate for kidnapping Sarah; a fertile country watered by the Nile for a stolen wife.

The meeting begins obliquely, as formal meetings can do. Balaam is an object of Pharaoh’s curiosity. He can’t keep his eyes off him. Balaam chuckles as he jabs a finger in his fiery eye socket. ‘Your majesty, the Philistine who gouged it out did me a favour.’ The king shrinks back. ‘Don’t feel sorry – it’s been a help rather than a handicap.’    

Job leans forward to take a closer look. Now he’s got everyone looking at him. “I tell no lie,’ he says. ‘For my trade the left eye is all I need.’

Job gives the eye a close look and shakes his head. ‘What do you mean all you need?’

‘My lord, the right eye is for seeing the good side of character, and that has the effect of weakening a curse. The left eye discerns the bad in people, and the effect of that gives strength to a curse. Not one curse has flopped since the eye came out.’

Jethro sternly says, ‘No more clients for blessing, I’ll be bound.’ 

‘They, my lord, were never a big part of my practice.’

Jethro is disgusted. ‘Well,’ he says, ‘I understand why you are so pleased. It takes more work to do good than to do evil. Your supplier is who – Ashmedai, king of the demons?’

The two don’t get on. The problem is their commonality, both outcasts from the family tree of Abraham. Jethro – Reguel the Priest they call him in Midian – is from the spawn of Abraham’s concubine, Katura; Balaam, a Moab, is from the incestuous spawn of Abraham’s nephew, Lot.

But their host is getting fidgety. ‘Look now my lords,’ says the king when he’s got their attention, his voice playing up and down the scale. ‘You know the situation. It has got out of control. You know the Israelite. Give him a hand and he takes your arm.

‘And that’s the best that can happen,’ Balaam says.

The king likes it. ‘My lord, you learnt well on the knees of your grandfather.’

‘Twenty years, your majesty. Twenty years Laban employed and set up Jacob – who then decamped even with an idol collection. I wasn’t born yet.’

‘If only you had been, my lord. Jacob would have gone through life cursed instead of blessed.’

‘The crux, your majesty, of your population problem.’  

Pharaoh smiles. He has a pert mouth and red lips, like a girl’s. ‘It will test your powers to the utmost.’

‘That bad, your majesty?’ Job says.

It is worse, and Pharaoh lays it out. The tone of the pubescent king modulates between high, broken and thin. Goshen, he says, is blocked with Israelites and their animals. It’s a plague of epic proportions. Egypt is a heartbeat away from an insurrection. In the best case. The worst case would be the Israelites aiding and abetting neighbouring kingdoms. The new census presents a frightening picture: three million not counting the young. That birth rate can’t be allowed to go unchecked. The wives drop litters every time. Hebrew speaking loiterers jam entire thoroughfares – a miraculous life force.

 Job the business genius says, ‘Harness it. Your majesty put that force to work. You got a precious labour resource. Projects and more projects. Make Egypt a showcase; and keep the breeders too hard at work to want to procreate.’ 

The double-hit scheme was so good it took a while to get over the shock. In the quiet Jethro’s self-protest was audible.     

‘Of course,” Balaam says, master Job is not advocating forced labour. Nothing like slavery. It would be a test of fealty to Pharaoh, of gratitude to the host country. No one hurt and all benefit.’      

Job adds, ‘You’d start the breeders on a trial project. Get the feel and reaction. One baby step at a time.’

Jethro sits bent, studying the floor at his feet and cracking his hairy knuckles. Job puts a hand on his shoulder.

‘Come outside you two,’ Jethro hisses

‘Your majesty,’ says Job, ‘could we break. My lord Jethro suffers giddiness. A turn in the gardens …’

‘I thought it would come to this,’ Jethro says as they follow the river walk.  

‘Nevertheless you came,’ Balaam says bitingly.   

‘Not to nod at everything you and the boy king want.’   

Job says, ‘Do we really want to cross Pharaoh? His mind is made up. Kings must have their  way. You might as well try turning a donkey cart in a tight alley. What good will it do, backing down? We’ll be thrown in prison. Going with the plan might allow us to modify the gaudy bits’.

Balaam who never liked modifying anything, displays a set of grey square teeth. ‘Let’s be clear. What made you, my lord Jethro, obey the king’s summons? Was it popularity you wanted, or to be useful? Pull out now and you forfeit both.’ 

A flash of anger. ‘What made me? I hoped to stop an enslavement. God  made a promise to Abraham. His progeny would become like the stars in the universe. Not the king and not you, dear Balaam, can void a promise God makes.’  

Consider the compacts that hold him together: the compact between Balaam and kings; between them both and armies; between Balaam and God, who counts up the dirty vices and works of spite that make Balaam a by-word for dark powers. Imagine him debating a fatherly priest who believes in God the just and the merciful. Never mind that. Balaam and the landowner Job whose god is buying low and selling high inhabit different planets. `

The palace gardens are alive with heat-maddened beetles and hunting horns echoing through   brakes and thickets. High Priest Jethro, whether knocked by the sun or conflicted into paralysis, has sagged into a bundle of clothes. The contest of wills has proved too demanding.  Jethro falters and trips over his walking stick. Job grabs an elbow. Steadies him. They sit him down on a low wall. A drain of ditchwater runs behind it. In the near distance the Nile simmers like hot water.  

‘Easy now,’ says Job, bending to the lionized face. ‘Balaam – some foot rest for our man. But he levers the stick like a maypole to get back on his legs. After a minute they’re heading back to the palace. The tread of the priest is heavy. The hair on his neck is bristling like a mastiff being led to a bear.

‘Come now,’ Balaam says cheerily, ‘that’s not how to face down the king.’

‘I assure you, no way do I intend to face him down,’ says Jethro, hitching up his robe.

“What – you intend to sit on the fence?’ Balaam says. ‘I doubt it will be too comfortable.’

‘More comfortable than where you’re going, endorsing slavery.’

‘Not to hell,’ Balaam says. ‘I trust not. What do you think, master Job? Are we headed for hell?’

‘Balaam, I haven’t your power to access the Almighty’s mind,’ says Job, speaking truer than he could ever dream. Balaam takes Job’s rudeness to launch out at Jethro.

‘So,’ Balaam says, ‘You object to the labour project because you can’t live with your conscience?’

‘Yes.’

‘No problem with that?’

‘No.’

 ‘The Israelite problem?

‘What do you want to say?’   

‘Will you let me finish if I start?’

“I’ll try.”

‘Well, Balaam says, ‘your compatriots had a lot to do with how the Israelites came to Egypt. Joseph the hated brother was sharing a pit with vipers and scorpions. Along comes a caravan of Midianites – your people. They buy Joseph from the brothers and haul him from the pit. They sell him onto Ishmaelites who go to Egypt and sell him there. Joseph became Pharaoh’s appointed Viceroy. After saving the country from famine he uplifts the whole family from Canaan and settles them nice and comfortable in Goshen. The seventy were the breeding stock. What is the number now, the king told us? Three million. Adults, my lord, Jethro – not counting the baby boomers. That’s all I wanted to say.’ Balaam’s face, a mask of malice, has brought Jethro to a dead stop.

‘It’s a hard thing Balaam,’ Job says, ‘to make lord Jethro account for compatriots of a long dead generation.’ 

‘You always did have a bone to pick, Balaam, but you never hallucinated,’ Jethro says, ‘I can make you account for the Israelite problem, if you want to play this game. Your own kith and kin enabled Joseph more than I did. Your grandfather Laban married a daughter to Jacob who fathered Joseph with her, and who got Pharaoh to allow the Israelites to relocate. Outcomes you see can be managed. Outcomes can even be massaged. All that comes to pass, passes by God’s design, and our bitter foibles make use of the outcome. The King of Kings writes the story, we pick out the pieces that suit us. I am astonished at you Balaam, though not disappointed.’

When crossed Balaam can widen to fill an opponent’s vision. Different dimensions are available to his body. ‘My point, Lord Jethro, he says, ‘was not to pick bits from history that suit me.’

‘Well, what is it?’  

‘Don’t mess with God.’

Jethro laughs. ‘You talk about the Creator as if he’s a neighbour you go to for sharing a flagon of homemade wine.’    

 Balaam bends his close at him. ‘Let’s be clear. God, for better or worse, made a covenant with Abraham. Remember the bris bein habetarim, the covenant of parts. So one of the parts decreed a bitter exile for Israel. Abraham accepted the terms meekly – why he didn’t bargain for lives like he did when God was about to destroy Sodom, I never understood. But there it is. The chosen people are going to be enslaved in Egypt. God makes Pharaoh the instrument for that. So don’t tamper. My grandfather tampered. He made deal after deal with Jacob. The flocks of his greasy son-in-law grew and grew and grew.’    

‘Oh, but that’s different,’ Jethro says. ‘Laban cheated. My motive is moral. I seek to prevent a cruel bondage. Make God angry? I can’t see it. God made beatific promises to Abraham, He blessed Jacob to father tribes – only for them to be turned into slave termites? God will punish me for wanting humane treatment for man made in His image? You believe that? I’d spit on anyone who did.’

‘That might well be,’ says Job the man of business. ‘But thwarting what the king’s set on doing we are thwarting – as Balaam said – we thwart what God needs to happen. Who are we anyway, to define cruelty? Maybe the Almighty has a different notion of it. Second guessing God is to play God.’

‘Yes,’ says Balaam. ‘But anyway God, remember, decreed a reward for the slaves. They’re going to inherit the land of Canaan. Picking out one event in the whole story invites faulty thought.’  

‘True,’ Jethro says. ‘But when God promised Abraham that his seed would inherit land, He had Canaan in mind. Canaan, Balaam, not Egypt. Egypt is the exile. The Israelite Patriarchs and Matriarchs lie in Machpela on the plains of Mamre. Burial always cements inheritance. There’s no famine now in Canaan. Let the Israelites go up from Goshen to settle it. If you believe the revelation, why wait for the suffering and death ordained by it? And Job – you’ve got land enough to hold three million, with more to spare. ‘Make Pharaoh an offer.’

‘It’s too late for that,’ Job says. ‘The Israelites have become too useful to let go, and too dangerous to let free. Bondage would solve both of Pharaoh’s problems. The die, my friends, has been cast. Now’s the time to skip for those who can’t live with hard facts. There’s nothing to stop them making a run for it.’

He and Balaam re-enter the palace without Jethro. He disappeared before we knew it, your majesty. Have him found and arrested.   

They partake of drinks arrayed on a vast table. The butler, an Ishmaelite with the eyes of a cow, invites them to review a bewildering array of drinks, concoctions of everything from dandelion wine to a jug into which the neck of a horse has been stuck .The drinks are of every shade from mauve to taupe.  Of a subtle potency, they are served in every sort of container, from ceramic tumblers to gold and silver goblets. 

Job lapses into a mindless acquiescence. Dusk had come on low-lying Luxor. A cacophony of croaking fills the head. From the dark river bullfrogs seem to croak the words: Covenant.  Decree. Exile. Bondage. Suffering, suffering, suffering.

A Progressive Passover

A people liberated from slavery. No wonder Passover is a time when agitators for a State of Palestine feel they have to play Moses. ‘Let the people go!’ Passovers came and went, eras changed, and today the entreaty still falls on deaf ears. God’s stiff-necked people never can make out what the Exodus and Moses have to do with the ‘Two State Solution’ that will make the world break out in celebration the day it is foisted on Israel.    

The festival of freedom comes around for a dig at this antipathy. For pity sake, have pity. Remember you Israelites cried out from back-breaking bondage until God heard you. Hear, oh Israel, the cry of another people. Let the Palestinians go. Let them make unto themselves a nation.

Every Passover Moses impersonators seem to crop up. Some are devoted Zionists, others are  devoted to human rights, from which it is easy to make a good living in Dollars and Euros.

Uri Zaki is a Moses of the latter sort. The onetime director of human rights outfit, B’Tselem (in the image of) made a lunge for the pockets of American Jewry with the generic Passover appeal: let my favorite people go. What Zaki actually said was: “Israeli settlements in the West Bank make it practically impossible for the Palestinians to realize their right to self-determination in an independent and viable state of their own.” 

The fatal flaw in Zaki’s browned-off entreaty lies where? Look for the duty of one party to give and the right of the other party to receive. The progressive mind works like that: award rights to the Pals and impose obligations on the Zios.

To make that division of the spoils holy, the Tanach is ransacked into homespun Judaism, a thing of brevity and beauty. It can be truncated while you perch on one leg, ‘Do not deny to others human rights and social justice as you would not want them to deny yours.”

In other words, the Jews got their independence, why deny the Pals. They have equal rights, and Israel has a duty to see they get them. Pals are owed, Benjamins owe. As progressives volley the Pals back and forth they accrete virtues that would surprise the Pals. Out of all the idolizing comes a victim scarcely human, a dragon of goodness and an angel of guile.   

From their silky divans in Ramallah and Gaza, perpetual rulers table their demands. Upon which they sit back while the international community tells Israel to meet the demands more than half way. With victim status Pal leaders are exempt from adulthood.   

It’s the old story of the spoilt kid, and it brings to mind a quip made by the Israeli ambassador, Abba Eban. I think it would be the first war in history that on the morrow the victors sued for peace and the vanquished called for unconditional surrender.”

A bittersweet joke! The Six-Day war had ended in a stunning victory for Israel and world leaders lined up to force bitter medicine down the victor’s throat: the remedy of land for peace. Many decades later the mantra keeps Israel trying to keep Washington and Brussels keep the wolf at bay – the wolf in boycotting garb.  

One thing has changed. After Israel made the error of vanquishing the Arabs in 1967, the stakes got  higher. Now diplomats expect Israel to swap more than land for peace. Another failed Sharia state and nothing less is on the table – unless Israel wants Brussels to stop trying to keep the wolf at bay.

Pals want Judea and Samaria, hot dammit! Never mind they lost wars they started. Like the spoilt kid, Palestinian tyrants want everything and they want it on their own terms, unconditionally. Possession of land may be nine-tenths of the law, and ‘Benjamin” may have the possession, but who holds victim losers to law? Victims are defined by rights. Other claimants for a state to call their own (the Kurds have the strongest claim of all) would drool at the mouth looking at the pampered Pals.

And whose rights have to make room for the Chosen Victims? The Un-Chosen People making do with an already hostile slip of homeland. But hey – who cares! White and Jewish make a combo for the villain to top all villains. When human rights and social justice are handed out, ‘dark’ victims under the bondage of Benjamin, get it all.

All that was fatal flaw one. Flaw number two, the progressive Moses forgets the other side to the equation. The right to self-determination involves a big supposition – that of lawful ownership. By all means let people make unto themselves a nation, but where shall they do that? On what land? On whose land? Except for the Kingdom of Jordan, no land west of the Jordan River was ever held by a people recently named ‘The Palestinians.’ Israel took this real estate in a defensive war when such a claimant still had to be conceived. Well – could Jordan not ask for the West Bank back? No it could not because it was never Jordan’s to have and to hold. At the time Israel snapped up the territory Jordan had no right to be there. Not even the Arab league makes a case for the West Bank to go back to Jordan.

So our Moses figures look to Israel. At Passover time thoughts on bondage and liberation run riot.

“We must allow Palestinians to enjoy the same basic rights to self-government and independence that we, the Jewish State, have been privileged to enjoy since 1948.” David Newman, a professor at Ben Gurion University, goes on to write of “fundamental Jewish religious values” as recounted at Passover. (Handy tikun olam pops up again). It is incumbent on the Jews of today, Newman believes, to ensure that other peoples are not oppressed, even more when they are under “our own control and for whose wellbeing we have direct responsibility.”

After marrying rights to responsibilities, Newman divorces them. Israel gets the responsibility and the Palestinian settlers get the rights. Your Progressive Moses can be clever but not wise. He knows of no such a thing as reciprocity. Jews must part with their promised land and leave enemies at liberty to rain down rockets on the metropolitan hub of Israel. The ‘fundamental Jewish values’ admired by the professor come with that sting in the tail.

Diplomacy, having no truck with the bible, comes with a sting of its own. Looking back on American brokered peace talks before the Trump era, it is easy to forget the generic players on the game board – landowner and supplicant. Obama’s negotiator John Kerry hammered Israel for dangling carrots which the other player did not find terribly juicy. Not even negotiators acting for Israel stopped to recall natural law.  The owner of real estate needs do nothing until a person who would like to have it brings an offer. Should the latter be unwilling to meet the owner’s terms, the owner carries on with his life.

Cornered, Zaki the Priest and Newman the Dean have to admit that no laws or treaties give the Big Victim the right to “self-determination in a viable state of its own.” There are only Accords made in Oslo, and they’ve been trashed time without end. But even when the Accords were in mint condition they conferred no rights to self-determination. The Progressive Moses ignores principles of law while he scatters rights and obligations like confetti. Odder yet, our Moses is often the first to insist that Israel abides by the law. 

Unpacking the biblical thunder in ‘Let the Pals go free!’ one discovers a fake product.  Obligations come without rights and rights without obligations. The demand of the modern Moses comes down to, ‘Give the Pals what they want, hot dammit!’

Well – why not, to satisfy some quirky view of fair play. The Jews got their state, why deprive the neighbors? It might even help Israel’s own security. So say do-gooders toying with real baddies. But look at the way they put their case. Don’t put a spanner in the wheel by telling Palestinian leaders to recognize a Jewish state. Barak Obama’s peace maker, John Kerry, thinking only of Israel of course, scolded it for putting the kid out of temper by insisting it recognizes the Jewish state. Stop the tantrums. Give the kid what it damn wants.   

Problem is, no one can fathom what the kid wants. And here’s fatal flaw number three. How many times did Israel offer what everyone told Israel the kid wanted? Again and again Palestinian leaders were invited to establish a home they could call their own. Arafat then Abbas were offered land on which to make a home. After tearing up the RSVPs they launched Intifadas and flung the bits at Benjamin’s pale face.  

Then there’s Gaza. Were not The Victims in bondage in Gaza before they got it, lock stock and barrel? For nothing? All they had to do in Gaza was make unto themselves a nation. You’d think Moses the Progressive would be happy. Think again. “In 2005 Israel withdrew its forces from the Gaza Strip, which increased Palestinians’ control over their lives…However, Israel continues to hold decisive control over major aspects of people’s lives.”

Here was Zaki the Priest prodding Pharaoh to let the people go, after Pharaoh had already done that. What did unelected leaders do with the gift which came with no strings attached ? They warred and they jawed. But then it’s not for Gaza’s elect to uplift the lives of their subjects, to build a nation. It’s for Israel to do that for them.

Zaki the Priest and Newman the Dean, like all Moses impersonators, go about with blinkers. They fail to see the bottom line of giving land away. Let Palestinians have the Temple Mount, half of Jerusalem and Judea-Samaria – all the parts in dispute. Where will this leave the Benjamins? It will leave them looking suspiciously like colonial usurpers. After all what historical connections do the Benjamins have to Tel Aviv?

‘Let the people go’ is all well and good. But at Passover time Jews ought to have their own people in mind. This could mean confronting foes with a strong hand and an outstretched arm so that never again will they be a footloose and powerless people begging other nations, not to let them go, but to let them in.

Classic 1027 Business with Michael Avery. Thursday 11 March.

Lessons in bamboozlement 1. Lockdowns 2. Climate change

Lockdowns

Michael Avery interviewed the Santam CEO, engaged in a court battle over claims by hospitality and leisure operators for business interruption caused by Covid. The same law suit is playing out all over the world because the big lie is played out all over the world.

Covid supposedly visited business destruction on economies. The law suits boil down to the truth of that. Did the pandemic make business impossible? The big lie is that it did, and some more. The great 2020 depression and the ruination of billions are blamed on Corona.  “The World Food Programme suggests that 130 million people around the world could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020 as a result of COVID-19.”

Wait a minute – ‘A result of”? What sort of virus can cause millions to starve? What miraculous microscopic crown produced Great Depression II? The 1918 Spanish flu which killed some 50 million people was powerless to do anything like that.

Mark Twain observed that it is easier to fool people than to convince them they’ve been fooled. That truism helped the lockdowns get off scot-free. To state the obvious: the world in 2020 was toppled by human design. More precisely, governments deliberately imposed the catastrophe. You are free to argue with that, but then you have to supply the economic principle and the medical science to explain 2020’s economic and human meltdown.  

The fact is, Covid is the first pandemic to make governments shut down countries, close off borders and install quasi police states to micro-manage people. Until the virus burst out of stealth mode from Wuhan in January 2020, health policies were variants of laissez faire. Governments stood aside to let a virus play itself out, as viruses have the innate habit of doing.

We were fooled by a half truth. The pandemic was real medical science but the interventions were naked politics. Were the social distancing protocols purely for health and safety they would surely have targeted the unhealthy and the unsafe: infected and vulnerable people. That is largely what happened with SARS, MERS, Nipah, Zika and Mexican swine. Only Covid, the latest of a bad bunch, made elites fall back on confiscating liberty.

Lockdowns encroached on everything sight, on schooling and catering, on trade and industry, on entertainment and travel, for that matter on worshipping God. Covid did not turn the world inside out. Elected and appointed worthies did.

So. Business insurers, however much empathy we feel for their clients, have a solid case. Interruption due to Government intervention is not covered.

Climate change

Michael Avery interviewed an EU ambassador and a member of an ANC thing named a climate change council. The two women explained what decarbonisation could mean for South Africa.

Now, the Climate cause parallels the Covid cause in many ways. Take business disruption. Both causes cancel business and jobs at the stroke of a pen, though climate decrees put lockdown decrees to shame in the contest.

For Biden’s first ‘green’ act he cancelled the Keystone Pipeline with a loss of upwards of 10,000 jobs. He may also squelch fracking to keep the climate lobby on board. In Texas alone that would cost as many as 1 million good-paying jobs. According to a Chamber of Commerce report, a full national ban on fracking would cost 14 million jobs, more than the 8 million lost in the Great Recession, with the potential of turning towns into slums.

Green policy to eliminate fossil fuels, in common with lockdowns to eliminate Covid, have consequences for regions and for classes. Industry and blue collar workers are hit the hardest. The low-paying, low-skilled jobs are cancelled more than any other, hitting the poor and black workers more than any other. And jobs go offshore, which undermines the upward mobility of the working and under classes.

As for cconsumers, they get hit in the pocket for green virtues. There has been a rapid expansion of energy poverty in both America and Europe. As many as one in four Germans, and three out of four Greeks have cut other spending to pay their electricity bills.

Michael Avery’s two climate women, typical of the climate obsessed are fiendishly selfish. They vaunt their ‘clean’ energy agenda and look askance on workers lucky to earn a living, be it in the ‘dirty energy’ sector. Half of South Africans are out of work from the lockdown and corruption. But the comfy women, on secure fat salaries, have no idea what unemployment involves.

They can’t have if they take aim at the lucky employed. ‘Vested interests’ they regard workers who depend on their jobs to make ends meet. The women don’t like the way that some make ends meet, so good bye their jobs.

Michael Avery’s women called them ‘vested interests.’ Talk of having a vested interest. An EU tax-gobbling busy-body and a local who lauds cabinet members with criminal records and designs for being serious about climate. Meanwhile honest to goodness business owners and workers pay tax for the women’s ego trips. And the women conssider them as no more than vested interests.

Think about it. The worker has a vested interest in keeping a job while the climate women have a vested interest in depriving the worker of a job.

So to the most scandalous of parallels between the Covid and climate agendas. Climate change happens to be like Covid – no more than half science half politics. The change of climate is a fact, the threat it poses to life on earth is the most plumped up fear-mongering, power-grabbing, money printing agenda going.

Some refs.

 https://www.realclearenergy.org/articles/2020/08/26/joe_bidens_climate_plan_would_be_a_disaster_for_the_environment_575374.html

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1541647467/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=copenhagencon-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=1541647467&linkId=3d85b64ef

21c87397ee32796d8cc75b6https://enemiesofzion.wordpress.com/2021/03/02/covid-and-climate-two-sides-of-a-counterfeit-coin/amp/

Covid and Climate – two sides of a counterfeit coin

TO CONFRONT EVIL THE FIRST STEP IS TO EXPLAIN IT

Global warming?

A half truth is more calamitous than a total lie. We are the living proof of that. Two half truths and a body of total lies co-exist in a world toppled by the former but merely perverted by the latter.

The half truths, a pandemic and a change in climate, are real phenomena. They also happen to be concoctions of hysteria, of tricks of smoke and mirrors. George Orwell’s Animal Farm alerted us to watch out for elites claiming to help the helpless. And Mark Twain reminded us how much simpler it is to fool people than to convince them that they’ve been fooled.

Covid the excuse for lockdowns and climate the excuse for decarbonising, subvert liberty and play with lives on a scale made possible by our global village. We are into the second year of the lockdown experiment. Before anyone knew what the word meant, Americans were basking in the boom of a lifetime. For 60 years poverty hadn’t been so low and the employment rate so high. Blue-collar workers were lapping it up. As for minority groups and women, times had never been so good.

And then. Governments took a wrecking ball to it. From one quarter to the next, America’s economy plummeted by a third, the biggest decline ever. Britain’s contracted the most in 300 years. Unemployment in every Covid-hit country made it a second Great Depression.

The first was tragic enough. The lockdown depression was evil for two horrific aspects. The depression was imposed, and in many cases the motive was pain for political gain, with  enrichment on top. Who bore the pain and who relished the gain was often decided by despicable narrow interests. The all powerful on Covid duty did not pursue health objectives as much as they balanced competing loci of power.

No sooner had Biden beaten Trump than his State governors eased their cruel lockdowns which helped him to win. No sooner had the Biden team got its hands on the dollar printing press than it bailed out blue states as recompense for their job and business killing lockdowns. By the same token red states got punished with smaller payouts for their Trumpian not so lethal lockdowns. 

Had Covid interventions been purely for health and safety they’d surely have targeted the unhealthy and unsafe: infected and vulnerable people. That is largely what happened with SARS, MERS, Nipah, Zika and Mexican swine. Only Covid, the latest of a bad bunch, made governments fall back on taking away liberty. Interventions encroached on schooling and catering, trade and industry, entertainment and travel, for that matter on worship. Covid did not topple the world. Elected and appointed worthies did. They fooled citizens that lockdowns were for their own good.

They weren’t?

The answer to that question is another. Why did the goalposts continually shift? Lockdown to give health services time to gear up; then lockdown to flatten the curve; then lockdown to stop deaths; then lockdown to buy time to vaccinate to get herd immunity. And the goalpost is on the move again. Post vaccination, masking could remain and green passports will make the vaccinated a class of people with prized liberties.

There is but one explanation: goalposts shifted to adjust to political interests. Biden made a campaign promise to reopen schools. He has been months in power, but some 25 million American kids, or 50%, remain in school only part-time or are fully on Zoom. Why? Because the balance of power had moved to players with the clout of school boards and unionised teachers.

The politics of Climate bear the hallmarks of Covid politics. No. Climate steals a march on Covid. Not only the goalposts shift but the name of the cause. What began as ‘Global Warming’ became ‘Climate Change’ – a case of necessity being the mother of invention. Too manifestly to keep a straight face, the globe was blowing hot and cold. The name change permits the crème de la crème of causes to have it both ways.

Just in time. Texas the Lone Star energy colossus has had a record snowfall and the coldest temperature in three decades. People froze to death and millions had no electricity as the grid was deprived of green power from iced up solar and wind generators.

It caught a premier journal betwixt and between. In the same week as it wrote about the great freeze, it wrote about the cheapest way to cut carbon to prevent the world getting hotter.

‘Green maths’ it’s called. “Bill Gates,” blared the subhead, “is the latest to grapple with (it).” Finance & economics.

Gates can stand out for maths other than green. An Oregon school project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation could be the most perverted frolic ever indulged in by a Tech oligarch. “Ethno-mathematics” is the name of the subject. The project is a toolkit for “dismantling racism in mathematics.” By that is meant 2 + 2 = 4 is bad white man’s math, no good for kids of colour who may come up with a different answer according to the way their ‘non-white’ minds work. The “Equitable Math” toolkit funded by Gates trashes the old notion that there have to be right and wrong answers. Now 2 + 2 = 5 will be as good an answer as any. https://www.foxnews.com/us/oregon-education-math-white-supremacy

We began with a body of total lies. Equitable maths is a lie embedded in the whole body, known as ‘Wokeism’, itself based on a lie. Just as Nazism was based on the lie of the Protocols, so Woke ideology is based on the lie of police brutality in Ferguson Missouri.   https://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/289372.  The ideology is perverting America while Covid and Climate, the half lies, are toppling it. French President Macron has called Wokeism toxic, and is determined not to let it spread to France as it has done to Britain. It is the Woke obsession with skin colour that troubles him. It is deeply racist and divisive: whites are execrated for their inherent racism and blacks are coddled – treated with kid gloves and get demeaning special treatment – because of their inherent fragility.

All ideologies emancipate thought from reality, but that doesn’t make Wokeism a crackpot circus. Far from it. It has upended academia and Democrat media (the likes of CNN and the New York Times) into Soviet-style Pravda propaganda super spreaders.

More frightening, the ideology has permeated the sciences and public health. Woke experts cancelled the Covid protocols to allow BLM and Antifa mobs to take to the streets. “White supremacy is a lethal public health issue,” said Jennifer Nuzzo a John Hopkins epidemiologist. “The danger of systemic racism is greater than the harm (catching) the virus could do.” A letter signed by a thousand public health experts gave the green light to de-masking and crowding. They didn’t want the religious to get the wrong idea. “Non-Woke gatherings for pray,” they wrote, “should not be confused with a permissive stance on riots for a good cause.” Think about that. From the President down, Wokes pin their colours to the mast of “following the science”, then mock Trumpians for their quackery.

Pandemic experts have cleared the fog for us. Covid is half a lie: the virus is scientific, the interventions are political.

All of it is small beer compared to the half lies of Climate. Consider the money. Biden has promised to spend $500 billion each year on abating climate change. Its economic impact, estimates economist Bjorn Lonborg, would reach $5 trillion, which is more than the entire federal budget. Or consider how jobs are cancelled at the stroke of a pen. Climate decrees put job-destroying lockdowns to shame. Among Biden’s first ‘green’ acts he cancelled the Keystone Pipeline with a loss of upwards of 10,000 jobs. An act to squelch fracking would cause a massive job loss. In Texas alone as many as 1 million good-paying jobs would be lost. Overall, according to a Chamber of Commerce report, a full national ban on fracking would cost 14 million jobs, more than the 8 million lost in the Great Recession, with the potential of turning towns into slums.

Green policies to eliminate fossil fuels, in common with lockdowns to eliminate Covid, have consequences for regions and for classes. Industry and blue collar workers are hardest hit. Regulations eliminate low paying jobs more than any other, hitting immigrants and blacks more than any other. And jobs go offshore, undermining the upward mobility of the working and under classes. Consumers also are hit hard by green virtues. There has been a rapid expansion of energy poverty in both America and Europe. As many as one in four Germans, and three out of four Greeks have cut other spending to pay their electricity bills.

Like advocates of the lockdown, Wokes are fiendishly selfish.  They vaunt their green obsession and expect the vast interior of America to feed it. For coastal elites, despoiling the desert with solar and wind farms is not a problem; they don’t have to look out on metallic giants. According to a 2019 report, decarbonising California would take 3 million acres of natural and agricultural land. A study reckons that building enough solar power to reduce U.S. emissions by 80% in 2050 could occupy upwards of 27,500 square miles. 

Covid panicked lockdowns chewed economies, currencies and lives for nothing. Is there a climate problem to justify a devastation that makes the lockdown’s look skinny? Is it a scientific truth that only by keeping the temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees can we prevent doomsday? And will that day come even if we can’t keep the thermometer down?

Certainly ‘end-of-the-world-is-nigh’ criers think so. They are preparing for doomsday by not procreating any more.

A silly projection record means nothing to climate addicts. An AP headline back in 1989 screamed: “Rising seas to obliterate nations by 2000.” The sensational news quotes a  Director of the New York office of the UN Environment Program. Entire nations, he warned, could be wiped off the face of the earth by rising sea levels if “global warming is not reversed by the year 2000. Governments have a 10-year window before the greenhouse effect goes beyond human control.” The Independent on 20th March 2000 had this headline and content: “Snowfalls are a thing of the past. Britain’s winter ends tomorrow with striking evidence of further environmental change. Snow is starting to disappear from our lives. According to Dr David Viner a climate academic, winter snowfall will be a rare and exciting event.” In 1998 Dr Jim Hansen appeared before Congress to predict the greenhouse effect. “In 20 years the Westside Highway which runs alongside the Hudson River will be under water,” he said categorically. “You’ll have signs in restaurants saying, Water by request only.”

Like Covid predictors, their Climate counterparts vie for a piece of the action by making  fear-stoking predictions. We never get an apology when doomsday comes and goes. The opposite: the charlatans do more bare-faced crystal ball gazing, and keep their expert status intact.    

In any case real data reveals the panic is for nought. Global warming has not been harmful; generations to come will not be obliterated. Instead of imperilling life on earth global warming has saved lives. A 2015study by 22 international scientists concludes that cold kills 17 times more people than heat. Deaths from natural disasters have declined by 80% during the period when the earth’s temperature rose. NASA data show that since 1920, the earth’s temperature went up by 1.25 degrees while world population quadrupled. The death rate from air pollution has fallen by 50% since 1990. University of Oxford economists show that “since 1990 the number of air pollution deaths per 100,000 people have nearly halved.

Alarmist rhetoric, clicks and scares, apocalypse-now projections, have led to panicked policies which deprive billions of a life worth living.

Tyranny, wrote Hannah Arendt, who knew more than anyone about it, causes people to lose the capacity to think. The ideal person for totalitarianism is the one who cannot distinguish fact from fiction or true from false.

If you cannot prove a man wrong, don’t panic. You can always call him names. Had the Victorian era relied on Twitter and Facebook, would Oscar Wilde have been so cool about it?     

How jihadist does God want Israel to be?

So Joshua fought against Amalek just as Moses had instructed him; and Moses and Aaron and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses would raise his hands, then Israel prevailed, but whenever he would rest his hands, then Amalek prevailed.”

I listen to a Jewish academic remind Israel to remember Torah’s multiple warnings to be kind to strangers because the Israelites had been strangers in Egypt. Religion at a BDS event is not unknown.

The panel had spent the afternoon damning Zionists for having schlepped strangers (displaced Jews from Europe).to Palestine. In that case, you’d think, why not dress down the Palestinian Arabs? Remind them to be kind to strangers in their midst. Jew or Arab: how difficult can it be to give one side or the other stranger status, and the inalienable right to be treated kindly that goes with it.  

Cherry picking the bible to make political capital is good sport. Anti-Zionists, God-fearers and ridiculers alike, love to rub Judaism into the face of Zionist oppressors. Treat the Palestinian Arabs as you’d want to be treated: another cutting of poison ivy. There’s no supply problem in a Torah filled with humane ideals.

But the opposite and unlovely lesson is never cherry picked, that right is might and vice versa. When Israel is not being kind it must be militaristic. It is not just allowed, it is commanded to wage Holy War – in fact to wage different types of war. When push came to shove the stiff-necked people would have to kill before they could inherit the Promised Land. The seven nations living on it had to be annihilated. “You shall utterly destroy them’. (Deuteronomy 20:17). Anyone who chances upon one of the seven and fails to do that violates a negative command. “Do not allow a soul to live.’ (Ibid:16). There is one enemy distinct from and worse than every other. “Eradicate the memory of Amalek from under the Heavens: you shall not forget(Deuteronomy 25:17-19).

The present tense of the commands is significant. The obligation to wipe out nations that pose a threat to Israel is not bound by time or by circumstance. Annihilate. Judaism is far from pacific. For what Israel had to go through, being warlike is hardly to be wondered at. How else could the people claim or defend their inheritance.

The great Maimonides was no zealot. Yet he is clear that the law mandates the tribes to go to war, for two purposes. One is to deal with implacable foes, the other, more discretely, to expand the boundaries of Israel or to plunder wealth.

This flat portrait of cupidity is not pretty. But the law never allows the picture to be flat for long. It fences military action around and around until the holy warriors take an arsenal of ethical and moral codes into battle. Here is not the time or place for them, but to give an example: before any killing starts Israel has to try for peace. If the other side agrees to the terms, commits to keeping the seven laws of Noah, and submits to servitude, the army of Israel must pack up and go home.

Jews ancient and modern, however, will be Jews. Give them a set of ground rules and they’ll top them up. Set a moral bar to clear and they will ratchet it up a few notches – high enough to make the world like them a little more. War offers the chance to parade the mercy and magnanimity of Israel; to go above and beyond the letter of the law. How could the nations not respect a merciful Israel.  

There lies the rub – a vinegary one. “Be not over righteous, nor too clever.” (Ecclesiastes 7:16). And, according to Rabbi Shimon b. Lakish: “Whoever shows mercy to the cruel will ultimately be cruel to those deserving of mercy.”  Israeli wars, ancient and modern, make perfect case studies for the early warnings. Trouble upon trouble comes upon Israel when it bends like a reed to be extra nice, especially to enemies that are predisposed to take mercy as weakness and to bite the hand that feeds. The Rabbis of the Talmud frown upon allowing a weaker opponent to get the upper hand. If Jews die as a result the Rabbis consider it a form of suicide. Cain killing the stronger Abel after the latter felt sorry for his brother set the precedent. Thereafter the law set boundaries for showing mercy. A foe with an intent to kill loses the right to life.

 Jewish compassion, however, seems limitless. Merciful treatment of the enemy goes to unreasonable length. It was such behavior that made Israeli diplomat Abba Eban, complain sardonically after Israel’s lightning victory in the Six-Day War: “I think it would be the first war in history that on the morrow the victors sued for peace and the vanquished called for unconditional surrender.”

To rub salt in the wound, the world’s looked-for pat on the back never came. On the contrary: displays of mercy fed expectations and demands on Israel to act with ‘restraint.’ What other nations at war are told to hold back, time after time.  The Jews are an obliging people. Up and up goes the self-imposed bar. “Heaven help us if our moral standard is reduced to not committing crimes against humanity. From my country I demand a lot more,” said Jessica Montell, head of an Israeli human rights entity. All progressive Jews expect more than above-board conduct from Israel – a whole lot more.

Montell’s remark came in the wake of Operation Cast Lead, the urban war waged by terror-crazies with  every trick in the book. Israel came out on top and morally intact. Still the halo brigade is insatiable. It wants more. It sets the bar so high that it can’t be cleared. The IDF must be cleaner than clean. Hence the trap. The higher the bar, the better to make Israel trip. Israel-haters wait and watch. How high can Israel jump? A shiver of the bar transports the court of public opinion into frenzies of scorn and condemnation. And instead of a light unto the nations, Israel becomes a polecat.

 Even those professedly for Israel have patience only up to a point. They’ll allow it to fight a rearguard action, but no more. Outright victory is intolerable. The result? Like Amalek’s descendant Haman, enemies came close to exterminating the Jews. Hitler himself came from the same line. Modern leaders of Israel have failed to learn the lesson. By treating implacable foes with compassion, Israel has given bloodthirsty Jew-killers a new lease of life. And the international community, instead of loving Israel for its compassion, seems to hate it with added ferocity.

What would the Almighty make of modern Israel at war? Is He an understanding God? It all depends. Are the Jihadists who fire rockets into Israel descended from the Seven Nations in the bible? Would they be among those whom Israel is commanded to annihilate? Or are they descendants of Amalek, the enemy of all enemies for all time?

No one knows. Some do know that the mini wars that Israel had to fight in its backyard (Defensive Shield, Cast Lead, Pillar of Defense, Protective Edge) can be traced to the original sin of treating the heritage, the Promised Land, like a hot potato. Land won in miraculous victories became land to surrender, land with which to curry favor.

It made a victorious and magnanimous Israel hated more than a weak Israel. Mayhem and terror and international pariah status were the wages of sin. It took Israelis a long time to learn that land for peace does not appease; it emboldens demands for more. The lesson slowly sunk in that Israelites are a people who dwell alone. “Palestine from the river to the sea” echoes in UN corridors and chambers meant to keep nation from warring on nation.

How angry might it make the God of Israel?

Once upon a time a king bestowed gifts and favors on a preferred son. The son took the king’s benevolence for granted and thought of the gifts and favors, when he thought of them, as his rightful due. To court popularity he was liberal with giving away the gifts, even to those who hated him. Some had gone so far as plotting to kill the son, yet were glad to accept his generosity. By the power of the king the son’s life had been saved many times over, but he was unmindful of this. Was the king angry? Angry is not the word.

Priestly priority: 1 Jew, 2 Muslim, 3 Christian

A Christian Arab turns scripture into ideology

When Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu cried “impossible people” everyone knew he was talking about Jews. They were persecuting Palestinian Muslims. It had to stop. One day God would make them stop. When Frank Chikane, holder of high office in the World Council of Churches (WCC) spoke of “demons” and vowed that “blood will be sought from them” he again harped on the Jews. And so on as many clerics and church bodies do.

At this point article-writers get to the point which they, and we, have waited for. Singling out Israel! Why do clerics not denounce abuse of Palestinian rights in Gaza? If they really cared about Palestinians, what about those in Arab countries denied citizenship? If that conclusion was as valuable to the world as to the commentator, it would surely have had Israel-hating clerics scuttling for cover.      

The ‘what about?’ conclusion is easy to draw. What is obvious takes no thought. Critics of Israel have a double standard; are hypocrites. When article writers get to those words their spirits rise, and though ours may sink we get a lift. Critics of Israel mostly are mostly anti-Semites with double standards. Here is the latest simple commentator at work: https://www.algemeiner.com/2021/02/10/church-official-declares-war-on-israel-and-its-supporters/

What he says is accurate, but all is useless. It leaves us with understanding but no insight. What is it about Israel, apart from being Jewish, that makes clerics treat this one country like poison?

To begin: Christian clerics are not like Muslims. They have no record of caring for their own endangered people. They’ll remember to pray for persecuted Christians, perhaps. But picket embassies, occupy piazzas, marshal the media into battle, take the UN by storm? Never.

Yet Christendom ought to be on life support in the third world. Reports on the war-torn Middle East confirm genocide in the proper sense of the word. If the PC media covered it, if PC leaders spoke of it, all would know and leaders might step up to the plate.

In the last century Christians made up 20% of people in the Middle East and North Africa. Today the proportion is around 4%. Christians killed for being what they are went up by 60% in one year alone. Open Doors USA released the 2021 World Watch List, in which countries that are bad news for a Christian are named. The sub-continent and North Africa are right up there with the worst.  

Coptics mourn after Islamists attacked church

What have clerics done about it? Pakistan did erupt in protest; otherwise the hallmark behavior has been passivity. “Everyone is ignoring the growing danger to Christians in Muslim countries,” bewailed Bishop Mano Rumalshah of Peshawar. “European countries don’t give a damn about us.”

Not quite. The Archbishop of Canterbury gave a damn. Though his words would have brought cold comfort to the bereaved and afflicted, they do help to understand the clerical mindset. This is what Archbishop Justin Welby, head of the Anglican Church, had to say after seeing the mass graves of latter day martyrs. “I have no illusions about this. But historically the right response of Christians to persecution and attack is — it’s the hardest thing we can ever say to people, but Jesus tells us to love our enemies. It’s the hardest thing when you’re violently attacked. It’s an indescribable challenge. But God gives grace so often for that – to love our enemies.”

Hold onto Welby the consoler of Christians drowning in blood while we revert to a nation with a bad smell in clerical nostrils. Did a Jew lately kill someone for being Christian? Was one Israeli Christian converted to Judaism under pain of death? Yet churchmen aim their missiles where?

The cleric with a grin

The Rev David Kim, head of the World Evangelical Alliance is another Tutu, who takes aim at the ‘impossible people’. “How to Deal with the Impossible People – A Biblical Perspective,” was the title of Kim’s paper at a Bethlehem conference. Ha – Muslims rooting up two thousand years of Christianity, you’d be given to think. Think again. A banner in the hall explained everything. It had a church and a cross imposed over a menacing-looking part of Israel’s anti-terror barrier. Kim’s paper was about how to deal with the Jews.

That is odd because in one shoelace thin land in a vast Christian graveyard, Christianity has prospered.  In 1949, Israel had 34,000 people of that faith. Today they number some 170,000. In this awkward Christian haven, freedom to practice religion is guaranteed. Access to holy sites has the force of law. And what draws more visitors to Israel than Holy Land tourism? Tiberius and Nazareth and Jerusalem practically live off pilgrimages. Under the ‘impossible people’ Christianity is alive and well. 

Men of the cloth, with all that God-endowed grace for loving your murderous enemy, have you no love leftover for a friend! Only heed your imperiled flock in Palestine and save a little Christian love for them.

Will clerics heed their flock in Palestine? Out of Gaza and Ramallah come leaks and whispers, hole-in-the wall fear-ridden testimonies, tearful stories told behind locked doors. Who knows the totality of fear, cruelty, confiscation, assault, homicide perpetrated on reclusive Christian pockets? Who cares to know? When did the media run a story on the torments of Gaza’s few remaining Christian souls; or on Bethlehem’s decimated long-time majority of Christian Arabs? When will men of the cloth sound the alarm? Tutu may feel love for Muslims, the persecutors of his faith, but not for the impossible Jews. He finds them more than impossible. “The Jews think they have a monopoly of God. Jesus was angry that they could shut out other human beings.”

 Meanwhile the Palestinians of Gaza, on whom the cleric with a grin showers love, have made half his flock flee for their lives. Decorations for Christmas are banned and public crucifixes forbidden. Hamas has made the few remaining Christians in Gaza open season. The owner of Gaza’s only Christian bookstore was murdered and his little store burnt to the ground.

“We pray for all those Palestinians whose homes have been demolished and those who have been driven away. For Palestinians who suffer because of the separation wall and settlements and for those who have lost their jobs and suffer from poverty, hunger and thirst, we pray to you, O God.”Here’s a psalm to bring that loving spirit of Welby’s into the hearts of the flock. The words come from a liturgy composed by the WCC. The authors were Anglican, Evangelical Lutheran and Catholic, and they were helped by a committee headed by Kairos. Kairos, if you don’t know, is the body that lobbied church synods to declare the occupying Jews a sinful people.

For anti-Israel clerics all roads lead to Bethlehem. They come not to defend the faith but to promote another Muslim state which would lose no time uprooting it. Defend Christians or attack Jews: for clerics it’s a no-brainer. Can men of the cloth, even pooling their faith, justify the perversity? Can they square the circle of exerting themselves to attack Jews while having no time for Christendom exploding on their doorstep?

Yes they can; by leaning back to a St Augustine doctrine and forward to a modern threesome.

St Augustine. The Jews must remain wanderers

Put together, the modern doctrines do not measure up to St Augustine’s one. Actually they’re more blind faith than doctrine, which is not to say they’re treated less reverently than the Gospels. One doctrine is called Human Rights; a second goes by a trendy catch-all name, ‘Multiculturalism’; while number three, a twisted belief you couldn’t invent if you tried, turns Jesus into a Palestinian.

The human rights doctrine is enshrined in the Kairos Document which borrows the bible to make the political views and world vision of the authors sacred. The effect is to convert Christianity into a human ideology. Bible-thumping clerics borrow their Messiah not to beat swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks; they bring him on for more mundane acts. They ask Jesus to walk through a military checkpoint in the West Bank. At Bethlehem’s ‘Christ at the Checkpoint Conference’ clerics deliberated what Jesus would do and say if he had to cope daily with Israeli checkpoints. How would the ‘Son of God’ cope with the anger and bitterness that Palestinians experience. Munther Isaac, Dean at Bethlehem Bible College, puts his feet in the Messiah’s big shoes. Jesus would hate Israel.

An Easter sermon painted human rights in biblical colors that are blinding. “It seems that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him. The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily”. Naim Ateek a Christian Arab, weaves the Gospel narrative into anti-Israel ideology. On the other hand the United Church of Christ (UCC) takes a modern line, embarrassed by bible references to Jews in a land they were supposed to have thieved off the natives in the 20th Century. Bravely political, it cooks up a hostile omelet of Israeli colonizers and Apartheid addicts.

Apparently, then, selective outrage for Palestinians living under Jews, though far better off than those rotting and dying under Muslims, is one way to get to heaven. Curse Israel and Grace will come to you.

Just how elastic is the figure of Jesus? How far can it be stretched and remain credible? Believe it – a little of Jesus goes a long way, far enough to be a reborn Palestinian. Leaders claim that, in all seriousness. “Jesus was a Palestinian.” Yasser Arafat’s PR woman Hannan Ashrawi disclosed the astounding fact to the Washington Jewish Week on February 22, 2001, and it did not even make headlines. Ashrawi was not the first, or the last, to bring Him into the fold. “Every Christmas, Palestine celebrates the birth of one of its own, Jesus Christ,” proclaimed the PLO’s statement for Christmas 2013. I don’t know if anyone has made Jesus into a Muslim, but the PLO seems to leave that possibility wide open.

Perhaps a third doctrine stands on studier legs. Woke ‘Multiculturalism’ or ‘Diversity’ could stand the test of time. Here the rulebook is short but strict: pay homage to Islamophobia. Bowing to the “I” word comes down to being ultra careful not to offend Muslim sensitivity. Islamists burn, behead and crucify infidels to near extinction yet the Pope utters hardly a peep. Britain’s National Union of Students (NUS), no Christian body, may as well have spoken for one when it refused to condemn Islamic State (IS). It would be Islamophobic, said student leaders.

The rule not to offend different cultures, though strict, is hardly consistent. Towards people of one faith the rule is ultra lax. If Muslims are off limits and sacrosanct, you’re allowed to say what you like about Jews, provided you call them Israelis or better, Zionists. Groups that tiptoe around Muslims have no qualms condemning Jews.  The NUS that wouldn’t condemn ISIS, supports a boycott of Israel. So Judaeophobia does not rank with Islamophobia in the greater scheme of things.

Those were newish doctrines telling Christians to love an enemy and hate a friend. A really  old doctrine calls for serious consideration. Christianity at one time held it as an article of faith. Augustine in the 4th century made the exile of the Jews a principle of theology. Long after him, Pope Pious X at an audience with Theodore Herzl in 1904, said: The Jews, who should have been the first to acknowledge Jesus Christ, have not done so to this day. And so if you come to Palestine and settle your people there, we will be ready with churches and priests to baptize all of you.”

Pope Pious X warned Theodore Herzl

XA journal at the time asserted that the Jews “must always live dispersed and vagrant among the other nations so that they may render witness to Christ by their very existence.” Hence the Vatican’s refusal to recognize the new Israel in 1948 was not pro-Arab bias, but a matter of dogma.

The WCC, the Presbyterians of America, the Greek Orthodox Church and many clerics,  think in St Augustine’s terms. Get the hell out of Palestine! After you rejected the Son of God your place as the Chosen People was taken by the Church. Return to being the witness wanderers God meant you to be.

Israel’s rise from Holocaust ashes troubles secular anti-Zionists in a similar way. For anti-Zionists the problem is not doctrinal but perceptual. They are unable to come to terms with the military Jew. Jews are not meant to be stronger than their persecutors. The stereotype of the Jew of old – that bearded bookish stateless wanderer – could never have evolved into a mean machine. What vinegary thoughts turn on Israel, what sourball gaze at the juggernaut Jew. Get the hell out! Go back to your natural born fate.

With biblical fire clerics seek to punish the un-chosen people. Your destiny was never to make the desert bloom; to build a Tel Aviv of Manhattan skyscrapers; to win Nobel Prizes by the wheelbarrow full; to boast a bustling high-tech economy with a currency stronger than Europe’s. 

The pores of Israel-hating clerics leak not envy but error, the faith-losing error of dogma. Hence the dogmatic angst and bluster towards friendly Israel: the spoilage of the plot, the shattering of the icon.

Covid tsars are problematic

There is a new type of bureaucrat. It seems every country had to have a Covid tsar. If countries had one why can’t the Jews at the tip of Africa, 55 000 strong, have three Covid tsars? There is work enough for three in pandemic-hit countries where no act or routine is too inconsequential or minute to escape a watchful eye, down to the number of guests permitted in the home. ‘Medical advisory team’ is the collective noun the trio go by. And there lies the abrasive rub. Covid tsars are medics to a fault.

Why to a fault? Who better than experts on epidemics, public health, infectious disease and emergency medicine for tackling a contagion? In fact they more than Covid’s direct tolls should be our concern. 

Look at it this way: there are two groups of people. Group A contains those involved with the medical consequences of Corona. They treat, test, produce or issue orders and rules for lockdowns. Group B contains everyone else. Its job is to buy Group A more time to get various ducks in a row: to flatten The Curve, obtain PPE, install ICU capacity, hire health care workers, purchase vaccine and roll out a vaccination program.

So Group B is the sacrificial lamb. Confined to home it must forego income, relationships, schooling and basic freedoms to worship, move about and generally refrain from fun and fulfilment.

All this makes for a game of winners and losers, refereed by Covid tsars. But are medics the right referee material? Do they even grasp a game is being played? Even if they do, there is no reason to expect such healthcare professionals to know the rules and have the skills for arbitrating between the players – assuming there is a rule book, which there is not. Penalties unforeseen, land on Group B as the game progresses. We begin to see that medics are poorly if at all equipped to referee perhaps the biggest game (or gamble) in modern history.

Consider schooling as one casualty of the pandemic. When Covid tsars red flag proper schooling because they believe classrooms and playgrounds are super spreaders, learners are penalized while teachers – when government paid and unionised – get the awards.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky is head of America’s CDC, the Centre for Disease Control, and as such is a Covid tsar in whose hands lies the fate of learners and teachers. Being that rarity, a scientist without a political bone in her body, she gave learners the nod. “I want to be clear,”she said, “that there is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen, and that safe reopening does not mean teachers have to be vaccinated. I would say that vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for the reopening of schools.”

America’s Covid Tsar. Science over politics

But Dr Walensky referees at the whim of the powers that appointed her. In the Covid game the teachers’ unions, Democratic party kingmakers, won’t let teachers return to school until all have been vaccinated. Of course they won’t. Teachers have been on full pay for sitting at home doing next to nothing. When Science competes against political clout the game is won before it begins. Asked, “Wasn’t what the director of the CDC said good enough?” Joe Biden’s Press Secretary answered, “Dr Walensky spoke in her personal capacity. Obviously, she’s the head of the Covid Response Team, but we’re going to wait for the final guidance to come out so we can use that as a guide for schools around the country.”

There. Power to the teachers. The Covid game is played by the book with one rule: politics, the art of the possible, outkicks science.

If America’s Covid demigod is acutely conscious of the game, her greenhorn counterparts for South Africa know of no game at all. They know the biblical injunction to save precious life. And that’s it. Covid tsars for saving Jewish life are moved to sacrifice Jewish lives to a God of safety, the God who taught, “To save one life is to save an entire world”. In Jewish codes pikuach nefesh encapsulates the teaching by telling us to protect and preserve human life at any cost. Even medical science has not escaped being a burnt offering oddly considering that the Chief Rabbi specifically picked medics for his Covid tsars. 

Shuls can reopen,” he said, “when the rate of new infections in the country is on the decline. Right now, the models we are relying on…..” So he and his picks invested their faith in flattening a curve, which raises two problems.

One, an authentic curve of the rate of new infections must be drawn from authentic data. Iffy data will produce an iffy curve. The other problem is more fundamental. What has the rate of new infections in a third world country got to do with opening first world shuls? Is there a link between national infection rate and the risk of shul- goers getting infected? Can the first predict the second? I don’t see how. South Africa is a country of two worlds. By far the majority live in third world conditions while shuls and congregants are located in leafy suburbia. A report on Israel seems to put the lid on how wrong it may be to link the rate of infections to the risk posed by attending shul. Arutz Sheva on July 7th 2020 quoted a study revealing where Israelis got infected. Two thirds of cases were caught at home compared to a mere 2.2% in synagogues. 

 Doctors, being Covid tsars, duplicated the Babylonians and the Greeks by rending the cornerstones, foundations and columns of Jewish life. They forbad Jews to pray and learn together; closed down schools; warned Jews to stay put knowing it would deprive many of a livelihood. More troubling, the demigods of safety called a halt to marking the festivals of the bible.

The puzzle stands: why task a ‘Medical Advisory Team’ to recalibrate the heartbeat of Jewish life? It could be analogous to tasking a football referee to umpire a game of cricket. The foregone results are there for anyone to see: unhappiness all round, complaints from every quarter, panicky decisions. Only a week ago a Covid tsar quit in disgust over the community not observing protocols as strictly as he liked. Rabbis of empty synagogues despair of overkill; home shuls outside the system flourish; kosher caterers lie dormant; Jewish run businesses go bust; expedient reopening of schools and synagogues before the first wave had been tamed; community leaders invest faith in the words and judgement calls of a president who is guilty of ongoing crimes against humanity. (One example: healthcare workers died subsequent to cheap masks acquired through a corrupt tender).  

And all the while useless lockdowns go barnstorming our freedoms and security once held dear. The lockdown cure has killed the patient under doctors’ orders. Interference with our lives has been ingrained in politicians and unelected experts. The Milton Friedman I read for Economics warned my generation which took liberty for granted: “Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.”

If this is the price of saving a human life, can it be worth paying? It should turn us cold knowing that Andrew Cuomo the Governor of New York, who condemned thousands of the elderly to death by ordering care homes to admit Covid cases, is another who believes that the price of saving one life is worth paying.

Only the insane equate pain with success,” said the Cheshire Cat to Alice. “A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma” Winston Churchill could have said of a Covid panel composed of medics only.

Then a panel should boast what other experts? The answer to that question is another. Is a panel needed? At the appointment of Covid tsars I had a notion that met a brick wall. Here, I submitted, is a communal problem posing different and conflicting considerations. The value of saving a life is one consideration among many. Common sense, I wrote, acting with personal responsibility, is the correct arbitrator. No one is forced to pray or to learn in a group, eat in a restaurant, attend a simcha or go to school. A standard disclaimer on boards and digital notices would do the trick:

“The committee, etc is not responsible for….Members/customers/parents are advised to consult a doctor.” https://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/283878

If the religious head and his Covid panel can trust a corrupt president, surely there is wiggle room to trust grownup Jews to weigh the odds for themselves. Gather or stay home. Of course there’ll be risk takers. But there are irresponsible drivers on the road. Has there ever been a nanny state! If a technique exists for altering human nature it has yet to be discovered. Until then treat adults like adults.

In the rear mirror of hindsight we’ve seen where the newfangled bureaucrats are taking us. The notion that unelected experts know what is best is taking us down a road that leads to despotism and ruin.        

The Professor Kramer master class

Portrait of a pandemic menace

A poisoned chalice seems wonderful for a time, before it goes on to be a curse for the recipient. Beware especially of tributes in that sense. They can and have spelled disaster, near and wide. In a Jewish weekly there was a poisoned chalice clothed as this tribute. “Professor Efraim Kramer, head of the Division of Emergency medicine at the University of the Witwatersrand, has worked tirelessly to ensure the safety of the community during the pandemic.” Here is praise for a wise king to dread and a plain commoner to welcome.

Jews who work to ensure the safety of a community do not have a good record. A terrible record goes way back to the meraglim, the spies who returned from the Promised Land with a report that sent the Israelites in the desert into fits of panic and crying. The national hysteria made God livid. “They indulged in weeping without a cause. I will set this as a time of weeping throughout the generations.” So it proved. Many catastrophes struck the nation on the day of mourning and fasting given the woeful name, Tisha b’av.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks made incisive comments about the fear mongers who, note instructively, made their bad report in what we now call ‘The public square.’

“They completely misunderstood their mission,” writes Rabbi Sacks. “The ten simply did not understand what was going on. The result was that they looked for the wrong things, came to the wrong conclusion, demoralised the people, destroyed the hope of an entire generation, and will eternally be remembered as responsible for one of the worst failures in Jewish history.”

Latter day Jewish leaders have also done communities no favour by working for their safety. In 1917 Jews of great standing spoke against the Balfour Declaration.  One was Claude Montifoire of the Board of Deputies of British Jews; another was Edwin Montique of the Anglo Jewish Association and the Cabinet. The two organisations published a manifesto in the Times of London to oppose a Jewish homeland in Palestine. It was they said “an anachronism”; the Jewish people had no national character. What spooked these leaders with no mandate to represent the community, was that Zionism – aka, Jewish nationalism – would attract anti-Semitic claims of disloyalty to the Crown. Rabbi Isaac Kook, the chief Rabbi of Jaffa called it a “Manifesto on National Treachery”.

American Jewry had its own ugly treachery. Rabbi Stephen Wise stood for, as had the upper crust Anglo Jews, the community’s own safety by letting his friend, Franklin D. Roosevelt, persuade him that the way to let the anti-Semite sleeping dog lie was to keep Jewry quiet about the impending Holocaust in Europe and about FDR’s closing America’s doors to refugees fleeing for their lives.

Professor Kramer fell into all three fatal traps: the desert spies, the Anglo Jews and the American rabbi. Kramer: (1) Acted without a mandate. (2) Convinced himself that he was helping to keep the community safe. (3) Got the story completely wrong, and barked up the wrong tree.

The mandate from Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein set Kramer to develop Covid protocols for gatherings, especially for synagogues. But having accomplished the task he set about fanning panic and fear in that equivalent of the public square, a community weekly. Kramer   made statements too wild for the ramparts of politics, never mind for a professor of medicine. Rogue political leaders never had the gumption to fool citizens as he did when declaring, “We should actually be in a Level-5 (total) lockdown at this point. You cannot complain about a measure that’s in place to keep us alive.” I taxed the professor about his fevered words. Give your evidence. What difference would a total lockdown make? How is an easier one helping to “keep us alive”? Evidence if you please.

It took a stroke of irony and a chunk of luck to get it. In the paper the week after, a family doctor, oblivious to damning his guild of fear-stokers, tucked into a dread filled column a graphic allowing all to see the evidence: Covid curves and lockdown levels go their own merry independent way.

Ignoring a lockdown max Level 5, cases failed to react and deaths kept below the normal. Despite a dire Level 4 lockdown, curves rose like ski ramps, then dropped like stone, even after lockdown restrictions were eased to Level 3. The curves took the look of an ironing board when a Level 2 lockdown let people do more or less as they liked. Then came the holiday period, and Covid curves came back to random life.  

The evidence-based conclusion which Kramer the Covid tsar failed to cough up? Lockdowns control transmission and death like traffic fines control car crashes. They mostly don’t. Different countries, many lockdown experiments, one conclusion: the lockdown is a political intervention. A pandemic control lever the lockdown is not.   

A professor that flouts a mandate and pretends to be helping keep Jews safe is irredeemably indicted. When on top he slanders people by abusing statistics, he becomes a disgrace.  “Members of our community are playing a critical game of Russian roulette with their lives and the lives of others,” Kramer said. I asked him to rate what he thought of a wedding – a deadly activity compared to the reality: (a) Accurate (b) Near enough (c) Valid (d) Wild

We can rate without him. Russian roulette he said. The game, many know, involves loading one chamber of a revolver, spinning the cylinder, holding the gun to the head and pulling the trigger. With a 6-chambered revolver the player has a 1-in-6 chance of dying – a chance of 16,67%. Compare that with the chance of dying from Covid for a healthy person under 65.  It’s a wedding remember. The chance of that happening, (for which I’m indebted to Rabbi Yoram Bogacz) is 0,004%. So, a player of Russian roulette runs a risk of dying which is 4167 times greater than the risk of dying from Covid picked up at a wedding reception.

Kramer comparing Russian roulette to attending the wedding was, can we say, a teeny bit on the wild side?   

The community’s Covid tsar is a man who succumbs to histrionics. That makes him a dangerous tsar. When you add fear-mongering, attachment to lethal and useless lockdowns and contempt for keeping to a mandate given by the Chief Rabbi, then Kramer is a menace. He plays a destructive role in the community, adding to the dislocation of the national lockdown. He went so far as to warn people not to attend shul because of the danger. “The closure of shuls is imperative,” he stated.

If the professor can gloat over one achievement, it would be helping to erode the cornerstones of communal life: the extended family, the economy, small businesses, jobs, schooling, prayer quorums, camaraderie. “The shul is the heartbeat of Jewish life,” said Rabbi Yossy Goldman. “Also psychological, spiritual and emotional wellbeing are as important as economic wellbeing. We need our shuls more than ever before.” Rabbi Yossi Chaikin went further. “We’ve done (too good) a job of telling people to stay home and (pray), but that’s backfiring on us now. It’s getting progressively harder to get people back to shul.”

Like the spies that looked for the wrong things, came to the wrong conclusion, demoralised the Jews and destroyed the hope of an entire generation, Kramer was barking up the wrong tree. Of all the fool notions he put to the community, one ranks right up there.

Kramer believed – told the community – that actually the nation’s Covid tsar, Dr Dlamini-Zuma, was keeping the community alive. She’s the one who orders lockdowns and the rules to go with. It was her that banned cigarettes and alcohol and closed beaches and allowed police to throw stun grenades at surfers and shoot water cannon at old age pensioners when they stood too close together.  And it was the same woman who oversaw the looting of a R20 billion Covid fund.

I rest my case against the pandemic menace.

Memories from going to my roots

         
Medzhybizh Where Baal Shem Tov lived

‘I have been to my roots,’ he told me. He meant Lithuania – shtetle and house hunting. The great grandparents came from there.

Brodsky synagogue. Odessa

“And Ukraine?” I asked, more to prove a point than to make conversation. It held water. He said what I thought he’d say,.

“One day I’ll get to Uman.” Even the travel-wise connect Ukraine with the New Year binge at the burial site of Rav Nachman.

You don’t have to be a Breslov Hasid to have Uman on your bucket list. You even don’t have to be madly observant. In their tens of thousands young and not so young cram into the town in the belly of Ukraine for a street party of praying and dancing, snacking and singing. For two chaotic days Uman rocks.

Kiev

Whether Nachman of Bratslav, a great grandson of founder of Hasidism, the Ba’al Shem Tov, would want it this way is a moot point. The charismatic and contentious figure died of TB in 1810. Aged 38; he had come to Uman to die, to be laid to rest where in 1768 twenty thousand Yidden were butchered by Haidamack Cossacks on farmland.

The Bobovs, Satmars and Lubavitcher sects are drawn further afield, to the tombs of rabbinic greats, making a holy arc over the western borderlands of Ukraine – what used to be the province of Galicia. More ohels and killing fields!

Messsianic fervour. Uman

Yet a trip down veneration or memory lane is not the be-all and end- all of ‘doing’ Ukraine. For one thing Ukraine is peopled by a lot of Jews – maybe 250 to 300 thousand – making it far and away the Jewish heartland of Eastern Europe. Whole cities, notably Odessa, Kiev, L’viv and Dnepropetrovsk, are full of heritage, magnificent buildings and modern Jewish flavor.

Belz, mayn shtetele ..mayn heimele” begins a popular Yiddish song from 1932. The old look and feel of the shtetl can be found in the former Pale of Settlement to this day. Market squares, sagging wooden homesteads, public wells, waddling geese by the roadside, relics of mikvehs and synagogues all flatter to deceive.  I visit the old shtetl of Medzhybizh. Here 300 years ago lived and taught and passed away the Ba’al Shem Tov. A massive medieval fortress, worth a visit, overlooks this cradle of Hasidism. Down in the village the old cemetery contains a new ohel, as big as a house, over the tomb of the ‘Besht’. Beyond the cemetery a new synagogue complex is painted white to match the ohel.

Site of Bavi Yar massacre.

It was Sholom Aleichem who put the shtetl on the Western map. His immortal character, Tevye the milkman, daidle-deedle-daidled his way through stage and film productions of Fiddler on the Roof. Tevye sang and suffered in Berdichev, a shtetl of 30,000 Jews on the eve of the Nazi invasion. But you have to go to Aleichem’s home town, Kiev to see a statue of the author in a public square where his dapper figure smiles and doffs his hat to passers-by.

But here, as everywhere lurks the dark shadow of pogroms and the Shoah. So many monuments to so much martyrdom, often hidden deep in verdant forests. What made Nazi killing squads do their work where larks sing and wild berries grow and fragrant foliage breathes?

But Ukraine is not another Poland or Lithuania; it is not an open air heritage museum. To be sure numbers have dived, even from the half million that outlived the Holocaust (out of 2 million in the 1930s). The Soviet clampdown all but wiped out Jewish identity. Then independence in 1991 let Jews go where they would. The popular revolt in 2014 against rotten government, followed by the Russian invasion and civil war led to another ebb tide of Jewry.

Woman of the Motherland. Kiev

I picked boiling hot days to visit the ‘Pearl of the Black Sea.’ Odessa remains a stunning port city filled with architectural wonders and Jewish flavour. The imposing Brodsky synagogue with four domed towers was the first Reform temple in tsarist Russia. Granted, crowds no longer pack the stalls to hear famous cantors and choirs, but Shabbat and Yomtov services are held.

After grisly pogroms near the turn of the 20th century, when Jews abandoned Odessa in droves, Zionism took root. The port became the ‘Gateway to Zion’ from which refugees embarked for Palestine. Many Zionist leaders were natives of Odessa: Leon Pinsker, Meir Dizengoff (first mayor of Tel Aviv), and not least, Zev Jabotinsky. The city was a magnet for Jewish arts, crawling with Yiddish theaters, literary salons and libraries. Yiddish writers, most of all Isaac Babel evoked Odessa. “It seems to me you could say a lot of good things about this important and most remarkable city in the Russian Empire.”

There’s been a Jewish community in the capital, Kiev for a thousand years. A 10th century letter from Kiev Jews was unearthed in a genizah (cache of documents) in a Cairo synagogue. Modern Kiev is a vibrant city of tree-lined boulevards, parks and piazzas, a city that will keep even a Jewish traveler awake for a week. The main shul is a 19th century Brodsky synagogue, a massive fortress – like building taking up an entire city block. The vantage point to get a whole canvas of Kiev is from a boat on the wide Dnieper River. Gold and green onion domes atop white churches dazzle the eye. A startling sight is a 100m tall female warrior on the river bank, the heroic figure wielding in one hand a shield and in the other a sword. Her name is ‘Woman of the Motherland’. She towers over the river, making a bold and massive statement about Soviet hubris after Hitler’s army was decimated.

If Odessa stuns and Kiev startles then L’viv (Lion) charms. The old world pre-war look and feel about the city is partly thanks to the German high command. Grand baroque mansions, cobblestone squares, broad boulevards, decorative facades and trams trundling up cobble roads are perfectly intact owing to the city earmarked for a Third Reich museum to which people would come to learn about the extinct nation of the Jews. The city used to  be home to more than 150,000, or close to a third of inhabitants. They were liquidated in a reign of terror when near every synagogue and cemetery was demolished. One or two left intact, like the Tsori Gilad shul with its rare brilliantly coloured wall paintings from the 1930s, were spared for museum pieces in a commemorative town.

Lviv. City the nazis left for a museum of the Jews

Take an overnight train, if Dnepropetrovsk in central Ukraine is on your itinerary. It should be if Odessa is on it, because the two lie on a straight line from Kiev. It must be on any heritage trip because the city is perfectly Jewish.  It boasts the Diaspora’s largest Jewish centre, containing the 1852 Golden Rose Choral synagogue, a Holocaust museum, a study centre and a fully kosher hotel.

Wife Vita

Trains are a throwback to Soviet days, as are local airports. The romance of a bygone era, of wood paneling and tough KGB-type women in command of coaches thrill the mind. At rough and ready airports passengers are left to retrieve their baggage on tractor trailers. At Lugansk airport I clambered into the belly of a 1950’s twin-prop to stow my bags. Then followed an hour wait for the pilot; on that Sunday morning he had overslept. On the approach to Kiev airport the wheels on a wooden structure dawdled down outside my porthole.

If you thought Lithuania or Poland had roots, you’ll go mad for Ukraine.