The Long Way Out Of The Blur

Avraham Ben Baruch,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Avraham Ben Baruch
Talmudist and specialist on intercultural situations in Israeli society

We just left Hanukka 5778. The feast is nowhere mentioned in the Talmud. The Maccabeans resisted and fought with much courage and dedication, but the combat was not a war. It was more than any question of arms, weapons, swords, killing or being assassinated or exterminated for the Qiddush HaShem. They refused to suppress the Jewish Laws inherited from old and transmitted as signs of eternal ways to reach out to sanctity of the Great Name of the Father of all.

The resistance consisted in clutching to the Mitzvot and this is the specific spiritual, theological task, daily and constant duty of the Jews, without stepping down from such powerful traditions because other nations would think they are entitled to oblige us to cancel them. The same reasons still interrogate our generation:

a) Shabbat\יום השבת and why should the seculars be obliged to comply with the referring mitzvot "of respecting the Yom HaShabbat to sanctify it"? A lot of people have transgressed and it, at times with a spirit of content and provocation.

b) Circumcision or B'rit Milah\ברית מילה, the act of Covenant has been challenged generation after generation. Some nations never accepted it or despised it, such as the Hellenists. Some Christians like the Anglicans consider it is a plus because Jesus of Nazareth was circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. On the one hand a mark that can be rejected and despised or, on the other hand, a sign that can lead a Jew to a stake and show his "differences".

c) Koshrut\כשרות, kosher food was a requirement for the Maccabees and some refused to eat treif, no-kosher food and accepted to die for being obliged to eat impure ailments. During World War II, some Jews who were prisoners of war in Germany (they were not taken to the concentration camps) worked in farms. Quite often, the farmers where rather nice people and would care more or less gently for the prisoner. They used to come and give them some fresh pork to eat. It was frequent that the Jews refused to eat it, rather they would fake to put it into their mouths and rejected it when the Germans had left. It was courageous as a protest and a act of fidelity to the Mitzvot. They were hungry and this was an act of faith too.

d) The Books of the Maccabees is not included in the corpus of the Hebrew Bible and belong to the Sfarim chetzonim\ ספרים חצונים that are usually referred as the "Deutero-canonical or apocryphal Books of the Bible". This confirms, in some special manner, that the accounted heroic struggle carried by the Jewish fighters is definitely meaningful for history, but does not necessarily sketch out the spiritual significance that is far more insightful for the survival of the Jewish revelation and ethical way of living.

e) The Eastern Orthodox tradition and all the Christians of the East (incl. the ancient Latin Church) did canonize the Maccabees, which is significant because the Byzantine Churches were basically Hellenistic and written in Greek. It shows that even the attitude of the ancient Greeks was challenged by the confession of the Living One God as received by the tradition handed down by the sc‎ripture, namely the Greek Septuagint realized by the 72 Jewish Sages of Alexandria.

So let's think it over! The Jewish peoples expand and deploy their structure along the ages as an architectural pattern that grows. Each time it grows, it faces large sequences of hatred, quite aggressive, which has a goal to destroy them in their multi-faceted aspect... and still maintain them somehow as a sort of "blurred" memorial.

This is what happens nowadays with the devilish attitude of the Christian Churches in the State of Israel. It is insane and twisted by nature: in his last speech addressed at the reception hall in Amman, in the presence of King Abdullah II of Jordan and all the representatives, heads of all the local religious leaders, Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem (an all Palestine/פלשתינא) showed the level of weird submission of all the Christian bodies in the Fertile Crescent. It is weirdo because he spoke in his name, indeed, but also in the name of all the other heads of the traditional Christian Churches! Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Apostolic Administrator and Archbishop of the Latin patriarchate of Jerusalem, okayed the adress of the Orthodox patriarch and well as the Chirman of the Lueran World Churches, Bishop Munib Yunan, actually a born Greek Orthodox man who converted to Lutheranism and is an Arab "Palestinan" nationalist.  Bishop Yunan is far too much moderate in his declarations these days because of his present international po‎sition.

Archbishop Pizzaballa's consent with the address of the Greek Orthodox patriarch is quite special because he arrived in Israel years ago and studied at the Hebrew University. He then was in charge of the Latin Catholic Hebrew-speaking community in Jerusalem, rather close - at least by sympathy - to the Israeli society. He hardly spoke any Arabic by that time. In his present po‎sition, he has a wider role and echoes the Roman See's views on the "Holy Land"expressed by the Catholic Church and the Pope.

Patriarch Theophilos made an astonishing statement to King Abdullah of Jordan:

"I stand here to reaffirm my allegiance to you, just like the scholars, leaders, and people of Jerusalem and Palestine stood on March 11, 1924, pledging their allegiance to your great grandfather Sharif Hussein Bin Ali [Sharif of Mecca], may God bless him and grant him peace.

We renew our pledge to unite our love for Jerusalem. We affirm our deep pride in the po‎sitions of the Hashemites and the steadfastness of the brave, loyal Amman that has never hesitated to hold Jerusalem with love without bias or discrimination. Jerusalem, Christians and Muslims alike, have always been in the conscience of the Hashemites and in the hearts of all Jordanians throughout history." [Jordan Times, 17.12.18].

The declaration is rather iunbelievable and some people would opine that this sounds like an old dhimmitude sort of reflex: full submission to a tyrannic despotic ruler from ancient times. It does not only involve the sole Greek Roman Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem and this even pre-supposes that the other representatives do agree on their free will to such "pommade" from the Ottoman post-Sublime Porte Turkish dictatorship... incidentlaly twice in eight hundred years.

The first paragraph underscores that in 1924 (Mandatory Palestine), the scholars, Church leaders and the people of Jerusalem pledged their allegiance to King Abdullah's great grandfather. The versions of the text differ because previous versions also mentioned the "Jewish rabbis living in Jerusalem" (pledging allegiance to Sharif Hussein Ben Ali...), which was removed for the last version of the declaration.

I repeat: who is at home? Who is on his soil and land, country, territory? Who showed hospitality to lal the nations of the world? Who is building a new "house" for all and where Jews feel really back at home whilst paving the way to free access to all the territory of the State of Israel. This has never been respected by the time of the Ottoman, British rule, nor when the Jordanians were in Jerusalem.

The words of the Christian hierarch shows, at first, a real taste of anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic in-born drifting-away stiffness, blocked on some remote and obsolete, incredible date of March 1924! Does it make sense? It sounds truly foolish and twisted because when meeting President Rivlin or the Minister of Tourism Levin, the leader of the "Mother of All the Churches" knows how to smoothe adequately and not to rebuke the Israeli authorities.

It deals with what is a constant feature of religious relationships in the country and the region: blurring images showing the profound opacity of mental obstruction to the recognition of the valid existence of Jewish and now Israeli identity.

But I presume that the twisted way of thinking is not restricted to such declaration. I am rather convinced that there is more in the patriarch's speech, much more than he could say.

Christian leaders are so deeply embattled in their ancient "mud" that they permanently have to discuss with too many different and contradictory partners and potential rulers. This has been their gym over the centuries. And the jerk did work because they could moan all the way, making use of slewness, cowardice, gambling faith on power and spiritual collapses of their ennemies.

There was no real opacity. Christianity and Islam could fake to play a sort of "family heinous or connected game". The split of the Arab Umma between Christians and Muslims of broken-down bodies could survive the shaky waves of history.

The return of the Jews to their homeland substantiated a definitely new overview of history: connection with the Land surpasses all spiritual, spiritual and theological claims conceived by the Christians and this is the blurring aspect of the present-day situation.

The declaration made at Amman aims at saying something else that is a part of the typical speech of the traditional Churches in the Land of Israel. In his speech, patriarch Theophilos refers to the King of Jordan as being the "Custodian of the Holy Sites (of Christianity and Islam) in Jerusalem":

"For us, Your Majesty, you represent an icon of love and peace, which was embodied when the Patriarch of the Holy City, Saint Sophronius, met with Caliph Al Faruq Omar Bin Al Khattab, bringing together the first Christian-Muslim spiritual encounter in Jerusalem (637 CE, added remark).

Today, we emphasise the most important principles of the Pact of Omar: that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is for Christians and Al Aqsa Mosque/Al Haram Al Sharif is for Muslims. Based on this fact, the Churches of Jerusalem will not hesitate to protect Islamic holy sites, just as the Jerusalem Awqaf protects our safety and property whenever we are threatened.

I came here today to renew the pledge of allegiance to you, as you uphold the Palestinian cause and Jerusalem, with its unique status, and as you address international fora on behalf of Palestine, as the custodian of its holy sites.

Intriguingly, King Abdullah, whose father late King Hussein rejected any claim and control over the West Bank, hardly played any real ranking function of "custodian of the Holy Land and Jerusalem holy sites" until the Israeli government confirmed the title in 1994 ni the article 9 of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, provoking a dispute among the Islamic leaders in the Middle-East.

At this point, it is definitely impossible that the leaders of the local Churches of Israel can attack the Israeli authorities to such a violent extent. It basically means that they want to show kindness and interest for their Arab faithful. The Palestinian Autority does recognize the King of Jordan as the official "custodian of the Holy Sites" in the traditional territory of the Christian patriarchal areas in the Holy Land (Israel, Palestinian Territories and Jordan).

Nonetheless, it is quite acceptable to think that, since Israel recognizes the "custodianship" of the Jordanian King - who made substantial donations for the rebuilding of the Mosques and the restoration of the Holy Sepulcher, the local Church leaders, to begin with the Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem and All Palestine, play the ancient allegiance as they ought to. Recent demonstrations showed that many Arab faithful do not trust them anymore. Many people wander here and there among the existing Church jurisdictions. Foreign influences are also significant at the present such as the pressure exercised by the Russian Orthodox patriarchate of Moscow and its Church Abroad.

It may be understood that the speech harshly condemns the Jewish institutions, at least in words. But, in return, the King of Jordan being noticeably supported and protected by the State of Israel that defined his religious "functions" and confirmed them. Thus, by a rather usual and twisted ricochet, the leaders do address the Israeli government. The severe attack in words turns to be a suspecious way to enable underground negotiations that the Church leaders have never been prepared to lead accordingly.

It will be a long way out of the blur.  It only starts.