Palestinian Christian Theologians against Israel

  • by Denis MacEoin
  • The purpose here is not to condemn the church for what it believes. These beliefs, however, make it difficult to understand how the leaders of a church can advocate such intimate relations with Muslims. Many of them seem to believe that much of what Christians believe is pure blasphemy.
  • In the Qur’an, Jesus is regarded, not as God or the Son of God, but as a prophet inferior to Muhammad. The Qur’an is emphatic in saying that Jesus was not crucified, but that someone else was substituted for him. Therefore, Christ did not die to save mankind; this salvation is reserved only for those who believe in the God of the prophet Muhammad.
  • No one is suggesting that Palestinian Christians should invite their own deaths by outrightly defying the Muslim majority. It seems inexplicable, however, why these Christians prefer to join with the Islamic resistance rather than to remain silent, accept their supposedly inferior status, and refrain from overt endorsements of what Muslims view as right.
  • On March 3, Britain’s most senior Catholic cleric, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, called for closer ties with Islam on the grounds that “the two religions have more in common than people think”. What on Earth does this prelate think Muslims believe? After some 1400 years of rivalry and war, some sort of naivety and fuzzy thinking is making Christians the agents of their own destruction.

It is sad but possibly to be expected that many Palestinian Christians – who are constantly under threat but have not been killed or expelled – identify closely with the cause of their Muslim fellows as they engage in often violent “resistance” to Israel and the limited Israeli “occupation” of the West Bank (Judaea and Samaria). Christians may have a long history in Syria and Palestine, but the earliest Christians, including Christ, were, of course, Jews. According to Christianity Today:

The Acts of the Apostles states that the first Christians in Jerusalem were Jews, and historians believe that even after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, Christianity in the Holy Land kept its Jewish flavor. But the Jewish revolt of Bar-Kokhba in 135 changed all this; Rome showed no mercy to the Jews and obliterated Jerusalem, renaming the city “Aelia Capitolina” and the country of Israel “Palestine.” With this blow, the Christian Jewish community effectively disappeared.

As non-Jewish Christians emerged, persecution continued throughout the Roman Empire until the emperor Constantine converted in 312 and later imposed Christianity as the sole religion.

Under the Roman and Byzantine empires, the Christians of Palestine enjoyed freedom to live and worship as they pleased. In 634, however, a mere two years after the death of the prophet Muhammad, Muslim Arab forces defeated the Byzantines and took possession of Syria, of which Palestine was the southern region. “Palestine,” although an ancient name, was imposed by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in an apparent attempt to sever the land even then from its Jewish roots in response to a revolt in 135 CE.

Palestine, however, was never a separate state or province, regardless of its rulers. From 1923-1948, it was the name of the area under the British mandate: during that time, everyone born there – Christian, Muslim and Jew – was officially a Palestinian, with “Palestine” stamped on all passports.

Then, in May of 1948, five Arab armies attacked Israel on the day of its birth, explicitly hoping to end the new country before it could start. The people now called Palestinians were those Arabs who fled during that war, after their leaders promised them they would be able to come back and reclaim their homes as soon as the Arab victory was complete.

That the Arabs might lose this war – which was what occurred– was never factored into this promise. When, after the war, the Arabs who had fled wished to come back, Israel reminded them that they had not exactly been allies, and declined to admit them.

During that war of 1947-48, Jordan illegally captured and later annexed much of Jerusalem. The Jews who had lived in those areas fled. Overnight, the Christians who had stayed in Gaza and the West Bank found themselves regarded as second-class, tolerated citizens, dhimmi people with few rights, who were forced to live as outnumbered “infidels” under Muslim rule. As such, they had no legal recourse and were under continual threat for their property and lives.

Until then, for centuries, Palestinian Christians had lived under a succession of Islamic empires and had little reason to love their overlords. With the slaughter and expulsion of the Armenians and Pontic Greeks by Muslim Turks from 1915-1923, Christians in the region had been reduced from being the citizens of the once-great Byzantine Empire, to a tiny minority in the land their ancestors once ruled.

The last of these empires was the vast Turkish Ottoman Empire, which the European allies displaced allies in 1918.

What today we regard as Palestinians, as the PLO leader Zuheir Mohsen explained in an interview in the Dutch newspaper Trouw in March 1977, are simply the Arabs who lost the war:

“The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality, today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese.”

Christians today represent a mere 1.3% of the Muslim Arabs (35,000 who live under the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and 3,000 under Hamas in the Gaza Strip). In Israel, the numbers are, not surprisingly, higher:

Christians constitute 2.1 percent of Israel’s total population. Some 83 percent of the Christians are Arab, representing a significant minority of 9.6 percent of the total Palestinian Arab minority in the state, which itself forms approximately 18 percent of the total population of Israel. The Christians in Israel thus form proportionally one of the largest Christian minorities within Arab populations in the Middle East.

The only Christian community in the Middle East to have grown since the end of the Ottoman Empire is the one inside Israel. Everywhere else, the numbers have been dropping due to emigration, a falling birth-rate, and persecution by Muslim majorities.

In Gaza and the West Bank, Christians have been routinely harassed, persecuted and even killed by their Muslim neighbors. There is no space here for a full account of the many indignities Christians have suffered under the Palestinian Authority, but David Raab has provided an overview:

The old Islamic disdain for Christians and other non-Muslims continues to infect modern Palestinian society. In a 2000 sermon from Gaza broadcast on PA television, Dr Ahmad Abu Halabiyya declared, amidst many calls for violence:

This is the truth, O Brothers in belief. From here, Allah the almighty has called upon us not to ally with the Jews or the Christians, not to like them, not to become their partners, not to support them, and not to sign agreements with them. And he who does that, is one of them, as Allah said: “O you who believe, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies, for they are allies of one another. Who from among you takes them as allies will indeed be one of them…

…The Jews are the allies of the Christians, and the Christians are the allies of the Jews, despite the enmity that exists between them. The enmity between the Jews and the Christians is deep, but all of them are in agreement against the monotheists – against those who say, “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger,” that is – they are against you, O Muslims.

An Israeli government report, “Palestinian Authority’s Treatment of Christians in the Autonomous Areas”, from as far back as 1997, lists a number of cases of PA harassment of Christians, especially those who converted from Islam to Christianity, and are therefore regarded as apostates, meriting the death sentence. Pastors and others have been arrested, imprisoned, and threatened as possible Israeli spies. Here is just a single example:

A Palestinian convert to Christianity living in a village near Nablus was recently arrested by the Palestinian police. A Muslim preacher was brought in by the police, and he attempted to convince the convert to return to Islam. When the convert refused, he was brought before a Palestinian court and sentenced to prison for insulting the religious leader. He is currently being held in a prison cell with more than 30 people, most serving life sentences for murder.

Nor is Muslim mistreatment restricted to individuals and families. According to Raab:

The PA has shown contempt for certain Christian holy sites, and there has been significant desecration as well. For example, without prior consent of the church, Yasser Arafat decided to turn the Greek Orthodox monastery near the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem into his domicile during his visits to the city. On July 5, 1997, the PLO seized Abraham’s Oak Russian Holy Trinity Monastery in Hebron, violently evicting monks and nuns.

Among the most publicized incidents was the 2002 takeover of Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, when dozens of Palestinian terrorists held the sacred site of the birth of Jesus for five weeks, desecrating it, stealing anything valuable, and tearing up Bibles to use as toilet paper. The whole event was staged by the Palestine Authority itself, under Yasser Arafat.

Pictured: The main access to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, known as the

“Door of Humility”. (Image source: Dan/Flickr)

Given that they have been, and still are, so mistreated by the Muslim authorities, why do so many Palestinian Christians express their support for a “resistance” – a euphemism for armed struggle — to Israel by terrorist organizations, many inspired by jihadist ideals? This “resistance” takes its inspiration from the belief that any territory, once conquered for Islam (and, in this case, stolen from Christians), must remain under Islamic rule in perpetuity:

“Syrian Sheik Omar Bakri… said in an interview at the time that both Romania and Bulgaria were legitimate targets for attacks, because they are ‘Islamic land’ …

“Once Islam enters a land, that land becomes Islamic and the Muslims have the duty to liberate it some day. Spain, for example, is Islamic land, and so is Eastern Europe: Romania, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo and Bosnia.”

Surely that is very far indeed from Christian precepts?

Yet, anti-Israel activism among Palestinian Christians who contest the liberation of Jerusalem by Israel from its illegal capture and occupation by Jordan is not hard to find. Presumably there is a justifiable concern among Christians to protect their safety, and the safety of Christian properties, by allying themselves with the Muslims among whom they have to live. In June 2017, for example, a “Letter from Palestinian Christians to the World Council of Churches and the Ecumenical Movement” was signed by thirty Christian organizations, Catholic, Assyrian, Orthodox, and Protestant in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Gaza. It begins:

As we meet this month in Bethlehem in occupied Palestine, we are still suffering from 100 years of injustice and oppression that were inflicted on the Palestinian people beginning with the unjust and unlawful Balfour declaration.

It continues in the same vein. The seventh of its nine demands on the WCC and the Ecumenical Movement reads:

That you defend our right and duty to resist the occupation creatively and non-violently. We ask that you speak in support of economic measures that pressure Israel to stop the occupation and that you support athletic, cultural, and academic measures against Israel until it complies with international law and UN resolutions urging the ending of its occupation, apartheid, and discrimination, and accepts refugees to return to their homeland. This is our last peaceful resort. [italics by the ed.]… In response to Israel’s war on BDS, we ask that you intensify that measure [“urging the ending of its occupation, apartheid, and discrimination, and accept[ing] refugees to return to their homeland.”].

As Palestinian “resistance” has always been extremely violent (just for example, here and here), one form of it has centred around protests over the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. During a wave of these protests in July 2017, when Christians prayed with Muslims, one protester urged Christians to do more: “Bethlehem churches will close their doors tomorrow, Sunday, and urge Christians to head to the mosques… #Here_Is_Palestine.”

Indeed, “On Thursday, a delegation of the World Council of Churches joined Palestinian worshippers protesting near Al-Aqsa and stood in solidarity with the Muslim community.”

The anti-Israel Orthodox Archbishop of Sebastia, Theodosios (Atallah Hanna), expresses Christian solidarity with Muslims in stark terms:

I support Palestinians and share their cause and their issues….

We the Palestinian Christians suffer along with the rest of Palestinians from occupation and hardships of our economic situation. Muslims and Christians suffer equally, as there is no difference in suffering for any of us. We are all living in the same complicated circumstances, and overcoming the same difficulties.

Hanna was one of the authors of the anti-Semitic Palestinian Christian Kairos Document, about which I have written here before. Kairos Palestine was created in 2009 and signed by thirteen Christian leaders in Jerusalem, representing the Greek Orthodox, Latin, Armenian Orthodox, Coptic, Syrian Orthodox, Maronite, Ethiopian, Greek Catholic, Syrian Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, and Armenian Catholic churches – all of which are traditionalist denominations. One of its first paragraphs reads:

In this historic document, we Palestinian Christians declare that the military occupation of our land is a sin against God and humanity, and that any theology that legitimizes the occupation is far from Christian teachings because true Christian theology is a theology of love and solidarity with the oppressed, a call to justice and equality among peoples.

This elevation of a political, legal and military concern into the realm of theology owes greatly to the style of Liberation Theology, a radical form of Christian belief and action that developed within the Catholic Church in Latin America, and based on concern for the poor and oppressed. Such concern is well within the bounds of the Christian tradition, but Kairos adopts a different form of replacement theology. It treats the Jews who have not embraced Jesus as their saviour, as no longer God’s people. This allows the writers of Kairos to show concern for the Palestinians, Christian and Muslim alike, yet show no such concern for Jews, faced by wars, terrorism, and international hatred — and without whose protection by Israel’s security services, as the Christians well know, they would be left to the same tender mercies of extremist Muslims as other Christians in the Middle East.

A genuinely ecumenical American center devoted to Christian-Jewish relations issued a document “Cautions to U.S. Churches Regarding the Kairos Palestine Document“, in which they found serious fault with its arguments:

A group, Christians for Fair Witness, apparently felt obliged to wrote a reply: “Cautions to U.S. Churches Regarding the Kairos Palestine Document.” It was endorsed by St. Paul University’s Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations, and by Dialogika (as is made clear on the Christians for Fair Witness website). While treating the Kairos document with respect, the cautions expressed were far-ranging and crucial….

That Jewish natural right was not once raised…. Only Palestinian rights and demands were considered of relevance to Christians.

The Cautions document also states: “The Kairos Palestine document professes that ‘an end to Israeli occupation… will guarantee security and peace for all.'” (Sec. 7) … But is that true? There was no security or peace prior to the occupation. This analysis continues with a list of Arab violence against Jews, the PLO’s 1964 objective of liquidating Israel, and a clear statement that “There is no reason to believe that ending the occupation alone would bring security and peace to Israel and Palestine.”

Kairos, not surprisingly, has inspired a vast movement of anti-Israel activism in many countries. Kairos, and literature relating to it, may be found in Western churches, such as Sweden’s, during pro-Palestinian lectures and exhibitions. The Kairos document is so egregiously discriminatory that in 2010, the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) declared it “supersessionist” and “anti-Semitic.”

A leading figure among the authors of Kairos Palestine is Rev. Mitri Raheb, who has developed an international career as a self-proclaimed “Public Figure, Pastor and Theologian, Author and Social Entrepreneur”. Mitri’s CV is truly astonishing, from the awards he has received and the universities at which he has lectured to the institutions he has founded. He has had a broad media presence:

“The work of Dr. Raheb has received wide media attention from major international media outlets and networks including CNN, ABC, CBS, 60 Minutes, BBC, ARD, ZDF, DW, BR, Premiere, Raiuno, Stern, The Economist, Newsweek, Al-Jazeera, al-Mayadin, Vanity Fair, and others.”

How many clergymen of any variety feature in Vanity Fair magazine, aimed at the luxury market? These are achievements of which many other theologians and church leaders might well be envious.

Born in Bethlehem in 1962, Raheb studied at two German colleges: the Hermannsburg Mission Seminary (1980-19894) and Marburg University (1984-1988), where he obtained a PhD in theology. He went back to Bethlehem in 1988.

Raheb is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, a version of Lutheranism established by German and English missionaries to Palestine in the mid-19th century. Based on a belief in the Trinity, the Evangelical Lutheran Church is fundamentalist in doctrine:

“The true way of salvation is revealed only through God’s Word, and any claims for revelation of the way of salvation through other means must be rejected. The main purpose of Holy Scripture is to reveal to us that Jesus Christ is our only Savior.”

It is immune to modern rationalist theology, and states, for example:

We confess that God created all things in six days by the power of His Word, exactly as is set forth in Genesis chapters 1 and 2 and elsewhere in Scripture. We therefore reject the theories of “evolution,” including “theistic evolution,” not only because they lack a sound basis in scientific evidence but especially because they contradict the divinely-inspired account of creation as given by Moses in the Old Testament and confirmed by Christ in the New.

The purpose here is not to condemn the church for what it believes. These beliefs, however, make it difficult to understand how the leaders of a church can advocate such intimate relations with Muslims. Many of them seem to believe that much of what Christians believe is pure blasphemy. What is even stranger, is that apparently the Christians do not even plan to convert these Muslims.

In the Qur’an, Christian belief in God as three persons is anathema, as God is only One. Similarly, Jesus is regarded, not as God or the Son of God, but as a prophet inferior to Muhammad. The Qur’an is emphatic in saying that Jesus was not crucified, but that someone else was substituted for him. Therefore, Christ did not die to save mankind; this salvation is reserved only for those who believe in the God of the prophet Muhammad…. [F]or Muslims, the Bible… was a corruption of Islam by Christian priests and monks, in a distortion known as tahrif.

Raheb and his supporters from different denominations are clearly willing to ignore this gross denial of their faith in all its aspects, a denial that renders non-existent the fundamental aspiration to life after death in heaven through the sacrifice of Jesus. It is normal for religious people to identify themselves as members of their faith above all other allegiances, to the extent that they are willing to suffer death rather than deny it. Baha’is in Iran have been offered their lives if only they converted to Islam, yet all have gone willingly to the hangman’s noose by refusing to do so. Christian martyrs, ancient and modern, are widely praised as ideal exponents of their faith. Many Christians have been killed by Muslims in Egypt and elsewhere, as in the Nag Hammadi massacre of 2010.

No one is suggesting that Palestinian Christians should invite their own deaths by outrightly defying the Muslim majority. It seems inexplicable, however, why these Christians prefer to join with the Islamic “resistance” rather than to remain silent, accept their supposedly inferior status, and refrain from overt endorsements of what Muslims view as right.

Raheb takes this so far that he cannot even bear to describe Jesus as a Jew. At a Christ at the Checkpoint conference in 2010, he stated that:

I’m sure if we were to do a DNA test between David, who was a Bethlehemite, and Jesus, born in Bethlehem, and Mitri, born just across the street from where Jesus was born, I’m sure the DNA will show that there is a trace. While, if you put King David, Jesus and Netanyahu, you will get nothing, because Netanyahu comes from an East European tribe who converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages.

The notion that Ashkenazi Jews are descended from an East European who converted has for many years been known, based on DNA testing, as a scientific fallacy. (In addition, see here.)

Raheb goes even further. He does not recoil from the violence, the genocidal threats, and the Islamic radicalism of Hamas. In an interview with the popular Egyptian daily al-Masri al-Yawm (Egypt Today) in March 2016, he praised the terror group (which is mainly responsible for the suffering of its own Palestinian people:

Hamas is a Palestinian political movement that has an important role. No one can deny this. The Church is in constant communication with Hamas in the West bank via many delegations from the Church. Some people in the church believe in the armed resistance, and we do not disagree. Once you have occupation, you will have resistance.

Here is a Christian leader celebrating a notoriously evil entity and announcing that “Some people in the church believe in the armed resistance, and we do not disagree”.

Moments later, Raheb tried to mitigate his support by addressing his private views: “However, on a personal level, I do not believe in the armed resistance. How would you fight an enemy with arms that were made by him and its allies? It is smarter not to invite your foe to a wrestling match if he was a wrestler, but to invite him to a chess match.”

Christian author Dexter Van Zile comments, “It’s bad enough that Raheb, a Christian pastor, would distance himself from Hamas’ jihadist violence not because it is wrong, but because it is ineffective.”

A fundamental aspect of much modern theology across the Christian churches is a belief in the central role of reconciliation and peace-making by believers, both clergy and lay. Even the World Council of Churches, to which Raheb and his followers are allied, emphasizes the role of Peace, Justice, and Reconciliation. Supporting Hamas and all the other forces within the Palestinian “Resistance” is a total contradiction of such Christian values. In few other places may one find such a level of hypocrisy and willful self-contradiction. Yet in churches almost everywhere, the literature, films, and spokespeople of that Christian deception may be found month after month and town after town.

Let me end with an item of recent news. On March 3, Britain’s most senior Catholic cleric, Cardinal Vincent Nichols called for closer ties with Islam on the grounds “That the two religions have more in common than people think”. What on Earth does this prelate think Muslims believe? After some 1400 years of rivalry and war, some sort of naivety and fuzzy thinking is making Christians the agents of their own destruction. Sadly, the Christians of the West Bank are at the heart of this growing need to bow down to people who, for the greater part, despise and persecute them.

Dr. Denis MacEoin has lectured in Islamic Studies in a university department of Religious Studies, including Christian theology, in the UK. He is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute.

As taken from, https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/12044/christian-theologians-israel

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Jerusalén, la eterna encrucijada

Juan Carlos Sanz
Corresponsal en Oriente Próximo
Visitantes junto al Muro de las Lamentaciones, uno de los grandes lugares sagrados del judaísmo. Ver fotogalería
Visitantes junto al Muro de las Lamentaciones, uno de los grandes lugares sagrados del judaísmo. Paolo Pellegrin

Judía laica, ultraortodoxa, árabe y cristiana, Jerusalén no es una sino sucesivas ciudades y, lo que es peor, enfrentadas. El fascinante curso de su historia y su cultura contrasta con su cruel devenir en manos de la política, la violencia y la desesperanza. La decisión de Donald Trump de reconocerla como capital de Israel no ha ayudado a apaciguar la vida en “la ciudad imposible”.

 

NO CREO QUE mi generación vaya a ver el fin del conflicto en Jerusalén, y menos aún tras la decisión de Donald Trump de reconocerla como capital de Israel”, asegura el historiador Meir Margalit mientras menea la cabeza en el Instituto Van Leer, un remanso de sosiego en el tráfago de la Ciudad Santa. “En Jerusalén existen tres narrativas superpuestas, pero hostiles, en un mismo espacio. Tres sistemas culturales que luchan por imponer su propia versión: el judío laico, el judío religioso y el árabe [palestino]”. Cada uno representa aproximadamente un tercio de sus cerca de 900.000 habitantes. La urbe se extiende hoy sobre 124 kilómetros cuadrados a ambos lados de la Línea Verde, una zona de separación sembrada de alambradas y barricadas que la dividió hace 70 años, cuando el recién fundado Estado de Israel se apoderó de la parte occidental, hasta 1967, en el vuelco histórico que supuso la guerra de los Seis Días. El Gobierno israelí sostiene que ha encarnado la capitalidad del pueblo judío durante 3.000 años y la del Estado hebreo desde 1948. Pero los palestinos reclaman la parte oriental de la urbe como capital de su futuro Estado.

Margalit (Buenos Aires, 1952) emigró a tiempo para combatir con 21 años en la guerra de Yom Kipur en el Sinaí antes de caerse del caballo de la derecha sionista que cabalgaba en Argentina y abrazar la fe de la izquierda pacifista israelí. Concejal durante 10 años en el Ayuntamiento de Jerusalén por el partido Meretz, es autor de Jerusalén, la ciudad imposible, una obra por la que acaba de recibir el premio de ensayo que concede la editorial española Catarata. “No es una, son varias ciudades. El término hebreo ‘Yerushalaim’ y el árabe ‘Urshalim’ son formaciones lingüísticas plurales, que deberían traducirse como los Jerusalenes”, explica, y pone como ejemplo los tres departamentos en que se divide el sistema escolar que pervive en la ciudad: el de educación normalizada (laica), el ultraortodoxo y el árabe. Cada uno tiene sus propios programas.

Judíos ortodoxos pasean por la Ciudad Vieja de Jerusalén. La urbe suma en torno a 900.000 habitantes. ver fotogalería
Judíos ortodoxos pasean por la Ciudad Vieja de Jerusalén. La urbe suma en torno a 900.000 habitantes. Paolo Pellegrin

Entre las callejuelas del barrio cristiano de la Ciudad Vieja, un portal que parece extraído de la era de los cruzados da paso al colegio del Pilar. En la azotea de la que hasta 1923 fue sede consular ondea la única bandera española izada dentro del recinto amurallado. Lo dirige la madre Marta Gallo (Burgos, 1944). “Jerusalén es un lugar agresivo”, avisa esta misionera de las Hijas del Calvario curtida en Zimbabue. “Durante los acuchillamientos de los últimos años he tenido que acompañar más de una vez a alguna niña pequeña hasta la puerta de Damasco; sus padres no podían franquear los retenes policiales”, relata casi como si se tratara de una anécdota.

La Asamblea General de Naciones Unidas aprobó en 1947 un plan de partición de la Palestina bajo mandato británico, recogido después en la resolución 181 del Consejo de Seguridad, que declaró Jerusalén corpus separatum bajo control internacional. Marta Gallo acude cada madrugada desde hace 16 años al rezo del cercano Santo Sepulcro. Luego abre las puertas del centro, en el que estudian dos centenares de alumnas cristianas y musulmanas de entre 4 y 18 años, casi todas con escasos recursos. “Aquí seguimos el programa oficial de la Autoridad Palestina, que nos facilita los libros de texto, pero también dependemos del Ministerio de Educación israelí, que nos ha obligado a instalar wifi en cada clase”, detalla.

Dos sistemas de transporte público discurren separados por las calles de cada sector urbano. A un tiro de piedra de la Ciudad Vieja y frente a la estación de autobuses del Este, la palestina cristiana Dolin Qaquish, de 22 años, llega jadeando a la cafetería del hotel Jerusalén. Viene desde una cárcel de la región del Negev, en el sur de Israel, donde ha visitado a su hermano mayor, que cumple 12 años de condena por herir a cuchilladas a dos israelíes ante la puerta de Damasco, el principal acceso al barrio histórico musulmán.

Desde que estalló la intifada de los cuchillos en 2015 han muerto unos 300 palestinos, 50 israelíes y 7 extranjeros.

Una lágrima discurre en paralelo al piercing que le perfora la aleta izquierda de la nariz mientras narra su visita a la prisión del Negev. “La Ciudad Vieja se ha convertido en una zona militar”, censura, aludiendo a la reciente construcción de puestos permanentes para la policía de fronteras (cuerpo militarizado) en Bab al Amud, como los palestinos denominan a la puerta de Damasco. “Me he criado en la Ciudad Vieja y seguiré viviendo aquí, pero no hay razones para el optimismo. Puede que haya que esperar 100 años a que cambien las cosas”. Antes de graduarse en Periodismo en Ramala, sede administrativa de la Autoridad Palestina situada 20 kilómetros al norte de Jerusalén, Dolin Qaqish estudió desde los 6 hasta los 12 años en el colegio del Pilar de Jerusalén.

Tras el estallido en octubre de 2015 de la llamada Intifada de los cuchillos, una ola de violencia se ha cobrado la vida de medio centenar de israelíes, siete extranjeros y más de 300 palestinos, dos tercios de los cuales fueron abatidos por las fuerzas de seguridad al ser considerados atacantes. En la Ciudad Vieja, el “choque religioso y de civilizaciones se escenifica aún con más virulencia”, subraya Margalit. Después de más de dos décadas de trabajo social en la ciudad y de un decenio de actividad en la gestión municipal, contempla Jerusalén como una metrópoli “fragmentada por barreras étnicas, religiosas, identitarias, psicológicas…”. En definitiva, una “no ciudad” que se dirige hacia una “reacción explosiva”. Los 300.000 palestinos que la habitan carecen de ciudadanía en su ciudad natal. Desde 1967, 14.000 de ellos han sido privados del permiso de residencia por las autoridades israelíes.

La guerra de los Seis Días que libró el Ejército hebreo hace 50 años contra una coalición de Estados árabes se saldó con la ocupación de Jerusalén Este, incluidos los santos lugares de la Ciudad Vieja. En 1980, la Kneset (Parlamento) aprobó la anexión del sector oriental y de poblaciones anejas de Cisjordania a la “capital eterna, unida y permanente de Israel”. La comunidad internacional ha venido condenando desde entonces la medida unilateral como contraria a la ley internacional.

Entrada a la Ciudad Vieja por la puerta de Damasco (Bab al Amud para los palestinos). Situada en el noroeste de la población, es el principal acceso al barrio musulmán. ver fotogalería
Entrada a la Ciudad Vieja por la puerta de Damasco (Bab al Amud para los palestinos). Situada en el noroeste de la población, es el principal acceso al barrio musulmán. Paolo Pellegrin

La barrera construida por Israel en Cisjordania a partir de 2002, después del estallido de la Segunda Intifada, se plasma en el término municipal de Jerusalén en altos muros de hormigón que han excluido de hecho de la ciudad algunos de los núcleos palestinos que fueron anexionados. Miembros del actual Gobierno de Benjamín Netanyahu, considerado por muchos de sus detractores como el más derechista en la historia de Israel, plantean ahora la segregación de esos distritos por razones de seguridad. “Quieren sacárselos de encima”, traduce Margalit, para postergar un sorpasso demográfico palestino en la Ciudad Santa. Entre la incuria patente del Este y el aparente orden del Oeste median “dos mundos”, destaca el antiguo edil. “No hay sociedad multicultural posible ante la asimetría entre la comunidad israelí, hegemónica, y la palestina, subordinada”. En Abu Dis, Shuafat, o Kfar Aqab —en la tierra de nadie situada al otro lado del muro de separación—, viven más de 100.000 palestinos. Al atravesar el paredón de hormigón se penetra en una dimensión de abandono de toda noción de ciudad. No es ni judía ni árabe.

Extramuros, Enash Jubran, tendera de 33 años, vive con su marido y sus cuatro hijos en Kfar Aqab, en un piso con vistas al muro gris donde alguien ha pintado una puerta con la inscripción en inglés “Exit” (salida). No está lejos del paso de Qalandia, frontera en la principal vía que lleva desde Jerusalén a Ramala. Las lluvias de invierno han generado un mar de barro en torno a los bloques de 12 alturas construidos sin licencia. La basura flota en el fango.

Hace un año que se mudó con su familia desde el campo de refugiados de Shuafat, donde se crio en el seno de un clan palestino desplazado por el nacimiento del Estado hebreo en 1948. Posee la tarjeta de la UNRWA, la agencia de la ONU para los refugiados palestinos, un carné de identidad israelí y paga las tasas locales del Ayuntamiento de Jerusalén aunque muchos creen que reside en Cisjordania. También le debe a un banco 250.000 sequels (unos 58.000 euros), algo más de la mitad de lo que cuesta su vivienda.

El conflicto se da entre proyectos antagónicos que niegan legitimidad al vecino por razones étnicas o religiosas

“El Ejército nos ha notificado la próxima demolición del edificio después de meses de pleitos. Volveremos a ser refugiados otra vez”, explica con más tristeza que rabia. “Aunque llevamos toda la vida de mudanza, ya estamos hartos de sentirnos exiliados en nuestra propia ciudad. Yo soy de Jerusalén…”. Frente a su balcón, los obreros siguen construyendo nuevos bloques sin permiso para familias con vidas divididas por el muro. “Por el paso de Qalandia, son 40 minutos en coche hasta el centro, pero siempre hay problemas: a menudo tenemos que cerrar las ventanillas por los gases lacrimógenos. Es como vivir en otro país”, describe Enash Jubran a propósito de su trayecto cotidiano.

En Jerusalén, la ciudad imposible, Margalit intenta sintetizar el drama de esta urbe, el conflicto entre “proyectos antagónicos que en nombre de la pureza étnica, nacional o religiosa niegan la legitimidad del vecino”. Los palestinos se suelen dejar ver —en especial mujeres y jóvenes— por la zona occidental de Jerusalén cuando desciende el nivel de violencia, pero como observa el exconcejal, “solo circulan puntualmente por centros de trabajo, oficinas públicas o centros médicos y comerciales, en una suerte de ‘movilidad restringida”. Puede haber roce, pero apenas hay contacto, solo desconfianza.

Nacido en Lisboa hace 75 años en una familia judía melillense, José Benarroch abandonó la Universidad Complutense en 1969 para concluir los estudios de Derecho en la Universidad Hebrea de Jerusalén. Revela que se lo recomendó el propio David Ben Gurión, fundador del Estado de Israel, cuando le invitó a la aliyá (inmigración). La Ley del Retorno israelí permite a un judío de cualquier parte del mundo establecerse en Israel y obtener automáticamente la ciudadanía. Lo recuerda en un concurrido restaurante del distrito de Baqa, cuyas elegantes casas, habitadas mayoritariamente por árabes hasta 1948, conforman ahora un vecindario de clase media judía.

“No cambio Jerusalén por ninguna otra ciudad del mundo”, asevera Benarroch, que pasó por el servicio diplomático israelí antes de dedicarse a la gestión universitaria. “Su espiritualidad única, su rico entorno intelectual… Aunque, desde luego, no viviría en Meah Shearim [el principal barrio ultraortodoxo], prefiero espacios más abiertos como este”, confiesa. “¿Para cuándo un Estado palestino?”, repite la pregunta que se le formula para poder meditar mejor una respuesta. “Existe un gran recelo entre la población israelí”, argumenta. “Tardará en llegar un futuro de armonía”.

Por lo general, resulta raro que un ciudadano judío atraviese la simbólica separación de la Línea Verde hacia los barrios palestinos, si bien más de 200.000 israelíes se han instalado en asentamientos en Jerusalén Este a partir de 1967. Colonos nacionalistas radicales viven ahora también en el barrio musulmán, e incluso en el cristiano, de la Ciudad Vieja, protegidos por guardaespaldas privados y por las fuerzas de seguridad, y en distritos históricos cercanos, como Silwán, una barriada al sur del recinto amurallado con aire de favela donde 450 colonos se han asentado entre 20.000 palestinos.

Panorámica de las murallas de la Ciudad Vieja de Jerusalén: una imagen emblemática para una urbe tan llena de historia y cultura como de problemas políticos. ver fotogalería
Panorámica de las murallas de la Ciudad Vieja de Jerusalén: una imagen emblemática para una urbe tan llena de historia y cultura como de problemas políticos. Paolo Pellegrin

Otro veterano conocedor de Jerusalén, el periodista y escritor barcelonés Eugenio García Gascón, afincado en la Ciudad Santa desde hace 27 años, coincide con el diagnóstico pesimista de Margalit. “Un espacio que se sustenta sobre las etnias, es decir, sobre la división de las comunidades, está condenado a no vivir en paz”, previene. Entre otras obras, es autor de dos dietarios sobre Jerusalén, el último publicado en 2017 bajo el título La derrota de Oriente (Libros del K.O.). “La existencia de cada grupo gira alrededor de sus creencias, sin mirar al bien común. Al contrario, miran más a lo que les separa como comunidades que a lo que les une”. Su respuesta llega tras un encuentro en la terraza del Café de París, situado frente a la sede de la residencia del primer ministro de Israel, en el distrito acomodado y mayoritariamente judío laico de Rehavia. En un gesto de reconciliación con la personalidad múltiple de una urbe en la que lleva media vida, García Gascón confiesa en su segundo dietario que ha regresado “sin resentimientos” al café del que desertó años atrás cuando se transformó en un local kosher, conforme al ritual judío.

Donald Trump ha anunciado el traslado de la Embajada de EE UU a Jerusalén coincidiendo con el 70º aniversario de la fundación del Estado de Israel, el próximo 14 de mayo. Hasta 13 países latinoamericanos llegaron a contar con representación diplomática en la parte occidental de la Ciudad Santa, pero todos acabaron trasladando sus legaciones a Tel Aviv después de la anexión de la zona oriental en 1980. Guatemala y otros Estados parecen dispuestos a seguir los pasos de Washington, en un cambio de paradigma que ha sido mayoritariamente condenado de nuevo en la ONU.

“La ciudad precisa una separación funcional, necesita ser dividida para poder estar unida algún día”, concluye Margalit mientras recoge sus papeles en una mesa de la biblioteca del Instituto Van Leer, por donde se asoma la línea vanguardista del edificio hacia un jardín próximo a la residencia del presidente del Estado. Cree que no vivirá para contarlo, pero el historiador predice que “la ocupación se acabará colapsando en una crisis política por la limitación que supone para la democracia de Israel y por la discriminación que impone a otro pueblo”.

Según tomado de, https://elpais.com/elpais/2018/03/23/eps/1521804664_359676.html

Pesach: The Mystery of Karpas

Image result for Nathan Lopes Cardozo

One of the most mysterious rituals on the Seder night is the eating of karpas[1] dipped in salt water at the very beginning of the evening. One reason for this ritual, we are told, is to encourage everyone, particularly the children, to ask many questions. After reciting the Kiddush we would no doubt expect a proper meal, as is customary on other festivals and on Friday nights. Instead, we receive a small piece of vegetable dipped in salty water and are then left hungry for a good part of the evening. This should certainly raise some eyebrows.

Without denying the importance of the above, we must understand why our Sages decided to introduce the need to ask questions through this particular ritual and not another. What is there in the ritual of karpas that would otherwise be lost on us, and why was this particular one chosen to be the first in the Haggada that would prompt our children to ask questions?

Rabbi Joshua Ibn Shuaib[2] and Rabbenu Manoach[3] give us a very unusual clue. The word karpas, they say, is etymologically difficult to place. Both of them mention that it means “fine woolen fabric,” and Rabbenu Manoach adds that it means “greens” or “a vegetable.” The latter definition is in line with the meaning in the Haggada, as we are told to partake of celery, parsley, potatoes, scallions, or other such vegetables.

The first definition reminds us of Rashi’s comment on the story concerning the hatred of the brothers toward Yosef.[4] As we know, this animosity was caused by Yaakov’s giving a ketonet passim (multicolored garment) to his son Yosef. Rashi there states that the word passim means material made of fine woolen fabric. This statement reveals to us a secret behind the ritual of dipping karpas into a liquid.

After Yosef had received this garment from his father, the brothers sold him to the Egyptians. This was the precursor of the exile and slavery in Egypt. Whatever the deeper meaning of this hatred, it was unjustified and led to much pain. Had Yaakov not given the garment to Yosef, the exile and servitude in Egypt would in all likelihood not have come about.

So this garment, made from karpas, was seemingly the primary cause of the Egyptian enslavement.

When the Rabbis fashioned the blueprint for the Haggada text, they looked for a way to draw attention to the fact that brotherly hate was what caused the Jews to end up in Egypt. Upon realizing that this infamous garment was made of karpas—fine woolen fabric—they decided to institute a ritual that would involve using a vegetable. On a deeper level, we realize that what identifies this ritual more specifically with the hatred of the brothers is the act of dipping the karpas in salt water. After all, the brothers took this “karpas garment” and dipped it into animal blood before they approached their father with the terrible news that Yosef had been killed.

Still, one may wonder why the Haggada only alludes to this in the form of a mysterious ritual. Apparently, the authors wanted to hide this information while simultaneously hoping that the readers would get the point. But, if the multicolored garment was indeed the principal cause of the entire Egyptian exile, why not actually bring a multicolored garment to the Seder table and mention it candidly, in order to ensure that no one will miss this crucial information? Is it not vital to know what caused the bondage in Egypt, before we tell the story of how and when the Israelites were freed?  What is the purpose of making the Seder participants aware of this only on a subconscious level, instead of bringing it to the surface?

I believe that this touches on the very core of Judaism’s interpretation of the Exodus. Its main point is to emphasize Divine providence; God’s miraculous interference in the lives of millions of Jews who were stranded and enslaved in Egypt. This story had to become the locus classicus of all Jewish history, and in fact of world history. Whatever happens is ultimately in God’s hands. This is the categorical lesson of the Pesach story. It is not the story of the human role in history, or to what extent man had a hand in shaping all of the events that took place. Of course, Jewish tradition constantly emphasizes that man has to take responsibility for the consequences of his deeds, but the Pesach story operates on a different level. It is the triumph of God as the Lord of History that is celebrated.

In fact, the interplay between Divine intervention and human action is one of the great philosophical problems, which all religious thinkers have grappled with. To what extent is man responsible, and to what extent is God responsible? This question remains basically unanswered and is part of the mystery of all human history.

This also touches on another and in no way more solvable problem. How can we ever know what is the cause that brings about a specific effect? More than that, when is something actually a cause and not the effect of an earlier incident? Speaking in terms of the Egyptian enslavement, are we indeed able to say for sure that it was just the hatred of the brothers for Yosef that brought about the Jews’ servitude, and if the brothers had not sold Yosef to Egypt, the Israelites would not have landed in Egypt? Wasn’t it promised to Avraham that his children would be enslaved in a land that was not theirs?[5] The Egyptian experience is seen in its own right as a sine qua non to prepare the Jews for receiving the Torah and shaping them into a spiritual people that will be a “light unto the nations.” So to what extent were the brothers really responsible for this exile, and how much free will did they actually exercise when they decided to sell their brother?

It is for this reason that the authors of the Haggada were not prepared to openly point their finger at the brothers. They could do nothing but allude to this fact, telling us that somewhere along the road to Egypt the “karpas garment” dipped in blood played a role. We may never know to what extent, but it is most telling that the karpas is eaten at the very beginning of the Haggada reading. It makes us immediately aware that the inside story of what really caused the exile in Egypt will remain forever a mystery. That is the all-encompassing, underlying message that this ritual wants to convey at the very beginning, before we continue to read the story. It will indeed provoke many questions. But however brilliant the answers, we will be left with the knowledge that on a higher plain, and beyond human understanding, it is the hand of God that holds the answers.

On a moral level, however, the story should be clear. It was hatred between brothers that sent us into exile. How revealing that what brought about the redemption was the love between two brothers, Moshe and Aaron, living in total harmony.


Notes:

[1] The Hebrew word for “greens” or “vegetable” comes from the Greek “karpos,” which means a fresh raw vegetable.

[2] Drashot, Parashat Tzav Ve-Shabbat HaGadol by Rabbi Joshua Ibn Shuaib (c. 1280-1340) who was a pupil of the famous Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet (Rashba) and the teacher of Rabbenu Menachem Ibn Zerah, author of Tzeda LaDerech.

[3] Sefer HaMenucha, Hilchot Chametz U-Matza 8:2.

[4] Bereshit 37:3.

[5] Bereshit 15:13.

As taken from, https://www.cardozoacademy.org/thoughts-to-ponder/pesach-the-mystery-of-karpas/?utm_source=Subscribers&utm_campaign=4cfb259b42-Weekly_Thoughts_to_Ponder_campaign_TTP_548&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_dd05790c6d-4cfb259b42-242341409

The Surprising Ancient Origins of Passover

An ancient agricutural village uncovered in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood.Courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority

 

The holiday we know today began as two distinct ones, one for nomadic herders and one for farmers. Neither involved Egypt.

The Passover Seder is one of the most recognized and widely practiced of Jewish rituals, yet had our ancestors visited one of these modern-day celebrations, they would be baffled.

Not only does our modern Seder wildly diverge from the Passover of old: during antiquity itself the holiday underwent radical changes. Below we chart as best we can – considering the shortage of historical documentation – the origins of Passover, from the dawn of Israelite people to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, and the consequent establishment of the embryonic Passover Seder, which modern Jews would recognize.

windows
Lawrence Saint’s stained glass windows depicting Moses, at the Washington National Cathedral. Wikimedia Commons

As the centralized Israelite state took shape about 3,000 years ago, , the religion of the people varied from place to place and took variegated forms, hints of which we can see in the Bible, virtually the only historical narrative we have of this period. Among the different folk beliefs and frankly polytheistic practices these proto-Israelites practiced, the springtime rites seem to have had special status. Two of these rituals would later become subsumed by Passover: Pesach and Hag Hamatzot.

Pesach was a pastoral apotropaic ritual, that is: its purpose is to ward off evil. It was carried out by the semi-nomadic segment of Israelite society that subsisted on livestock. Spring was a critical time of the year for them, a time of lambing and a sign that soon they would have to migrate to find a summer pasture for their flock.

In order to protect their flocks, and families, from the dangers ahead, they would slaughter their flocks newest addition as an offering, either a lamb or a kid, in a bloody ritual followed by a family feast.

The origin of matza

Hag Hamatzot, on the other hand, was celebrated by the settled segment of Israelite society, who lived in villages and who drew their subsistence from farming. For them too spring was crucial, meaning the start of the harvest, of the cereals on which they depended.

Of the cereals grown by the ancient Israelites in this period, the first grain to be ready for harvest was barley. Although this made for inferior bread, it was highly prized: not rarely, by the spring harvest, the last years stores had been already depleted and hunger took grip of the land.

This new bread would have been unleavened, as the leavening used at the time was a portion of dough set aside from the last batch of bread. But this would have been unavailable due to the gap created by the empty stores. Add to this the fact that barley flour hardly rises anyway, and that the baking techniques of the time would have made even the superior bread made of wheat flour flat and hard, and youve got matza.

Still, when hungry even matza is a cause for celebration and one could imagine that the communal threshing grounds were filled with joy, cheer, and jubilation.

The holidays are merged

As the monarchy was established and a centralized religion took form, the two holidays began merging into one. The process was a gradual one, which culminated in both converging to the full moon in the middle of the spring month of Nisan.

The location of the celebrations was moved from the home and the community to the Temple in Jerusalem.

No doubt, an important milestone in this process took place in the reforms of the 16-year-old King Josiah in 622 BCE, as described in chapter 22 of the Second Book of Kings.

We are told that Josiah ordered the temple be renovated. and that During this process, as Hilkiah the high priest was clearing the Temples treasure room, The Book of the Law, – believed to be an early version of the Book of Deuteronomy – was found. This led to a series of reforms carried out by Josiah to bring the land into accord with the newly -discovered divine ordinances.

A major part of these reforms was the reform of Passover: And the king commanded all the people, saying, Keep the passover unto the Lord your God, as it is written in the book of this covenant. (23:21)

It was no longer supposed to be a family affair but a centralized national observance: the Book of Deuteronomy clearly stipulates that the Pesach sacrifice may not be made within any of thy gates but rather at the Temple. (16:5-6)

Pilgrimage to Jerusalem

Following Josiahs reforms, the holiday took the form of a mass pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The people would bring their paschal lamb (or kid) to be sacrificed at the Temple.

The feast of unleavened bread began the day after. All were commanded to avoid eating leavened bread for a week, though it seems that this wasnt accompanied by any special practices in the Temple; the Israelites would probably have followed this precept on their way home and at their homes themselves.

Not much more is known about the celebration at this time. This was apparently the time in which the story of the exodus from Egypt was introduced [link http://www.haaretz.com/archaeology/.premium-1.584911 . But this form of practice didnt last long. In 586, BCE the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem, the Temple was destroyed and the period in Jewish history called the Babylonian Captivity began.

Bondage in Babylon

It is during this time, when the elite of Judean society was in the relatively literate and cosmopolitan Babylonia and had they had no Jerusalem Temple on which to focus their religious fervor,, that the writing of many of the Biblical texts took place. This includes the Book of Exodus, the central tale of Passover. Among other things, the story would have united the people and appealed to its writers themselves, as they found themselves in bondage in a foreign land, hoping to be delivered by God and returned to their homeland.

They were indeed delivered, in 538 BCE, when Cyrus the Great, King of Persia, defeated the Babylonians, and proclaimed that the Jews could return to their homeland and rededicate their temple. Upon their return and the dedication of the new temple in 516 BCE, the holiday of Passover was reinstated. And the children of the captivity kept the passover upon the fourteenth day of the first month…and kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy. (Ezra 6:19-22)

Following the rededication of the Temple, the Judeans would come to Jerusalem a few days before the holiday each year. They would prepare for the holiday by going through rigorous purity rituals. Entering the Temple compound in groups, the head of each household would hand their animal offering to the priests, who killed the animal, drew its blood and sprayed it on the altar. Then the carcass was returned to the family that had given it and they would roast it and eat it within the confines of the Temple.

The next day the people dispersed, though they would continue to eat unleavened bread for another week.

This form of Passover continued until the Maccabean Revolt erupted in 167 BCE. The celebration of Passover at the Temple had to stop, briefly, until Jerusalem was recaptured by the Maccabbees and the Temple was rededicated in 165 BCE. At this time Passover underwent further change.

The Hasmonean reform

Under the new Hasmonean regime, the sacrifice of the Pesach offering was done by the head of the household himself, not by the priests. On the other hand, during the week following Pesach, special sacrifices were given, and these were sacrificed by the temple staff – the priests and the Levites.

Another innovation that seems to have arisen under the Hasmonean Dynasty was the singing of songs praising God and the drinking of wine during the family meals, as well as some kind of public celebration at the end of the week of Hag Hamatzot.

The civil war that resulted from the murder of Julius Caesar in 44 BCE led to the demise of the Hasmonean Dynasty and the ascent of Herod the Great to the Judean crown in 37 BCE, as a puppet ruler of Rome. This had little effect on Passover, which continued pretty much as it was under Hasmonean rule. However, the vast numbers of Jews coming from throughout the Roman Empire forced change, as there was no longer room for everyone to have their paschal mean within the confines of the Temple. The rules were relaxed to the extent that the meal could be eaten anywhere within Jerusalem.

But this massive influx of Jews to Jerusalem made the Roman authorities uneasy. Several sources from this period report that the Jerusalem garrison was fortified during Passover to prepare for any unruliness.

The Passover meal in this form was the meal described in the New Testament as Jesus last supper.

In 66 CE, religious tensions between Greek and Jewish citizens, and protests over the heavy tax burden, boiled over into the Jewish rebellion against Rome. This rebellion was put down in 70 CE. Roman legions under Titus retook Jerusalem, destroying the Temple and much of the rest of the city. Passover was never to be celebrated as it had been again.

In Yavne, a rabbinical school lead by Rabbi Johanan ben Zakai and Rabban Gamaliel II, set out to forge a new Judaism adapted to a post-Temple world. Among their innovations, which were later redacted into the Mishnah, was the embryonic form of the Passover Seder we know and celebrate today.

This article was originally published on April 4, 2014

El manuscrito más misterioso del mar Muerto narra la salida de Noé tras el diluvio

El Museo de Israel muestra por primera vez el pergamino milenario más frágil hallado en unas cuevas del Qumrán en 1947. Es una copia del ‘Génesis’ escrita en primera persona.

Lourdes Baeza
Jerusalén
Fragmento del ‘Génesis apócrifo’, que puede verse por primera vez desde su hallazgo en 1947 en el Santuario del Libro de Jerusalén. En vídeo, declaraciones de Adolfo Roitman, comisario de la exposición. Oded Balilty FOTO: AP / VÍDEO: EFE

El Museo de Israel exhibe por primera vez el Génesis apócrifo, uno de los rollos del Mar Muerto que hasta ahora había permanecido guardado en la cámara climatizada construida expresamente para albergar los delicados manuscritos encontrados en las cuevas del Qumrán, de más de 2000 años de antigüedad, y a la que sólo acceden los conservadores del museo.

El pergamino ahora expuesto es uno de los textos más misteriosos de los siete primeros rollos del Mar Muerto encontrados 1947 en una cueva en el desierto de Judea. “Era con diferencia el documento en peor estado, por eso hasta ahora ha sido imposible mostrarlo”, explicó ayer el conservador Adolfo Roitman, director del Santuario del Libro.

Datado en el siglo I antes de Cristo y escrito en arameo, recoge del capítulo 5 del Génesis al 15. Una parte de la Biblia en la que se habla de Abraham y de Noé pero contada con diferencias significativas, de ahí que se le considere un texto apócrifo. Su contenido no hace temblar los cimientos del Vaticano —que considera los manuscritos del Mar Muerto de interés universal— pero se presta a ser objeto de nuevas teorías de la conspiración para poner en duda el texto Bíblico. “Es sin duda una copia muy antigua de un texto original. Los trazos de la escritura están hechos con mucho esmero, sin errores y eso en esa época solo era posible si se tenía delante el documento a copiar”, dice Roitman. En el pergamino, que se puede ver estos días en Jerusalén, se narra el pasaje del fin del diluvio universal.

Trozo del manuscrito ahora exhibido en una urna en Jerusalén. 
Trozo del manuscrito ahora exhibido en una urna en Jerusalén. Lourdes Baeza

A diferencia del Génesis —que recoge que Noé sale del arca con su familia y lo primero que hace es erigir un altar y hacer un sacrificio para Dios— el manuscrito conservado en la Ciudad Santa cuenta cómo Noé hace el sacrificio dentro del arca. “Desde un punto de vista histórico también tendría sentido porque si estamos hablando de la destrucción que arrasó la tierra, el sacrificio lo habría hecho para asegurarse de purificar el exterior”, cuenta Roitman junto a la vitrina que contiene el texto. Además, estos fragmentos del Génesis apócrifo no están narrados en tercera persona, sino que es el mismo Noé quien cuenta la historia.

Su enorme deterioro ha traído de cabeza a los especialistas durante décadas. Por eso ni siquiera se ha podido digitalizar para ser consultado online. De las 22 columnas que lo componen, las mejor conservadas son las últimas, de la 18 a la 22. “Tiene su lógica porque al permanecer enrollado, los caracteres del final del rollo son los que menos expuestos han estado a la luz y a la humedad”, explica Roitman. Son los únicos fragmentos de este pergamino que se mostraron fugazmente en 1955, en el edificio Terra Sancta en Jerusalén, cuando el entonces primer ministro de Israel, Moshe Sharett, anunció que el Estado israelí había comprado los cuatro rollos perdidos que faltaban de los siete que se encontraron en la llamada Cueva 1 del Qumrán.

Descomposición

Los expertos han estado años lidiando con la descomposición aparentemente imparable de este texto. A diferencia de otros rollos encontrados en la misma cueva, este manuscrito es un pergamino, no un papiro, y su tinta parece ser lo que le hace tan frágil. “Está compuesta por una aleación de carbón y resinas, como la tinta de los otros rollos, pero la del Génesis apócrifo contiene además cobre lo que hace que sea especialmente sensible a la luz. Tenemos fotografías en las que se aprecia ese deterioro al comparar el estado actual, con el estado en el que se encontraba el 1955, cuando el Profesor James Bieberkraut trabajó en él por primera vez”, cuenta el conservador.

Bieberkraut fue el primer experto en Israel que se encargó de la conservación de los rollos. Pero entonces se desconocía que este pergamino es especialmente sensible a la luz. Tanto que ni siquiera resistiría ser expuesto en el Santuario del Libro, en las mismas condiciones del resto de documentos del Qumrán. Por eso, para esta muestra los expertos han acondicionado una urna especial cubierta con un cristal inteligente. El cristal está compuesto por dos capas que permiten el paso de un haz de luz entre ellas de manera que, cuando se pulsa un botón, el pergamino se hace visible sólo durante 30 segundos, pero nunca es iluminado directamente. La vitrina contiene un microchip que registra constantemente las condiciones ambientales.

“Los otros manuscritos se exhiben por partes. Cada tres meses mostramos una sección de ellos diferente, así aseguramos su preservación. Pero con el Génesis apócrifo no podemos hacer eso porque se desintegraría. Por eso esta ocasión para verlo es única”, cuenta Roitman. Los fragmentos se exponen hasta junio. Después, volverán a dormir en la cámara donde han estado más de 50 años.

Periplo mundial hasta Jerusalén

El Museo de Israel que guarda los milenarios Rollos del Mar Muerto.
El Museo de Israel que guarda los milenarios Rollos del Mar Muerto. Joan Mas Autonell (Efe) EFE

Los Rollos del Mar Muerto son casi 1.000 pergaminos y papiros escritos en arameo y hebreo encontrados en once cuevas de las casi 300 inspeccionadas en Qumran, en el desierto de Judea, en Cisjordania entre 1947 y 1956.

El Génesis Apócrifo forma parte de los primeros siete manuscritos encontrados en 1947 en la llamada Cueva 1 por unos pastores beduinos de la tribu de los Tamireh. Al tirar una piedra en un agujero y notar un sonido extraño decidieron regresar al lugar preparados para excavarlo. Encontraron diez tinajas de barro con tapa y en una de ellas había tres manuscritos enrollados. En otra visita al lugar, descubrieron otros cuatro rollos y terminaron vendiéndolos a varios comerciantes de Belén.

Un profesor de la Universidad Hebrea, Eleazar Sukenik, compró tres de ellos y los otros cuatro fueron adquiridos por el arzobispo Athanasius Yeshue Samuel del Monasterio siriaco ortodoxo de Jerusalén, que pagó 100 dólares por el lote. Cuando estalló la guerra tras el nacimiento del estado israelí, el prelado huyó con sus manuscritos a Estados Unidos vía Beirut. Allí los puso inicialmente a la venta por un millón de dólares pero nadie los compró. “No estaba clara su antigüedad, la suma era muy elevada y el temor a que fuesen reclamados por Israel o por los palestinos se interponían en la venta”, dice Adolfo Roitman, Director del Santuario del Libro del Museo de Israel.

Finalmente el arzobispo puso un anuncio en el Wall Street Journal rebajando el precio y el arqueólogo Yigael Yadin, los compró en secreto para el estado de Israel por 250.000 dólares. una compra que el primer ministro hebreo Moshe Sharett, anunció en febrero de 1955.

Según tomado de, https://elpais.com/cultura/2018/03/26/actualidad/1522088525_381854.html

The Rothschilds: Separating Fact from Fiction

The Rothschilds: Separating Fact from Fiction

A glimpse behind the illustrious, philanthropic family.

by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller

For some, the name Rothschild seems to be a stand-in for “Jews.” The Rothschild family has been spoken about in classic anti-Semitic terms – too rich and too powerful.

Given the Rothschild’s long history of philanthropy and helping others, these mischaracterizations of the Rothschild family are especially tragic. From humble beginnings in 18th century Germany, the Rothschilds built a banking network and also became major philanthropists: the many programs and charities they established deserve to be better known.

A screenshot from the Russian Channel 1 segment depicting the Rothschilds as a sow, and Israel, the CIA, MI6, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and Boko Haram as nursing piglets. (Screenshot/MEMRI-TV)

In the 1700s, Jews in Frankfurt had to live in the Judengasse, a cramped Jewish ghetto. Jews had to pay a Jew tax to enter the city and were obliged to step aside, remove their hats and bow whenever they encountered a Gentile on the street. It was here that the Rothschild family traces its roots, to a pious Jewish tradesman named Amschel Moses. When he died in 1757, his gravestone described him simply as “A man who observed the prescribed time for the study of the Torah”. Yet his children and grandchildren would go on to found some of the most successful banks Europe had ever seen.

Amschel Moses Rothschild

A Chassidic Jewish legend describes Amschel Moses working as the assistant to a renowned rabbi who used to collect alms from his congregants and distribute them to the poor. One day, the rabbi discovered his bag of alms was missing. The only person besides himself who had access to it was Amschel Moses. The rabbi couldn’t believe that Amschel, who was always so kind and honest, could have taken it, but there didn’t seem to be any other explanation. With a heavy heart, he approached Amschel and asked if he’d taken the bag. He wasn’t angry, the rabbi stressed, he was sure that Amschel must merely have meant to borrow the money.

Amschel turned pale and told the rabbi he’d be right back. He returned with half the amount that was missing and promised to repay the outstanding balance out of his wages, which he did over a period of many months. Some time later the rabbi was astonished to find the missing bag full of alms; Amschel hadn’t taken it at all!

Shocked, he called for Amschel and asked why he’d paid back the money if he’d never taken it in the first place. “I knew you thought I’d stolen the money,” Amschel replied “If I’d protested, you’d have supplied the money out of your own pocket rather than let the poor go without charity. I didn’t want you to suffer, rabbi, so I decided that I would supply the missing money myself.”

Amschel Moses and his wife died in epidemics when their children were still young, leaving behind their sons Moses, Kalman and Mayer, and a daughter Gutelche. Young Mayer at the time was studying in a yeshiva, but after his parents’ death, he was sent to Hanover to apprentice with a Jewish merchant. Mayer soon became a dealer in coins and antiques, and eventually gained the patronage of a local aristocrat, Prince William of Hanau, who borrowed funds from him, and introduced him to other profligate noblemen who bought and borrowed from Mayer. In order to keep up with all this business, Mayer formed a partnership with his brother Kalman in the 1780s; the Rothschild family as bankers began to be born.

Though the Rothschilds were becoming prominent, their home life was hardly glamorous. Mayer married Gutle, the daughter of a local Jewish trader, and together they had 19 children, ten of whom survived infancy. They bought a house in the Jewish ghetto. Considered enormous by the standards of the ghetto, it was a mere 14 feet wide, and the family slept together in one room. Family life revolved around the Jewish holidays. The early business records of the family include the words “praise God”, a reminder that the Rothschilds saw their success as a gift from Above.

Solomon Rothschild

Mayer Amschel died in 1812, and his five sons carried on the family loan business, each settling in a different European city, and each prospering in a dazzling way. Amschel Mayer (1773-1855) remained in Frankfurt. Karl Mayer (1788-1855) moved to Naples, and established an Italian arm of the Rothschild business. Jakob (1792-1868) settled in Paris and founded the company Rothschild Freres, providing loans to European governments and backing the constructions of the first railways. Nathan Mayer (1777-1836) moved to London, established the trading firm N. M. Rothschild, and eventually funded much of Britain’s war against Napoleon. Solomon Mayer (1774-1855) settled in Vienna. Approached by Prince Metternich, Austria’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, to arrange huge loans to rebuild after the Napoleonic wars, Solomon created new financial instruments to accomplish this huge task. In gratitude, the Rothschild family was ennobled, becoming the first Jewish aristocratic family.

One Rothschild who was determined to find his place in upper class European society without compromising his Jewish identity was Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), the eldest son of Nathan Rothschild. Elected to Britain’s Parliament in 1847, Lionel refused to remove his hat and swear a Christian oath in order to be seated in Parliament. Re-elected four times, he campaigned to change the rules to allow openly Jewish members of Parliament, and was eventually seated in 1858, eleven years after his first election victory.

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild introduced in the House of Commons on 26 July 1858 by Lord John Russell and Mr John Abel Smith by Henry Barraud, 1872.

Lionel also single-handedly funded a number of Jewish schools and charities throughout England. He experimented with building some of the first low-cost housing projects in Europe aimed at providing decent housing to the poor. In 1847, he convened a meeting in his London home to form a committee to raise funds for Irish famine relief. The British Relief Association he and his brother Mayer and others founded ultimately raised over 600,000 pounds, the largest private source of aid sent to Ireland during the Great Famine there. When Lionel’s wife Charlotte died in 1884, her will listed 32 charitable committees she supported, including schools, hospitals, Jewish organizations, and general relief organizations.

Lionel de Rothschild, by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, 1835

In Frankfurt, much of the city’s charitable endeavors in the 1800s were supported by the Rothschilds. Amschel Rothschild donated 10% of his income to charity, as Jewish law directs, and the family ran 30 individual charities in the city, many overseen by Lionel de Rothschild’s younger sister Louise, who ran the family’s charitable interests along with her seven daughters. Their endeavors included a free library, nursing homes, orphanages, scholarship funds, soup kitchens, hospitals, and a dental clinic.

Perhaps the best known Rothschild philanthropist is Edmond James de Rothschild (1845-1934), a former soldier (he served in the first Franco-Prussian War) who joined the Paris branch of his family’s banking business in 1868. He and his wife Adelheid were early Zionists and profoundly helped Jews return to the land of Israel.

Edmond Rothschild

When the Jews who were building new Jewish towns and villages appealed for help in the early 1880s, it was Edmond and Adelheid who responded, agreeing to invest in new collective farms in what today are the Israeli towns of Rishon LeZion, Zichron Yaakov, Rosh Pinah and others. In all, the couple provided funds to help establish 44 agricultural settlements and towns the length and breadth of the Jewish state. Some of Israel’s best-known settlements are named after Edmond de Rothschild’s relatives: Zichron Yaakov after his father James (“Yaakov” in Hebrew), Mazkeret Batya, after his mother Betty, and Givat Ada, after Edmond’s wife Adelheid.

A French aristocrat to his core, Edmond encouraged industries with a decidedly French flair. He invested in flower production for the French perfume industry and encouraged Israel’s nascent wine-making capabilities. He founded two wineries in Israel, one in Rishon LeZion and one in Zichron Yaakov, which were among the world’s largest at the time.

Visiting Zichron Yaakov in 1893, Edmond commented not only on the flourishing town he’d helped create, but also on the deeper meaning of Jewish connection to the land of Israel. “I did not support you and take you under my wing due to your poverty,” he explained, “but due to your passion to work and live in the Holy Land, and to live in accordance with the spirit of the Torah… The sense of religion is a principle among Jews… Only a sense of religion can unite all parts of the world… You were the first to show the way of agriculture to those who will follow you. You are also obliged to show them the way of the Hebrew heart.”

Edmond died in 1934 in Paris and Adelheid died in 1935. Twenty years after their deaths, Israel repatriated their remains, re-interring them in a state ceremony in Ramat Hanadiv, located between two towns named for Edmond de Rothschild and his father: Binyamina (so named for Edmond’s Hebrew name) and Zichron Yaakov. At the ceremony, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion said, “I doubt that, in the entire history of the Jewish people in the Diaspora, a period of 2,000 years, one could ever find a man comparable in stature to the incredible character that was the Baron Edmond de Rothschild – the builder of the Jewish Yishuv (settlement) in our renewed homeland.”

Alexandre de Rothschild

Today, the many branches of the Rothschild family are spread across the world. The closest thing to a united Rothschild company is the Rothschild bank, a British-French enterprise, which in February 2018 announced that later this year it would be led by the seventh generation of the famed Rothschild family, Alexandre de Rothschild, the 37 year old executive deputy chairman of the bank. According to the Financial Times, the Rothschild bank is today the fifth largest bank in Europe in terms of mergers and acquisitions in 2015 and 2016. The Rothschild family owns a 49% stake in the company and exercises 58% of board voting rights. While the Rothschild bank is successful, it’s hardly the economic powerhouse that some people think. No Rothschild currently is listed among Forbes’ list of the world’s billionaires in 2018. Instead, it seems the Rothschild’s legacy is one of helping to build European banking – and also of their many philanthropic and charitable undertakings through the years which have left the world a profoundly better place.

As taken from, http://www.aish.com/jw/s/The-Rothschilds-Separating-Fact-from-Fiction.html?s=feat

Sobre no tratar de ser lo que no se es.

Los grandes líderes conocen sus propios límites, no tratan de hacer todo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Los grandes líderes conocen sus propios límites. No tratan de hacer todo, sino que construyen equipos. Dan lugar a otros que son fuertes donde ellos son débiles. Entienden la importancia del balance, del control y de la separación de poderes. Se rodean de personas que son distintas a ellos. Entienden el peligro de la concentración del poder en un solo individuo. Conocer los límites propios, las cosas que no se pueden hacer –e incluso lo que no se puede ser–, puede resultar una experiencia dolorosa. A veces implica una crisis emocional.

La Torá contiene cuatro fascinantes historias de momentos como esos. Lo que las une no son las palabras, sino la música. Desde los comienzos de la historia judía, la Torá no sólo se leía, sino que se cantaba. De hecho, Moshé, al final de su vida, llamó canción1 a la Torá. En Israel y Babilonia se desarrollaron distintas tradiciones y a partir del siglo X, se comenzó a sistematizar el canto en las formas y en las notaciones musicales conocidas como taamei hamikra, signos de entonación, ideados por los masoretas tiberianos (los guardianes de los textos sagrados del judaísmo). Hay una nota muy llamativa, conocida como shalshelet (encadenamiento), que sólo aparece cuatro veces en la Torá y cada vez que se presenta es signo de crisis existencial. Tres de esas instancias están en Bereshit; la cuarta está en nuestra parashá. Como podremos ver, la cuarta está relacionada con el liderazgo. En un sentido amplio, también las otras tres lo están.

La primera ocurre en la historia de Lot, quien se había separado de su tío Abraham y se había instalado en Sdom. Allí se había asimilado a la población local, sus hijas se habían casado con hombres del pueblo local y él se sentaba en la puerta de la ciudad, símbolo de que se había convertido en juez. Entonces, dos visitantes llegan para decirle que se vaya: Di-s está por destruir la ciudad. Pero aun así, Lot duda. Y sobre la palabra “duda” —vaitmamá— hay una shalshelet.2 Lot está indeciso, conflictuado. Siente que los visitantes tienen razón, que la ciudad está por ser destruida. Pero ha invertido todo su futuro en esta identidad que durante tanto tiempo forjó para sus hijas y para él. Si los ángeles no lo hubieran llevado a un lugar seguro, él habría demorado su decisión hasta demasiado tarde.

La segunda se presenta cuando Abraham le pide a su sirviente –tradicionalmente identificado como Eliézer– que le encuentre una esposa a su hijo Itzjak. Los comentadores sugieren que sentía una profunda ambivalencia con respecto a esta misión: si Itzjak no se casaba ni tenía hijos, Eliézer o sus descendientes acabarían por recibir la herencia de Abraham; él ya lo había dicho antes del nacimiento de Itzjak: “Oh, Señor, Di-s, ¿qué me darás si permanezco sin hijos? El heredero de mi casa será Eliézer de Damasco”.3 Si Eliézer cumplía con su misión y conseguía una esposa para Itzjak, y esta pareja tenía hijos, entonces su oportunidad de algún día tener las riquezas de Abraham desaparecería por completo. En su interior se libraba una batalla entre dos instintos: la lealtad a Abraham y la ambición personal. La lealtad ganó, pero no sin antes padecer una enorme lucha interna. Por lo tanto, la shalshelet.4

La tercera historia se remonta a Egipto y a la vida de Iosef: vendido como esclavo por sus hermanos, trabaja en la casa de un eminente egipcio, Potifar. Un día, su amo se va y lo deja a solas con su esposa, entonces Iosef se da cuenta de que ella lo desea. Iosef es apuesto y ella desea dormir con él. Él se niega. Hacerlo, dice, sería una traición a su amo, el esposo de la mujer. Sería un pecado contra Di-s. Sobre “se negó” encontramos una shalshelet,5 lo que indica –como algunas fuentes rabínicas y comentarios medievales sostienen– que tomó esa decisión tras haber hecho un gran esfuerzo.6 Casi sucumbe; era más que el conflicto usual entre el pecado y la tentación. Era un conflicto de identidad. Hay que recordar que Iosef vivía en lo que él consideraba una tierra nueva y extraña. Sus hermanos lo habían rechazado y lo habían dejado en claro: no lo querían como parte de su familia. ¿Por qué no hacer en Egipto lo que hacían los egipcios? ¿Por qué no se cedía ante la esposa de su amo si eso era lo que ella quería? Sin embargo, para Iosef la pregunta no era sólo “¿esto es correcto?”, sino “¿soy egipcio o judío?”.

Los tres episodios tratan sobre el conflicto interno y sobre la identidad. Hay momentos en los que todos debemos decidir, no sólo responder “¿qué debería hacer?” sino “¿qué tipo de persona debería ser?”. Esto es particularmente trascendental en el caso del líder, lo que nos lleva al episodio cuatro, el de Moshé.

Luego del pecado del becerro de oro, Moshé les dio instrucciones a los israelitas –bajo las órdenes de Di-s– de construir el santuario que luego sería, en efecto, un hogar simbólico permanente para Di-s en medio el pueblo. El trabajo estaba completo y lo que faltaba era la introducción, por parte de Moshé, de su hermano Aarón y sus hijos en el oficio; para ello lo vistió a Aarón con las vestimentas especiales de sumo sacerdote, lo ungió con aceite y llevó adelante los sacrificios apropiados para lo ocasión. Sobre la palabra vaishjat, “y degolló [al carnero del sacrificio]”,7 hay una shalshelet. Por lo dicho, se sabe que esto significa que hubo una lucha interna en Moshé. ¿Pero qué era? No hay ni una señal en el texto que indique que estaba pasando por una crisis.

Sin embargo, tras una breve reflexión se aclara cuál era la agitación interior de Moshé. Hasta ahora, él había conducido al pueblo judío. Aarón, su hermano mayor, lo había asistido y acompañado en sus misiones ante el faraón, actuando como su vocero, su colaborador y su segundo al mando. Sin embargo, ahora Aarón estaba por emprender un nuevo rol de liderazgo, bajo su propio derecho. Ya no sería una sombra de Moshé, haría lo que el mismo Moshé no podría: presidiría las ofrendas diarias en el tabernáculo; mediaría en la avodá, el servicio sagrado de los israelitas a Di-s; en Iom Kipur, una vez al año, dirigiría el servicio de expiación de los pecados de su pueblo. Ya no sería la sombra de Moshé: Aarón estaba a punto de convertirse en el único tipo de líder que Moshé no estaba destinado a ser: un sumo sacerdote.

El Talmud agrega otra dimensión a este conmovedor momento. Ante la zarza ardiente, Moshé había resistido repetidas veces el llamado de Di-s para liderar a su pueblo. Finalmente, Di-s le dijo que Aarón iría con él y lo ayudaría a hablar.8 El Talmud dice que en ese momento Moshé perdió la posibilidad de ser sacerdote. “Originalmente, [dijo Di-s,] tenía la intención de que tú fueras sacerdote, y Aarón tu hermano fuese un levita. Ahora, él será el sacerdote y tú, el levita”.9

Esa es la lucha interior de Moshé, comunicada a través de la shalshelet. Está a punto de introducir a su hermano en un oficio que él nunca podrá realizar. Todo debería haber sido al revés, pero la vida no se vive en el mundo de lo que “debería haber sido”. Seguramente siente alegría por su hermano, pero no puede, a la vez, evitar tener un sentimiento de pérdida. Tal vez siente lo que luego descubrirá: a pesar de que Moshé era el profeta y liberador, Aarón tendría el privilegio negado a Moshé, es decir, ver a sus hijos y descendientes heredar ese rol. El hijo de un sacerdote es sacerdote; el hijo de un profeta, rara vez es profeta.

Las cuatro historias cuentan que hay un momento para cada uno en el que debemos tomar una decisión definitiva sobre quienes somos. Es un momento de verdad existencial. Lot es hebreo, no un ciudadano de Sdom. Eliézer es el sirviente de Abraham y no su heredero. Iosef es el hijo de Iaacob, no un egipcio con una moral endeble. Moshé es un profeta, no un sacerdote. Para decirle que sí a quien somos debemos tener el coraje de decir que no a quien no somos. Eso implica dolor y conflicto, y ese es el significado de la shalshelet. Sin embargo, al final terminamos estando menos conflictuados de lo que estábamos antes.

Esto se aplica en especial a los líderes, y es por eso que el caso de Moshé es tan importante en nuestra parashá. Había cosas a las que Moshé no estaba destinado: no se convertiría en sacerdote, dado que esa responsabilidad era para Aarón; no conduciría al pueblo a través del Iardén. Ese fue el rol de Iehoshua (Josué). Moshé tuvo que aceptar ambos hechos de buena gana para ser honesto consigo mismo. Y los grandes líderes deben ser honestos consigo mismos si quieren ser honestos con aquellos a quienes lideran.

Un líder nunca debería intentar ser todas las cosas para todos los hombres (y mujeres). Un líder debe estar satisfecho con ser quien es. Debe tener la fuerza para saber quién no es, si tiene el coraje de ser quien es.

Notas al Pie
1. Devarim 31:19.
2. Bereshit 19:16.
3. Bereshit 15:2.
4. Bereshit 24:12.
5. Bereshit 39:8.
6. Tanjuma, Vaieishev 8, citado por Rashi en su comentario sobre el Bereshit, ibíd.
7. Vaikrá 8:23.
8. Shemot 4:14–16.
9. Talmud, Zevakim 102a.

Plato’s Haggada in the “Dialogues”

Lonely, but not Alone
Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo

Now that Jews all over the world will once again assemble around the Seder table and read the Haggada—the story of the exodus from Egypt—it may be worthwhile to put some thought into the art of reading.

In The Phaedrus (275a-278a) and in his Seventh Letter (344c), Plato questioned—and in fact attacked—the written word as being completely inadequate. This may explain why philosophers have scarcely written about the art of writing, although they extensively engaged in that very craft!

It is well known that Plato used to write in the form of dialogues, and it is clear to anyone reading these conversations that his main purpose in doing so was to hide the characteristics of the texts. He worked for years on polishing this literary form. Cicero maintains that Plato actually died at his writing table at the age of eighty one. “Plato uno et octogesimo anno scribens est mortuus.”[1]

What bothered Plato was that he believed the written word would fall prey to evil or incompetent readers who would do anything they want with the text, leaving the writer unable to defend or explain himself. He feared the text would take on a life of its own, independent of its author, as is indeed characteristic of the written word. Even more interesting is his observation that a written text actually becomes a “pharmakon”—a drug that can either heal or kill, depending on how it is applied. It may even be used as a prompt, but will ultimately lead to memory loss since it will make the brain idle. Years later, Immanuel Kant wrote along similar lines, saying that the “script” wreaked havoc on the “body of memory.”[2]

However, according to Plato, this means far more than just losing information, or being deprived of the skill of memorizing. For him, real knowledge was a matter of “intrinsic understanding,” demanding a person’s total presence within what he reads or says. Only that with which I totally identify and which has become united with my Self can be called knowledge and is in-scribed in my whole personality. That which I have simply read or learned superficially is not really knowledge.

Unwittingly, Plato touched on a most fundamental aspect of the Jewish Tradition. We Jews are called “the people of the book.” But we are not; we are the people of the ear.  The Torah is not to be read, but is rather to be heard. It was not written in the conventional sense. It was the Divine word spoken at Sinai, which had to be heard and which afterwards, out of pure necessity, became frozen in a text, but with the sole intention of being immediately “defrosted” through the art of hearing. This, then, became the great foundation of the Jewish Oral Tradition.

Reading entails using one’s eyes and, as such, the act remains external. The words are not carved into the very soul of the reader. Rabbi Yaakov Leiner, son of the famous Ishbitzer Rebbe, Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner, and one of the keenest minds in the Chassidic tradition, speaks about seeing. He makes the valuable observation that sight discloses the external aspect of things while hearing reveals the internal.[3] One must hear a text, not read it. This is the reason why the body of Torah consists of minimum words and maximum oral interpretation.

Still, does the open-endedness of the Torah not present the opportunity for anyone to read his own thoughts into the text and violate its very spirit? The Jewish Tradition responded to this challenge with great profundity. It created an ongoing oral tradition in which unwritten rules of interpretation were handed down, thereby securing the inner meaning of the text while at the same time allowing the student to use all of his creative imagination. Even after the Oral Torah was written down in the form of the Talmud, it remained unwritten, as any Talmud student can testify. No other text is so succinct and “understaffed” in written words while simultaneously given to such vast interpretation. The fact that the art of reading the Talmud can only be learned through a teacher–student relationship, and not merely through the written word, proves our point. Only when the student hears his master’s oral interpretation of the text is he able to read it, because the teacher will not only give him explanations but will also convey the inner vibrations that were once heard at the revelation on Mount Sinai. This is the deeper knowledge that the teacher received from his masters, taking him all the way back to the supreme moment at Sinai. In that way, the student can free himself from a mechanical approach to the text. He will hear new voices in the old text, without deviating from its inner meaning. This will give him the courage to think on his own and rid himself of prejudice. The text, then, is not read but heard.

Jewish Law states that even if one is alone on the Seder night, one must pronounce the text of the Haggada and not just read it. He must hear himself, explain the text to himself in a verbal way, and be in continuous dialogue with himself so as to understand and feel what happened thousands of years ago. Plato alluded to this matter without fully realizing why his own teachings never came close to receiving the treatment they perhaps deserved. They are read too much and heard too little.

This may be the difference between the Divine word and the human word. The Divine is a dimension where words have no spiritual space. Human words are too grounded in the text. The Divine word goes beyond these textual limitations and can find its way only through the act of listening, because it is through this particular one of our senses that we are able to hear the “perpetual murmur from the waves beyond the shore.”[4]

When we read the text on the Seder night, we should be aware that it only provides the opening words. The real Haggada has no text. It is not to be read, but is rather to be heard. And, just as with the Torah, we have not even begun to understand its full meaning. We are simply perpetual beginners.

Moadim le-simcha.


[1] Cicero, “On Old Age,” Section 5.

[2] Immanuel Kant, Anthropologie in Pragmatischer Hinsicht, Suhrkamp, STW 193, Frankfurt am Main, pp. 489-490.

[3] Rabbi Yaacov Leiner, Beis Yaakov, “Rosh Chodesh Av.”

[4] Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man Is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1976) p. 8.

As taken from, https://www.cardozoacademy.org/thoughts-to-ponder/plato-haggada/?utm_source=Subscribers&utm_campaign=93f14be238-Weekly_Thoughts_to_Ponder_campaign_TTP_548&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_dd05790c6d-93f14be238-242341409

Helga Weissová: la niña que pintó el Holocausto

Una exposición en Madrid muestra las pinturas y dibujos que ayudaron a sobrevivir a la artista judía en Terezin, Auschwitz y Mauthausen

Jesús Ruiz Mantilla
Copias de los dibujos de Helga Weissová, ayer en el Centro Sefarad de Madrid.
Copias de los dibujos de Helga Weissová, ayer en el Centro Sefarad de Madrid. ÁLVARO GARCÍA

Un muñeco de nieve fue lo último que Helga Weissová pintó como niña ajena al horror, según cuenta ella misma. La frontera de una blanca infancia feliz con gorro, nariz y botones. Corría diciembre de 1941 y vivía en Praga. Acababa de cumplir 12 años cuando la deportaron al gueto de Terezin, donde los nazis agolparon a decenas de miles de judíos en la que fuera Checoslovaquia. A partir de entonces, su padre le dio un consejo que cumplió toda su vida: “Pinta lo que ves”. Y lo que escrutó a partir de fecha fue la muerte al acecho en todos los barracones de aquella ciudad previa al transporte hacia Auschwitz, Mauthausen o Freiberg, donde Helga pasó los cuatro años siguientes. Hoy, esos dibujos pueden admirarse en el Centro Sefarad de Madrid, que ha abierto una exposición de la artista hasta abril, en colaboración con el Centro Checo y el Ayuntamiento de Huesca.

Weissová tiene hoy 88 años. Vive todavía en Praga y es consciente tanto de su suerte como de su buena salud. Fue una de los 100 niños supervivientes de Terezin. Una cifra nada desdeñable si contamos que por allí ingresaron 15.000 menores de 16 junto a sus padres y familiares. Llegaban provenientes de toda Bohemia y Moravia, junto a algunas zonas limítrofes durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Terezin fue, a medias, un espejismo y un espanto. Los nazis utilizaban ese purgatorio como propaganda ante las inspecciones internacionales. Montaban obras de teatro, lecturas, conciertos, óperas, juegos. Luego llegaban los trenes… Desde allí los deportaban con vía preferente a los hornos y al exterminio.

En una de las estaciones, Helga se salvó junto con su madre en parte, gracias al cuidado de dos españoles. “Se llamaban José Rasal Rio y Manuel Obatlero Dominiguer”, comenta desde Praga a EL PAÍS. “Fueron presos políticos en Mauthausen. Durante los primeros días después de la liberación se ocuparon de nuestro grupo, nos cuidaron con mucha sensibilidad. Me ayudaron mucho. Antes de despedirnos, los dos me escribieron sus nombres y direcciones. He guardado hasta hoy este trocito de papel con un manuscrito a lápiz”, comenta Helga. También que después de la guerra los buscó sin éxito. “Sólo hace poco he logrado encontrar y, por fin, conocer a los parientes de José Rasala Rio. Vinieron a Praga y me regalaron una foto suya”.

Terezin, esa terrible arma de propaganda

Helga Weissová.
Helga Weissová.

Cuando atraviesas los muros de Terezin, sientes la argucia de aquella pantalla en los baños que los prisioneros no podían utilizar. El gueto en el que Helga Weissová ingresó con 12 años fue toda una maniobra de distracción. Un trampantojo destinado a la Cruz Roja y a los observadores internacionales, que se tragaban la patraña. Hoy es una ruina permanente del espanto, a 70 kilómetros de Praga. Como el talento de los judíos checos resultaba un elemento de irradiación aprovechable, los nazis utilizaban aquel lugar previo a la deportación hacia los campos de exterminio como un elemento de propaganda a nivel mundial. Rodaron hasta un documental: El Fhürer regala una ciudad a los judíos. Más de 2.000 deportados lo animaron con actividades culturales. La mayoría de ellos –como la mayor parte de los 150.000 que pasaron por ahí- no lo pudo contar. No lo lograron los compositores Hans Krása, Viktor Ullman, Pavel Haas, Heinz Alt…, los cuatro muertos en Auschwitz. Su arte sí se las arregló en parte sobrevivir al humo de los hornos. Weissová, también. Hoy cuenta su experiencia a jóvenes de todo el mundo, como los más de 500 alumnos de institutos de Huesca que han viajado durante varios años allí para verlo. Por eso, del Centro Sefarad de Madrid, la exposición de Weissova pasará a la ciudad aragonesa. Solo cabe esperar, que ese lazo especial con los oscenses se forje en otros lugares.

Pero fue sobre todo en Terezin donde comenzó a dibujar y, por tanto, a documentar aquellas desgracias. “Estuve en ese lugar casi tres años. De niña me convertí en adulta. Allí viví también mi primer amor…”, recuerda Helga. “No llevaba bien mi separación de los padres, echaba de menos mi casa, pasé por varias enfermedades, tenía hambre. Por otra parte, llegué a conocer la solidaridad y amistad verdadera. Estaba alojada en lo que llamaban la casa de las niñas. Teníamos cuidadores en cada fila de prisioneros 24 horas al día. Nos impartían clases, nos leían poemas, jugaban con nosotros, cuidaban de los enfermos. Intentaban protegernos del sufrimiento psíquico y se esforzaron para que no perdiéramos los principios morales”.

Aparte de dibujar, Helga se impuso la disciplina de escribir un diario que años después fue publicado en español por la editorial Sexto Piso. Cuenta lo cotidiano. El ambiente en que por Terezin pasaron artistas judíos checos de varias disciplinas. Fue el lugar, por ejemplo, en el que Hans Krása compuso la ópera Brundibar para que la cantaran allí los propios niños del gueto. Se llegaron a hacer in situ 55 representaciones. “Yo no participé activamente en ella. No obstante, vi varias obras teatrales y conciertos”, asegura Weissová.

Eran los desahogos permitidos. Una válvula pérfida de escape. Parte de una siniestra tortura psicológica. La que les llevaba con casi total seguridad hacia un camino sin retoro. “Vivíamos con miedo permanente de ser incluidos en el trasporte hacia el Este. Aunque no sabíamos adonde iban esos trenes, ni teníamos idea de Auschwitz, éramos conscientes de que se trataba de algo peor que Terezín”. Helga afirma que ese miedo ya se ha ausentado de sus pesadillas. Pero mantiene la guardia: “No obstante, me temo, que la guerra y una situación parecida pudieran repetirse”.

Pintar resultó una evasión. Después un destino, porque dedicó su vida a ello. “Hizo posible poder relajarme, encerrarme dentro de un mundo propio en un ambiente sin privacidad existente. Hasta cierto punto me levantaba la autoestima”. Las humillaciones y la sospecha de una muerte más que probable, les sumían a veces en un estado de parálisis. Hoy, guarda aquellos dibujos que hizo y los que pintó después de salir con la memoria, en un rincón oculto de su casa. Lo que puede verse en Madrid y luego en Huesca son copias. Los originales, apenas los quiere mostrar.

Segun tomado de, https://elpais.com/cultura/2018/03/19/actualidad/1521463088_579790.html

Isaiah the Prophet, Man or Biblical Myth: The Archaeological Evidence

A 2,700-year-old seal impression on clay unearthed in Jerusalem this February piqued enormous interest, after its finder, the leading Jerusalem archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar, said it may have been the personal seal of Isaiah the Prophet himself. Biblical scholars have been quarreling ever since.

The ancient Hebrew script, engraved with a sharp point, says Yeshayahu NBY, Mazar deciphered.

Yeshayahu is the Hebrew form of Isaiah: that much is clear. The question is about the three letters following the name: nun-bet-yod, “NBY”.

That could spell the start of the four-letter Hebrew word navi, meaning “prophet,” if we assume that there was a fourth letter, aleph, which broke off. Mazar thinks that could well be the case, and that they may have found proof that Isaiah the Prophet, contemporary King Hezekiah, really existed. But as with so many artifacts from antiquity, the truth is far from categorical.

Finding Isaiah

In antiquity, seals were used as signatures to mark ownership, authenticity, or agreement. The name of the person would often be followed by the name of the person’s father, ancestral location, or profession. Finding a personal name alone was the exception.

Unfortunately, the clay bulla (seal impression) that Mazar found was damaged. The second word is broken off after three letters, NBY (or NVY: the letters B and V are the same in Hebrew).

To be the word “prophet,” the missing fourth letter would have to be an aleph. But who knows if it was? That is just one reason many take issue with interpreting NBY as “prophet,” Nadav Na’aman, professor of Jewish history at Tel Aviv University, tells Haaretz.

Alan Millard, professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages at Liverpool University, is also skeptical, for another reason. The word “prophet” would not have followed the personal name without the definite article “the” (ha in Hebrew), Millard argues. So, if it belonged to the prophet, the bulla should have read “Yeshayahu HaNavi” – i.e. HNBY.

“There are other Hebrew seals or impressions which have a profession after the owners’ names and they all have the definite article (HSPR, meaning “the scribe”, for instance),” Millard points out.

Mazar herself agrees that rather than designating occupation, the “NBY” could have been part or all of a personal name. Unless we find more impressions of this seal, we will never know.

Isaiah the son

For his part, Na’aman suggests that the second word, NBY, could be a Middle East patronymic. In other words, he postulates that the impression originally read “Isaiah (son of) NBY” – for instance, possibly “Isaiah son of Nebai” – another name from biblical sources.

If Naaman is right, the Hebrew word for “son of,” ben (BN), is missing. Millard disagrees, feeling that the seal would have plenty of space to add the letters “BN” for “son of”.

What can be said is that the name “Nebai” existed in biblical times and meant “from the city of Nob”, which was a priestly town not far from Jerusalem, though we aren’t sure today where exactly it was.

The Book of Nehemiah describes how the children of Israel confessed their sins to the Lord, praised him, enumerated his achievements (for instance, “You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws” – Nehemiah 9:13). The Israelites then entered into a covenant with the Lord that was written out and sealed by the princes, Levites and priests. Among the many, many names mentioned as having signatory rights on that occasion was one “Nebai,” listed among the leaders of the people (Nehemiah 10:19).

By the way, if this Isaiah really was the son of this Nebai, then he wasn’t the prophet, if only on the grounds that the prophet said his father was named Amoz.

Incredibly, archaeologists have found four sets of seal impressions featuring the name Nebai, but three are non-provenanced – meaning, the researchers can’t be sure where they originate.

The fourth was unearthed in Lachish, and the impression gained is that Nebai is indeed a personal name. (The four seal impressions are described in “Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals,” originally written by Nahman Avigad and revised by Benjamin Sass: Nos. 227, 379, 530 and 693, and see p. 513.)

Lastly, this wasn’t the first time that archaeologists found the name “Isaiah” outside the context of the Bible in a contemporary inscription. The Avigad-Sass “Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals” lists three seals (Nos. 212, 213, and 214) belonging to men named Isaiah, complete with patronymics: the three had different fathers, none of whom was Amoz.

What can be said that the Hebrew script on Mazar’s seal impression is typical of the 8th century B.C.E., the period Isaiah was supposed to have lived.

With the last word not said, who then was Isaiah the Prophet, anyway?

Who was Isaiah?

Millard for one sees no reason to doubt that Isaiah was a real person who lived in the reigns of Sargon II, then Sennacherib – Sargon being the Assyrian king who marched through Judah, conquering 46 of King Hezekiah’s fortified cities, but who mysteriously withdrew after reaching Jerusalem just as victory over the cowed Judahite king seemed assured.

Assyrian soldiers in battle: They swept over the land of Israel,
vanquishing 46 of Hezekiah’s cities – but suddenly, dolded the
siege of Jerusalem and left Getty Images IL

Millard’s indicator lies in how Sargon’s name is spelled in the Book of Isaiah.

Isaiah was a contemporary of Sargon II, who ruled from 722 to 705 B.C.E. (Isaiah 20:1-2), the prophet himself says in the biblical narrative.

In Isaiah 20:1, the Assyrian king’s name is spelled SRGN, which is the Aramaic version. The Assyrians spoke Aramaic (a language very like Hebrew, originally spoken by the Aramaeans that would eventually become the international language for trade in Assyria and Babylon too).

We know the Assyrians spelled Sargon the same way, SRGN, from an Aramaic seal imprint found at Khorsabad, the site of the king’s new palace near Nineveh, Millard explains.

If the Book of Isaiah was a later artifact, written or revised during the Jews’ Babylonian exile, Sargon would presumably have been written the Babylonian way – “SHRKN.”

Scourge of kings

In the first verse of his book, Isaiah introduces himself as “Isaiah son of Amoz” and tells us that he served as a prophet “during the reigns of Uzziah Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah” (Isaiah 1:1).

If so, this means that Isaiah was active no less than 46 years, probably beginning his career at the end of Uzziah’s reign around 743 B.C.E.

According to the Bible, this was a period of international tension and inner turmoil. Political unrest was rife, bribery tainted the courts, and hypocrisy was tearing the religious fabric of society. Even some Judahite kings persisted with pagan worship, not caviling at human sacrifice:

Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. Unlike David his father, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord. He followed the ways of the kings of Israel and also made idols for worshiping the Baals. He burned sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and sacrificed his children in the fire” (2 Chronicles 28:1-3; and the list of Ahaz’s sins goes on. Judah is punished for Ahaz’s sins.)

There are other elaborations of pagan worship by the Judahic kings in 2 Kings 16:5-8 and Isaiah 7:1-12, for example.

Isaiah, who seemed to have been quite outspoken even to kings, did not spare them his rhetoric, calling the rulers of Judah “dictators of Sodom” (Isaiah 1:10).

Secular records and archaeological finds in Judah and Jerusalem support Isaiah’s account of the religious and political affairs in Judah at the time, by and large.

Archaeologists have found hundreds of terracotta pagan figurines in Jerusalem and Judah, mainly in the ruins of private homes. Most were nude females with exaggerated breasts, which some scholars identify with fertility goddesses such as Asherah – talismans aiding in conception and childbirth. (Others argue that they bear no signs of divinity.)

At some “high places,” so-called bamah, a sort of open-air altar dedicated to sacrifices to Yahweh, archaeologist have found inscriptions saying, “I bless you by Yahweh of Samaria and by his Asherah,” and another says, “I bless you by Yahweh of Teman and by his Asherah!” Namely, YHWH, God of the Jews.

No toady Isaiah

Although Isaiah may not have been popular with all of the kings of Judah, he seemed to have got along with some, not that he was necessarily a bearer of cheer. When King Hezekiah fell gravely ill, Isaiah came to him and told him he was going to die (Isaiah 38:1).

King Hezekiah, who ruled from around 727 to 686/7 B.C.E., was one of the more important kings of Judah, and he seems to have tolerated the influence of the opinionated prophet. Nothing less than the king’s own seal imprint seems to have been found in 2009, during Mazar’s excavations in Jerusalem. In fact the recent “Isaiah seal” was found just a few feet from the Hezekiah seal mark.

City of David: The seals ostensibly of King Hezekiah and Prophet
Isaiah were found within 10 feet of one another. Olivier Fitoussi

(Several examples of bullae imprinted by seals bearing Hezekiah’s name appeared on the antiquities market before Mazar found the one in situ in Jerusalem. There was more than one seal inscribed ‘Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, king of Judah’: the seals were probably delegated to high officials. We know Assyrian kings’ seals were so used.)

The discovery of the “Isaiah seal” so nearby the king’s does not prove the theory that the “Isaiah seal” was the seal impression of Isaiah the Prophet himself, who was an adviser to the king, as Mazar herself observes. But it is intriguing.

During Hezekiah’s reign, the kingdom was invaded by King Sennacherib of Assyria, an event described in detail (Isaiah 36-37) and corroborated by the extra-biblical account inscribed in the Annals of Sennacherib Prism, the Rassam Cylinder and also Histories, written by the 5th century B.C.E. Greek Herodotus. Sennacherib’s siege of Jerusalem was so dramatic that it was still inspiring writers eons later, including Dante and Lord Byron:

The Assyrians came down like the wolf on the fold, and his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold; And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea, when the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee” – Lord Byron

Isaiah the scribe?

Not only did Isaiah seem to have been close to the kings of Judah, having access to Ahaz and Hezekiah: he also seemed to have had training in scribal skills.

Isaiah was evidently familiar with the way scribes worked in 8th -century B.C.E. Judah, such as using wax-covered wooden tablets as instant notebooks, and only later copying the text onto papyrus or leather (which may have been more common, as papyrus had to be imported from Egypt): “Now come, write it upon a tablet with them, and inscribe it even in a book…” (Isaiah 30:8).

Assyrian god Getty Images IL

“Isaiah was a member of the upper class in Judah and could well

have been able to write and read,” says Millard. In fact he is convinced

that writing was widespread in Israel and Judah in the 8th and 7th

centuries B.C.E. The sheer number of sites with texts, the quantity

of short texts and the multitude of seals and impressions bearing

their owners’ names should dispel any notion that writing was rare, Millard argues.

It bears adding that a lot of historians and archaeologists do not agree that reading and writing were commonplace 3,000 years ago, but many do. If the Judahite scribes were doing menial legal and administrative duties such as making lists, setting out legal deals and writing letters – Millard for one thinks it reasonable to expect some to have spent time writing other texts, as was done in Mesopotamia and Egypt.

Hebrew compositions found on ancient ostraca (pottery fragments) and walls (they had graffiti then too) prove that somebody at least was writing things other than laundry lists and praise to the king. One ostracon found in the Israeli desert outpost of Arad bears part of a literary text. Another from the fort at Horvat Uzza is of literary nature, possibly a sapient work by a local author.

Elsewhere, at Kuntillet Ajrud in the Sinai, lines of a prophetic verse written on wall plaster have been dated to the early 8th century B.C.E.

Isaiah may not have been a professional scribe per se, but some scholars assume that he was well versed, not only delivering his prophecies orally but writing them down. Na’aman however begs to note that there are no other examples of prophets who delivered their prophecy in a written form.

Drawing from Kuntillet Ajrud, an Israelite outpost in Southern Negev, 8th century B.C.E. Alamy

“Jeremiah is the only prophet in the days of the Kings who is recorded as having his prophecies written down,” Millard adds.

Revelation: Predicting the Messiah

Whether Isaiah is fact or figment is a matter of interest to both Jews and Christians, since among other things Isaiah foretold a number of details about the coming of the Messiah.

It is a paragraph by Isaiah that has become one of the most controversial passages in the Old Testament. As the King James Version translates Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son.

More modern translations take issue with the translation of the Hebrew word alma as “virgin,” arguing that it merely means “young woman”.

Isaiah also foretold that the Messiah would be a descendent of David (Isaiah 11:1-5). He predicted that the Messiah would not be accepted by the majority of Israel and instead be a “stone of stumbling” to them (Isaiah 8:14,15).

In the book of Isaiah, the Messiah prophetically says: “My back I gave to the strikersmy face did not conceal from humiliating things and spit” (Isaiah 50:6). He even gave details of the Messiah’s death, foretelling: “He will make his burial place even with the wicked ones, and with the rich class in death” (Isaiah 53:9).

Finally Isaiah spoke of the meaning of the Messiah’s death:

The righteous one, my servant, will bring a righteous standing to many people; and their errors he himself will bear” (Isaiah 53:8,11).

Many Christians today identify the Messiah with Jesus Christ, and view Isaiah’s prophecies regarding the Messiah as fulfilled by the works and life of Jesus Christ.

Victory by rodent

For Jews, Isaiahic prophecies of Exile and Restoration attest to his divine inspiration. He foretold that Assyria would not dethrone the kings of Judah and destroy Jerusalem – but Babylon would.

When Assyria “flooded” Judah “up to the neck”, Isaiah gave King Hezekiah the comforting message that the Assyrian forces wouldn’t take Jerusalem (Isaiah 8:7,8).

Ultimately, the prophet was right. Assyrian accounts describe how Sennacherib surrounded, besieged and conquered 46 of Hezekiah’s fortified walled cities, and seized 200,150 people and all kinds of domestic animals as spoils of war. Sennacherib mockingly describes how he trapped Hezekiah:

“Himself [Hezekiah] I made a prisoner in Jerusalem, his royal residence, like a bird in a cage”.

The Assyrian leader imposed a heavy tribute of 30 talents of gold, 800 talents of silver and all kind of luxury items – as well as the king’s daughters, palace women and singers. The annals tell how Hezekiah dispatched messengers to deliver the tribute.

But just as victory seemed to be at hand, Sennacherib suddenly lifted the siege and did not depose Hezekiah from the Judahite throne.

Even the ancients puzzled over why the Assyrians did not capture Jerusalem despite his reputation for mercilessness.

Could Assyrian ambitions have been tamed by the mouse? The Greek historian Herodotus tells us, based on tales told him by Egyptian priests:

During the night a horde of field mice gnawed quivers and their bows and the handles of shields, with the result that many [Assyrian soldiers] were killed, fleeing unarmed the next day” – Herodotus 2.141.

Mice were a symbol of pestilence in the ancient world, and may have been employed here allegorically. But Herodotus’ story is that mouse attack devastated the Assyrians outside Jerusalem and the rest is, well, perhaps history.

Or, perhaps the Assyrian forces were decimated by a pestilence carried by rodent. Or something else.

Ultimately, however, Jerusalem was captured by the Persian king Cyrus in 587 B.C.E. – an event also predicted by the prophet (Isaiah 45:1,2).

How many Isaiahs were there?

The issue of prophecy is one thing that has caused many scholars to question the authorship of the Book of Isaiah.

In the 12th century, the Jewish commentator Abraham ibn Ezra suggested that the second half of the book, from Chapter 40, was written by somebody else who lived during the post-Isaiah period of the Babylonian exile.

Today many scholars believe that as many as three Deutero-Isaiahs may have contributed later than the 6th century B.C.E., during or after the exile. That would explain the “prophecies” of Judah’s desolation.

It bears adding that in the Isaiah manuscript among the roughly 2,200-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls, Chapter 40 begins on the last line of a column and ends in the next column. There is no sign of change in writer or division in the book at that point.

Then there is the testimony of first-century Jewish-Roman historian Flavius Josephus, who not only indicates that the prophecies in Isaiah pertaining to Cyrus were written in the 8th century B.C.E. – but also says that Cyrus was aware of these prophecies.

“These things Cyrus knew,” Josephus writes, “from reading the book of prophecy which Isaiah had left behind two hundred and ten years earlier.”

According to Josephus, knowledge of these prophecies may even have contributed to Cyrus’ willingness to send the Jews back to their homeland. As Josephus writes: Cyrus was “seized by a strong desire and ambition to do what had been written.” (Jewish Antiquities, Book XI, chapter 1, paragraph 2).

“I have no difficulty in positing a single author for the Book of Isaiah on grounds of faith. If we allow that books might be revised, then that could account for the otherwise awkward appearance of the name Cyrus,” Millard explains.

Was Isaiah a historic figure with prophetic powers? The authors of the Gospels thought so, crediting Isaiah with writing the book, and so did Josephus, and Shimon ben Yeshua ben Eliezer ben Sira, the Jerusalemite sage who wrote in the 2nd century B.C.E.

These writers may not have been contemporary, but they weren’t 850 years in delay, basing their assumptions on medieval manuscripts from the 12th century C.E., as some modern biblical scholars today tend to do.

Did the clay bulla found in Jerusalem belong to Isaiah the prophet of the 8th century B.C.E.? As he himself exclaimed in his book, “Here I am, Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8). Who knows, maybe that did happen, and we will find solid evidence of his existence one day.