Israel (1): First sojourn in Israel – Who’s a Jew?

Continued from In Search of French Past (8)…

French philosopher, Paul Ricoeur, said that we tell stories because human lives need and merit to be told. Writing stories is one of the noblest employments of the mind and soul. Most good stories should aim at knowledge and wisdom. This aim is most evident in life stories – biographies. There is more. We all need to be valued and praised. There’s one problem, though. We all have something to hide, something we want to keep secret. It’s called “sins.” We want to be admired and loved, but to achieve this goal we have to hide our sins.

Whereas an autobiography is often more restrained – we hide our many sins – a novel often throws all caution to the wind. It is in the novel that many bare all their sins, where, in their role of author, they transpose the evil thoughts, intentions and acts of their lives onto their characters, wallowing in a cesspool of unlimited freedom. This self-indulgence makes the writing of a novel, in contrast to an autobiography, very gratifying. You can vicariously let it all hang out through the characters you create: you stole, you lied, you were unfaithful, you were involved in an abortion (there are some today who are ashamed of such an act) – the list only stops growing the day we die. Thank God we don’t live as long as the generation of Noah, who dragged centuries of personal sins down into the roiling deeps.

Yet, dirty washing just ain’t dirty anymore, so you don’t need to write a hard thing like a novel to tittilate, to excite to flash your wares? Forgive if I don’t do as Zorba advises: to be alive is to undo your belt and look for trouble.

Zorba-the-Greek

I continue my story.

After graduating with a B.A. Philosophy (1963) at the University of Cape Town, I returned to France a few weeks later. I traveled in Europe with Louis-Albert (My Dominican priest friend), where we stayed at different Catholic “religious” houses. In Belgrade, Yugoslavia, we spent ten days in a religious house. We then took the long train trip over the mountains to Thessaloniki, Greece, where we stayed with the Marist Brothers. It was nearing the end of our travels together. He accompanied me to the port of Piraeus in Athens where I took a ship to Haifa. I joined my brother Benny on Kibbutz Ein Hashofet (“Judge’s Spring”), where he had been living for a while.

The Kibbutz was founded in 1937 and is named in honour of Louis D. Brandeis, the US Supreme Court judge. It is situated about 30 kms from Haifa and 100 kms north of Tel Aviv. I stayed there for three months working in the orchards, and draining and cleaning out the steamy slime of the fish ponds. I attended Ulpan (Hebrew classes) where I brushed up on my Hebrew that I had learned in South Africa in Chaida (Hebrew school) and in my Hebrew course at the University of Cape Town (1960). I remember the time I embarrassed Benny. At breakfast we had to queue in a line. When you reached the a la carte table, you had a choice between three olives and an egg. I grumbled more than inwardly. Benny, close to me in the queue, huffed and puffed: pioneers don’t complain.

After three months, Benny and I went to Kibbutz Gonen, which in 1964 was on the Northern Israel-Syria border. On the Northern side was the Golan Heights, which Israel would occupy after the 1967 six-day war. I stayed on Kibbutz Gonen for 9 months, where I did apple-picking , and later worked in the chicken runs. In the apple season when it was very hot, I got up at 4 a.m., had a breakfast of several fried eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers and leben (fermented milk then churned and butter removed). We then traveled in a truck for about 20 minutes to the orchards. At about 8 am we returned to the kibbutz for (another) breakfast, and then back to the orchards until about noon. Then back to the Kibbutz for lunch and rest until about 3 pm, and back to the orchards for a few more hours.

I loved working with the chickens. In the morning I greeted my little friends: hullo Shmuel’ you’re up early Obadiah! Every morning, I would find a few dead on the straw floor. I took them outside, walked to a mound opposite the row of chicken runs, lifted the milk-can lid covering a deep hole, and dropped them in. Some mornings, before light, the trucks would come to collect the white birds for slaughter. The birds would panic, and so were difficult to catch. A good catcher could do eight at a time, four in each hand, one foot between two fingers. We lifted them up to the catcher on the truck, who stooped and scooped up the eight chickens between his fingers, depositing them into one of the cages on the truck.

We were close to Mount Hermon, and sometimes there were dog fights in the area between Syrian and Israeli jets. When this happened we had to scramble into shelters. Once, Benny and I. Wearing our blue worker’s overalls, went in the tractor outside the Kibbutz – Benny in the driver’s seat– and travel on the narrow path, which was the border between Syria and Israel. Benny was usually very cautious but for some reason he took me with him on this dangerous route. On the Israeli side of us, about 100 metres away was a U.N. observation post, and on the left was a hill with what looked like a Syrian fortification atop. It seemed vacated. We thought that the Syrians wouldn’t dare to fire on us in full view of the U.N. post. On reflection, it was a stupid. We trundled on the tractor, Benny as confident as ever, back to the Kibbutz.

A group of us from Kibbutz Gonen went on a tiyul (trip) in two jeeps through Israel down to Masada.

In Hebron we visited a shrine that was said to contain the massive catafalques (caskets) of Adam, and I think Eve and Abraham. I recall that one of the catafalques was draped in green. According to Sir Richard Burton, Muslims believed Adam and Eve to be buried in Mecca. They also claim that Abraham and his son, Ishmael built the Kaaba in Mecca.

israel map use.png

One of the highlights for me – a Roman catholic convert – if not my fellow Jews, was the view of 4th century, St Georges Greek Orthodox monastery, hugging a cliff in the Judean desert.

georges monas-of-st-geh

The close-up above was not possible from my vantage point, which was the road on the other side of the valley. Along the road ran a disused aqueduct, perhaps ancient. We went on to Masada (Hebrew metzada “fortress”), the last Jewish stronghold against the Romans, and the most visited tourist site in Israel. Most of our information about Masada comes from Josephus, the Jewish historian. In 73-74 BC, the Romans led by the governor of Judea, Lucius Flavius Silva, laid siege to Masada for three months. When the Romans breached the walls, they found that the occupants had committed suicide.

After Masada, we returned to our kibbutz.

On some of my days off from the kibbutz, I went to Tel Aviv and spent many hours in cafes in Dizengoff Street. There was a particular cafe in Tel Aviv that I visited often with my Russian Jewish girlfriend, Rivka. On one occasion, I was alone in the cafe when a beautiful North African Jewish girl came to my table and burst out words to the effect “where have you been all this time, I’ve been searching a long time for you?” I said I didn’t know who she was. She yelled out loud: “What are you talking about, we were together all that time and you don’t know who I am!” She shouted “my name.” I said that this was not my name. I repeated that I had never met her. She persisted. The tables around were all eyes and ears. She began to cry. Should I bring down the curtain on the big scene by relenting and saying “Oh, of course, now I remember.” And then? Go to her place, get into bed with her? See I have no calves? (See The calves wil dance for joy: Malachi 4:2 (First Year University 2). “Who are you? It’s your face, but how did you get so skinny in two months?” Maybe she didn’t know me, and was a professional who conned lonely men. How many had she duped and robbed in the past. I couldn’t imagine her being a fraud. When she ran off crying, I felt a rotten scum; I broke her heart. I often wonder what happened to her. There are so many events in life with no closure: the victims of crimes, and the perpetrators who are never caught or disclosed. The events could be very personal such as the disappearance or murder of a love one, or on a larger scale, the 9/11 “false flag” operation. (“False flag” describes covert operations that are designed to deceive in such a way that the operations appear as though they are being carried out by entities, groups, or nations other than those who actually planned and executed them”).

My parents, Fanny and Issy came on holiday to Israel. I saw them twice, both times towards the end of their stay. The first time I went to see them was with my Russian Jewish girlfriend, Rivka. She had very blue eyes and unblemished light brown skin. I thought a Jewish girlfriend, and Russian to boot would make my parents happy, but no. I felt as if the Siberian winter had come over me. Why didn’t Fanny take to her, who was Jewish and from the Russian Empire like her? Was it because she wasn’t white like the Jewish girls in South Africa?

daddy mommy

Issy and Fanny (Feiga)  15 years earlier

Here is an story of an Ashkenazi (white-skinned) who married a Sephardi (dark-skinned) Jew:

Our Marriage Created Problems The marriage ceremony was held in the Sephardic Synagogue. The ceremony was simple but beautiful. Ziva and I were happy, but our marriage created serious problems. You see, Ziva is a Sephardi Jewess and I am an Ashkenazi Jew. For an Ashkenazi Jew to marry a Sephardi Jew is frowned upon in Israel by the ruling Ashkenazi’s. To understand why this is the case, you must realize the difference between the Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews. The powerful Zionist propaganda machine has led the American people to believe that a Jew is a Jew — one race of people and that they are “God’s Chosen People,”… it is important for you to understand that Jews are NOT one race of people. There are two distinct groups of Jews in the world and they come from two different areas of the world — the Sephardi Jews from the Middle East and North Africa and the Ashkenazi Jews come from Eastern Europe. The Sephardi is the oldest group and it is they, if any, who are the Jews described in the Bible because they lived in the area described in the Bible. They are blood relatives to the Arabs — the only difference between them is the religion.”

The Ashkenazi Jews, Bernstein continues, now compromise 90% of the Jews in the world, had a rather strange beginning. According to historians, many of them Jewish, the Ashkenazi Jews came into existence about 1200 years ago. It happened this way: At the eastern edge of Europe, there lived a tribe of people known as the Khazars. About the year 740 A.D., the Khazar king and his court decided they should adopt a religion for their people. So, representatives of the three major religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, were invited to present their religious doctrines. The Khazars chose Judaism, but it wasn’t for religious reasons. If the Khazars had chosen Islam, they would have angered the strong Christian world. If they had chosen Christianity, they would have angered the strong Islamic world. So, they played it safe — they chose Judaism. It wasn’t for religious reasons the Khazars chose Judaism; it was for political reasons. Sometime during the 13th century, the Khazars were driven from their land and they migrated westward with most of them settling in Poland and Russia. These Khazars are now known as Ashkenazi Jews. Because these Khazar Ashkenazi Jews merely chose Judaism, they are not really Jews — at least not blood Jews.” (Jack Bernstein,“The life of an American Jew in racist Marxist Israel).

Blood Jews” (Bernstein) refers to “race.” Bernstein is saying that Ashkenazi Jews are ethnic Jews not racial Jews. What is the difference between “race” and “ethnicity?”

What is “race?” Here are definitions of “race”and “ethnicity.”The traditional definition of race and ethnicity is related to biological and sociological factors respectively. Race refers to a person’s physical characteristics, such as bone structure and skin, hair, or eye color. Ethnicity, however, refers to cultural factors, including nationality, regional culture, ancestry, and language. An example of race is brown, white, or black skin (all from various parts of the world), while an example of ethnicity is German or Spanish ancestry (regardless of race). (Source).

So “race” refers to “biological factors” such as a person’s physical characteristics such as bone structure and skin, hair, or eye color.” No mention of (invisible to the naked eye) DNA, which is also biological. Is the reason why there is no mention because it is assumed that visible biological factors always reflect invisible genetic factors? The fact is that genes do not only condition external physical features but also internal ones. Is it possible, for example, for a Sephardi Jew, who looks more like a North African, to share genes with an Ashkenazi Jew, where many look European? Indeed is it possible for an Ashkenazi who looks like a Swede (or a Turnip) to be genetically related to a black African – a black African Jew?

There are indeed some Jewish Africans. Here is moi [time past in a Lemba synagogue; and they ARE Jewish: they have the genes to prove it. (The origins of the Lemba ‘Black Jews’ of southern Africa: evidence from p12F2 and other Y-chromosome markers).

lemba-use-new.png

(In passing, I’m an inset). I haven’t had my DNA checked for Jewish genes, but the Rabbinate in Jerusalem and my family, including my two Israeli brothers say I’m a Jew– a biological Jew. (See The blond and the black: Jews of South Africa and The invention of Shlomo Sand – a thousand “Jews” make one Palestinian).

Some Jews might say that the moment I was baptised (at the age of 20), God (quasi-)removed my Jewish DNA, and replaced it with a goyish single-helix.  Michael Wyschogrod, admired by many “Messianic Jews” (they believe that Jesus/Yeshua is the Messiah) wrote:

It is therefore important for Jews to know that a Jew who believes that Jesus was God in the sense asserted by the Nicene Creed commits idolatry as defined by Jewish law.”

Now say a Christian (or any Gentile) converts to Judaism, God replaces his/her idolatrous DNA. Wyschogrod, in his “The Body of Faith,” maintains that when a gentile converts to Judaism, he or she does not merely share the beliefs of the new religion – as would be the case of a Jew converting to Christianity – but that the convert miraculously, and therefore literally, becomes the seed of Abraham and Sarah. The miracle is not totally biological but “quasi-biological.” How does this quasi-biological miracle occur? By immersion in a mikve (ritual bath), which “symbolizes” (is that why the miracle is only quasi?) the mother’s womb through which a person is born. I suppose it follows that if a Jew chooses to be immersed (Greek – baptismo) in baptism, God cuts him off from the seed of Abraham and Sarah. God would only do that, though, if the Jew becomes a Christian; not a Buddhist, a Hindu, an atheist, a Satanist, or a fluid. (I’m not male or female; I’m fluid).

The belief that Ashkenazi Jews are converted Khazars is widespread. It is probable that some Ashkenazis (European Jews) are Khazars, but I think that the numbers are not as large as many believe. Most historians agree that after the Bar Kochba revolt (132-136), the Romans exiled the Jews from Judea, after which they dispersed across Asia Minor, North Africa and Eastern Europe (SeeAshkenazi Economic and Social History” in Cochrane et al.). 

DNA research provides contrary evidence to the Khazar theory. Some examples of this DNA research are Behar et al.’s. “Multiple Origins of Ashkenazi Levites: Y Chromosome Evidence for Both Near Eastern and European Ancestries” in American Journal of Human Genetics and Kevin Brooks’ “Jews of Khazaria” especially the chapter Are Russian Jews Descended from the Khazars.

In When is an “ex-Jew” not a Jew? Once (your mother’s) a Jew Oiveys a Jew, I referred to Jon Entine’s book “Abraham’s children: Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People”. Entine explains why most Jews shy away from genetic research:

Discussing the genetic distinctiveness of populations, Jews or any other group, is a hot- button issue for many news outlets. “Abraham’s Children” suggests that there exist meaningful differences between populations, maybe even “races,” and that’s a taboo subject. It’s on the edge of acceptable popular discourse, although scientists discuss this all the time. I think a high percentage of reviewers are Jewish and liberal, and liberal dogma is that we don’t talk about racial differences. I understand that there is a traditional Jewish commitment to egalitarianism and identification with the underdog, which comes out of the Jews having been discriminated against throughout so much of their history. Many Jews carry that torch of fighting against discrimination, I do myself, and that’s a wonderful aspect of Jewishness.”

Several genetic studies (I mentioned a few above) provide reliable evidence that can establish whether a person is (more or less) Jewish. Yet most Jews eschew genetics of any kind in the evaluation of human beings; for example, measurements of intelligence between groups or races. These Jews are generally Ashkenazi Jews. But the facts are plain to see. North American Ashkenazi Jews, who make up three percent of the population, won 27 percent of North America’s Nobel prizes, and half the world chess champions are Jewish. They have reason to boast   of a bodily descent, but not of the power of an indestructible life (Hebrews 7:15).

There are “liberal Jews” (Entine above) who don’t believe that the Torah is from God – which is the vast majority of Jews, This vast majority comprise atheists-humanists, Reform Jews and Reconstructionist Jews. All these Jews have a deep respect for their Talmud (the “Oral Torah” – see The Written and the Oral Torah – which is primary?).

I don’t agree that “there is a traditional Jewish commitment to egalitarianism and identification with the underdog, which comes out of the Jews having been discriminated against throughout so much of their history” (Entine). It is true that they – the majority – “have a commitment to egalitarianism” but only insofar as it applies to Gentiles. Most Jews are Zionists and atheists/humanists. Zionism – whose key text is the Talmud – teaches that the Jew is superior to Gentiles, that Jews should remain racially uncontaminated by intermarriage. The Zionist” lobby (not all Jews are Zionists) in the US runs the government, the banks and the mass media. Yet they encourage (and often legislate) “interculturalism,” same-sex marriage, homosexuality, pornography between the Gentile races, while generally, eschewing these (publicly) themselves. The Jewish lobby in the US – which runs the government, the banks and the mass media. One of their main objectives is to destroy Christianity. Yet many Christians are Zionists. If only they understood the Jewish – with exceptions hatred of Christ. Oh the insanity of it all! (See The insanity of Christian Zionism).

A thousand Jews make one Palestinian,” in other words, that a Palestinian is much more Jewish than those who call themselves Jews. (Shlomo Sand – See my The invention of Shlomo Sand: A thousand Jews m ake one Palestinian). There are, however, many Palestinians that do have Jewish genes. Also, in some of the old houses in Palestinian towns today, the Star of David can still be seen above the entrance. When the Star of David appeared on the Israeli flag in 1948, Palestinians effaced and defaced many of the Stars of David above their houses. Some Stars of David still remain. (See the short Israeli movie Palestinians are Jews not Arabs – Hebrew with English subtitles). The picture is from the video.

star of david.png

I return to my parent’s visit to in Israel. They invited me for breakfast at their hotel in Tel Aviv, where we had a Jewish favourite – cheese and cream. After breakfast, we went to the lounge. Issy went to sit at one of the tables, hauled out a pocketful of coins and swooned into his favourite routine, the highlight of his working day at his bottles-bones-scrap metal business in South Africa, which I described here. Here is an excerpt:

At the end of the day, Issy would cash up. There was always a high pile of silver and copper coins left over at the end of the day. Issy lays all the coins in the middle of the big table in his office. He separates the silver and coppers into two piles in the middle of the table. The silver coins consisted of tickeys (threepence), sixpences, shillings, two-shillings, and half-crown (two shillings and sixpence). The coppers were farthings (quarter of a penny), ha’pennies (half pennies) and pennies. He stacks the coins into neat little towers. He adds up the towers and writes the total in his A4 hardcover notebook. He then coaxes the coins into different linen bags, and pulls the string shut. He will take the bags to the bank. The day is complete: the bottles are packed in bags, ready to be loaded onto trucks first thing tomorrow morning, the floor of the store has been swept, the workers have gone home. Time to lock up and go home to Fanny’s nice supper. Or if she is not feeling well, Issy will step in and cook supper, as he did on so many occasions. Sammy (my brother, who worked in the business) and Issy lock up and go home.”

While he was counting the coins in the hotel in Tel Aviv, he said to me that the success of a holiday was determined by the amount of money you managed not to spend. One should not immediately think “Shylock”; my father’s generation in the Russian Empire and later as immigrants to the West was initially very poor and had to work very hard to make ends meet. Yes indeed, the Jew loves money, but so do you. It is true, though, that many Jews have given money a worse name – it’s bad enough that it is the root of all evil – especially the Jewish banksters, who have been ruling the world for centuries and are the main power for centuries behind many wars; WWI and WWII, for example.

I care not what puppet is placed upon the throne of England to rule the Empire on which the sun never sets. The man that controls Britain’s money supply controls the British Empire, and I control the British money supply” (Jewish Baron Nathan Mayer Rothschild). 

The Jewish magazine Sentinel of Chicago printed in its issue of 8 October 1940:
‘When the National Socialists and their friends cry or whisper that this [the war] is brought about by Jews, they are perfectly right.’ (
Why Hitler hated Jews). When Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, Jews declared war on Germany. (See Ashkenazis declare war on Nazis and The Nameless War by Archbald Maule Rams).

My parents had come to the end of their visit to Israel. They were about to go through customs to the departure lounge. I wanted so much to ask my father for some money; I earned a pittance on the kibbutz, and had no other source of income. Eyes pleaded with him to realise my sorry state. I squirmed and made all kinds of forlorn gestures, hoping against hope to raise his consciousness. I thought: how about a little donation, if not a raise. Issy looked at me and asked if anything was wrong. I couldn’t get the words out: “Daddy, could I have a few of those coins?” They left for the departure lounge. What was that little jingle I heard as I embraced my Dad! It was the beginning of 1965. I departed Israel for South Africa.

Always departing, never arriving. “We’re in “a sort of diabolical trance, wherein the soul traverses the world; feeds itself with a thousand airy nothings ; snatches at this and the other created excellency, in imagination and desire ; goes here and there, and every where, except where it should go” (Thomas Boston). Towards the Messiah. Always pursued. Always arriving always departing; or rather never arriving always departing. When will the Messiah come? Is the point of about having a messiah the promise, the hope, the aspiration, not that he comes. What’s the deal, says the humanist, with having a messiah who’s arrived? Where is the mystery once he’s exposed and had his say?” (See The postmodern pursuit: always departing, never arriving). Much mystery remains; the great mystery, the overwhelming mystery, the aweful mystery, the mysterium tremendum (Rudolf Otto):

Otto was one of the most influential thinkers about religion in the first half of the twentieth century. He is best known for his analysis of the experience that, in his view, underlies all religion. He calls this experience “numinous,” and says it has three components. These are often designated with a Latin phrase: mysterium tremendum et fascinans. As mysterium, the numinous is “wholly other”– entirely different from anything we experience in ordinary life. It evokes a reaction of silence. But the numinous is also a mysterium tremendum. It provokes terror because it presents itself as overwhelming power. Finally, the numinous presents itself as fascinans, as merciful and gracious.”

My greatest discovery, which can never be surpassed in this life is the discovery of God’s mercy and grace – through the Son of God, the Messiah, who died that I may live.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

Our fatalism paralyzes us as muslims: the divine decree and human free will

A Muslim who calls himself “an activist, a change agent and a social commentator who reflects upon reality,” finds it difficult to reconcile the sovereignty of God in Islam and Christianity – who decrees all events and actions –  with human freedom and responsibility.  In “Our fatalism pacifies us as Muslims” (Weekend Post, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, December 5, 2015), Imraahn Ismail Mukkaddam writes:

[My words appear in square brackets].

“Whenever I speak to people of faith – Muslim and others – about the condition of humanity and the planet, I am confronted by the Qur’anic and Biblical  revelations that all of this is prescribed and described and that all of this mess we find ourselves in  is God’s will. [I’m not sure what the writer means by “described”]. As believers in a Supreme Being we affirm and attest to Taqdeer [fate/destiny], Qadr, Karma, God’s will, predestination and divine decree, but to what extent are we allowing ourselves to be pacified into sheepish acceptance of what we perceive as inevitable without questioning if this is really predestined…“Is the chaos and the havoc and the injustice we witness on a daily basis really the manifestation of a divine divine decree? Is the Allah who we worship really such a cruel creator that He contradicts His foremost attributes – that of being Most Merciful and Most Beneficent?”

Definition of Taqdeer (fate/destiny)

“The concept of destiny may further be explained by understanding destiny to be Allah’s knowledge of how the individual is going to use his free-will rather than a pre-decided factor being enforced upon him without giving him a fair chance. Consider the following example:

An appointment is arranged between two individuals. The first arrives before time and waits for the second; he then comments that the second will arrive late as always. He bases his prediction on previous experience and the lax nature of the second individual. This statement does not restrict or bound the latter’s ability to attend on time in any way, it is merely an assertion. Similarly, when Allah the Almighty informs us, through his infinite knowledge, of his knowledge of our precise actions and our consequent abode it should not be perceived to be a compelling decision against our free will, but rather only his knowledge of our decisions. To summarise, every individual has been given free-will and should use it to work towards attaining the pleasure of Allah and that Allah has full knowledge of the individual’s actions; past, present and future.” (Taqdeer, Inter-Islam.org)

The above passage does not make a distinction between “fate” (random forces) and “destiny” (God’s plan).

Definition of Qadr: Predestination, God’s eternal decree.

Mukkaddam, asks: “Is the chaos and the havoc and the injustice we witness on a daily basis really the manifestation of a divine divine decree? Is the Allah who we worship really such a cruel creator that He contradicts His foremost attributes – that of being Most Merciful and Most Beneficent?”

Bertrand Russell, in his article “A Free man’s worship” (1903), concludes: “Brief and powerless is man’s life; on him and all his race the slow sure doom falls pitiless and dark. Blind to good and evil, reckless of destruction, omnipotent matter rolls on its relentless way.”

A theist does not believe that human freedom is caught up in the chance intrigues (fate) of “omnipotent matter.” So, how can we reconcile a most merciful, most beneficent God with evil – natural calamities and the worship of self manifested  in acts such as lying, calumny, stealing, and murder?

Philosophers and others have written billions of words on the problem without any solution. So should we give up on God, as so many have done? No.

Human  reason – as is true of so many questions of human origins and destiny/fate, cannot produce truth; it has to be discovered; uncovered, by a divine hand. This does not mean that all our questions on such matters as evil can be answered to our satisfaction. And if I can’t, that is a perverse and silly reason to reject the answers.

Jews, Christians and Muslims trust their texts come from God, they believe in divine revelation. The psalmist writes, “Show me Your ways, O Lord;
Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation (Psalm 25:4-5).

The Muslim should also believe in the divine origin of this psalm, for the Qur’an says “We have sent down the Torah,* containing guidance and light. Ruling in accordance with it were the Jewish prophets, as well as the rabbis and the priests, as dictated to them in GOD’s scripture, and as witnessed by them. Therefore, do not reverence human beings; you shall reverence Me instead. And do not trade away My revelations for a cheap price. Those who do not rule in accordance with GOD’s revelations, are the disbelievers” (Surah 5:44).

I believe that the Bible, not human philosophy or human indignation, provides a satisfactory, if partial answer. Partial because “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law/Torah/teaching (Deuteronomy 29:29).

Here is one thing revealed: “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please’” (Isaiah 46:10).

Compare the above verse with the definition of  taqdeer (fate/destiny) in the Islamic definition given above: “every individual has been given free-will and should use it to work towards attaining the pleasure of Allah and that Allah has full knowledge of the individual’s actions; past, present and future.”

With regard to free will, most Christians – for example, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Methodists, and Word of Faith movements agree with Islamic theology, namely that the human will is a neutral entity – it can choose either to love God or not – and that God knows all things, past present and future; and God will be pleased if people use their free will to love Him, but can do nothing about it if they choose not to. How does the Muslim reconcile this view with his understanding of qadr?

“Predestination/predetermination” (see above), which states that “the outcome of all affairs is determined by God’s decree…from it you cannot flee.” If God makes known the end from the beginning (prophecy), he obviously (fore)knows what he makes known. What, however, do we make of the line in Isaiah 46:10, “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please?”

According to most Christians and all Muslims and orthodox Jews, this sentence means that God’s purpose is to know everything in eternity and in time-space. And knowing all this pleases him. But, I ask, isn’t the reason why God knows the end from the beginning because he decreed it, purposed it, ordained it, as in Isaiah 46:10?

How to reconcile  the divine decree with human free will? The Muslim is caught between the rock of taqdeer (God’s foreknowledge of human free acts) and the hard place of qadr (God’s decree/predestination/predetermination), a quandary driving our writer, Mukkaddam, nuts; with good reason.

Can human free will be compatible with the biblical truth that God decrees everything, and that includes, must include, evil, where human beings are free agents AND God decrees their acts. Plato, the Greek philosopher, and Augustine of Hippo say that God is the author of good only. What then to make of Isaiah 45:7? “I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil (Hebrew ra); I am the LORD, that doeth all these things.” How can God be infinitely good and create evil?

The Bible juxtaposes human causality and divine causality in this remarkable verse in scripture on the crucifixion of Christ, which could help Mukkaddam in his difficulty. Ironically, he, being a Muslim, rejects one of the most reliable of all historical facts, that Christ died on the cross. The Qur’an says “They killed him not” (Surah 4:57). The Bible says they did kill him: “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:23).

We see in the above verse that God’s deliberate plan (which is the reason why he foreknows it), which is his decree to have Jesus, the Son of God crucified (planned from eternity by both the Father and the Son) is, therefore, compatible with the free agency of man to do this evil deed. Do we reject the scripture because we cannot reconcile a wholly good God – there is no evil in him – with his decree, or do we bow to the divine counsel?

Our confusion is caused by our limited understanding of the relationship between the finite and the infinite, the temporal [Latin tempus “time”] and the eternal. We can only  have a finite, temporal concept of divine causality, of divine authorship, of divine creativity. “The concatenation of all his counsels is not intelligible to us; for he is as essentially and necessarily wise, as he is essentially and necessarily good and righteous.” (Stephen Charnock, 1632 -1680. “A discourse on the wisdom of God”).

Finally, Mukkaddam has difficulty reconciling the “chaos and havoc” of the world with a loving God. What example does he give of this chaos and havoc? He exclaims “global warming,” which is the central focus of his problem with the relationship between the evil acts of man (pollution) and predestination? I am reminded of Barack Hussein Obama, Bernie Sanders ( a US democratic presidential candidate) and Prince Charles. Obama and Sanders say ISIS is not the problem; global warming is. For Prince Charles, the reason why there are so many refugees flooding Europe is because they are fleeing global warming. Floods?

Global warming, man-made or not, is not the most pressing problem. There are greater problems: poverty, national debt, and Islamic terrorism particularly ISIS and its supporters in the US, Europe and the Middle East. The most (de)pressing problem is ISIS, because although poverty can kill, and one can die from a swollen tummy,  there is little fear that it will blow up in your face. And where does ISIS find its inspiration? In the Qur’an; in its explicit blanket directives to kill idolators and apostates, and to subjugate or kill the people of the Book (Jews and Christians).

Question: did God decree ISIS to kill and destroy, does God decree the vile acts of man, did God decree sin? Yes. Yet man is guilty; he loves his sin; ISIS wallows in it.

Now we know why most people in the world including religious ones hate a God who decrees evil. The thrice holy God will not allow any rogue force to control the world without His decree, without fulfilling His purpose.

In short, the difference between the Islamic and New Testament notions of Allah’s and God’s decree is this:

Islam

In Islam, even if you believe in Allah and his prophet, and are an obedient Muslim, this is irrelevant to where you end, because Allah has already decreed your destiny – in your father’s loins or in your mother’s tummy or many years before your birth; all three are cited in contradictory hadiths.

New Testament

Here is a key verse: John 6 – 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day…44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day...64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. 65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”

How do the above verses fit with New Testament “predestination?” Answer: God decrees that if you are predestined to be saved (eternal ife), you will believe. In Islam, qadr  and belief in and obedience to Allah are unrelated.

P.S. Mukkaddam is obviously living in the West, for if he wrote this article in a Muslim land (under Sharia), he’d be toast.

See here – from beginning to 43rd minute –  for “Christian Prince’s”  attempt to refute the the concept of qadr, where he seems to conflate qadr with the Christian concept of “predestination/election.” He does this, as all Arminians do, because they believe, like Christian Prince, that election means selection, which is based on you opening the door to your heart and letting Christ in; and on the idea that  if you get sick of Christ, you can show him door.

 

The Christian Mind: Sapientia and Scientia

DR. RELUCTANT

In 1994 the evangelical historian Mark Noll published The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.[1]The book is not much more than a sustained lambast against two conservative subtraditions, Young Earth Creationism and Dispensational Premillennialism.Howbeit, Noll rightly laments “the generations-long failure of the evangelical community to nurture the life of the mind.”[2]In fact, he admonishes his peers because, “fidelity to Jesus Christ demands from evangelicals a more responsible intellectual existence than we have practiced throughout much of our history.”[3]This is because “the gospel properly belongs to the whole person”[4]

A.The Need for Wisdom and Knowledge

Noll’s prime example of a Christian intellect is the great American philosopher-theologian Jonathan Edwards.For Edwards, he writes, “True knowledge was rather ‘the consistency and agreement of our ideas with the ideas of God.’”[5]One is reminded of Edwards’ words in his great sermon entitled “Christian…

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Zakir Naik, the artful dodger


Naik says to the christian questioner, “If you say that Jesus is God because he had no father then Adam must be a greater God than Jesus because Adam had no father and no mother.”

Amused applause from the crowd.

Naik is right IF the question had said that. Not only did she not say that but there is nothing in her question to even hint at that.

In his desire to parade around on his hobby horse of knocking the divinity of Christ, Naik continues to exhibit no understanding of the incarnation. The Son of God exists eternally with the Father and the Holy Spirit, three persons-one God. The Son took on flesh from the line of Judah, which, obviously goes back to Adam. Jesus is called the God-man. In the latter condition He is referred to as the Son of man. He took on human nature to serve.

Seven “according to the form of a servant/according to the form of God” affirmations:

1. on existence and essence
a. according to the form of a servant, our Lord’s existence is not co-extensive with his essence;
b. according to the form of God, our Lord’s existence is his essence
2. on creature and Creator
a. according to the form of a servant, our Lord is creature;
b. according to the form of God, our Lord is Creator
3. on created being and divine being
a. according to the form of a servant, our Lord came into temporal or creaturely being;
b. according to the form of God, our Lord is I AM
4. on creaturely knowing and divine knowing
a. according to the form of a servant, our Lord grew in his understanding of the Old Testament;
b. according to the form of God, our Lord predates and is the source of the Old Testament
5. on creaturely composition and divine non-composition
a. according to the form of a servant, our Lord is composed of parts and faculties;
b. according to the form of God, our Lord is without body, parts, or passions
6. on beginning and without beginning
a. according to the form of a servant, our Lord began;
b. according to the form of God, our Lord is without beginning
7. on finitude and infinity
a. according to the form of a servant, our Lord is no way infinite;
b. according to the form of God, our Lord is every way infinite

The “according to . . .” formula is borrowed from Augustine.

Richard C. Barcellos
Grace Reformed Baptist Church
Palmdale, CA

Jews and the Eternal Self: It all unfolds

“And this is the reason why our theology is certain: it snatches us away from ourselves and places us outside ourselves, so that we do not depend on our own strength, conscience, experience, person, or works but depend on that which is outside ourselves, that is, on the promises and truth of God, which cannot deceive.” LUTHER’S WORKS, American Edition, 55 vols. Eds. Pelikan and Lehmann (St Louis and Philadelphia: Concordia and fortress.) 45:70–71.

My sister Sonia is 84, and has been living in a Jewish old-age home for more than 20 years. She like all the Jews discussed here do not align themselves with the Bible or any branch of Judaism: they are “cultural” Jews. Sonia cannot do much for herself. Her favourite is chocolate which, if allowed, she would snarf all day. My second sister visits her always bearing chocs. She does not give it directly to Sonia but to the nurses, who, to Sonia’s chagrin, dole out a few morsels a day, because, they say, too much sugar is bad for her health. I told my second sister that she should let Sonia eat as much chocolate as she could afford to buy for Sonia. “But, she said, Sonia might die.” I replied, “So, she lives an extra few months – deprived.” I asked my second sister, “What do you think happens to you when you die?” She said she will rejoin Mommy and Daddy. I asked, “Will you see Jesus there?” She replied, “Of course not, he’s on a much higher plane.”

Although Christians believe that they will meet Jesus when they die, “higher planes” is not a Christian term. Christians (should) believe that it’s the work, the finished work of Christ, faith in Him, faith in His works, not ours, that reconciles us to God, that brings us into God’s presence on earth, and, in a much more intimate way, in heaven. Sonia also used to talk of higher planes. Years ago I asked Sonia whether she ever read the Bible. She said she had moved far beyond that.

In July 2006, when on holiday from Oman, where I was teaching at Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat, I visited Sonia at Highlands House, the Jewish home for the elderly situated in the “City Bowl” area of Cape Town. Cape Town seems to be quite small and neatly arranged. This is because of “Table Mountain” that surrounds the town centre and seems to hold the city in a bowl. For this reason, the terrain between Table mountain and the harbour is called the City Bowl. Highlands House is situated a stone’s throw from the mountain.

It was often difficult to get Sonia to talk about the past, but on this occasion, she was more relaxed. I wrote down our conversation verbatim.

Sonia’s words are in italics.

What school did you go to? She doesn’t answer the question. She gives me the name of five of her classmates who became doctors (medical doctors). For Yiddish Jews, you’re not a real doctor unless you’re a medical doctor. If you were thinking of visiting a certain place, my mother, Fanny (Yiddish, Feigele “little swallow”) would settle the issue with: “Die greste dokteirim geit dottern” (The greatest doctors go there).

I’m going to tell you how I became enlightened. I studied mysticism, the mystical way of life, since 1963, Goldsmith, a Jewish mystic.

In our family, Sonia threw out words like “infinite “divine”, “mystical.” They thought she was mad. She was an embarassment. What lay behind Goldsmith’s “Infinite way.”

Joel S. Goldsmith is described as one of the “great modern mystics – the American teacher, healer and lecturer.” Goldsmith’s “Infinite Way” is also called the “Circle of Christhood.” Here is an except from his book:

The day is coming when there will be a band of Christhood around the world, a circle of Christhood. Not persons, not people – I’m not speaking of that. I’m speaking of a band of spiritual consciousness around the world. You know how it will get there? By these realizations of Christ. The Christ, as Browning tells us, is within ourselves, bottled up there, corked up. We must open out a way for that imprisoned splendor to escape.”

Sonia:

My whole life expanded. I don’t know where to begin. It’s not a thing you can study intellectually. The pupil is ready; the teacher appears. Who we are, our function on earth; can’t talk anymore; it just enfolds(unfolds?).” “Enfolds?” A spark of gnostic genius, perhaps.

Sonia shows me a poem she wrote.

It’s from the soul. Can’t snatch from outside, or hear about it, or copy it. I always loved writing. I’m waiting for the right time. My thoughts become potent and real, become colourful.

You have a fantastic way of expressing yourself.

The scriptures.

Did you read the scriptures?

Didn’t need to, it just unfolded. I see things with such depth. I had an elocution teacher at Maitland High (School), Valda Adams, who went to Hollywood. I also wanted to help. I wrote a letter for Blanche in my class who was absent. I signed her father’s name. I was meant to be queen in a play. The teacher found out and I lost the part. The principal put me on his lap and said: “You’re a good girl but you must learn.”

I wrote an essay: “Good will and cooperation in South Africa.” The teachers thought it too advanced, but I wrote it from my heart. I left school to help Daddy in his business (See Bags, scrap metal, bottles and bare bones). I went, Sonia continues, to extramural lectures (in psychology).

Sonia then relates the time – more than 30 years later – when she went to Avrom, our nephew’s place for supper. Avrom is my brother Joe’s son. Avrom left South Africa more than 30 years ago for Australia, and is in the organic fruit business as well as being the Regional Director of the Jewish Defence League of Australia. Sonia describes Avrom’s cooking.

Black mushrooms grilled in garlic butter filled with delicious creamed spinach and topped with garlic white sauce. Peri-peri livers or plain and onions finished off in a delicious fresh tomato sauce.

Sonia then talked about our father, Issy:

I want to write a book about Daddy. Fantastic chef. He bought, he cooked, he presented.

Then about life at home:

Too full of sorrow. Daddy was not a thinker. Mommy was. He liked good food and getting his way. Gave her lots of babies.

I remembered the comment (in an official memo written in 1951) made by the Principal of the Cape Jewish Orphanage who said that my parents had “14 or 15 children.” My parents were described as people who have had 14 or 15 children, and are so brutish and self-centred that they are totally unable to care for their numerous progeny. The principal went on to say that the Orphanage had five of the Gamaroff offspring until 1949 (I was one of these). They did not have 15 children; thet had 9 or 10. I think one died in early chldhood. See Cape Jewish Orphanage (8): And then there were fifteen).

Sonia then talked about her ex-husband, Israel. They divorced in the 1970s. He got sick in the late 1980s. Sonia went to stay with him and cared for him. Sonia continues:

I stayed with him to make him well. There was dust in his lungs. I loved to cook and heal. Nothing was too hard for me. Made him chicken and salads. He got better and better. He was healed. He was living in his air cocoon (in a lung machine? in his own world?).

There’s a chakra in your breast that protects you. Thank you Father (God), you know better. I won’t retaliate. I went through the university of life. I studied 40 years – and you can’t buy it for money. But now we are purified with God’s love. I’m all because of You. He is perfect. So are we. And any less than that, throw out.

If Sonia thinks she is perfect, then she is God, and thus, she exists on the highest plane. Recall my second sister who said that because of her imperfections, when she dies it will take a long time to reach the realm where Jesus lives. When I was in my teens my father told me that if he had to change, it could only be for worse. Divine perfection was my father.

What were these religious outpourings and unfoldings from Sonia? Was there method in Sonia’s theosophical mishmash? Theosophy is a religious philosophy originating with Helena Blavatsky. Theosophy teaches that all religions are attempts by the “Spiritual Hierarchy”, the “One Mind”, the “Overself” to help humanity evolve to greater perfection, where all religions have a measure of the truth.

The source of love, for the Jewish psychologist, Gerald Jampolsky, is within the eternal inner man. When you discover that source – through transforming your consciousness – you will discover that your fear was groundless. Here is Jampolsky in his “Love is letting go of fear”:

“…wouldn’t our lives be more meaningful if we looked at what has no beginning and no ending as our reality. Only love fits this definition of the eternal. Everything else is transitory and therefore meaningless…..fear can offer us nothing because it is nothing (p. 17)…all minds are joined…we share a common Self, and that inner peace and Love are in fact all that are real…Love is letting go of fear (.p.18)…we can choose our own reality. Because our will is free, we can choose to see and experience the truth (p. 21).”

Jampolsky’s God is the “Eternal common Self,” which is an Eastern metaphysic. “We can learn to receive direction from our inner intuitive voice, which is our guide to knowing (p. 28). The “inner intuitive voice” is the voice of the eternal common Self.

When I was a devout Catholic, I read the great Catholic mystics such as Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. I was still wet behind the mystical ears, and didn’t know that you could be a good Catholic and a good Buddhist at the same time. According to Thomas Merton, Buddhism and Catholicism were two sides of the same coin, of the same Koinona (communion); they participate, according to Merton, in the same communion of divine fellowship. Each is a different door to human solidarity and brotherhood. The present Pope, Francis, says the same thing.

Buddha’s final words to his disciples were:

“Make of yourself a light. Rely upon yourself; do not rely upon anyone else. Make my teachings your light. Rely upon them; do not depend upon any other teaching.”

Contrast that with the words of John the Baptist:

“He was not himself the light, but was to bear witness to the light” (John, 1:8). John the Baptist continued to proclaim that Christ “is the true light that enlightens every man who comes into the world” (John, 1:9).

Christ says “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). Christ is the light. No human being has any light IN himself waiting to shine forth.

Here is an excerpt of an ABC-TV interview featuring Shirley Maclaine:

During an oceanside conversation, David presses her to stand up and assert the presence of the “God-truth” within. After suggesting several affirmations, he selects a powerful one for Shirley: “I am God.”
Timidly, she stands at the Pacific. Stretching out her arms, she mouths the words half-heartedly.

“Say it louder.”

Shirley blusters about this statement being a little too pompous. For him to make her chant those words is — well, it sounds so insufferably arrogant.

David’s answer cuts to the quick: “See how little you think of yourself?”

This deep insight embarrasses MacLaine into holy boldness. Intuitively, she comes to feel he’s right. Lifting both arms to the sky, she pumps it out — “I am God! I am God!” — as the ocean laps at her feet.

It didn’t come naturally to Maclaine. But to stand up in public and declaim it; that takes supernatural chutzpa.

I read much of Paul Brunton. I was surprised – but why should someone who is alert to the uncanny be surprised by anything – to discover that Paul Brunton was not only Jewish, but his original name was Raphael – Raphael Hurst. He was born in London from Jewish parents who had emigrated to England from Eastern Europe. His parents were part of the same wave of emigrants from Eastern Europe as my two sets of grandparents. Brunton’s parents stayed in England permanently. My grandparents came via England to South Africa.

Earlier we met the Jew, Joel Goldsmith, heading East on his “Infinite way” towards enlightenment. Now, we meet Raphael Hurst, another Wandering Jew wondering among the esoterica (Esoteric knowledge is knowledge only known to a few) of East and West. He was, if not the first, among the first to tailor Eastern philosophy to a Western audience. He said you don’t have to be a monk to be enlightened.

Why did Raphael Hurst change his name to Paul Brunton? Let me answer with another question? Who is going to read books about yogis, holy men and ancient Egyptian priests written by Raphael Hurst, unmistakably a Jewish boy? Although, in recent years it is has become respectable to be a “Jubu”: a Jewish Buddhist, as it has become chi-chi to be a “Cabu”: a Catholic Buddhist (Thomas Merton). Perhaps it had little to do with Raphael’s desire to hide his Jewishness and more to do with finding a name that is better suited to selling books. They do it in the movie business, so why not in the publishing business? For example, what kind of a name is David Kaminsky or Stewart Konigsberg if you want to be a great Jewish actor? Danny Kaye and Woody Allen would fit the bill. Imagine a Yiddishe mama saying to her gentile neighbour: my son de hekter Stewart Konigsberg. Compare that with: my son de hekter Voody Ellern.

What unites religions? “The kingdom of heaven is within you.” What divides religions: “I am God” (waiting to unfold in me) versus “I am a creature of God”. The one view is: “God is inside me; my spirit is eternal”. The opposite view is: “God, who is outside me, created me – both body and spirit, and I don’t find God; He finds me. I don’t look for God; He looks for me. I’m unable to look for God because I’m dead to the things of God.” That’s the New Testament view of the difference between the God inside waiting to unfold and the God outside taking up residence in you. How God comes to abide in you is the question that divides the monotheistic-creator religions. This “how” also is one of the major divisive points within Christianity, itself. (See Arminianism versus Calvinism).

In no domain other than religion do the prepositions “inside” and “outside” take on such great significance, eternal significance. What is considered as just another grammatical element of language – two prepositions among many others – is in reality of vast import. Language – every word that proceeds from the mouth of God – is of crucial import.

So, most religions and metaphysical systems such as Gnoticism fit into the “I am God” category. The three monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam fit into the “I am a creature of God” category. For many in the monotheistic camp, this view of man as mere creature is too simplistic. For example, much of Christian and Jewish mysticism is about discovering that I and God are “ONE”. The quest is for ecstatic experiences, to BE, to be oneself, One Self, the One Self, the Overself (Brunton).

But what’s this I read in this papal encyclical?

In Hinduism, men…seek release from the trials of the present life by ascetical practices, profound meditation and recourse to God in confidence and love. Buddhism…proposes a way of life by which man can, with confidence and trust, attain a state of perfect liberation and reach supreme illumination either through their own efforts or by the aid of divine help…. The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions.” (No.56, Nostra Aetate, “Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions”, Oct 28, 1965, in Documents of Vatican II: The Conciliar and Post-Conciliar Documents, Austin Flannery, Ed., New Revised Ed.(Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1975, 1984) Para. 2.).

The Vatican seems to be emerging from its dogmatic stupor by recognising the divine in me. I feel a new energy rising in me. I leap across the boundaries that divide and cause so much strife.

My sister Sonia said she has gone far beyond the Bible. “It all unfolds.” Soon she will be standing before that terrifying majesty. “Out of the North He comes in golden splendour in his terrifying majesty” (Job 37:22).