Thursday, April 05, 2018

The Passover and Jewish endurance

Jewish continuity is completely amazing.  There were many great and notable civilizations in the ancient world -- Mitanni, Hittites Sumerians etc -- that have completely vanished -- mostly with very little record of their presence other than what archaeologists have been able to dig up. Their descendants are presumably around somewhere but anything that made them a distinctive group has vanished.

There is just one of those ancient people that survives today, following the same religion and customs, speaking the same language and living in the same homeland.  And they have even brought their history books with them:  The Bible.  How remarkable is all that!  Many Jews see it as clear proof that they really are God's special people and that only his protection can possibly explain their unique survival. That sounds like a pretty good argument

IN MARCH 1946, David Ben Gurion appeared before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, a panel convened to study conditions in Palestine, which was then still under British rule. The committee is little-remembered today; its recommendations became moot with the UN partition resolution the following year. But Ben Gurion's heartfelt testimony making the case for Jewish sovereignty in the Jewish homeland remains worth reading.

In one memorable passage, the man who would two years later become Israel's first prime minister addressed the astonishing longevity of the Jews' love affair with Zion.

"More than 300 years ago a ship by the name of the Mayflower left Plymouth for the New World," Ben Gurion told the committee. "It was a great event in American and English history. I wonder how many Englishmen or how many Americans know exactly the date when that ship left Plymouth, how many people were on the ship, and what was the kind of bread that people ate when they left Plymouth."

Few Americans, of course, know any of those minutiae. But countless Jews, Ben Gurion went on, know the details of a far older journey.

"More than 3,300 years ago the Jews left Egypt. It was more than 3,000 years ago, yet every Jew in the world knows exactly the date when we left. It was on the 15th of Nisan. The bread they ate was matzos. [To this day] Jews throughout the world on the 15th of Nisan eat the same matzos — in America, in Russia — and tell the story of the exile from Egypt. [They] tell what happened, all the sufferings that happened to the Jews since they went into exile. They finish [their retelling with] these two sentences: 'This year we are slaves; next year we will be free. This year we are here; next year we will be in Zion, the land of Israel.'"

The 15th of Nisan returned this weekend, and once again Jews the world over sat down to the Passover Seder. Again they ate matzos, the bread of affliction eaten by the Hebrews in Egypt. Again they tasted bitter herbs, a reminder of how Egypt embittered the lives of the Jewish slaves. Again they read the text of the Haggadah (literally, the "telling") — the age-old text that recounts the story of the Exodus and explains the customs of the Seder.

The Hebrews were a clan of herdsmen when they first arrived in Egypt. By the time they left, they had been forged into a body politic. The Exodus marked the emergence in history of the Jews as a nation, so Passover is the national independence day of the Jewish people.

Nations have special ways of commemorating their independence. The French mark Bastille Day with a great military parade. Mexicans recreate "El Grito," the famous "Shout for Independence" of 1810. Indians celebrate their country's birth with kite-flying festivals and a flag-raising over the Red Fort in Delhi. And the United States marks the Fourth of July with "Pomp and Parade . . . Bonfires and Illuminations" — much as John Adams recommended in 1776.

The Jews? They relive their ancestors' liberation from enslavement. No fireworks. No flags. For more than three millennia, Jews have paused each spring to steep in the history of their distant forefathers and to relate the tale to their children. In so doing, they have renewed and preserved Jewish identity — and have managed, unlike every other people of antiquity, to outlast the sands of time.

The Seder is the most widely observed ceremony in Jewish life. Though the Haggadah is long and the rituals archaic, though pre-Seder preparations can be exhausting, an estimated 70 percent of American Jews attend a Seder every year. On Passover, decrees the Talmud, Jews must regard themselves as if they personally were liberated from Egypt. How? Through the elaborate reenactment and recitations of the Seder — above all, through answering children's questions.

That priority comes from the Bible itself — from the epic hour just before the Israelites went free.

"And when, in times to come, your child asks you, 'What does this mean?' you shall say to him. . ."

The story is told in the book of Exodus: Moses gathers the people and tells them that liberation is imminent. The years of brutality and bondage are over. At that moment of elation and excitement, with the Jews hanging on his every word, what does Moses say?

"He might have spoken about freedom, or the promised destination," writes Jonathan Sacks, Great Britain's former chief rabbi. "He might have chosen to speak about the arduous journey that lay ahead, what Nelson Mandela called 'the long road to freedom.' Any of these would have been the great speech of a great leader."

But Moses doesn't focus on the moment. He speaks instead of the future and of sons and daughters yet to be born. He stresses the importance of memory, and of keeping it alive through education: "And when your children ask you, 'What do you mean by this rite?' you shall say. . . . And you shall explain to your child on that day, 'It is because of what the Lord did for me when I went free from Egypt.' . . . And when, in time to come, your child asks you, 'What does this mean?' you shall say to him. . ."

Passover is replete with messages, but in the long sweep of Jewish history, this is the most essential: Liberation is not enough. Liberty must be sustained, and only education can sustain it. The Jews' passion for memory — for handing on their story to their children and grandchildren — is the secret of Jewish longevity. That passion is renewed at the Seder each year, amid matzos and bitter herbs, with children's questions and parents' answers.



Isn't gun control wonderful?

In London guns are completely banned -- so guess who's got them?

A 17-year-old girl who was shot dead in London on Monday evening is understood to be Tanesha Melbourne.

Friends and family spoke of their grief after news broke that the school student had been killed.

She was with friends in Chalgrove Road, Tottenham, north London, when she was murdered shortly before 9.30pm on Monday. On the same evening a 16-year-old boy was shot in Walthamstow, north-east London, and is now in a critical condition.

A woman who knew the murdered girl said the victim was "just chilling with her friends" when she was shot from a car for "no reason at all". "The car just pulled up and just started shooting," said the 21-year-old, who did not want to be named. She said she heard the gunshots "like fireworks" from her house.

The teenager was described by those who knew her as a "lovely girl who minds her own business", a "kind beautiful young soul" and an "innocent kid". Her cousin tweeted: "Rest in perfect peace my cousin Tanesha."  A friend wrote: "Omggggggggg , not Tanesha Lord ! I literally watched this girl grow"

Members of the local community spoke of their shock at the death, tweeting that they were "lost for words" at the "senseless death".

Tottenham-raised rapper Wretch32, whose real name is Jermaine Scott Sinclair, tweeted: "Wish I knew what to say about what's happening in my ends. North London we're better then this man smh R.I.P to the young angel who lost her life last night. love & prayers to the family. I'm honestly lost for words."

Scotland Yard said officers were called to reports of a shooting in Chalgrove Road, Tottenham, at 9.35pm on Monday. "Officers attended along with the London Ambulance Service (LAS) and a 17-year-old girl was found at the scene with a gunshot wound.

"Despite the best efforts of the LAS, she was pronounced dead at the scene at 10.43pm.  "Her next of kin are aware and a crime scene is in place. No arrests have been made at this stage."

The witness in Tottenham said: "Her friend came banging on my door so I came out quickly. I even tried to save her - had to, had to." She said the gunshot wound, below the victim's breast, was not immediately visible and it looked like she was "having a fit".

"I put her on her side and I was just rubbing her back, saying 'everything's going to be OK'. I just can't believe it - so young. It's ridiculous now." The woman said the victim was not responding, but added: "I could see she was looking at me."

She told how the girl's mother arrived before paramedics, adding: "She was screaming. She didn't know what to do."

In the second incident on Monday, a 16-year-old boy was found with gunshot injuries in Walthamstow. Police and London Ambulance Service said they were called to reports of gun fire in Markhouse Road at about 10pm. The boy remains in a critical condition at a hospital in east London, according to police.

A second teenage boy was also being treated for stab wounds. Police said he had suffered life-changing injuries but they were not life threatening.

Stella Creasy, the local Labour MP,  tweeted: "Walthamstow - can confirm tonight we have had another serious incident involving shooting and stabbing.  "Appreciate this is very distressing- I will share more information as and when have it from official sources as only want to share what is confirmed."

The incidents come amid concerns over rising violent crime in the capital. On Sunday a 20-year-old man became the 31st victim of knife crime in London so far this year.



Brent Bozell: No 'Facts First' with Stormy Daniels

The left's brazen double standard on the Stormy Daniels story is apparent to everyone. Suddenly, claims of sexual activity with the president before he became president are relevant. In the years of President Bill Clinton, his critics were told to "grow up about sex" because "libido and leadership are linked." The public was lectured about Clinton's accusers being liars who were seeking fame and money, "trash for cash."

Meet porn star Stormy Daniels. First, she was paid $15,000 by a sister publication of In Touch magazine in 2011 to claim that she had sex with Donald Trump (the story wasn't published). Then, she was paid $130,000 in October 2016 to shut up and not claim to have had sex with Donald Trump. History turned to farce when Daniels appeared on "60 Minutes" to break her nondisclosure agreement and shamelessly claimed: "I have no reason to lie. You know, I'm not getting paid to be here."

The 2016 payment to Daniels is an obvious news story. (Any conservative claiming he wouldn't have demanded coverage of a Clinton crony paying off a porn star right before an election would be a liar.) But all this money also creates problems for her credibility. She is currently cashing in with strip-club gigs, and CBS cashed in with boffo ratings. CBS may not have paid for this interview, but both sides walked away with a payoff.

Before Trump was president, Daniels could demand six figures in return for her silence. After his election, she realized she could make fortunes more breaking that silence.

Liberals think the double standard here is that socially conservative people voted for Trump and now don't care about his sleazy treatment of his wives and children. They somehow missed that many socially conservative people voted for other candidates in the primaries because of his questionable behavior but ultimately supported him rather than accept the alternative — hers.

But put aside the conservative morality for a second. The media's current lamentation that we live in a "post-truth" world while they operate by the "Facts First" motto did not match the Daniels interview. These same networks refused to publish or air interviews for months when it was Clinton accusers Paula Jones or Juanita Broaddrick; they demanded claims be investigated and confirmed.

The "news" in this interview was the porn star's claim of being threatened in a parking lot in 2011. Did CBS investigate this until it was confirmed? No. Does she offer any proof? No. Can she even prove that this alleged bully allegedly worked for Trump? No. So why is it on television?

Our media also now claim to be solid members of the #MeToo movement, but everyone alive in the Clinton era knows they didn't care about allegations of sexual harassment, or even rape , lodged against Bill Clinton.

Then we learned they didn't care about allegations of sexual harassment and assault when lodged against their own people in TV news.

It's shameless for "60 Minutes" to devote 26 minutes of airtime to a claim of consensual sex with (and alleged threats by) Donald Trump when it hasn't spared a minute since former CBS star Charlie Rose was exposed in November to discuss what he allegedly did to his female employees. And Rose did interviews on "60 Minutes" for years.

Staunch Trump-backing women appeared on CNN after the big Daniels interview to say this story is "all part of a media plot to bring down Donald Trump." That is an incontestable fact. For most journalists, political victory for liberals comes first. Facts do not.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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