Thursday, December 31, 2009

Gaza "Freedom" Marchers and Alice Walker

More on the Freedom Marchers themselves (clever title, that - reminding us of the people who went to the southern U.S. to work for equal rights for African Americans - which did not, of course, entail working with terrorist groups!), from the Egyptian authorities, who seem to regard them as a major nuisance.
The Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, expressed frustration at the activists who came to Cairo despite the warning that the border was closed. “Those who tried to conspire against us, and they are more than a thousand, we will leave them in the street,” he said.
One of the Code Pinkers, Alice Walker, seems to have a very peculiar idea of how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict began. She writes in her blog [URL updated 4/26/11]:
And so I have been, once again, struggling to speak about an atrocity: This time in Gaza, this time against the Palestinian people. Like most people on the planet I have been aware of the Palestinian–Israeli conflict almost my whole life. I was four years old in 1948 when, after being subjected to unspeakable cruelty by the Germans, after a “holocaust” so many future disasters would resemble, thousands of European Jews were resettled in Palestine. They settled in a land that belonged to people already living there, which did not seem to bother the British who, as in India, had occupied Palestine and then, on leaving it, helped put in place a partitioning of the land they thought would work fine for the people, strangers, Palestinians and European Jews, now forced to live together.
Why does she put the word Holocaust in quotes? Wasn't it one? And is the only important thing about the Holocaust that it led to Holocaust survivors settling in Palestine? Like many other anti-Israel activists, she has the mistaken notion that the Jews who went to Palestine were only from Europe. What of the hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab and Muslim who emigrated to Israel? Her statement about the role of the British is also entirely incorrect. The British were not in favor of the UN partition plan - they abstained during the vote on November 29, 1947. They did nothing to implement it once the UN approved it.

She also seems to consider Israel unredeemable, despite all of her talk about reconciliation:
There are differing opinions about this, of course, but my belief is that when a country primarily instills fear in the minds and hearts of the people of the world, it is no longer useful in joining the dialogue we need for saving the planet.
She also thinks that the people of Gaza have been subjected to genocide:
This is a chilling use of power, supported by the United States of America, no small foe, if one stands up to it. No wonder that most people prefer to look the other way during this genocide, hoping their disagreement with Israeli policies will not be noted.
She argues for a one-state solution without any concern at all for the lives of Israeli Jews:
What is to be done? Our revered Tolstoy asked this question, speaking also of War and Peace. I believe there must be a one state solution. Palestinians and Jews, who have lived together in peace in the past, must work together to make this a reality once again. This land (so soaked in Jewish and Palestinian blood, and with America’s taxpayer dollars wasted on violence the majority of us would never, if we knew, support) must become, like South Africa, the secure and peaceful home of everyone who lives there. This will require that Palestinians, like Jews, have the right of return to their homes and their lands. Which will mean what Israelis most fear: Jews will be outnumbered and, instead of a Jewish state, there will be a Jewish, Muslim, Christian country, which is how Palestine functioned before the Europeans arrived. What is so awful about that?
Does she know anything about Ottoman rule of Palestine? It was rule by a Muslim empire which favored Muslims over Christians or Jews. In saying this I'm not arguing that it was an evil empire - but that its rulers had their own interests and beliefs, among them that Islam was superior to other religions and that the "peoples of the book" should be tolerated but treated as second-class citizens. The Ottoman Empire began to treat its religious minorities better throughout the 19th century, with the reform movement known as the Tanzimat, but it certainly was not a model of religious equality. And this is even without considering the Armenian Genocide, which was wrought by the Ottoman government in its dying days during WWI. Walker's idea of Palestine before British rule seems to be governed by a gauzy nostalgia for an imagined past. Perhaps she should consult a variety of histories of Palestine, not simply those written by Ali Abunimah and others who argue for the one-state solution.

It also seems that she is taking a kind of unholy glee in the thought that Jews will once again be a minority in Palestine, as if this is really the correct state of affairs. Jews should know their place, which is not to be able to wield power by controlling their own independent state.

And to think I once admired Alice Walker!

Opposing the blockade of Gaza

As my small but loyal band of readers probably knows, two international groups have converged on Gaza to protest the "Israeli siege" of Gaza and to remember the Gaza War of a year ago. One is led by George Galloway - the "Viva Palestina" crew - and the other is called the Gaza Freedom March (which is apparently a coalition of several groups). Today there was a gathering on the Israeli side of the Gaza border, attended by all of Israeli's Arab MPs and community leaders, about 1000 people in all. On the Gaza side of the border, about 100 international activists (from Code Pink, permitted by the Egyptians to enter Gaza yesterday) gathered with about 500 Palestinians.

Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas in Gaza, spoke to the crowd via the mobile phone of one of the Arab MPs, Taleb A-Sana.

So what did Haniyeh say to the assembled crowds?
"Because of international solidarity and your support, we have become stronger," Haniyeh declared. "The Palestinian nation will never give up its national aspirations or its right to Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine and the Islamic people."
Ynet had a more extensive report on Haniyeh's words:
Haniyeh said in the phone call, which was sounded on a loudspeaker system, "We are proud of the Palestinian citizens of the 1948 territories who have come to identify with us. We send a greeting to all the members of parliament, to Sheikh Raed Salah and to all the people who have come to expresses their support for us."

According to the Hamas prime minister, the Arab citizens' presence within the Green Line strengthens the Strip's residents.

"We have managed to overcome the occupation plans and we will surely meet at the al-Aqsa Mosque and in Jerusalem, which will remain Arab and Islamic," Haniyeh said.

(Photo of Israeli Arab leaders)
He sent his greetings to the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, which organized the march towards the Erez crossing. "The Strip misses you very much, and God willing, we will meet soon in Jerusalem."
Haaretz reported about the international protesters' activities in Gaza:
The 86 international activists began touring the Gaza Strip on Thursday, in an expression of solidarity with Palestinians living there under the Israeli blockade. They were also scheduled to tour areas hit in the Israeli bombardments, visit Gaza's Shifa hospital, and meet with community leaders, said Hamdi Shaath, the head of the pro-Hamas Committee to Defeat the Blockade.
According to the Ma'an Palestinian news agency, the international activists were from Code Pink, and they brought medical supplies with them. (They had entered Gaza twice before this).

It seems obvious that the international groups trying to get into Gaza have to be working with the Hamas government - how else could they be permitted in from the Palestinian side? Last year, when George Galloway led an earlier Viva Palestina group in, he gave contributions directly to Haniyeh. I think that Hamas' and Haniyeh's intentions are made clear by his statements this morning that "we will surely meet at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and in Jerusalem, which will remain Arab and Islamic." No talk of the medical aid brought by the Code Pink delegation, or of the suffering of the people of Gaza, which Hamas exploits mercilessly in pursuit of its ultimate goal of an Islamic Palestine. If Hamas actually worked for the sake of the people of Gaza, they would quickly conclude the negotiations for the prisoner swap for Gilad Shalit and would enter into good-faith talks with Israel for the terms for lifting the Israeli blockade of their side of the border.

And if the Code Pink and other international activists really cared for the people of Gaza, instead of seizing any opportunity to bash Israel, they would be just as vigorously protesting the Egyptian closure of the Gaza border from their side, and the iron wall (literally) that Egypt is now sinking at that border to stop the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt. But no, it's all Israel's fault, as we know.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Terrorist's contacts in London

The New York Times has a good article (for tomorrow's newspaper) about the terrorist's possible contacts during his time at University College London.
Their best guess — one shared by investigators — is that the road to radicalization ran less through Yemen, where he studied Arabic as a teenager and apparently later prepared for a suicide mission, than through the Islamic hothouse of London.

“It’s pointless trying to pin the blame for this on those in far-off lands,” a Muslim from California who studied Arabic in Yemen with Mr. Abdulmutallab said in a telephone interview in which he insisted on anonymity because he did not want to draw attention to his family, which migrated from Pakistan to Orange County when he was a boy. “What we have to do is to try and understand what is going on in our own backyards,” he said. “We have to ask ourselves why a young man like Umar Farouk would do this, what the factors were in London that drove him to violence.”

Investigators are now, in fact, turning a sharper and retrospective eye to the passage in Mr. Abdulmutallab’s life that began immediately after his summer in Sana, Yemen, in 2005, when he enrolled as a $25,000-a-year student at University College London. In recent days, officials in Washington and London have said they are focusing on the possibility that his London years, including his possible contacts with radical Muslim groups then, were decisive in turning him toward Islamic extremism.

That view, if confirmed, would offer a stark reaffirmation that Britain, the United States’ closest ally, poses a major threat to American security. Critics say the British security forces have failed to adequately monitor and restrain the Islamic militancy that thrives in the vast network of mosques that serve the nation’s 1.5 million Muslims, and on university campuses across the country where nearly 100,000 of the 500,000 students are Muslims, including many, like Mr. Abdulmutallab, from overseas.

Like the experiences of many of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001, and the four suicide bombers who struck in the July 7, 2005, attacks on the London transit system, as well as Islamic militants involved in other terrorist plots in the past two decades, Mr. Abdulmutallab’s life in the British capital exposed him to contradictory influences that might have hastened his radicalization.

But one focus for investigators has been his activities in University College London’s Islamic Society, which he joined soon after enrolling at the university, perhaps partly as a refuge from the persistent loneliness he described in teenage postings on Islamic Web sites before he arrived in Britain.

Within a year London, he was reveling in his role as the society’s president, sending an e-mail message to his Californian friend in August 2006 recounting what a “nice time” he was having and how “time has flown by” since he enrolled at University College and joined the society.

Left unsaid was the fact that Mr. Abdulmutallab had arrived in Britain at a time of unparalleled intellectual and religious fervor in Britain’s Muslim community in the wake of the July 7 attacks, which killed 56 people, including the four suicide bombers.

The bombers were British-born Muslims with no history of fundamentalist violence, who were indoctrinated in mosques in Britain and on visits to Pakistan and who had recorded “martyrdom videos” attributing their actions to Britain’s role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Abdulmutallab’s personal abstinence and insistence on praying five times a day had earned him the nickname Alfa, a term for Muslim clerics, when he was a teenage student at an elite British boarding school in the West African state of Togo. Judging from the Islamic Society’s Web site and from videos of its gatherings posted on YouTube, the society has served in recent years as a forum for agitated debate about the “oppression” of the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims by the United States and other Western countries.

The society’s guest speakers have included radical imams, former Guantánamo Bay prisoners and a cast of mostly left-wing, anti-American British politicians and human rights advocates. In January 2007, with Mr. Abdulmutallab as president, the society sponsored a “War on Terror Week” that was harshly critical of American conduct in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Similar gatherings were being held on campuses in many parts of the world, including the United States, and the records of the one at University College offer no evidence by themselves that Mr. Abdulmutallab or his associates in the Islamic Society were promoting anything other than peaceful protest. That, in any case, is the account given by his successor as the society president, Mr. Rafiq.

“There were no signs of anything extreme at all when I met him,” Mr. Rafiq said. “He never mentioned anything like that. If I could go back in time and speak to him, ask him, I would. There was nothing to suggest that was in him when I knew him.”

As for off-campus activities, Mr. Rafiq said he liked to meet Mr. Abdulmutallab for Friday evening prayers at the Islamic Society’s campus prayer room, then walk to a nearby chicken-and-chips shop where they would eat and talk about their common enthusiasm for the Arsenal soccer club as well as Islamic Society business.

The profile offered by Mr. Rafiq fit with the descriptions from others who knew Mr. Abdulmutallab before he arrived in London. John McGuinness, 59, who was deputy head teacher at the Lomé school in Togo when Mr. Abdulmutallab graduated in 2005, described him as an impeccable student.

“He was very slim, and he had an angelic face, always smiling,” he said. “He was incredibly polite and very hard-working. He didn’t even talk in class.”

Along with this, Mr. McGuinness said, there was his unvarying devotion to Islam. “He would put references to Allah in the work he was doing,” he said. “ ‘God is great’ would be at the end of everything he wrote,” but Mr. McGuinness said this did not strike him as done out of any extremism.

A cousin of Mr. Abdulmutallab in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, also said there was no sign of Islamic radicalism when he was growing up. “He was a normal kid,” said the cousin, who asked that his name not be used because he did not want to anger Mr. Abdulmutallab’s family. “It was clear from his late teenage years that he was actually quite devoted to his faith. He never missed his prayers. We understand that he met some people who influenced him when he was in London.”

Investigators in London are likely to cast their net beyond the university campus, and one focus seems likely to be the London Muslim Center, in the capital’s heavily Muslim, mostly underclass district of Whitechapel. An article Tuesday in The Independent, a major London daily newspaper, said, without citing any sources, that Mr. Abdulmutallab had visited the Whitechapel center at least three times while he was a university student.

If they confirm a link between Mr. Abdulmutallab and the center, investigators most likely will focus on the center’s history of involvement with Muslim fundamentalists.

A particular interest will be its contacts with the American-born, Yemen-based preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, an extremist cleric with links to Al Qaeda who investigators have named as having exchanged e-mail with Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an American Army psychiatrist charged with killing 13 people in a shooting rampage at the Fort Hood, Tex., military base in November. Earlier this year, Mr. Awlaki, who was banned from entering Britain, made a speech to worshipers at the Whitechapel center by video link from Yemen.

The decade in photos

The Boston Globe has published a set of 50 photos of the last decade, including some beautiful ones from space.



This is called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field. Starting in late 2003, astronomers pointed Hubble at a tiny, relatively empty part of our sky (only a few stars from the Milky Way visible), and created an exposure nearly 12 days long over a four-month period. The result is this amazing image, looking back through time at thousands of galaxies that range from 1 to 13 billion light-years away from Earth. Some 10,000 galaxies were observed in this tiny patch of sky (a tenth the size of the full moon) - each galaxy a home to billions of stars. (NASA/ESA/S. Beckwith - STScI, and The HUDF Team) #



On May 19th, 2005, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit captured this stunning view as the Sun sank below the rim of Gusev crater on Mars. This Panoramic Camera mosaic was taken around 6:07 in the evening of the rover's 489th martian day, or sol. Spirit was commanded to stay awake briefly after sending that sol's data to the Mars Odyssey orbiter just before sunset. The image is a false color composite, showing the sky similar to what a human would see, but with the colors slightly exaggerated. (NASA/JPL/Texas A&M/Cornell) #



This September 10, 2008 NASA handout image received on September 12, 2008 shows a picture of Hurricane Ike downlinked by the crew of the International Space Station, flying 220 statute miles above Earth. The center of the hurricane was near 23.8 degrees north latitude and 85.3 degrees west longitude, moving 300 degrees at 7 nautical miles per hour. The sustained winds were 80 nautical miles per hour with gusts to 100 nautical miles per hour and forecast to intensify. (AFP/Getty Images) #


 
And finally, a non-space photo - the famous "fist bump" between Barack and Michelle Obama. U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama bumps fists with his wife Michelle before his speech at his South Dakota and Montana presidential primary election night rally in St. Paul, Minnesota, June 3, 2008. (REUTERS/Eric Miller) #

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Radicalized in London?

It turns out that the terrorist, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attacked the Delta airliner on Christmas Day, was the president of the Islamic Society at University College London when he was there, according to this New York Times article: Quesions Arise on Why Terror Suspect Was Not Stopped.

There's a suggestion that he became radicalized in London:
A cousin of Mr. Abdulmutallab, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not want to offend the family, said in an interview on Sunday that there was no sign of radicalism in Mr. Abdulmutallab while he was growing up in Nigeria, though he was devout.
“We understand that he met some people who influenced him while in London,” where Mr. Abdulmutallab studied engineering, the cousin said. “He left London and went to Yemen where, we suspect, he mixed up with the people that put him up to this whole business.”
He added: “I think his father is embarrassed by the whole thing, because that was not the way he brought the boy up. All of us are shocked by it.”

Saturday, December 26, 2009

An ordinary hero

Yesterday's attempted terrorist attack on a plane about to land in Detroit was again foiled by an ordinary person who jumped on the terrorist:
There were popping sounds, smoke and a commotion as passengers cried out in alarm and tried to see what was happening. One woman shouted, “What are you doing?” and another called out, “Fire!”
And then history repeated itself. Just as occurred before Christmas in 2001, when Richard C. Reid tried to ignite plastic explosives hidden in his shoe on a trans-Atlantic flight, fellow passengers jumped on Mr. Abdulmutallab, restraining the 23-year-old Nigerian. Jasper Schuringa, a Dutch film director seated in the same row as Mr. Abdulmutallab but on the other side of the aircraft, saw what looked like an object on fire in the suspect’s lap and “freaked,” he told CNN.
“Without any hesitation, I just jumped over all the seats,” Mr. Schuringa said, in an account that other passengers confirmed. “I was thinking, Oh, he’s trying to blow up the plane. I was trying to search his body for any explosive. I took some kind of object that was already melting and smoking, and I tried to put out the fire and when I did that I was also restraining the suspect.”
Mr. Schuringa said he had burned his hands slightly as he grappled with Mr. Abdulmutallab, aided by other passengers, and began to shout for water. “But then the fire was getting worse, so I grabbed the suspect out of the seat,” Mr. Schuringa said. Flight attendants ran up with fire extinguishers, doused the flames and helped Mr. Schuringa walk Mr. Abdulmutallab to first class, where he was stripped, searched and locked in handcuffs.
“The whole plane was screaming — but the suspect, he didn’t say a word,” Mr. Schuringa said. He shrugged off praise for his swift action, which he said was reflexive. “When you hear a pop on the plane, you’re awake, trust me,” he said. “I just jumped. I didn’t think. I went over there and tried to save the plane.”
The accused terrorist did not act because he was from a deprived family. On the contrary, he is from an elite family in Nigeria.
Mr. Abdulmutallab grew up in a rarefied slice of Nigeria, the son of an affluent banker. He attended one of West Africa’s best schools, the British School of Lomé in Togo. After high school, he went to Britain and enrolled at the University College London to study engineering.

University College London, in a statement, said that a student named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had enrolled in mechanical engineering courses between September 2005 and June 2008. But it cautioned that it could not confirm that this was the same individual apprehended in Detroit. In London, Scotland Yard was conducting searches of apartments around the college.

His father, Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, until recently had served as chairman of the First Bank of Nigeria, and his mother’s family is originally from Yemen, according to news accounts in Nigerian newspapers. Investigators are now examining how Mr. Abdulmutallab, at age 23, apparently rebelled against this privileged upbringing to pursue an extremist goal. It was while still in high school that Mr. Abdulmutallab began preaching to fellow students about Islam, according to a report in ThisDay, a Nigerian newspaper.

ThisDay reported that more recently, Mr. Abdulmutallab had moved to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and told his family that he no longer wanted to associate with them.
One wonders who his contacts were at University College. As Harry's Place has often reported, a number of extremist Islamist organizations are active on British university campuses. Perhaps his radicalization began in Nigeria, but it may very well have continued during his schooling in London as well.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Joe Lieberman, Health Care Reform killer

According to Kevin Drum, in The Death of the Public Option, it seems that Joe Lieberman is succeeding in killing off both the public option and the Medicare buy-in (which I was actually more excited about, since it seemed to me like a closer step to single-payer). I'm just waiting to give money to whoever springs up to run against Lieberman next year. Why doesn't the man just become a Republican and stop lying to all of us.

Update: Moveon.org is now running a fundraising campaign to raise money to defeat Lieberman in the next election. I just contributed. Anyone who wishes to do the same can go to Moveon and contribute: https://pol.moveon.org/donate/lieberman.html.

For more information:
First, Joe Lieberman helped President Bush invade Iraq, and the Democrats in Washington forgave him. Then, he endorsed John McCain, and they forgave him again. Then, he personally attacked Barack Obama at the Republican National Convention, and still the Democrats forgave him.
Now, Joe Lieberman is single-handedly gutting health care reform. The time for forgiveness is over. It's time to hold Senator Lieberman accountable.

First, we're going to launch a huge ad campaign to make sure every last Connecticut voter knows that Senator Lieberman is blocking strong reforms. Then, we'll push Senate leaders to strip him of his chairmanship and seniority. Finally, we'll work to defeat him in his next election.

Our goal is to raise $400,000 in the next 24 hours, to send a deafeningly loud message that we've had enough of Joe Lieberman. That'll take at least 16 donations from Ithaca—can you chip in $40?

Sen. Lieberman has been one of the biggest obstacles to real health care reform with a public option all year. But over the past two weeks, he's taken it to a dangerous new level.

First, he demanded that the public option be removed from the bill. Then, last night, he killed an expansion of Medicare—an idea that he himself championed just three months ago and that was added to the bill specifically to satisfy him.
He's shown that he can't be reasoned with. Most of all, Joe Lieberman can't be allowed to stay in the U.S. Senate.

We can do this. Connecticut is a solidly blue state, going 60% for Obama in 2008. Polls in Connecticut show he's in trouble. Thirty percent of Lieberman voters in 2006 said they would not vote for him again, and, in another poll, he trailed one possible Democratic opponent by a whopping 44 points.
We've had enough of Joe Lieberman. Please help raise $400,000 in the next 24 hours to send him home for good. To get there, we'll need 16 people in Ithaca to help out. Can you contribute $40 right away?

Thanks for all you do.

–Nita, Carrie, Wes, Steven, and the rest of the team

Sources:

1. "Thompson, Lieberman attack Obama in red-meat speeches," McClatchy Newspapers, September 2, 2008

2. "Lieberman Rules Out Voting for Health Bill," The New York Times, December 13, 2009.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock on Google Earth

I just discovered another cool feature of Google Earth - the placement of 3D models of various buildings on sites such as Jerusalem. I've found several of the Dome of the Rock, one of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, of the Western Wall (Kotel), and of David's Citadel. I've been spending a lot of time this semester looking at various maps of Jerusalem, since I'm teaching a course on the city (actually, this is exam week, so the class is now over).

The images below are of the interior and exterior of the Dome of the Rock, the exterior of Al-Aqsa, and both buildings placed on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif.
































Hanukkah - who is the "Red One" of Maoz Tzur?

On a happier note than the previous post, it is the fourth night of Hanukkah. I'm facing my menorah with its four lit candles (plus shamash) and thinking about the words to Maoz Tzur, the Hanukkah hymns. According to the Birnbaum siddur, it was composed in the 13th century (Philip Birnbaum, Ha-Siddur Ha-Shalem [New York: Hebrew Publishing Company, 1969] 777). (The article in Wikipedia makes the same statement, based on Zunz).

The article on Maoz Tzur in MyJewishLearning.com refers to an article by Ismar Schorsch, the former chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, published in the journal Judaism in the fall of 1988, entitled "A Meditation on Maoz Zur." Schorsch's family escaped from Germany on the first day of Hanukkah of 1938, after his father had been freed (he had been arrested on Kristallnacht). He writes that his family always sang the first five stanzas of Maoz Tzur with great fervor during their Hanukkah celebration (p. 459): "The poem's theme of redemption seemed to offer a poignant comment on our family's experience." They omitted the sixth stanza, however.

He records the history of the poem as follows (p. 460): "In its present form, Maoz Zur consists of six stanzas. Since the days of Leopold Zunz, the first five have been ascribed to an unknown German poet named Mordecai, who lived sometime before the middle of the thirteenth century and whose name survives as an acrostic formed by the first letter of each stanza." Schorsch writes that the poem is written as if shortly after the Maccabees had retaken the Temple from the Syrian Greeks. "The rescue from 'Greek' tyranny triggers a recollection of earlier cases when God's intervention redirects the course of Jewish history." These are in Egypt, Babylonia, and Persia. The fifth stanza describes the "redemption at the time of the Hasmoneans."

The sixth stanza was composed later than the first five, and it is (p. 461) "an unabashed messianic plea for divine retribution upon Israel's Christian oppressors." He comments that it is often left untranslated in modern prayerbooks (like the Birnbaum siddur, which translates only the first five stanzas). The fifth stanza adds the final subjugator of the Jewish people - Edom (which in rabbinic interpretation is equated first with pagan and then with Christian Rome, thus becoming the code name for Christianity as a whole).

My rough translation (helped by Schorsch's discussion on p. 462):
Reveal your holy arm (cf. Isaiah 52:10) and bring near the day of salvation.
Avenge your servants against the evil kingdom.
The time has lengthened, and there is no end to the evil days.
Destroy the red one (Admon=Christianity) in the shadow of the cross,
and send forth the seven shepherds [Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David]
This stanza is a more urgent request for divine salvation - rather than remembering the past salvation from danger and oppression at the hands of the Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks, it directly calls God to save his people from the Christians. Schorsch believes that this stanza was also written by an Ashkenazic Jew (p. 463), "stirred by the tremors and aftershocks of the Reformation," who believed that the Christian kingdom could only be overcome by direct divine intervention.

With this understanding of the meaning of the text, it's clear why Philip Birnbaum did not care to translate the stanza into English. Although he does not mention it in his entertaining introduction (full of jabs at earlier translations and editions of the prayerbook), he refrains from translating quite a number of potentially troublesome passages, particularly mystical ones, and in this case, one that could be viewed as an open attack upon Christianity, something that he presumably thought would be unwise even in the United States.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Sarah Palin and Barney Frank at the Gridiron Club

Last night was the annual winter dinner for the Gridiron Club in Washington, and Sarah Palin and Barney Frank were the featured Republican and Democratic speakers. The New York times Caucus blog reported on The Comedy Duo of Palin and Frank. Apparently the evening was open to the news media - the Gridiron Club usually requires that the dinners be off the record.

This made me think again of the fact that my grandfather, Richard Lawson Wilson, was very involved with the Gridiron Club, which only admitted women as members in 1975. See this highly entertaining account of how women were finally admitted thanks to the feminist movement:
....the women in Washington turned their sights on another institution, the Gridiron Club, once described by Harrison Salisbury of The New York Times as “an assembly of troglodytes.” Nonetheless, it held a dinner each year, then as now, spoofing national leaders and attended by many of those leaders. But women were shut out. After several years of picketing, the women decided to hold a Counter-Gridiron Party. In 1974, they rented the gym at nearby Mount Vernon College and got big-name people like former Attorney General Elliott Richardson to participate. The highlight was Martha Mitchell, wife of Attorney General John Mitchell and notorious for her late night phone calls. For $5 and the cost of the phone call at the Counter Gridiron event, Mitchell would make one of her calls to whomever you asked. Most recipients didn’t believe it was really Mitchell calling. In 1975 the Gridiron Club voted to admit women. Fran [Frances Lewine] and UPI’s Helen Thomas were first female members.
My grandfather loved the Gridiron Club (and that other bastion of Washington establishment journalism, the Washington Press Club, which only admitted women in 1971), and it's hard to imagine how his conservative and proper psyche would have reacted to a double bill of Sarah Palin and Barney Frank. Politically, he was a Republican, but certainly not from the populist, ignoramus wing of the party, so he probably wouldn't have approved of Palin appearing as the Republican representative. I doubt he could even have imagined an out gay man as a Congressional Representative, much less a major speaker at the Gridiron Club.

Sometimes the frustrations of the present day blind us to the changes that have been made in a fairly short time, historically speaking.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Ubiquity of Exaptation

Over the early fall I read Stephen Jay Gould's book, Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes, which I found fascinating. One of the most interesting concepts he introduced was of exaptation. P.Z. Myers, at Pharyngula (The Ubiquity of Exaptation), has just written a very lucid explanation of how this concept can be used to explain the evolution of the nervous system from very simple cells. Gould's quick definition of the term (p. 171) is - "those useful structures that arose for other reasons or for no conventional reason at all, and were then fortuitously available for other usages, we call exaptations." A structure that evolved to suit one purpose then taking on another purpose is an exaptation.

I learned a lot from reading Gould's book, enough that I started reading another anthology of his articles, put together after his death, The Richness of Life: The Essential Stephen Jay Gould. I haven't finished it yet, because the semester intruded on my time to read, but I hope to get back to it soon.

I never took a college biology course, but when I read these books, and articles on science blogs, it makes me think that I would really enjoy doing so - perhaps one summer when I'm not feeling like doing much of my own research....

Saturday, November 28, 2009

More on the Gospel of Judas and astrology

I just read through my notes on Grant Adamson's presentation on "The Gospel of Judas as Horoscope" (which will be published soon in Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies 71). Here are the important points I took away from the presentation:

  • the Tetrabiblos of Ptolemy was the ancient source for prognostic astrology, which among other things involved calculating the length of life, which was determined by the stars at birth
  • the stars are the cause of events
  • in Gospel of Judas – the souls of the holy generation will not be subject to the stars (only their bodies)
  • they are only ruled by fate when it comes to their deaths
  • astral determinism – all is in the power of fate (according to Firmicus Maternas, another astrologer)
  • Judas (therefore) cannot join the holy generation
  • according to others (e.g., magicians), one’s fate could be changed
  • in the Eighth Book of Moses (PGM 13) – the deity would descend and tell the horoscope to the practitioner, who can then get his fate changed if he behaved correctly and had correct knowledge
  • Judas is incompetent, unlike the astrologers in PGM 13, and can’t get his fate changed
  • in Sethian Gnosticism – mockery of Plato’s Timaeus and its Demiurge, as much as of the God of Genesis
  • Ehrman, Pagels, and King have misunderstood this and ignored the astrological context
  • the Savior acts as an astrologer in this text
  • Judas asks for his fate to be changed, but the Savior refuses - hence, he doesn't join the holy generation which is saved from astral determinism



Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pager messages on 9/11

Wikileaks has put up a long list of pager messages from 9/11/01 (not saying, of course, where they got them from). I just read through quite a few and collected the ones that seem directly linked to the terrorist attacks. It's very eerie reading them. Some are from private individuals, others from the NYPD, or from what seems to be air traffic control in the New York area. I've pasted in messages below from shortly after the first plane hit at 8:46 until after the second plane hit at 9:02. I've blotted out phone numbers and full names of private individuals.

2001-09-11 08:47:46 Someone just told me there was an explosion at
2001-09-11 08:50:25 A plane crashed thru the twin towers. Real bad..BR
2001-09-11 08:50:31 An Aloha call is starting . This is for a fire at 2WT. Please call into TeleMeeting conference center at -877-913-7943 . If Morgan Stanley has not initiated the call you will hear music until they initiate the call. Dallas Data
2001-09-11 08:50:54 BOMB DETINATED IN WORLD TRADE CTR. PLS GET BACK TO MIKE Bxxxx W/A QUICK ASSESSMENT OF YOUR AREAS AND CONTACT US IF ANYTHING IS NEEDED AT 212-xxx-xxxx.
2001-09-11 08:51:24  Frm: Santini, Olivia (NBC, MSNBC) Sub: Txt: plane crash at World Trade Center in NYC-no word on details- efforting more info now
2001-09-11 08:51:37 THE WORLD TRADE CENTER HAS JUST BLOWN UP, WE SEEN THE EXPLOSION OUTSIDE OUR WINDOWS. TERESA...
2001-09-11 08:51:37 Trade Center in NYC-no word on details- efforting more info now
2001-09-11 08:51:42 THERE WAS SOME KIND OF EXPLOSION AT WORLD TRADE CTR. MAY HAVE SOME TROUBLE GETTING TO METRO TECH. - DAVID. 212-xxx-xxxx.Austin Airport Police
2001-09-11 08:51:50 Sub: Fire!!! Frm: Rick Cxxxxx Txt: World Trade Center is on FIRE!!!! No Joke. rickc
2001-09-11 08:52:27 GO TO TWIN TOWERS PLANE CRASH IMMEDIATELY WITH KEVIN. WALTER.
2001-09-11 08:52:46 Netdesk@nbc.com||Reports of a plane crash near World Trade Center - no more details at this point. WNBC's LIVE pix - Network working on coverage.
2001-09-11 08:52:57 :swingler@xxxx S:CNN (page): T:swingler@xxxx:- World trade center damaged; unconfirmed reports say a plane has crashed into tower. Details to come.
2001-09-11 08:52:58 BreakingNews@CNN.COM CNN Breaking News BREAKING NEWS from CNN.com -- World trade center damaged; unconfirmed reports say a plane has crashed into tower. Details to come. For complete coverage of this story visit: http://www.CNN.com or AOL K
2001-09-11 08:52:59 EXPLOSION AT WORLD TRADE CENTER CNN SAYS. CAN YOU MAKE CALLS FROM HOME UNTIL I GET INTO OFFICE. PAT
2001-09-11 08:53:01 World Trade Center- report of explosion and/or fire. Will update as further info is recv'd. MTAPD Comm Ctr (1/1)
2001-09-11 08:53:16 CFP NATIONAL (1) MANHATTAN, NY *BREAKING NEWS* PLANE HAS CRASHED INTO WORLD TRADE CENTER. MORE TO FOLLOW [700p]
2001-09-11 08:53:44 World Trade Center- report of explosion and/or fire. Will update as further info is recv'd.  MTAPD Comm Ctr (1/1)
2001-09-11 08:53:44 "NYPD Ops Div" <|1 PCT WORLD TRADE CENTER|--- 1 PCT - WORLD TRADE CENTER - POSSIBLE EXPLOSION WORLD TRADE CENTER BUILDING. LEVEL 3 MOBILIZATION TO CHURCH AND VESSY.
2001-09-11 08:53:44  martint: A plane has just crashed into the side of Tower One of The World Trade Center... details to follow.
2001-09-11 08:53:44 a plane has crashed into tower. Details to come. For complete co
2001-09-11 08:53:52  "NYPD Ops Div" <|1 PCT WORLD TRADE CEN
2001-09-11 08:53:52  FYI----UPPER LEVEL OF WORLD TRADE CENTER  IS ON FIRE...HEAVY  EMGENCY UNITS O/S...  AVOID ALL AREAS  .OP#12
2001-09-11 08:53:54 1 PCT - WORLD TRADE CENTER - POSSIBLE EXPLOSION WORLD TRADE CENTER BUILDING. LEVEL 3 MOBILIZATION TO CHURCH AND VESSY.
2001-09-11 08:53:55 CRASH AT WORLD TRADE CENTER. THIS IS NOT A DRIL REMCS 9
2001-09-11 08:53:55 Netdesk@nbc.com||Reports of a plane crash near World Trade Center - no more deta
2001-09-11 08:53:57 World Trade Center- report of explosion and/or fire. Will update as further info is recv'd.  MTAPD Comm Ctr (1/1)
2001-09-11 08:53:57 martint: A plane has just crashed into the side of Tower One of The World Trade Center... details to follow.
2001-09-11 08:54:05 Netdesk@nbc.com||Reports of a plane crash near World Trade Center - no more deta
2001-09-11 08:54:07 Robert Sargent|TURN ON CNN Sat channel 202 ASAP |TURN ON CNN Sat channel 202 ASAP|81 
2001-09-11 08:54:07 amaged; unconfirmed reports say a plane has crashed into tower. Details to come. For complete coverage of this story visit: http://www.C
2001-09-11 08:54:10 World Trade Center- report of explosion and/or fire. Will update as further info
2001-09-11 08:54:12 Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2001 8:53:27 AM > To: ABCTV DL BREAKING NEWS > Subject: WTC > Auto forwarded by a Rule > Plane into the World Trade Center. Video on RS 024 in
2001-09-11 08:54:27 LARRY, CALL BRIAN 516-xxx-xxxx. WANT TO KNOW IF OUR MEN ARE OKAY, SAW A PLANE HIT BLDG.
2001-09-11 08:54:29 PLANE CRASHES INTO WORLD TRADE CTR. -ROSE
2001-09-11 08:54:29 ED-PEOPLE VISITING AIRPORT MIGHT WANT TO USE ALTERNATE ROUTES
2001-09-11 08:54:33 WE NEED TO HAVE YOU HEAD TO WORLD TRADE CTR. PLEASE CALL LAURA EXT 6121.
2001-09-11 08:54:33 CNN World trade center damaged; unconfirmed reports say a plane hascrashed into tower. Details to co
2001-09-11 08:54:35 SCONFIRMED PLANE CRASH INTO THE WORLD TRADE CENTER MULTI UNITS RESPONDING
01-09-11 08:54:46 NYPD and emergency units at World Trade center, RE; airplane crash. Small Jet.
2001-09-11 08:54:48 A/E: DISPATCHERS THAT ARE AVAIL PLZ ADVISE ON A/E. [700p]
2001-09-11 08:55:31 MAJOR FIRE AT THE WORLD TRADE CENTER. JEFF Dxxxxxx AT 609-xxx-xxxx
2001-09-11 08:55:33 EXPLOSION AT WORLD TRADE CENTER. STAY AWAY. CALL JOE Q AT 908-xxx-xxxx
2001-09-11 08:55:33 CALL HOME CONCERNING WTC EXPLOSION.
2001-09-11 08:55:35 if you don't have radio on, small plane has hit world trade center. -- andy
2001-09-11 08:55:35 EMERGENCY. CALL HOME NOW.
2001-09-11 08:55:37 AN AIRCRAFT OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN HAS HIT THE WORLD TRADE CENTER IN NY...CNN HAS LIVE PICTURES...JOE T/OCC
2001-09-11 08:55:42 A SMALL PLANE CRASHED INTO THE WORLD TRADE CTR IN N.Y. JUST NOW. CALL ME, LOVE YOUR WIFE.
2001-09-11 08:55:46 THERE WAS AN EXPLOSION AT THE WORLD TRADE CTR. CALL HOME FOR DETAILS
2001-09-11 08:55:46 (1/1) FIRE AT TRADE CENTER TOWER #2 POSSIBLE AIRCRAFT CRASH AS THE CAUSE. INFO TO FOLLOW AS OBTAINED. - JERRY EWR Ops x6025
2001-09-11 08:55:55 THEY SAY THAT A PLANE JUST HIT THE TWIN TOWERS IN NY. IT'S ON 11 NOW
2001-09-11 08:55:55 PLANE HIT NORTH TOWER. KEV.
2001-09-11 08:56:12 ALAN REISS IS AT THE POLICE DESK. THE TOP OF THE WORLD TRADE BLDG HAS BEEN DESTROYED. (MESSAGE NOT VERIFIED. CALL DISCONNECTED).
2001-09-11 08:56:22 Frm: janderson@xxxxx Txt: per WTOP, an airplane just crashed into the World Trade Center in NYC... -Jack
2001-09-11 08:56:24 PAGE UPDATE NEWS BULLETIN: NEW YORK: A COMMERCIAL PLANE CRASHES INTO THE WORLD TRADE CENTER TOWER.
2001-09-11 08:56:33 Dave, just an update. A plane has crashed into the World Trade Center. We have no further info. Ben Strong-National US&R Program (82
2001-09-11 08:56:35 it was a plane – lou
2001-09-11 08:56:37 From: Gxxxx, Kate (Exchange)- holy shit! a plane just hit the top of the world trade center!
2001-09-11 08:56:46 Trade Center has had a plane fly into the top floors. Live film footage on TV. FYI only
2001-09-11 08:56:54 FSOEWR@emc.fedex.com|Plane crash|Just a FYI...A plane crashed into the World Trade Center right Now... No details but it is on the NEWS...Thanks/Joyce
2001-09-11 08:56:59 "Aida Davidson" |tragedy|A plane has crashed into the world trade center in NY City. Huge mess and
2001-09-11 08:57:25 Frm: 2013295709@xxxxxx Txt: There are reports of a plane crash or some type of explosion at the World Trade Center , fire and smoke on many floors. Not sure how this will affect paging. Maria Ritz..
2001-09-11 08:57:33 World Trade Center...some type of explosion just moments ago. I am listening to CNN, could have been an aircraft. Keep you posted. me
2001-09-11 08:57:35 CALL ME AND LET ME KNOW YOU ARE SAFE. xxx-xxxx
2001-09-11 08:57:39 All - Plane crashed into WTC, our staff at 5 WTC is presently recorded safe details to follow. ?s call 1000
2001-09-11 08:58:05 PAGE FROM auyeuj: Ben, An American Airline plane crashed into one of the World Trade Tower. It is now stuck in the building and also over 100 people are estimated to have perished. There is smoked around one of the tower.
2001-09-11 08:58:05 Arch World Trade Center- report of explosion and/or fire. Will update as further info is recv'd. MTAPD Comm Ctr (1/1)
2001-09-11 08:58:13 showing 10 stories from top of bldg...news helo says plane may have gone all the way through –Jack
2001-09-11 08:58:16 World Trade Center- report of explosion and/or fire. Will update as further info is recv'd. MTAPD Comm Ctr (1/1)
2001-09-11 08:58:31 flashnet@intelcenter.com|FlashNet Event|NYC, US: Plane crashes into World Trade Center Tower
2001-09-11 08:58:33 1968237@skytel.c|Mike Doug here. r u watching breaking news about plane crashing into wtc ny?
2001-09-11 08:58:33 PLS GIVE ME A CALL AS SOON AS YOU COME OUT OF THE TRAIN. -PRITI AT xxx-xxxx. URGENT.
2001-09-11 08:58:33 HUSBAND-THEY BELIEVE A PLANE HIT THE TOP OF THE WORLD TRADE CENTER IN NEW YORK. IT'S REALLY BAD. LOV
2001-09-11 08:58:33 Initial reports indictate that AAL11, B767, after initial hijacking on flight from BOS-LAX, has crashed into the side of the World Trade Center in NY. ATCSCC/bl
2001-09-11 08:58:38 AGTTEAST@emc.fedex.com||A 737 AIRCRAFT JUST HIT A TOWER OF THE WORLD TRADE CENTER...GARY 212-xxx-xxxx
2001-09-11 08:58:42 A PLANE JUST HIT 1 WORLD TRADE CTR. OSCAR
2001-09-11 08:58:42 Hi Jim there was a plane that crashed into the world trade center this morning!
2001-09-11 08:58:42 A PLANE CRASHED INTO THE WORLD TRADE CTR. GET TO A TV SO YOU CAN SEE THIS OR CALL ME. JULIE.
2001-09-11 08:58:44 MIKE, A PLANE IN JUST CRASHED INTO THE WORLD TRADE CENTER.
2001-09-11 08:58:48 Skytel call Mark as soon as possible this is an emergency DO NOT GET ON THE PATH TRAIN...THE WORLD TRADE CENTER IS ON FIRE
2001-09-11 08:58:53 HEADS UP. PLANE CRASHED INTO WORLD TRADE CENTER. -ALLISON.
2001-09-11 08:59:03 bschork@xxxxx ||FYI: A plane crashed into the World Trade Center and the building is on fire.
2001-09-11 08:59:37  (1 of 2) BROADCAST: A plane has crashed into the World Trade Center. Be prepared
2001-09-11 08:59:38 BREAKING NEWS, PLANE CRASHED INTO WORLD TRADE CENTER, CALL ME LATER. LOVE NANCY.
2001-09-11 08:59:40 A plane just crashed into the side of the World Trade Center on the 80th floor & it's still inside! I just saw live photos o
2001-09-11 08:59:42 a plane crashed into the WTC avoid the area if possible...stay safe...most important...I will take care of anything for you...just don't take chances. mw
2001-09-11 08:59:50 9/11/01 7:58:21 AM A plane has crashed into the WTC.. Looks like 2WTC not sure at this time.. We're monitoring TCAM, etc... Riep Dallas Data Center Operations
2001-09-11 08:59:59 OVER SOD POSSIBLE PLANE CRASH IN THE WORLD TRADE CENTER LEVEL 3 MOBILIZATION IN MANHATTAN. NFI 8:57:14 AM
2001-09-11 08:59:59 (1/1) CONFIRMED PLANE CRASH AT 2 WORLD TRADE CENTER. EMRP, 38ST, HAZMAT RESPONDING. // CC 595-6777
2001-09-11 09:00:05 9/11/2001 9:00:08 AM 0849 HRS. PLANE CRASHED INTO THE WORLD TRADE CENTER TRAINS ARE BY PASSING THE STATION 'N' 'R'
2001-09-11 09:00:05 (1/1) CONFIRMED PLANE CRASH AT 2 WORLD TRADE CENTER. EMRP, 38ST, HAZMAT RESPONDING. // CC 595-6777
2001-09-11 09:00:10 22-TURN ON THE NEW YORK RADIO STATION. A PLANE CRASHED INTO THE WORLD TRADE CTR. CALL SANDY AT WORK LATER.
2001-09-11 09:00:25 From: Ayanlar, Orhan (Exchange)- 737 crashes into world trade center.
2001-09-11 09:00:39 fyi..top of world trade center hit by plane...major damage and fire on upper floors.
2001-09-11 09:00:39 HI IT'S NANCY CALL ME 646 xxx-xxxx I WANT TO KNOW IF YOU'RE OK BECAUSE OF THE PLANE THAT HIT THE TWIN TOWERS. CALL ME PLEASE.
2001-09-11 09:00:46 tefarber@att.com|MAJOR OUTAGE|World trade center damaged; unconfirmed reports say a plane has crashed into tower. MARSH AND NYMEX IMPACTED
2001-09-11 09:00:54 CALL THE OFFICE OR COME DOWN TO THE OFFICE ASAP. WORLD TRADE CENTER ON FIRE. MESSAGE AS PER JEFF Sxxxx. SCOTT Kxxxxxx
2001-09-11 09:00:55 Airplane just crashed into the side of the World Trade Center -
2001-09-11 09:00:59 800-214-4071 Airplane Crashed into WTC1 pleasde call MRO
2001-09-11 09:01:01 Frm: Netdesk Sub: Txt: Black smoke pours from the top flours of NYC's World Trade Center tower. Initial reports that a plane crashed into the tower.
2001-09-11 09:01:31 HEY GIRL BEFORE YOU LEAVE TURN ON YOUR TV OR RADI0 FOR UPDATE REGUARDING A PLANE CRASHING INTO THE WORLD TRADE CENTER IN NEW YORK CYA WHEN YOU GET HERE MARKUS
2001-09-11 09:01:44 MR Rosenblut just called. He said there was and airplane crash at World Trade Center. It might affect us. He called
2001-09-11 09:01:44 800-214-4071 Airplane Crashed into WTC1 pleasde call MRO (16
2001-09-11 09:01:53 Plane crash into World Trade Center. All MTA PD midnight units being held over. MTAPD Comm Ctr (1/1)
2001-09-11 09:01:53 FYI: Avoid downtown - a plane just ran into one of the World Trade towers!!! It
2001-09-11 09:02:03 [NFC] [09/11/01-09:01:29] FYI - World Trade Center is in on fire, It appears
2001-09-11 09:02:31  Netdesk@nbc.com||NYC FIRE DEPARTMENT CONFIRMS A SMALL PLANE CRASHED INTO THE WORLD TRADE CENTER THIS MORNING. BLACK SMOKE CONTINUES TO POUR FROM THE BUILDING. This is the north tower(with the antenna).
2001-09-11 09:02:31 BREAKING NEWS: PER OPB, IT APPEARS AA 757 HIJACKED AND RUN INTO THE WORLD TRADE CENTER. THIS IS NOT A JOKE AND JUST BREAKING NEWS> RICK-Rick
2001-09-11 09:02:40 small plane crashed into the world trade center towers no request has been made for NJ EMS response DO NOT CALL REMCS unless emergency. From: REMCS Supv.
2001-09-11 09:03:03 From: HICKLEE - Info - An airplane just crashed into the top of the World Trade Center. Wonder what their DR plan is ?
2001-09-11 09:03:12 Frm: Mazzocchi Robert - GPB Sub: A 737 just hit the Txt: World Trade Center
2001-09-11 09:03:31 A commuter airplane has crashed into 85th floor of World Trade Center..Alicia
2001-09-11 09:03:46 PLEASE GIVE ARIEL A CALL 212-xxx-xxxx RE: CASUALTIES AT THE WORLD TRADR CTR AIRPLANE CRASH.
2001-09-11 09:04:01 AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL HAS NOT GIVEN US ANY CONCRETE INFO.....INDICATED PSBL HI-JACK COM ACFT. JOE TURNER OCC DUTY DIRECTOR / 5-0000
2001-09-11 09:04:03 Netdesk@nbc.com||HUGE explosion just rocked the World Trade Center....the second tower is now on fire.
2001-09-11 09:04:20 another explosion in wtc!!!
2001-09-11 09:04:20 PLS CALL THE DESK ASAP. NEED YOU TO GO DOWN TO THE TRADE CENTER. CALL LAURA BEFORE YOU MOVE, 4114
2001-09-11 09:04:25 GPMS page from (bouvery): (Plane Crash) Finance Desk are contacting brokers (we deal with) at WTC for further confirmation of impact - support are on standy for increased calls - Danny
2001-09-11 09:04:25 :NASDGW1 is down, all internet users affected. Case Number:19501874
2001-09-11 09:04:25 martint: The fuselage of the plane at 1WTC has just caused a second explosion.
2001-09-11 09:04:37  Jennifer.Cxx@xxxxx||Small plane has crashed into top floors of one of WTC towers. A second plane has just hit the other tower.
2001-09-11 09:04:37 patty.txxxx@xxxx|Did you hear about the world trade center?|
2001-09-11 09:04:37 acaesar@xxxxxx||Hi. 2 planes have crashed into the World Trade Center NYC. (
2001-09-11 09:04:39 YOUR SISTER JOE SAW THE NEWS AND WANT TO KNOW IF YOU ARE OKAY. PLEASE CALL ME AT WORK AND LEAVE A MESSAGE IF I AM NOT AT MY DESK. 1 800 xxx xxxx EXTENSION 6184
2001-09-11 09:04:55 There may be two planes that crashed into them (sabatoge!!)JAN

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More great SBL sessions on mysticism

I've really been enjoying the SBL this year. Yesterday and today the Early Jewish and Christian Mysticism section had excellent sessions with lots of lively discussion. Yesterday, at the Second-Century Christian Mysticism and Gnosticism session, April DeConick spoke on "Star Gates and Heavenly Places: What Were the Gnostics Doing?" She discussed a Gnostic group called the Paratics (whom I had never heard of), who were mentioned by Hippolytus. (See this selection from G.R.S. Mead, Fragments of a Faith Forgotten, for his discussion of Hippolytus' account of the Paratics). Her discussion focused on the very complex picture of reality formulated by the Paratics and their beliefs about how the Gnostics will be saved upon death by traveling through the regions under the Moon, then into a region where they will encounter the hostile archons, and how they finally will be saved by traveling through the constellation Draco into the upper realm of the heavenly Father. Much of their worldview is based on ancient astrology.

The next paper was by Grant Adamson - "Fate Indelible: The Gospel of Judas as Horoscope." His abstract captures the important points of his paper:
By observing and calculating the position of the stars, ancient astrologers concerned themselves not only with predicting but also explaining ex post facto the time and manner of a native's death. Cases of violent death were of particular interest. Those astrologers who were more magically inclined sought to cheat death by calling down a god to cast their horoscope for them and erase their foul fate. Writing in the second century CE, the author of the Gospel of Judas drew on these traditions and practices in order to explain the fate of the already infamous betrayer who had facilitated the crucifixion and died violently himself. Jesus speaks as an astrologer in the Gospel of Judas, using technical astrological terms, and his predictions for Judas are grim. Judas asks Jesus for salvation, but the god explains that his fate is indelible.
Grant's paper confirmed the observations of April in her book on the Gospel of Judas (The Thirteenth Apostle: What the Gospel of Judas Really Says), namely that the book does not depict the victory of Judas over his fate, but rather his condemnation by the Savior to be the thirteenth daimon.

This is an interpretation opposed by Bart Ehrman, Elaine Pagels, and Karen King in their books on the Gospel of Judas. For an example of this line of interpretation, see Bart Ehrman in The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot (p. 98):
Judas, even more than Jesus, is the hero of this acount. To be sure, Jesus is the divine revealer who alone knows the mysterious truths that can lead to salvation. But the Gospel is about Judas: how he received these revelations; his superiority to all the other disciples, who continued to worship the false god(s) who created this material world; and how he would ultimately transcend this world, as at the end of his life he would enter into that 'luminous cloud,' in which dwells the ultimate and true God himself."
In the second edition of the National Geographic publication of the Gospel of Judas, see pages 18-22 for a survey of the conflicting opinions.

The third paper in the session was "The Tower as Divine Body: Visions and Theurgy in the Shepherd of Hermas," presented by Franklin Trammell. The abstract of his paper reads:
Behind some of the visions and teachings in the Shepherd of Hermas lies the notion of a direct correspondence between the heart of the righteous and the androgynous divine body. This body is presented by Hermas as a sevenfold Tower that is in the process of being (re)built by (re)incorporating the feminine Ecclesia. Members of the Ecclesia, who are pure of heart, are clothed with twelve virgins and receive the seal of the Son of God, representing the female and male aspects of the body. They then affect the reintegration of this female aspect, being built into the eschatological Tower as a part of her. Hermas’ law of purity therefore plays an incredibly important theurgic role. In identifying the Tower with the Ecclesia, itself implicitly assimilated in the text to Sophia, the author portrays those who do not sin after baptism as participating in the (re)unification of pre-existent Wisdom. It is this process along with elements related to it that shares affinities with later Jewish mystical sources.
I found this talk fascinating, especially since I've never read the Shepherd of Hermas. I found particularly interesting the possible connections to Sefer ha-Bahir that he mentioned.

The last talk, by Jonathan Knight, was on the Ascension of Isaiah.
"The use of Jewish and other Mystical Traditions in the Ascension of Isaiah." The Ascension of Isaiah is an important text because it is our earliest non-canonical Christian apocalypse. I date in the decade 110-120 CE, so that its author potentially knows earlier Christian literature, although he continues to rely on the oral tradition that surfaces also in Matthew's Gospel. The text sheds light on the development of early Christian mysticism in the period roughly between the last of the New Testament documents and the rise of the Gnostic literature.

I'm fading at the moment, so I'll have to leave today's panel for now, and hope to get back to it tomorrow or the next day.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Mysticism at the SBL

I'm attending the SBL (Society of Biblical Literature) Annual Meeting right now, which is being held in New Orleans.

I arrived in New Orleans very late Thursday night (my plane from Newark was delayed because of all the air traffic and weather problems) and then got up bright and early on Friday morning to go to the New Testament Mysticism Project session. This is the first time I've managed to get to one of these sessions, and it was really worthwhile. The presenters spoke mostly on the Gospel of John, giving very detailed exegeses of short passages. I found it very interesting and thought-provoking.

Last night an independent supporter of biblical studies who lives in Jerusalem, Jay Pomrenze, organized a delicious Shabbat dinner for any of the wandering Jews at the conference. He is a most generous soul and the atmosphere was very heimish. I think a majority of the celebrants were from Israel (mostly from Bar Ilan University). There was apparently a nice davening, which I missed because I had to take a nap before Shabbat.

Today I got up late and then went to the book display - finding several (expensive) books touching on early Jewish mysticism - Peter Schäfer's new book on the origins of early Jewish mysticism, a new synoptic edition of Sefer ha-Razim, and Christopher Rowland's and Christopher Morray-Jones' new volume, the Mystery of God, which is on early Jewish mysticism and the New Testament.

This afternoon I attended the first meeting of the Early Jewish and Christian Mysticism section, which included a review of the Mystery of God, done by three scholars - Charles Gieschen, Jim Davila, and Alan Segal. Alan couldn't make the meeting, so I read his contribution. After the three reviews, Chris Rowland's response was read by another participant, and Chris Morray-Jones replied in person. Overall, it was a very interesting discussing and I look forward to reading the book when it arrives.

I'm heading off right now for the annual dinner with the other members of the Early Jewish and Mysticism section, and anticipate a delicious dinner and fascinating discussion.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Is Gilo an Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem?

While I am usually opposed to building Jewish settlements in the West Bank, I think that the White House (White House: Israeli housing plans dismaying) is foolish to try to prevent Israel from building more apartments in Gilo - a Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem that is, in fact, over the Green Line, but which in any realistic plan to make peace with the Palestinians will never be part of a Palestinian state. The Washington Post calls Gilo part of "East Jerusalem," but in fact it is in southern Jerusalem, north of the Palestinian town of Beit Jalla, which is just north of Bethlehem. It would be important to know exactly where these new apartments would be built and whether any Palestinian land would be expropriated for them. I would certainly be opposed to expropriation, but not necessarily to building more Gilo apartments on land that doesn't belong to Palestinians.

Saeb Erakat, the Palestinian negotiator, of course opposes Israeli building in Gilo (which doesn't surprise me, nor do I blame him), on the grounds that this belongs to the part of Jerusalem Palestinians want for their capital. This reason I do find surprising - I've never heard the Palestinians say that Gilo should be part of the Palestinian capital, I've always understand that other neighborhoods in the east and north of the city should be part of the Palestinian capital (the Arab parts of the Old City, the built-up area of east Jerusalem near the Damascus Gate - Sultan Suleiman St., Salah al-Din St., Harun al-Rashid St., Sheikh Jarrah, Ras al-Amud, Abu Dis).

Haaretz reports on the substance of the plan:
The plan - named "Gilo's western slopes" - will account for a significant expansion of the neighborhood. The planned 900 housing unites will be built in the form of 4-5 bedroom apartments, in an effort to lure relatively well-off residents.

The plan was initiated by the Israel Land Administration, and has received an initial green light, but on Tuesday the authorization was finalized.

The additional housing units are only part of the planned expansion of Gilo. In fact, the majority of apartments slated to be built in Jerusalem in the coming years will be located in Gilo. Other building plans in various stages of approval include some 4,000 new housing units in Gilo and adjacent areas.

According to sources in the planning committee, extensive building plans stem from the scrapping of the Safdie plan, which would have seen the city expand westward. The Safdie plan, named after architect Moshe Safdie, included over 20,000 housing units on open areas covering 26,600 dunams (some 6,600 acres) west of the city on natural and planted forests near Ramot. The plan had come under attack by environmental groups, and was later discarded.

According to the sources, this created a need for new land for construction, which can be found in the southern parts of the city and beyond the Green Line.
I'm not sure that this is a battle that the White House should be having with Israel. Israeli building in other parts of Jerusalem appears to me to be much more crucial to oppose (for example, in Sheikh Jarrah or in Silwan), because it breaks up cohesive Palestinian neighborhoods and makes it much more difficult for them to be included in a future Palestinian state. As far as I know, this is not true of Gilo.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Ft. Hood Shooting

I'm watching Lou Dobbs now (I know, probably not a good idea for my mental health, but I was hoping to hear the latest information about the shooting), and the thing that's infuriating me about his discussion of the shooting is the assumption that the shooter (Major Nadal Malik Hasan) acted because of combat stress/PTSD. As far as I can tell, he hadn't yet been deployed at all, although he was about to be sent to Iraq.

He was a psychiatrist who had trained for his medical degree in the military, and before he went to Ft. Hood, he had worked at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress at the Bethesda Naval Facility and had been a Fellow, Disaster and Preventive Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. He had also worked at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for six years before being transferred to the Texas base in July.





On various websites I've read a variety of disgusting reactions, based upon the political leanings of the commenter - some are anti-Muslim (on the basis of his name), others are simply anti-military with the assumption that all soldiers are bloodthirsty murderers or potential murderers.

Since we don't know anything about his motive for the shootings, I think it's useless at this point to speculate on them.

Update - from press conference right now with General Robert Cone (9:20 p.m.) - apparently the shooter is not dead. He was shot, but did not die, and is in stable condition.

Further Update (Washington Post):
Nidal M. Hasan, the Army major suspected of shooting dozens at Fort Hood in Texas on Wednesday, was a devout Muslim and Virginia native born to two Jordanian immigrants. His family moved to Roanoke, where he attended high school, afterward enlisting in the Army.
The 39-year-old received a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Virginia Tech in 1997, followed by advanced degrees in psychiatry and public health from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda.

Starting in June 2003, Hasan was an intern at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, later becoming a resident and then a fellow at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress.

During his time in the D.C. area, Hasan attended the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring and was "very devout," according to Faizul Khan, a former imam at the center. Khan said Hasan attended prayers at least once a day, seven days a week, often in his Army fatigues.

Khan also said Hasan applied to an annual matrimonial seminar that matches Muslims looking for spouses. "I don't think he ever had a match, because he had too many conditions," Khan said. On his application, Hasan described his personality and character: "I am quiet and reserved until more familiar with person. Funny, caring and personable."

This year, he was promoted to major and then transferred to Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood and was set to be deployed to Iraq.
Some more interesting details from the New York Times:
Born and reared in Virginia, the son of immigrant parents from a small town near Jerusalem, he joined the Army right out of high school, against his parents’ wishes. The Army, in turn, put him through college and then medical school, where he trained to be a psychiatrist.

But Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the 39-year-old man accused of Thursday’s mass shooting at Fort Hood, Tex., started having second thoughts about his military career a few years ago after other soldiers harassed him for being a Muslim, he told relatives in Virginia.

He had also more recently expressed deep concerns about being sent to Iraq or Afghanistan. Having counseled scores of returning soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder, first at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and more recently at Fort Hood, he knew all too well the terrifying realities of war, said a cousin, Nader Hasan....
Major Hasan was not married and had two brothers, one living in Virginia and another in Jerusalem, his cousin said. The family, by and large, had prospered in the United States, with various members working in law, banking and medicine, Mr. Hasan said.

The Associated Press, quoted federal law enforcement officials saying Major Hasan had come to their attention at least six months ago because of Internet postings that mentioned suicide bombings and other threats.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Our extremists on the Temple Mount

From Ynet:
In a move that may heighten tensions in the capital, the Organization for Human Rights on the Temple Mount (OHRTM) called for Jews to visit the east Jerusalem compound, which houses the al-Aqsa Mosque.

During a rightist event held in Jerusalem Sunday evening, just hours after Muslims rioted in and around the Temple Mount amid reports that Jewish extremists were planning to visit the site, Professor Hillel Weiss said, "The (third) temple must be built now. The mosques do not have to be destroyed in order for us to do this."

The conference, which was attended by a number of Knesset members and leading rabbis, was held in protest of the decision to seal off the compound due to the recent violence.

"It's time that we stop surrendering to violence," Temple Institute Director Rabbi Yehuda Glick said, adding that "before his assassination, prime minister Yitzhak Rabin said the greatest threat to Israeli democracy is bowing down to violence. "Unfortunately, lately police are surrendering and withdrawing in the face of the Palestinians' violence," said the rabbi.

Kiryat Arba Chief Rabbi Dov Lior said, "It is vital that the Israeli people visit the (Temple Mount). We are suffering because a large segment of the populations is indifferent towards this issue. "Reclaiming our sovereignty over (the Temple Mount) will bring redemption closer," said the rabbi.

Far-right activist Moshe Feiglin told the conference that the Temple Mount riots and the Goldstone Report, which accuses the IDF of committing war crimes during its December-January conflict with Hamas in Gaza, both constitute attempts to "undermine our legitimacy in this land."
Don't these people realize they are playing with fire? It seems like the Islamic movement in Israel, Hamas, the PA, and this right-wing Jewish group are working together to start the third intifada. (Although I doubt that the OHRTM intends to start the third intifada, unlike Hamas).

(For a contrary view, read Yisrael Medad at My Right Word. He attended the conference, and I hope will write more about it on his blog).

Hamas on Jerusalem: Fate of the city to be decided by war

Rioting in Jerusalem has resumed today, and Hamas leader Khaled Mashall says the fate of the city will not be decided upon by negotiations, but by war. He claims that the Israelis want to demolish the Al Aqsa mosque and replace it with the Temple.
Following a day of clashes between security forces and Arab rioters in Jerusalem, Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal on Sunday evening stated that the fate of the capital would be determined by force, not negotiations.
Arab youths hurl stones...
"The fate of Jerusalem will be determined only by confrontation and not by the negotiating tables," Mashaal said in a speech, according to Channel 10. "The Israelis want to divide al-Aqsa Mosque, and this is not all. They want to hold their religious ceremonies in the mosque … in preparation for demolishing it and building their temple there," he reportedly said. Israel is interested in handling the Jerusalem issue unilaterally so that it is not included in negotiations with the Palestinians, Masha'al claimed.
"Jerusalem is all of Jerusalem, not only [the east Jerusalem neighborhood of] Abu-Dis. The Arabs and Muslims are [the city's] residents, and the Zionists have no claim over it," he said.
"I call for angry protests in Palestine and in the Arab world. Today, protests began in [the] Gaza [Strip], and we hope they will spread to the West Bank. It is important for there to be a united Palestinian position. We must send a message to the world: In light of the settlements and actions in Jerusalem, there are no negotiations and we must rethink our steps," the Hamas leader concluded.
It's clear, of course, from this story, that Masha'al does not think Jews have any claim to Jerusalem, even the right to live in it. (We should not be fooled by his use of the word "Zionists" - he means Jews).

The Ma'an News Agency (Palestinian) offers a different translation of Masha'al's words:

Bethlehem – Ma'an – Hamas’ top political official, Khalid Mash'al, warned that Israel could attempt to divide the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem in a televised news conference from Damascus on Sunday evening.

"It was the first time Israeli army locked the gates of the mosque with chains, barring the call to prayer, breaking into its yards for long periods of time," Mash’al said in remarks denouncing an Israeli police raid early on Sunday that sparked a day of demonstrations." These acts are intended to divide Al-Aqsa and force their [Jews’] religious rituals on it," he added.

Mash’al may have been alluding to the division of the Ibrahimi Mosque in the West Bank city of Hebron, half of which is controlled by Israeli settlers.

Mash’al also struck a chord of Muslim-Christian solidarity in his address. He said that among those who holed themselves up inside the Mosque on Sunday in response to the Israeli intrusion were Palestinians from inside Israel and Christians. "Jerusalem for us, as Palestinians, is all of Jerusalem with all of its land, residents and its Islamic symbols … the Jews have no right to it," he also said.

"Jerusalem’s fate will not be decided in negotiations but in the balance of confrontation and resistance," he added.

For an archive of stories about the rioting in Jerusalem this fall, see my wiki on Jerusalem: Clashes on Temple Mount.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

A Jerusalem encounter

David of Israelity reports on A Jerusalem encounter.
Jerusalem has always been a volatile place, but the last week of protests and rioting by local Palestinians in the Old City and east Jerusalem over what they claim to be Israeli efforts to move in on the Temple Mount really show what a tinderbox it is.

But sometimes, trying to hone in on a human aspect instead of looking at the dismal macro situation can provide a different view of the situation that Jews and Arabs find themselves thrown in together in the place both sides call their home.

I was waiting for a bus yesterday across from the Regency Hotel near Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus to take me through the tunnel and to Ma’aleh Adumim. A short distance away, at the intersection that leads to Wadi Joz, the police had blocked off the road and were redirecting traffic – evidently a common procedure during the busy days of Hol Hamoed Succot when so many extra visitors come to Jerusalem, but undoubtedly mighty annoying for residents of the area.
There was one other person at the bus stop, a young man in his 20s, wearing trendy sunglasses and holding a small overnight bag.

“Are you going to Beit She’an too? he asked me in Hebrew, revealing with his accent that he was Arab. I told him no, and we started talking about his journey.
“I’m going to Jordan to visit my sister. She’s lived there for years,” he said. “It’s easier for me to cross over the border at Beit She’an.”

Turns out his name was Khaled and he lives in Shuafat, the Arab neighborhood that borders the Jewish neighborhood of French Hill, next to Hebrew University.
We started talking about Jordan, and he offered some tips about visiting our eastern neighbor. “There’s not much to see in Amman, it’s best to just go to Petra. But don’t go to Akaba, they don’t like Jews there.”

“Are things quiet in Shuafat now”? I asked, referring to rock throwing and tire burning that had taken place there in recent days.

“Yes, but you never know when it will start again. There’s a few instigators who start doing those things,” said Khaled, who said that he was entering his last years of a Master’s degree in business administration at the university. “I don’t like living here,” he added, pointing to the roadblock a few feet away. “You can’t go where you want. When I finish my Masters, my girlfriend and I are leaving – to America, or maybe Europe.”

We tossed things around for a few more minutes until my bus arrived. Khaled and I shook hands, wished each other well, and I got on the bus leaving him waiting for his.

On the way back home, I reflected on the encounter and felt a certain sadness – if decent people like Khaled are throwing up their hands in despair and leaving the fate of Jerusalem to the rock throwers and tire burners, then our future looks bleak. I wanted to get off the bus and go back and tell him, ’stay here, help us build a society that we can all live in together.’

But my bus was already entering Ma’aleh Adumim.
A nice sentiment on David's part, but it would be nice if he had referred to all the things that Israel does to make the lives of people like Khaled miserable. It's not just the stone-throwers of Shuafat, it's the separation wall and the checkpoints. Yes, I know all the arguments in favor of the barrier - it keeps suicide bombers out of Israel. If, however, that were the only goal, it would be built along the Green Line and settlements in the West Bank would not be on the Israeli side of the barrier. And in places like Jerusalem, the barrier would not be built right in the middle of Arab neighborhoods, as it is. See this 2007 article on the Brit Tzedek web site for a discussion of how difficult the separation barrier makes the lives of ordinary, non-terrorist Palestinians. And a blog posting by Dennis Fox on his walk from Ramallah to Jerusalem, passing by Shuafat, which is behind the separation wall and has only two entrances to it.

Below is a photo of the separation barrier in Jerusalem. See how it divides most of the buildings of one Arab neighborhood from a couple of houses further down the hill.







Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Merits of Jerusalem

One of the things that I find quite astonishing about the current denial by some Muslims that the first and second Temples stood on the Temple Mount is that Muslim sources from the early centuries of Islam clearly recognize that a Jewish Temple used to be there. There is a genre of Muslim religious writing on the merits of cities, including the merits of Jerusalem. The earliest example is Fada'il Bayt al-Maqdis by al-Walid b. Hammad al-Ramli (died 912 CE). (I have learned about this genre of Muslim literature from Suleiman Mourad, who wrote an article on it for Jerusalem: Idea and Reality). This genre contains traditions that clearly go back to earlier Jewish and Christian traditions about Jerusalem, including evidence that Solomon's Temple stood on the Temple Mount. Why do contemporary Muslim religious leaders in Palestine deny the evidence of their own tradition? (Or do they just not know about these texts?)

Monday, October 05, 2009

You just can't make these things up - the Conservative Bible Project

Wow, this reads like a parody of itself. Do these people know how ignorant they sound? The Conservative Bible Project proposes ten principles to follow in order to make a new conservative Bible translation.
1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias. Why would a "thought-for-thought" translation lead to a conservative translation? I would think that a "word for word" approach would be more conservative (and not incidentally, much harder to read!)

2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, "gender inclusive" language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity. I myself do favor a more literal translation that doesn't elide originally sexist language in the Bible, but sometimes a gender inclusive translation is justifiable.

3. Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level. I agree with this - but why is this a conservative principle?

4. Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms as they develop; defective translations use the word "comrade" three times as often as "volunteer"; similarly, updating words which have a change in meaning, such as "word", "peace", and "miracle". One of the examples they give below is translating "word" (as in the Prologue to John) as "truth" instead. How about taking a look at the Greek and its semantic range before imposing your own translation? Ever heard of eisegesis? And "peace"? What, replace it with "war"?

5. Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as "gamble" rather than "cast lots"; using modern political terms, such as "register" rather than "enroll" for the census. So Jonah and the sailors "gambled" to figure out who was responsible for the storm that threatened to overwhelm the ship? This is ridiculous.

6. Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil. So how would this translation understand "the Satan" in Job?

7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning. Free-market parables?? Nothing like imposing a modern economic system upon a text from first century Palestine.

8. Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story. And why is this a "liberal passage"? Because it indicates that Jesus was merciful? (Their most egregious example in the article is the last words of Jesus in Matthew - "Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'" Apparently this is a "liberal addition" - the idea that God is merciful and forgives sinners!

9. Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels. I have no idea what this means.

10. Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word "Lord" rather than "Jehovah" or "Yahweh" or "Lord God." Again, why is conciseness a conservative style and wordiness a liberal one?
Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they do!

Ah, so much for a good rumor - Ahmedinejad NOT Jewish after all

Meir Javedanfar, on the Guardian site Comment is Free, has scotched the idea that Ahmedinejad is Jewish: Ahmadinejad has no Jewish roots.

And it seems likely to me that he knows what he's talking about: according to the Guardian website, "Meir Javedanfar is an Iranian-Israeli Middle East analyst and co-author of The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran."

Sunday, October 04, 2009

More trouble on the Temple Mount

Nadav Shragai's opinion piece in the March 12, 2009 issue of Haaretz reveals some information that I did not know, and it provides a key to why there was violence on the Temple Mount the morning before Yom Kippur a week ago. He wrote in March:
For years, the Jerusalem District Police "benefited" from the fact that few Jews visited the Temple Mount, sparing the police this "headache." But now the situation is changing. The halakhic consensus that Jews are forbidden to ascend the mount has been broken. More and more rabbis are permitting Jews to visit, and more and more Jews are seeking to do so.

The police have not come to terms with this new situation. They are confused and are confusing others, and have inverted the natural order of things on the mount, which is both the world's most sensitive site and the Jewish people's holiest site. Not much remains for Jews on the Temple Mount. The Temple is gone. Prayer is forbidden there. The mount's antiquities have been destroyed, and its mosques have become founts of religious and nationalist incitement against the State of Israel.
It is certainly true that more religious Jews have started to go to the Temple Mount, despite the halakhic prohibition of the Chief Rabbinate which has existed since 1967. The question is whether this should be regarded as a "provocation," as the leaders of the Islamic Movement in Israel and the Palestinian Authority seem to.

On April 16, 2009, Haaretz reported that "Hundreds of Muslim protesters block Jewish entry to the Temple Mount." Apparently a Jewish group was given permission to ascend the Mount and pray there, something which I thought was not allowed at all.
Hundreds of Muslims gathered Thursday at the foot of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem, to prevent Jewish worshippers from entering the Temple Mount for a planned prayer service. The Muslim protesters began arriving Wednesday evening, gathering on the slope leading to the Temple Mount area. The rise, which overlooks the Western Wall, is considered holy to both Jews and Muslims, and houses a sacred site for both religions.

The Islamic Movement had opposed the prayer session, and police said they would allow the Jews to pray on the Mount, but not to engage in any other activities in the area.

Army Radio on Wednesday quoted Jerusalem Police as saying that they would limit the number of Muslim worshippers entering the Temple Mount for prayers on Thursday due to fears of disturbances. Hundreds of police and Border Police officers were to be deployed to East Jerusalem to prevent violence, and entry to the Temple Mount was to be restricted to women, and men over age 50 holding Israeli ID cards. Police said they received intelligence warnings about thousands of Palestinians being called to protest at the site. The Islamic Movement's northern branch arranged dozens of buses to take Muslim protesters to the area.
See also Shragai's September 28, 2009 Haaretz article, "Digs, Lies, and Mugrabi bridge," on growing Muslim denial that Jews ever had anything to do with the Temple Mount, including denying that Solomon's Temple once stood there.

The problems on the Temple Mount were renewed today: Israel keeps Temple Mount closed in wake of clashes
After a day of clashes near the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem on Sunday, Israeli security forces have decided to limit access to the compound for another day. The compound will be open only to men over the age of 50 with a valid Israeli identification card and to women of all ages.

Tensions in the Old City seemed to have calmed by late Sunday afternoon, following hours of clashes between Arab youth and security forces. Israeli security forces released from custody Jerusalem's senior Fatah official, Khatem Abed Al-Kadr, who was arrested earlier in the day on suspicion of inciting riots. Al-Kadr was released on condition that he not enter the Old City of Jerusalem and that he remain at least 250 meters from the area gates for 15 days. He was released on NIS 10,000 bail. Deputy leader of Israel's northern Islamic Movement, Sheikh Kemal Khativ, was also released on similar conditions.

Some 150 Palestinian protesters hurled rocks and bottles at Israeli police on Sunday after being barred from one of the holiest shrines in Jerusalem, on Temple Mount.

Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said police have dispersed the demonstrators who had gathered near the disputed hilltop compound. One police officer was lightly hurt in the clash. Ben-Ruby said that the unrest continued at a nearby East Jerusalem neighborhood and that three men have been detained.

Earlier Sunday, police closed the Temple Mount complex to visitors. The complex is sacred to Jews as the site of the two biblical Jewish temples and to Muslims as home of the al-Aqsa mosque. The closure was imposed after Palestinians rioted at the site last week on Yom Kippur. The northern chapter of the Islamic Movement reported Sunday morning that buses en route to the Al-Aqsa mosque had been detained on route 6.

It was further reported that tensions were high in the area following recent calls on Muslim residents of East Jerusalem to show a presence at the mosque.

On Friday, the Islamic Movement held a rally in the Israeli Arab town of Umm al-Fahm, under the heading "Al-Aqsa is in danger." The rally is a 14-year old annual tradition. The head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, Ra'ad Salah, warned Friday against Israel's alleged plan to take over the mosque. "[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu will set the Middle East on fire," Salah told his supporters at the rally.
I would say that the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel is also trying to set the Middle East on fire, as the words of Ra'ad Salah below demonstrate:
An Islamic Movement leader on Sunday urged Muslims across Israel to gather at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to prevent extreme right-wing Jews from entering the compound to pray. "I call on everyone in Jerusalem and within the Green Line to come to the [Al-Qasa] mosque and show your presence," said Sheik Ra'ad Salah, who heads the northern branch of the Islamic Movement.
A reporter for a website affiliated with the northern branch of the Islamic Movement was beaten by police during the riots today:
A reporter for the Arab-Israeli news website PLS48.net was injured during the riots that broke out Sunday morning at the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem's Old City. He claims a police officer struck him with a baton and disappeared. Police reject the claims.

Reporter Abdallah Zidan arrived at the Temple Mount at dawn to cover the prayers for his website, which is sponsored by the Islamic Movement's northern branch.

Many heeded Islamic Movement leader Sheikh Raad Salah's call to arrive at the Al-Aqsa Mosque after word got out that extreme-right wing Jews would be making their way to the site as well.

Zidan, a resident of the Manda village in the Galilee was among the visitors, and along with a group of fellow worshipers arrived at the entrance gate at around 5 am. A tumult suddenly erupted near Sheikh Kamal Khatib, Salah's deputy, who was standing in Zidan's vicinity. Khatib, who was later arrested on suspicion of incitement, was surrounded by people who prevented officers from reaching him. Zidan claims that during the fracas a police officer struck him with a baton in a forceful manner. "I started bleeding from my eye, the people around me tried to help but the police officer disappeared," Zidan recalled.

Zidan was evacuated to an east Jerusalem hospital and transferred by ambulance to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. "I was lucky the actual eye wasn't hurt, it was very close," said Zidan, who required stitches.

"Police officers were behaving very brutally, like animals. They came and hit me for no reason. Media personnel who come for news coverage cannot be hurt in such a way," he said.

The reporter added that he intends on filing a complaint against the officer with the Justice Ministry.

Jerusalem Police rejected the claims and stated that "Border Guard forces together with minority section officers requested Kamal Khatib to come with them, which he did. Nothing unusual occurred at any stage of his arrest. It went by very smoothly."
While I deeply suspect the motives of the Islamic Movement, I don't necessarily believe all of the police accounts either. Police certainly present themselves in the best possible light and deny any wrongdoing when they clearly did the wrong thing in a given situation - like beating a reporter.

Khaled Abu Toameh of the Jerusalem Post also reports on today's events:
At least 100 Palestinian men, who had refused to leave the Temple Mount despite an Israeli decision made on Sunday morning to shut down the site due to security concerns, left the area in the early evening. The Palestinian Authority and the Waqf had instructed the men to arrive at the site on Saturday night and stay put, fearing what they termed a "Jewish takeover."

On Sunday morning, approximately 150 Arabs hurled rocks and bottles at security forces in the Old City shortly after the decision to shut down the compound was announced.

In the evening, Jerusalem Magistrate's Court issued restraining orders against senior Fatah official Hatem Abdel Kader and Islamic Movement official Kamal Khatib, banishing both men from the Old City area for a period of 15 days. Khatib was arrested in the afternoon on suspicion of fanning the riots. Kader was detained overnight Saturday on suspicion of inciting Muslims to cause disturbances in the Old City by issuing the call. Kader previously served as the Palestinian Authority's minister for Jerusalem affairs after acting as PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad's adviser on Jerusalem affairs.

In Gaza, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh commented on the riots, saying that "The Israeli attack on Al-Aqsa Mosque is continuing, they have surrounded the mosque and broken into it." Speaking at a function in honor of the release of the 20th female Palestinian prisoner, Haniyeh claimed that gun-toting Israeli security forces had forced devout worshipers to leave the compound.

Earlier in the day, Border Police closed off roads around the Old City and dispersed the rioters into the neighborhood of Wadi Joz, where residents briefly joined in the disturbances. Three rioters were arrested and one border policeman was lightly wounded in the clashes.

Many of the Arab rioters were believed to have traveled to the capital from the North. Palestinians had claimed that police planned to order groups of Jewish settlers to pray within close proximity of mosques.

The clashes come two days after the US State Department called on its citizens to avoid the area over Succot.

According to police, access to the area was barred following a call made throughout east Jerusalem to "come and defend" the mount.

Last week, shortly before Yom Kippur, disturbances flared up across east Jerusalem, beginning when 18 policemen and 15 rioters were hurt during clashes on the Temple Mount, and later elsewhere in the Old City.

A Channel 2 commentator suggested that the riots were not just a reaction to Jewish presence in the compound, but also "induced by fear that Israel would plant false archaeological evidence, as though a Jewish temple never existed in Jerusalem."

Police said some 150 Muslim worshipers participated in last week's disturbance on the Temple Mount, which began when a group of Jewish visitors entered the compound with a police escort.

The Temple Mount compound will also be shut down on Monday, when tens of thousands of Jewish worshipers are expected to pray at the Western Wall. Only Muslim worshipers over the age of 50 will be allowed access to the compound.

Abe Selig contributed to this report.
Click here for a video report from the Jerusalem Post.


From Jaffa Gate - Holy Sepulcher - Haram - Mt. Zion
View of a northern archway on the Temple Mount.

One of the things that has disturbed me about the status quo on the Temple Mount is that Jews (or any non-Muslims) are forbidden to pray there in any way. If the police see someone just moving their lips in prayer they can take the person off the Mount. I understand that some Jews go up to the Mount to pray in order to provoke Muslims - I can see why the police wouldn't want to permit them to do so. But I do wish that some provision could be made for peaceful prayer by non-Muslims. The Temple Mount is the holiest place for Jews. When I visit there, I wish I could pray.


From Muslim Quarter & Temple Mount/Haram esh-Sharif
Inside view of the ceiling of the Dome of the Chain (situated just to the east of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount).

I would prefer that the permission allow personal, individual prayer, however, not the establishment of a synagogue on the Temple Mount, because it would inevitably be controlled by the most rigidly Orthodox. (Not by the ultra-Orthodox, who wouldn't go on the Temple Mount in any case, as far as a I know). Men and women would be separated in prayer and the men would be in control. I would like unfettered prayer there - not controlled by the Waqf, the Israeli police, or Orthodox Judaism.