Flowers of Galilee

By Israel Shamir
Source: The Truth Seeker

When in 1543, the typhoon-blown Portuguese schooners approached the shores of Japan, the astonished sailors could not believe their eyes: on a warm spring day, the tropical island ahoy was buried under snow. They were witness to one of the real Seven Wonders of the World, the flowers of sakura, the wild cherry of Japan. As soon as the benevolent heaven bestows this seasonal gift to earth, the Japanese forget their wives and kids, their duties, employers and bills; they just sit under the trees, drink sake wine and write poems, short and sharp as swords.

That is why, these days, leaving behind our man-made troubles, I sit under the white cloud of a tree and watch the beautiful white and pink blossoms of almond trees covering the hills of Galilee. These lovely blossoms are our version of the Japanese sakura, and a chance to indulge in the custom of flower viewing. A honey aroma wafts through the air; the skies are crystal blue. Yellow daisies dance on the lush green grass at the base of these almond wonders, interspersed by violet cyclamen and red anemones. The glorious backdrop is provided by the huge snow mass of Jebel al Sheikh (Mt Hermon). Palestine is a sister to Japan. These two hilly lands are home to stubborn mountain folk, devoted to their customs and ways.

For all the similarities in the landscape, there are differences. The hill we sit on, all white like Jaffa sea surf, is the ruin of a village. If we were in Japan, it would be alive and humming. The village of Birim has been dead for fifty years. It is beautiful even in death, like Ophelia floating down the stream in the pre-Raphaelite painting of Millais. It was not ruined by war. Its Christian inhabitants were expelled from their houses well after the 1948 war. They were told to leave for a week or two, for ‘security’ reasons. They had no option but to believe the Israeli officers and move out. Their village was dynamited, their church surrounded by barbed wire. They went to Israeli court; they went to the government; commissions were appointed and petitions signed. Nothing helped. Ever since, for 50 years, they have lived in the nearby villages, and on Sundays they continue to visit their church. Their lands were seized by their Jewish neighbours, but they still bring their dead to be buried in the church graveyard, under the sign of the cross.

Until the arrival of the Israeli army, this ruined village with its orphaned church was the home of the rural Christians of Birim who, for centuries of Moslem rule, lived in peace with their Moslem neighbors of Nebi Yosha and with the old Sephardi Jewish community of nearby Safed. This little Guernica in the Galillee can single-handedly undermine the myth of a ‘Judeo-Christian’ civilization opposing a ‘monstrous’ Islam. This myth lays at the foundation of the Christian Zionist movement; among its fervent supporters, one can find a friend of Mark Rich and a newly minted New York citizen, W. J. Clinton.

The problems of the Middle East are ugly enough without the current Moslem-bashing. The pro-Israeli pundits of the New York Times quote the blood-curling verses on Jihad, retell the old traditions of religious wars and persecutions, to ‘prove’ Islam’s cruelty and intolerance. They are repeated by a pleasant upper-class Jewish lady from London, Barbra Amiel. In a sotto voce, she writes about ‘exclusivist’ Islam and Jewish ‘moderation’. In order to incite hatred, Israel’s lobby works all the ropes. Before the rise of Israel, Arab sheiks were depicted as romantic heroes in movies acted by Rudolf Valentino. Nowadays, the pro-Israel producers of Hollywood turn out propaganda films on ill-shaven Moslem terrorists with the subtlety of Edward D. Wood, Jr. This new prejudice is amplified a hundredfold by the Christian Zionist Congress, claiming ‘protection for Christians of Palestine from the Moslem (?!) persecution’. These people obviously have not walked among the ruins of Birim.

Another email comes into my laptop, this time from Gaza. An American girl, Alison Weir from San Francisco evades Israeli bullets, comforts the scared Palestinian kids, and writes: “The problem is when you know the truth, it is far too cruel, far too diametrically opposite what we used to think and what everyone still thinks to express. The lie is too big, the repression too complete, the Palestinians’ lives too horrible to write about reasonably”.

Well, Alison is right. We face a huge lie, an anti-Moslem blood libel, and it is time to stop it. I do not think that the problems of Middle East have anything to do with religion. But if the supporters of Israel want to wake up the sleeping ghost of religious intolerance, to incite Christians against Moslems, let us audit their balance.

If these Christian Zionists care for Christ, not only for Zion, let them learn what Jews and Moslems feel towards Christ. Rami Rozen expressed the Jewish tradition in a long feature in a major Israeli newspaper Haaretz[i]: “Jews feel towards Jesus today what they felt in 4 c or in the Middle Ages It is not fear, it is hatred and despise”. “For centuries, Jews concealed from Christians their hate to Jesus, and this tradition continues even now”. “He is revolting and repulsive”, said an important modern religious Jewish thinker. Rozen writes that this “repulsion passed from the observant Jews to the general Israeli public”.

On Christmas Eve, according to a report in the Jerusalem local paper, Kol Ha-Ir[ii], Hassids customarily do not read holy books, as it could save Jesus from eternal punishment (the Talmud teaches that Jesus boils in hell[iii]). This custom was dying out, but Hassids of Habad, the fervent nationalists, brought it back to life. I still remember old Jews spitting while passing by a church, and cursing the dead, while passing by a Christian cemetery. Last year in Jerusalem, a Jew decided to refresh the tradition. He spat at Holy Cross, carried in the procession along the city. Police saved him from further trouble, but the court fined him $50, despite his claim that he just fulfilled his religious duty.

Last year, the biggest Israeli tabloid Yedioth Aharonoth reprinted in its library the Jewish anti-Gospel, Toledoth Eshu, compiled in the Middle Ages. It is the third recent reprint, including one in a newspaper. If the Gospel is the book of love, Toledoth is the book of hate for Christ. The hero of the book is Judas. He captures Jesus by polluting his purity. According to Toledoth, the conception of Christ was in sin, the miracles of Jesus were witchcraft, his resurrection but a trick.

Joseph Dan, a Professor of Jewish mysticism in Hebrew University in Jerusalem, writing on the death of Jesus stated: “The modern Jewish apologists, hesitantly adopted by the church, preferred to put the blame on Romans. But the medieval Jew did not wish to pass the buck. He tried to prove that Jesus had to be killed, and he was proud of killing Him. The Jews hated and despised Christ and Christians”. Actually, adds Prof. Dan, there is little place to doubt that the Jewish enemies of Jesus caused his execution.

Even today, Jews in Israel refer to Jesus by the demeaning word Yeshu (instead of Yeshua), meaning ‘Perish his name’. There is an ongoing argument, whether His name was turned into a swear word, or other way around. In a similar pun, the Gospel is called ‘Avon Gilaion’, the booklet of Sin. These are the endearing feeling of the friends of Christian Zionists towards Christ.

What about Moslems? The Moslems venerate Christ. He is called ‘The Word of God”, “Logos”, Messiah, the Prophet and is considered “a Messenger of God”, along with Abraham, Moses and Muhammad. Many chapters of the Kor’an tell the story of Christ, his virgin birth and his persecution by Jews. His saintly mother is admired, and the Immaculate Conception is one of the tenets of Islam. The name of Christ glorifies the golden edifice of Haram a-Sharif. According to the Moslem faith, it was there that the founder of Islam met Jesus, and they prayed together. The Hadith, the Moslem tradition, says in the name of the prophet, ‘We do not forbid you to believe in Christ, we order you to”. Moslems identify their prophet with Paracletes, the Helper (Jn 14:16) whose coming was predicted by Jesus. They venerate places associated with the life of Jesus: the place of Ascension, the Tomb of Lazarus, the Holy Sepulchre are adjacent to a mosque and perfectly accessible by Christians.

While Moslems do not consider Jesus – God, they proclaim him as the Messiah, the Anointed one, the Paradise Dweller. This religious idea, familiar to Nestorians and other early churches, but rejected by mainstream Christianity, opened the gates for those Jews, who could not part with the notion of strict monotheism. That is why many Palestinian Jews and Christians of the 7th century accepted Islam and became Palestinian Moslems. They remained in their villages, they did not depart for Poland or England, they did not learn Yiddish, they did not study the Talmud, but they continued to shepherd their flocks and plant almond trees, they remained faithful to their land and to the great idea of the fraternity of men.

In the south of Hebron, in the ruins of Susiah, one can see how in the course of two centuries a synagogue slowly evolved into a mosque, as the population of nearby caves abandoned the exclusionary faith of Babylonian wizards and adopted Islam. These shepherds still live there, in the same caves. In the last year, the Israeli army has twice tried to expel them to provide more room for new settlers from Brooklyn.

Why, in this season of blossoming almond trees, do I brood on the sensitive subject of Jewish and Moslem attitudes towards Christ? Because one has to stop the mills of hatred operated by Israel’s supporters. Because the “Judeo-Christian” code language is being used to justify the barbed wire around Birim’s Church and the tanks around Bethlehem. Because there is a duty to remove an obstacle from the path of the blind.

The majority of the Christian Zionists are simple misled souls, people of good intentions but little knowledge. They think they ‘support Jews’, but they promote the Christ-hating spirit among the Jews. It was not in vain that a hero of the Zionist Bible, Exodus by Leon Uris, kept a poster in his room saying ‘We crucified Christ’. It was not in vain that an Israeli soldier on the roadblock of Bethlehem told me yesterday, ‘We starve the beasts’, referring to the native Christians of the city of Nativity. It was not in vain that the Gospel was burned on a stake in Israel, while anti-Gospel literature is widely spread; that new immigrant Jews embracing Christianity are persecuted and deported; that every preacher of the Christian faith in Israel can be sent to jail according to new anti-Christian laws; that Israeli archaeologists erase the Christian holy sites and memories off the face of the Holy Land.

To the leaders of the Christian Zionists, who surely know these facts, but lead their innocent flock on the path of the Anti-Christ, I say, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Christ to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone tied round his neck and be drowned in the deep sea” (Mt 18:6).

To my Jewish brothers I say: the opinions of medieval Jews do not bind us. Every Jew can decide for himself, whether to pray for the destruction of the Gentiles or to share the blessing of the Holy Land with the villagers of Birim and Bethlehem. Within the Jewish people, there were always spiritual descendants of the prophets who wished to bring peace and blessing to all the children of Adam. As true as this almond blossom, in you the prophecy will be fulfilled: ‘All the nations of the earth will bless you’ (Deut. 7).

Extracted from Flowers of Galilee: The Collected Essays of Israel Shamir

Army rabbi ‘gave out hate leaflet to troops’
The Guardian

By Ben Lynfield in Jerusalem
Tuesday, 27 January 2009

The Israeli army’s chief rabbinate gave soldiers preparing to enter the Gaza Strip a booklet implying that all Palestinians are their mortal enemies and advising them that cruelty is sometimes a “good attribute”.

The booklet, entitled Go Fight My Fight: A Daily Study Table for the Soldier and Commander in a Time of War, was published especially for Operation Cast Lead, the devastating three-week campaign launched with the stated aim of ending rocket fire against southern Israel. The publication draws on the teachings of Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, head of the Jewish fundamentalist Ateret Cohanim seminary in Jerusalem.

In one section, Rabbi Aviner compares Palestinians to the Philistines, a people depicted in the Bible as a war-like menace and existential threat to Israel.

In another, the army rabbinate appears to be encouraging soldiers to disregard the international laws of war aimed at protecting civilians, according to Breaking the Silence, the group of Israeli ex-soldiers who disclosed its existence. The booklet cites the renowned medieval Jewish sage Maimonides as saying that “one must not be enticed by the folly of the Gentiles who have mercy for the cruel”.

Breaking the Silence is calling for the firing of the chief military rabbi, Brigadier-General Avi Ronzki, over the booklet. The army had no comment on the matter yesterday.

Rabbi Arik Ascherman, the executive director of the Rabbis for Human Rights group, called the booklet “very worrisome”, adding “[this is] a minority position in Judaism that doesn’t understand the … necessity of distinguishing between combatants and civilians.”



The Israeli army has been urged to sack Rabbi Avi Ronzki over the booklet

Genocide announced
Al Ahram
10 – 16 April 2008

Bombs would fall under other circumstances, but when influential rabbis call for the total annihilation of the Palestinians the world watches without blinking, writes Saleh Al-Naami

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“All of the Palestinians must be killed; men, women, infants, and even their beasts.” This was the religious opinion issued one week ago by Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, director of the Tsomet Institute, a long-established religious institute attended by students and soldiers in the Israeli settlements of the West Bank. In an article published by numerous religious Israeli newspapers two weeks ago and run by the liberal Haaretz on 26 March, Rosen asserted that there is evidence in the Torah to justify this stand. Rosen, an authority able to issue religious opinions for Jews, wrote that Palestinians are like the nation of Amalekites that attacked the Israelite tribes on their way to Jerusalem after they had fled from Egypt under the leadership of Moses. He wrote that the Lord sent down in the Torah a ruling that allowed the Jews to kill the Amalekites, and that this ruling is known in Jewish jurisprudence.

Rosen’s article, which created a lot of noise in Israel, included the text of the ruling in the Torah: “Annihilate the Amalekites from the beginning to the end. Kill them and wrest them from their possessions. Show them no mercy. Kill continuously, one after the other. Leave no child, plant, or tree. Kill their beasts, from camels to donkeys.” Rosen adds that the Amalekites are not a particular race or religion, but rather all those who hate the Jews for religious or national motives. Rosen goes as far as saying that the “Amalekites will remain as long as there are Jews. In every age Amalekites will surface from other races to attack the Jews, and thus the war against them must be global.” He urges application of the “Amalekites ruling” and says that the Jews must undertake to implement it in all eras because it is a “divine commandment”.

Rosen does not hesitate to define the “Amalekites of this age” as the Palestinians. He writes, “those who kill students as they recite the Torah, and fire missiles on the city of Siderot, spread terror in the hearts of men and women. Those who dance over blood are the Amalekites, and we must respond with counter-hatred. We must uproot any trace of humanitarianism in dealing with them so that we emerge victorious.”

The true outrage is that most of those authorised to issue Jewish religious opinions support the view of Rabbi Rosen, as confirmed by Haaretz newspaper. At the head of those supporting his opinion is Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, the leading religious authority in Israel’s religious national current, and former chief Eastern rabbi for Israel. Rosen’s opinion also has the support of Rabbi Dov Lior, president of the Council of Rabbis of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), and Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the chief rabbi of Safed and a candidate for the post of chief rabbi of Israel. A number of political leaders in Israel have also shown enthusiasm for the opinion, including Ori Lubiansky, head of the Jerusalem municipality.

There is no dispute among observers in Israel that the shooting in Jerusalem three weeks ago that killed eight Jewish students in a religious school was pivotal for Jewish authorities issuing religious opinions of a racist, hateful nature. The day following the Jerusalem incident, a number of rabbis led by Daniel Satobsky issued a religious opinion calling on Jewish youth and “all those who believe in the Torah” to take revenge on the Palestinians as hastily as possible. A week following the operation, a group of leading rabbis issued an unprecedented religious opinion permitting the Israeli army to bomb Palestinian civilian areas. The opinion is issued by the “Association of Rabbis of the Land of Israel” and states that Jewish religious law permits the bombing of Palestinian civilian residential areas if they are a source of attacks on Jewish residential areas. It reads, “When the residents of cities bordering settlements and Jewish centres fire shells at Jewish settlements with the aim of death and destruction, the Torah permits for shells to be fired on the sources of firing even if civilian residents are present there.”

The opinion adds that sometimes it is necessary to respond with shelling to sources of fire immediately, without granting the Palestinian public prior warning. A week ago, Rabbi Eliyahu Kinvinsky, the second most senior authority in the Orthodox religious current, issued a religious opinion prohibiting the employment of Arabs, particularly in religious schools. This religious opinion followed another that had been issued by Rabbi Lior prohibiting the employment of Arabs and the renting of residential apartments to them in Jewish neighbourhoods. In order to provide a climate that allows Jewish extremist organisations to continue attacking Palestinian citizens, Rabbi Israel Ariel, one of the most prominent rabbis in the West Bank settlement complex, recently issued a religious opinion prohibiting religious Jews involved in attacks against Palestinians to appear before Israeli civil courts. According to this opinion, they must instead demand to appear before Torah courts that rule by Jewish religious law.

Haaretz newspaper noted that what Rabbi Ariel was trying to achieve through this religious opinion has in fact already taken place. The first instance of such a court in Kfar Saba ordered the release of a young Jewish woman called Tsevia Teshrael who attacked a Palestinian farmer in the middle of the West Bank. And there are Jewish religious authorities that glorify killing and praise terrorists, such as Rabbi Yitzhaq Ginsburg, a top rabbi in Israel who published a book entitled Baruch the Hero in memoriam of Baruch Goldstein, who committed the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre in 1994 when he opened fire and killed 29 Palestinians as they were performing the dawn prayer in Hebron in the southern West Bank. Ginsburg considers his act “honourable and glorious“.

The danger of these religious opinions lies in the fact that the religious authorities issuing them have wide respect among religious Jewish youth. And while only 28 per cent of Israel’s population is religious, more than 50 per cent of Israelis define themselves as conservative and grant major significance to opinions issued by Jewish religious authorities. According to a study conducted by the Social Sciences Department of Bar Elon University, more than 90 per cent of those who identify as religious believe that if state laws and government orders are incongruous with the content of religious opinions issued by rabbis, they must overlook the former and act in accordance with the latter.

What grants the racist religious opinions a deeper and far-reaching impact is the fact that for the last decade followers of the Zionist religious current, who form nearly 10 per cent of the population, have been seeking to take control of the army and security institutions. They are doing so through volunteering for service in special combat units. The spokesperson’s office in the Israeli army says that although the percentage of followers of this current is low in the state’s demographic makeup, they form more than 50 per cent of the officers in the Israeli army and more than 60 per cent of its special unit commanders. According to an opinion poll of religious officers and soldiers supervised by the Interdisciplinary Centre Herzliya and published last year, more than 95 per cent of religious soldiers and officers say that they will execute orders from the elected government and their leaders in the army only if they are in harmony with the religious opinions issued by leading rabbis and religious authorities.

Wasil Taha, Arab Knesset member from the Tajammu Party led by Azmi Bishara, says that these religious opinions lead to the committal of crimes. He mentions religious opinions issued by a number of rabbis in mid-1995 that led to the assassination of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at that time. “If that’s what happens when religious opinions urge attacks against Jewish leaders such as Rabin, what will the situation be like when they urge attacks against Palestinian leaders and the Palestinian public?” he asks. “We, as Arab leaders, have begun to feel a lack of security following this flood of religious opinions, and we realise that the matter requires a great deal of caution in our movements as we are certain that there are those who seek to implement these opinions,” he told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Taha dismisses those who ask about the role of the government and Israeli political cadre in confronting these extremist religious opinions. “The ministers in the Israeli government and the Knesset members compete to incite against the Palestinian public and don’t hesitate to threaten expulsion of the Palestinians who live on their land in Israel and carry Israeli citizenship outside of Israel’s borders, just as former deputy premier Avigdor Lieberman and representative Evi Etam did,” Taha said. He notes that Palestinian citizens within Israel have begun to take extreme precautionary measures since the issue of these religious opinions, including security measures around mosques and public institutions and informing officials of public demonstrations so that members of Jewish terrorist organisations can be prevented from attacking participants. Taha holds that the sectors of the Palestinian population most likely to be harmed by these religious opinions are those living in the various cities populated by both Jews and Palestinians, such as Haifa, Jaffa, Lod, Ramleh and Jerusalem.

Palestinian writer and researcher Abdul-Hakim Mufid, from the city Um Fahem, holds that the religious opinions of rabbis have gained major significance due to the harmony between official rhetoric and that of the rabbis. Mufid notes that official Israeli establishments have not tried to confront the “fascist” rhetoric expressed in these religious opinions even though they are capable of doing so. “Most of the rabbis who issue tyrannical religious opinions are official employees in state institutions and receive salaries from them. And the state has not held these rabbis accountable or sought to prohibit the issue of such opinions,” he told the Weekly.

Mufid points out that when the official political institution is in a crisis, the Zionist consensus behind these religious opinions grows more intense, and offers as an example the religious opinions relied upon by Rabbi Meir Kahane in the early 1980s to justify his call to forcefully expel the Palestinians. Mufid adds that Israel in practice encourages all those who kill Palestinians, and points to the way that the Israeli government dealt with the recommendations of the Orr Commission that investigated the Israeli police’s killing of 13 Palestinians with Israeli citizenship in October of 2000. The government closed the file even though the commission confirmed that the police had acted aggressively towards the Palestinian citizens. Mufid suggests that what makes the racist rhetoric the rabbis insist upon influential is the silence of leftist and liberal voices, and the lack of any direct mobilisation against it.

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Tony Blair with genocidalist Rabbi Ovadia Yosef

“What you saw here is a very perfect example what’s going on in these days.”

Also watch: Free Palestine: Zionist Jews killing Orthodox Jews

Free Palestine: Zionist Jews killing Orthodox Jews

Consistent with fundamental Jewish beliefs, some of these protesters often take part in demonstrations, side by side with Palestinians, against the State of Israel and its inhuman policies toward the Palestinian people.” The apparent strategy of using organized violence through private security personnel against these peaceful protesters is only one of many tactics used by the State of Israel to intimidate and discourage further protests. The police were nowhere to be found at the time or even hours after the melee. Several Rabbis and children were attacked with electric stun gun devices and knives, requiring some to be hospitalized.

Among the injured were Rabbi Leibl Deutsch and Rabbi Yisroel Rothchild, both of Jerusalem who were stabbed in the lower back and leg respectively. The Jewish cemetery at the heart of the incident dates back to the Second Temple era, over 2000 years ago.Some of the caves that comprise the cemetery have been destroyed as a result of the ongoing highway work and there are heightened fears of further desecration as the highway project continues unabated.