Jerusalem is under siege – yet again. How many years has it been? Let’s see. It began when Abraham first brought his son Isaac to the Temple Mount. Then there was Jacob who fell asleep and had his famous ladder dream on this same spot.
Years later, David bought the area to build the Holy Temple. Built by his son Solomon, the Temple stood for 410 years. Then the Babylonians made it their mission to conquer Jerusalem. 70 years later the second Temple was built by the Jews. 420 later the Romans destroyed the Temple and conquered Jerusalem. Then came the Byzantines.
Centuries later came the turn of the early Muslims to battle and occupy Jerusalem. The Crusaders captured it next. Followed by the Mameluks, the Ottomans and then the British.
Everyone, it seems, wants a piece of Jerusalem.
And the battle rages on.
A friend of mine in search of peace argues with me all the time.
“All the terrorist attacks and suicide bombings are happening because the Palestinian population cannot tolerate occupation. If the Israeli occupation were to cease, all the attacks would stop.”
But, “what if,” I ask him, “the opposite were true.” What if after conceding everything to the Palestinians, we discover that they are still unhappy and continue to wage war against Israel – this time, well armed and with a ‘state’ of their own?” What if that were to happen – how do we prepare for that possibility today?!
First he answers, “It will never happen. America won’t allow it, France won’t allow it. Saudi Arabia won’t allow it.” Oh really?! After I challenge him just a bit – that perhaps the world will not really care – he posits: “Israel is too strong. As a nuclear power no Arab country will dare attack it. And from a position of strength, Israel can afford to compromise.”
But “what if” that is not the case? What if they really want nothing less than elimination of Jewish control – what a terrifying thought? Why is this option not discussed or even considered? Does no one really believe in the ‘remote’ possibility that the Palestinian/Arab world will simply never be satisfied, no matter what concessions are offered?!
Or has wishful thinking taken over? Are people perhaps afraid of the possibility that this may actually be a ‘religious war?’
I recently heard a statement from a spokesperson for some ‘Jewish organization’: “The solution to all the problems in the Middle East is contingent on one thing: WE MUST TAKE G-D OUT OF THE PICTURE!” That is an exact quote.
Over a billion Christians think it is a religious war. Over a billion Muslims think it is a religious war. Are they all wrong – and the only ones right are the minority of liberal secular thinkers, who are trying to convince themselves and everyone else that G-d has nothing to with this? Or even worse – that G-d is the cause of the problems?
Actually, it seems quite ‘logical’ that if we were to eliminate G-d from the entire picture, no one would have reason to battle to the death? After all, without a G-d in the picture there are no absolutes, no unwavering convictions and principles, nothing really worth fighting for.
But I guess life is not logical. Nor is history. Nor are billions of burning passions – misplaced or not – fighting for a piece of the Divine.
I remember a conversation I had with an editor of a major news outlet. He told me – off the record – that his editorial roundtable is dominated by liberals [and he added: liberal Jews], who insist that religion and faith are a throwback to ancient habits, and don’t deserve center stage. He didn’t say as much, but I gathered from his words that they believed that their role as journalists is to educate and enlighten the masses to move away from the past and embrace the forces of modern society as the ones that truly shape our lives.
Whenever he would suggest a cover story on, say miracles or angels, the editors would nix the idea. So one day he suggested that they conduct a national survey: How many Americans believe in miracles, and how many believe that a miracle has happened to them. The editors insisted that the numbers would be minimal. They conducted the survey, and were quite surprised by the results. 85% of Americans believe in miracles, and 75% believe that a miracle has happened to them.
The editors dismissed the results, arguing, with dripping condescension, that the numbers were dominated by the Bible Belt and Mid Westerners, who didn’t reflect the progressive free-thinkers of New York…
Is this a conspiracy against G-d? I would put it this way: There is no question that over the last few centuries the image of religion has been tarnished, the name of G-d blackened. But it is not actually G-d that has been blacklisted; it is the way G-d has been presented to us. In other words: Our educators, clergy and parents have offered us a god that is not worth following.
When science challenged and then rejected the backward beliefs of religious fanatics it was actually going to war against false religions and insecure, narrow-minded people masquerading behind faith.
When Nietzsche writes that ‘god is dead’ many are unaware of the fact that he was actually saying: The ‘god’ you have given us is dead. Why? Because he never was alive in the first place.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Berditchever (l’havdil) said it best to a self-proclaimed atheist: “The god you don’t believe in I also don’t believe in.”
But wise people don’t ‘throw out the baby with the bathwater.’ Just because corrupt clergy and false authorities offered us a counterfeit G-d doesn’t mean that G-d – as the true Higher Reality and Essence – is false. It just means that our search for G-d and journey toward truth will be that more difficult, having to overcome our distorted stereotypes.
True people of faith don’t use G-d as a crutch; for them G-d is the domain of the open-minded free spirits. For them freedom is actually not possible without G-d.
But this attitude, of course requires a new appreciation – or actually, the original understanding – of G-d, as He was experienced by the first Divine men and women and history.
So, what if we were to find out that the Middle East is indeed in the midst of a religious war – and one that is threatening the entire world? What if this really is about G-d?
And what if this is the essence of the battles raging over Jerusalem for thousands of years? What if?
This is the question I pose to my liberal, peace-loving friend – and to the liberal, peace lover inside each of us.
This is also the question that I pose to the skeptic inside all of us. What if?
And if it is about G-d, is there any other solution to the battle than finding the true G-d and finding out what He wants from us? And if we don’t, will we be able to stop the battle?
Let’s not forget Pascal’s wager: I’d rather live a meaningful life and find out that there is no G-d, than to live a meaningless life and find out that there is a G-d.