A rare joint post by Richard & Kim.
Googling around to find out a bit about Edward Kessler, Kim came upon a story about a Jewish guy who travels from Israel to the United States. When he returns, he tells his friend some of the amazing things he has seen. “I met a Jew who had grown up in a yeshiva and knew large sections of the Talmud by heart. I met a Jew who was an atheist. I met a Jew who owned a large business, and I met a Jew who was an ardent communist.” “So what’s so strange?” the friend asks. “America is a big country and millions of Jews live there.” “You don’t understand,” the man replies. “It was the same Jew.”
This is great Jewish humour, but that’s not the principal reason we repeat the joke. It’s because it makes crystal clear what should be obvious – that “being Jewish” is a complicated, not a monolithic concept, and that there is no such thing as the Jewish view of things, including, indeed especially on the vexing and volatile issues of Zionism and Israel.
Yes, this really is a no-brainer. Yet there are a few folk who comment on this blog who only show up only when the post is on Israel, and who act as if Christians who disagree with them are anti-Semitic at worst, and egregiously misinformed and wrong-headed at best. They also seem to act as if fellow Jews who disagree with them are, at worst, disloyal or self-loathing, a disgrace to the cause of Israel, if not Judaism, and, at best (like said Christians), are egregiously misinformed and wrong-headed, and therefore dismissible with due condescension and even contempt.
Churchill said that “a fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” More deliciously still, the America journalist and humourist Finley Peter Dunne said that “a fanatic is a man that does what he thinks the Lord would do if He knew the facts of the case.” That about describes the folk we have in mind. Interestingly (according to the OED), the word “fanatic” derives from the Latin fanaticus, meaning “of the temple”, and in its earliest, 16th century usage, described behaviour or speech that was symptomatic of one possessed by a god – or demon: hence, a “religious maniac”. Personally, we find “fanatic” or “maniac” unduly provocative epithets, but we are certainly dealing here with people who are obstinate, belligerent, apparently inerrant, and certainly lacking both a sense of humour and the willingness to empathise with another point of view.
Richard has been running this blog for more than 10 years, and in that time has always welcomed contrary points of view. There is no plan to do anything else. But please remember that this is his online home and he reserves the right to edit or delete comments that he’s not happy with. From now on, that right is likely to be exercised more frequently.