A Print Version of this piece is posted on The Policy Think Site at -- http://jaygaskill.com/Israel2010.htm
Also posted onThe new Bridge 2 Being Blog at www.jaygaskillcom/i2i
This is how one Judeo/Christian goy sees it.
We can visualize Deity as an infinitely persistent transmitter of the moral code, Source of the Great Signal, if you will.
When Deity hovered over the dark abyss, not a stirring of receptive intelligence occupied the formless deep. Billions of years later, human minds emerged, endowed with the potential for moral reasoning. Deity’s transmissions have only dimly been detected in the last few millennia. Even then, they are rarely received and even more rarely have they been authentically and intelligently decoded.
Chosenness is the human condition that arises when a person or a people receives and decodes enough of the Great Signal to initialize moral obligation. The prime directive of humankind is to acquire THEN ACTon moral knowledge.
The Great Signal decodes as follows:
Given that eternally operating Divine transmitter, and the gradual evolution of receptiveness to the Great Signal among humankind, the emergence of a first chosen people was a matter of time. It was a question of receptivity, not electivity.
Chosenness is never a one-off event. None of us can ever close the door to the Source, nor shut down the reception, nor end the necessity of ongoing listening and intelligent decoding. Once the first Great Signal is received, the heavy lifting begins. It never stops.
Enter the Prophetic tradition. This was the collision of understood aspects and implications of the Great Signal as directed at powerful, flawed human institutions. Irritation was the minimum blowback; decapitation is not out of the question.
This explains why the life of a Prophet tends to be turbulent and brief.
The Jewish people were caught in the prophetic trap. Many have tried to escape via Diaspora, secular disengagement, amnesia or assimilation.
None of these strategies work all the time. Jewish humor is the survival mechanism of an innately intelligent people, clinging to their core humanity under duress. It is a gift to the world.
The very skill set that made the earliest Jewish people uniquely receptive (for the time) to the Great Signal, has been preserved over several millennia and within their culture and lines of familial continuity. Not coincidentally, the same skill set has helped many Jewish men and women achieve secular success. But success was followed by reactive jealously, leading to defensive specialization (as in banking and lending, for example), then more success, followed as night follows day, by pogroms, then still more success under duress – then, in the dark theological irony of our era, an age of serial holocausts has followed.
The appropriate response to all this – supported by the post WWII American and European governments – was the reconstitution of Israel as a refuge state. Israel was established to be the One Safe Place for an admirable, persecuted people who were to live securely in a modern setting. Israel was founded as a progressive, refuge state; her immediate founders (as David Ben-Gurion) were secular socialists committed to a secular state that protected religious freedom.
Israel prospered. Once again, Jews are being punished for success. Such is the perversity of the PGS human condition (Pre-Great-Signal).
The Prophet’s legacy of persecution has followed the Jewish people everywhere, but is nowhere more evident and virulent than where their successes are most evident.
One thing is bright-line evident to me: The moral and juridical legitimacy of the Jewish state is an indisputable given, except for those twisted souls for whom the 20th century’s holocaust was a bit of unfinished business.
However we parse the practical questions surrounding modern Israel, a Western democracy floating in an atavistic sea, they all vector back to the bedrock question that you would have thought was conclusively settled by those who defeated the Axis powers in WWII: The right of the first chosen people to live in and protect their traditional refuge and home is sacrosanct.
Yet that which seemed settled is unsettled. As the poet Yeats prophetically wrote in the aftermath of WWI, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned; the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
In my personal experience, all of the manifold religious, political and ideological differences I’ve encountered in my life have tended to operate in one of two kinds of minds: those that are reachable and teachable; or those that are unreachable and unteachable.
Modern Israel was started by progressive secular socialists. In another example of the many dark ironies generated in the last century, a loathsome subset of progressive, secular socialists have turned against Israel, rejecting the core premise - her right to exist as a nation state. Worse still, many of these minds have substituted a malign version of the “progressive” ethos for religion, adopting it with such unreasonable fervor that they now inhabit the world of the unreachable and unteachable.
I strongly suspect that there is a point at which the unreachable and unteachable simply have to be worked around. Too many of such minds cannot be changed after they are frozen (rare exceptions acknowledged). It follows that practical progress against frozen minds is to be made through the magic of a generational shift.
For Israel, this means a practical policy of survival, relentlessly pursuing it success as an engine of creative civilization in the region and the world, a model of prosperity that will remain open to cooperative engagement and partnership for new generations of the post-jihad neighbors. The bloody minded old guard simply need to be contained and, as necessary, defeated, and their grip on the future forever loosened.
This requires tough minded line drawing and the willingness to defend the Jewish state in extremis, whatever that requires in real world terms. We need the virtues and moral awareness that formed the baseline norm, say, for our parents who served in the war against the Axis powers and Hitler’s National Socialism.
In other writings I have emphasized the importance of the intergenerational moral transmission belt. We will continue to need the armor of our greatest moral legacy. The continuity of healthy, creative, freedom-friendly civilization crucially depends on our ability to transmit the essential memories, lesson and virtues to the succeeding generations.
Not all virtues are mild.
The teachings of Jesus, Moses and Hillel converge in the life of a certain Lutheran minister imprisoned by the Reich, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), whose moral sensibilities led him to actively seek Hitler’s assassination. He was hanged three weeks before the Nazi surrender.
Jay B Gaskill
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Joy and Longing
In my theological universe, traditional Judaism and Christianity are deeply linked by a common Messianic expectation, the primary dispute being whether the hoped for arrival of the divine Liberator will be a first arrival or a second coming.
A story: Two friends from these sister traditions each agreed that, “When the messiah comes, I’ll put a good word in for you, my friend.” In the event that the Messianic arrival was a first coming, the Jewish friend agreed to speak first.
Handel’s Messiah was written in 1741 and first performed in Dublin, Ireland the following year.
Messiah, Hebrew: מָשִׁיחַ, Māšîăḥ (“anointed one”), is a term used in Judaism and Christianity for the long awaited savior or liberator of the people. The term “Christ”, while appropriated by Christianity, is just the English version of the Greek Χριστός or Khristós, meaning the “anointed one”. But for the Christian theological baggage, if you will, Messiah is the synonym.
For as long as entire human race has experienced spiritual longing, we have also hoped for the arrival of a Liberator. This is why Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus is not just for Christians.
Well, an amazing Hallelujah moment has taken place at Macy’s in Philadelphia. It was captured on video. All my friends and correspondents, whether we secular or religious, Jewish or Christian, all of us who still long for the arrival of justice and liberation in this broken world, are invited to navigate to the linked YouTube site.
Here are the lyrics to the Chorus. You’ll notice that, when heard with a non-sectarian, pan-religious ear, they speak to the deepest and most universal of human longings.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! :|
The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ, and of His Christ;
And He shall reign for ever and ever,
For ever and ever, forever and ever,
King of kings, and Lord of lords,
King of kings, and Lord of lords,
And Lord of lords,
And He shall reign,
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings, forever and ever,
And Lord of lords,
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings! and Lord of lords!
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings! and Lord of lords!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Peace / Shalom (שָׁלוֹם),
THE POWER OF MEMORY
My father, John L. Gaskill, was educated as an accountant. Following Pearl Harbor, he volunteered to serve in WWII, but was rejected because of a hernia and serious allergies. Instead of “serving at home”, my father arranged to have the hernia repaired, and was trained in self-administering allergy injections.
John L. Gaskill attended Officers’ Training School at the University of Idaho and entered WWII as a Lieutenant, leaving a wife (Helen) and his infant son (Jay Ben) in the care of both sets of grandparents.
After the Nazi defeat, Dad was gifted with an opportunity to explore liberated Europe.
He traveled with his friend, Lieutenant Cohen - as an early teenager I met Mr. Cohen in Manhattan on a family trip to the East Coast -and my father returned with some shocking photographs from the Nazi-engineered holocaust, scalloped edged clack and white images that were kept in a special drawer that my brother and visited.
When Dad left the military service – as soon as it was possible - he was a captain, an accomplished logistician, who had turned down an indicated promotion to colonel because he wanted to be with the son he had not seen since his deployment to Europe from the US Army training facility in Palm Desert, California.
A couple of days ago, a friend of mine, a fellow lawyer who served with me in the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office when it was at its film noire zenith, forwarded me the following film clip.
I confess that it brought tears to my eyes. The tile is “Who fights for us?” Here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=KTb6qdPu8JE
The power of intergenerational memory is a profound gift. Never forget.
Jay Ben Gaskill
Print Version in htm format:
A Glass Still Full
A Reflection by
Jay B Gaskill, attorney at law
Monday’s San Francisco Chronicle carried a wrenching story about three Jewish girls who were taken from their home in Wierzbnik, Poland by the Nazis in 1942. As their parents were taken away on a separate train, Annie Glass, 18, was told by her mother to “Hang on to your sisters!” (Sally, 15, and Miriam, 13).
For anyone who is the least bit complacent about the fate of Jews forced to live under a hostile regime, or doubtful of the moral legitimacy and ultimate necessity of Israel as the world’s one Jewish refuge state, this story – one of thousands like it – provides a necessary corrective.
San Francisco Chronicle, September 13, 2010
Sisters offer living link to Holocaust
Auschwitz survivors teach value of family
This entire piece is now available in full at this link –
I recommend that you take the time to read the whole article. I have some comments below.
Here are extended excerpts from Meredith May’s excellent piece:
“The girls knew they were losing their home when they saw their parents burying family heirlooms and concealing fabrics from the family textile business in the walls. ... [F]amilies were marched at gunpoint to waiting trains, [its] destination ... a concentration camp. [Those with work papers were spared for slave labor in nearby factories.]
“The young girls, unbelievably, had work papers. Their mother, through a textile connection, had been able to pawn her jewelry to buy the papers, even though most of the work permits were going to men of working age.
“[Annie] stood Miriam on a brick so she would appear older. Guards shuttled the girls to the work car — their first stroke of luck.
“They were taken to a barracks and factory called Majowka, where a brutal overseer killed Jews for sport, forcing them to balance on a beam and shooting them when they wavered.
“Guards with machine guns routinely entered the sick ward at Majowka and killed patients in their beds, according to historian Christopher Browning’s book ‘Remembering Survival’.
“When [Annie] heard her mother was in the labor camp kitchen, she found her peeling potatoes. But something was wrong. ...she had delivered a bunkmate's baby, but the Germans heard its cries and injected it with something to kill it.
“A week later, [mother] died of heartbreak in my arms,” [Annie] said. “I see that picture in my eyes all the time. Two soldiers put a sheet over her, and I jumped on her, begging the soldiers to kill me.
“After the five-day train ride, the girls were registered, their heads shaved and their arms tattooed with a crude needle.
“The sisters, and 200 others, were told to strip and enter a gas chamber. It was night. They sat shivering on long wooden benches waiting to die.
“Night became morning.
“A soldier finally came in and shouted to the girls to put some clothes on and go to the barracks...
[Later], “On one of their morning marches, a guard saw that Miriam's face was flushed and pulled her away from her sisters for the camp hospital.
“...[H]er baby sister would surely be killed, because it was hospital policy to ship the sick to the crematories. She began gathering twigs and weeds to make a broom. The next morning, she sneaked into the hospital and found a nurse who spoke Polish. She presented her a gift of the broom and pleaded with the woman to look after her sister.
“Days passed. Glass was in line for the bathroom when she saw trucks loading hospital patients for the gas chambers. [She ran] ‘into the hospital, and it was empty. ... ‘The nurse was there, and she opened a closet. She had hidden Miriam in the linens and pillows.’”
Two of the three sisters are now living in San Francisco. Miriam was murdered there in 1977. All in all, the Glass family has been decimated; one of the sisters’ cousins survived the camps, an aunt and uncle were able to move to Israel.
Modern Israel was born (reborn) under the auspices of the United Nations in 1948, sustained by the singular, morally confident backing of US President Harry S. Truman.
“At midnight on May 14, 1948, the Provisional Government of Israel proclaimed the new State of Israel. On that same date the United States, in the person of President Truman, recognized the provisional Jewish government as de facto authority of the new Jewish state (de jure recognition was extended on January 31). The U.S. delegates to the U.N. and top ranking State Department officials were angered that Truman released his recognition statement to the press without notifying them first. On May 15, 1948, the Arab states issued their response statement and Arab armies invaded Israel and the first Arab-Israeli war began.” From the Truman Library website --http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/israel/large/index.php
“Truman’s “pro-Israel outlook ‘was based primarily on humanitarian, moral, and sentimental grounds, many of which were an outgrowth of the president's religious upbringing and his familiarity with the Bible.’ Extensive research into Truman's biography and earlier career shows his impressive consistency.”
Daniel Pipes reviewing Benson’s Harry S Truman and The founding of Israel, in The Middle East Quarterly, September 1998.
The Italian republican revolutionary, Giuseppe Garibaldi, is credited with the observation that “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Whether Garibaldi said it first, he undoubtedly observed it. The forces of good must learn to triumph over evil over and over again, because evil is a recurring pathogen.
The homicidal haters of the Jewish peoples are a recurring pathogen of the human condition.
Sadly, the courage shown by Harry S Truman and the founders of Israel was not a one-off permanent fix. The enemy is a permanent one. Western civilization itself, of which Israel is but a local example, is the target of an atavistic form of malignent narcissism. This mindset is characterized by the destructive urge to bring down the “others” who enjoy perceived success, because their very existence is an affront, making the contrast intolerable to one’s own sense of failure. It is a form of insanity to be sure, but a durable one. Malignent narcissism is why, for example, drug addicts attempt to recruit others (validating their own depravity) and why, from an Islamic perspective, the material and technological successes of the Western liberal democracies must be seen as a perversion (validation their own failure).
If the Jewish people were just another tribe jockeying for territory, the unhinged-jihad against them might have cooled by now. The homicidal animus towards Israel stems from the fact that the Jewish state operates under a different paradigm than Islam, that of a free, marginally “decadent”, but morally centered society. Israel’s very success threatens Arab, Islamic triumphalism. Israel and the West are not threatened by a major world religion, but by a militant ideology transmuted from the unreformed versions of that religion.
Sanity can not be expected to surrender to malevolent insanity.
Another aphorism comes to mind – By their enemies, you shall know them.
There is an ugly, recurring consistency of spirit and world view that is shared by the Jew-haters of the 20th and 21st century. The current malevolence of Israel’s enemies threads back to the Germany of the 1930’s. Recall that the Nazi movement was born in the great German humiliation. The failure of German greatness in WW I and the reparations that followed was seen though the lens of resentment. To the malignent narcissist mind, the “unjust” success of everyone else is a death penalty offence.
And this is how the worst form of authoritarian triumphalism can arise: It becomes national therapy.
We now know that Nazi propaganda was aimed specifically – and with significant success- at the Arab populations, using quotations from the Qur’an to promote anti-Semitism as a common ground in the German war effort.
One report, among that the many recent accounts that are corroborating this, comes from the University of Maryland.
“After four decades of studying Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, Maryland history Professor Jeffrey Herf made one of the most important archival discoveries of his career just a mile from his office.
“More than 3,000 pages of transcripts of Nazi radio broadcasts to Arab nations in the Middle East, stored at the National Archives in College Park, had apparently gone without notice since being declassified in 1977. They reveal the extent to which German officials not only presented their country as an ally of Arab anti-imperialism but also exploited the Koran to spread anti-Semitism.
“Herf's exploration of this treasure trove became the foundation for his fifth book, ‘Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World,’ published last month  by Yale University Press.
“The broadcasts also show how the Nazis selectively used passages from the Koran to spread hatred of the Jews and of Zionism. Herf asserts that the wartime propaganda offensive was an important chapter in the longer and broader history of Islamic extremism.
“A July 1942 broadcast on the Voice of Free Arabism station, ‘Kill the Jews Before They Kill You,’ opened with the false statement that Britain had armed Jews in Egypt to rise up against Egyptians when the Nazis drove British forces from the country.
In 2009, Iran’s mullahs engineered the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a raging anti-Semite and holocaust denier, as the country’s president. As I write this, Iran is actively working towards the next holocaust, this one to be accomplished using atomic weapons.
Note the convenience of atomic weapons, especially for a country hobbled by a third world infrastructure, yet bent on mass murder. The German-engineered holocaust required organizational and transportation skills currently beyond the capability of Iran and its allied jihad-actors. If just one nation can just build a few atomic bombs, it will no longer have to rely on a vast network of railroad cars, camps and ovens, and the sprawling bureaucracy such an undertaking entails.
No honest expert now assesses the Iranian nuclear program as peaceful, nor doubts the regime’s malevolent deceptions and plans. But Israel is under strong pressure by the current US administration (headed by someone I have called the anti-Truman) to stay its hand.
Again, the world faces an outbreak of recrudescent authoritarian triumphalism, once again as national therapy, this time for the economic and political failures of the regimes of theocratic Islam.
I can hear that soul shattering parental admonition, shouted from a retreating Nazi train: Look after your sisters!
That simple statement touched the sturdy moral reality manifested by Harry S Truman and our greatest generation. This is our time now, and the clock is running out.
Also available in htm format at this link: http://www.jaygaskill.com/TheG-dFilter.htm
The G-d Filter
The paradox of being can be posed in these two questions:
The paradox of atheism can also be posed in a single question:
The core paradox of agnosticism can be stated as a longer question:
On Metaphorical Communication
Data and even the first level explanations of the physical sciences are disordered and organized descriptions, respectively, but neither conveys meaning. For that task, even the most intelligent and sophisticated minds use metaphor.
Well constructed metaphors are the cognitive tools by which we grasp and attempt to tame those subtle and elusive aspects of our experience of reality (and the reality of our experience) that otherwise would defy understanding and frustrate discourse.
The core Genesis insight is that we, as beings, are organized in the same pattern as the Supreme Being. No thoughtful, world-aware person (except the severely metaphor challenged) takes seriously the notion that deity has a beard and floats somewhere in the clouds. For the sophisticated believer, God is not anthropomorphic; instead humans are partly theomorphic. The differences between human and g-d are questions of local/particular vs. infinite/universal, wholeness vs. incompleteness, integrity vs. fragmentation; these are matters of scale, depth and reach, not the essential nature of living Being.
Getting to the Core of the Matter
At our best, we are an inherently moral species, fiercely volitional and committed to reason. This is why some of our best and brightest minds instinctively reject a stupid, authoritarian God.
Ah, but what if...?
Suppose that God is a brilliant, inherently moral Being, fiercely committed to our volition, and represents the very embodiment of scientific reason, moral reason, mathematical reason, creative reason, and compassionate reason – all facets of all ordered conscious thought in all its manifold forms.
Suppose such a deity has been generously communicating to all minds in space-time that were and a willing and able to listen and apprehend.
Fortunately, for many of us, G-d appears as the One who judges and loves the judged, forgives and lives in those who forgive.
There is much more to be said, of course, but this is just a blog.
Read Jay B Gaskill’s Lost Souls Coffee Shop, an allegory for the human condition.
Just Google “Jay B Gaskill” and the book’s title or go to –
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 Why omit the “o”? See my essay, “Why G-d” posted at http://www.jaygaskill.com/WhyG-d.htm .
 I’m just now reading Stephen Hawking’s latest book, The Grand Design, which posits a cosmological model in which ‘God’ is not necessary to the story. This is not an original viewpoint, however original Hawking’s latest theory may or may not be. I plan to provide a careful analysis when I’ve finished digesting the book.
 For reasons too long to condense here, I am fully persuaded that Albert Einstein was a deist, someone who recognized G-d’s handiwork in the beautiful logic of creation, but did not believe in a deity Who would intervene in nature.
 Martin Buber, arguably the most famous Jewish religious philosopher of the 20th century, is best known for his masterwork, “I and Thou” (Ich and du - 1923), first published in English in 1937. The French biologist turned priest, Pierre Teilhard d’ Chardin (1881-1955), proposed an entirely different vision of evolution, one that was subtly but firmly directed towards the ennoblement of creation.