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
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
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.