Category: Literary Fiction


Virgin Atlantic

William A. Cook

Stories rarely begin above the Atlantic though they happen there. We found that out, didn’t we? Two old men randomly commenting about this or that before the flight took off from LAX to Heathrow. Neither knew or probably cared about the other till chance took hold for the ten hours that intervened. But that’s the beginning of a story isn’t it? A question asked, rhetorical even, no answer anticipated, yet it leads to another and then another. How strange then to meet a man who found ultimate refuge in this 21st century in an abandoned light house on a jut of land that faced the coast of Normandy, across the straits, echoed across the millenniums, in the ebb and flow of human forlornness. What unexpectedness creates a story out of the casual conversation of total strangers who weave meaning out of nothingness.

There were no answers when we began to probe the whys of an abandoned light house nor any expectation that a rationale existed. Yet behind that move, the change in the value of the pound for those retired forced decisions into the unknown of what would be, by virtue of a lottery, and a bid, on property unseen yet within reach, happened. And so the future evolved as unexpectedly as the reality, caught as it turned out between a nuclear plant adjacent to the lighthouse, indeed residing in its back yard, and the unrelenting reality of the churning channel of the Dover Sea that moved ineluctably beyond the front door as it had done for centuries before the building of the lighthouse. How strange that image as it bulged into my mind, those enormous contrasts of cement enormity and human will against the eternal power of the channel that split England from France before they were England and France.

And so our conversation continued as we flew beyond time devouring the miles beneath us unconscious of those below or the irony of this day that told of a tsunami in Japan that devastated a nuclear plant sending untold thousands to their deaths and others to refuge beyond homes lost to the sea. What connections in the mind bring those lives lost this day to mind before the mind knew of them and yoked them now in this conversation that wraps the globe in the never ending sound of the seas ebb and flow of love and loss.

Are our realities an intricately woven fabric of thoughts strung together in time and circumstance and you, Martin, become a person of my own design because you sit next to me by some circumstance of seat allocation arranged by a software designer playing God. What did he know of the tsunami, or the nuclear plant that sat on the shore of Japan North of Tokyo as your home sits on the edge of the channel awaiting perhaps the clash of the plates that slide beneath the land masses we now call England and Normandy.

How many unknowns determine what is awaiting the confluence of facts and figures, frustrations and fears to assemble that we might unravel this mysterious stew to understand or not understand. It was then, Martin, that you explained the purpose of your trip to the United States, a trip that would take you to some unidentified location between Barstow and Las Vegas where a lone gambling casino sat in the street, isolated from all but the landscape of rising and falling hills and valleys of salmon colored sand stretching for endless miles beyond sight and sound until they merged with the light blue sky. That very scene you sought as refuge against the unrelenting wind stirred by the low clouds that hovered above your lighthouse home wind-whipped by the sea.

Stranger still, that as you flew from this refuge of isolation in the barren wastes of America’s desert, ironically transforming Nature’s meadows into a Mecca for thousands seeking fortunes as limitless as the sands that stretched beyond the horizon, you found the most startling revelation of your trip, the throbbing of the northern lights pulsating through the night sky as the plane made its way home to Britain. How rare and marvelous, how exciting and unexpected to witness this marvel of our universe encapsulate the entire globe in a wonder of greenish glow awakening us to the aura of the Almighty as He appears in the glorious aurora borealis. How that magnificence touched you as you craned your neck back to drink in its wonder witnessing it from above as though you were an angel of the Lord enveloped in the manifest glory that is God. What determined this interruption of the sea’s dominance that drove you to the desert with a display of illuminating magnificence that altered forever the expectation of this vacation?

Could it be that we are driven by geography, that our behavior seeks exposure to what we do not know or rarely see? You said, didn’t you, that it had been twenty years since you were in America and last felt the warmth of the intense heat and looked at the flowing desert that flamed out beneath the setting sun. How impossible to grasp purpose and meaning in 6000 miles of travel to seek the silence of a barren landscape where only the wind’s whisper speaks to the ear. Yet I, too, sought silence in coming to Oxford, silence of a different sort, silence broken only by words typed more than half a century ago by men unknown speaking of events long since passed yet conveyed in documents stamped with a forbidding declaration, “Most Secret.” How does one explain purpose where time is devoured scouring papers that describe crimes committed, terror unleashed, and plans unveiled that recount ruthless intent and merciless death for the voiceless victims who lived and were lost in time? Is that but a rhetorical question, Martin, or does it resonate with meaning if linked with all the detritus of lost information buried in the silent bowels of the Rhodes House Archives.

What is it that slides beneath this narrative connecting it to our experience of 70 odd years each, lived in different countries, united by people neither of us know, drenched in thoughts brought to our respective minds by waves of knowledge created by thousands of minds lodged in books that we absorbed over time and made our own, all present to our senses as they respond to the six inches that separates our hearing from each other travelling at speeds beyond 500 miles per hour, 35000 feet above the earth we walk upon  and call our habitat?

Arnold understood something of this problem as he stood looking over Dover Beach; he saw the connection that flowed beyond time in the sounds of the ocean that caught somehow the infinite minds that stood on shores around the globe hearing the cry that bound all to each in suffering and silence and loss. What binds, Martin, is never lost, and you must know that as you stand at your doorway and look at the sea lapping the pebbles that form the earth beneath your home. You, too, must hear that never ending roar and feel the ligaments that bind you to Arnold and Sophocles, and all you’ve never met who listen to the eternal sounds. And in that home you have been restoring these many years now, filled with the ghosts of men that survived the wicked waves lashing the cemented rocks that formed the base of that lighthouse, who heard the wind whipping against the small windows set in the stone casings above the stairs that wound up through the turret as they brought new light to the summit, a beacon of life for the distressed seeking succor from the relentless sea.

I, too, Martin restored a home, oh, not one on a channel’s edge, not one where the echoed voice of humankind rings through the lines of Arnold’s throated cry, but an ancient home nonetheless if ancient is relative to time and place. It was the Bailey’s place from 1750, perched on a rise at the tip of a small valley sliced in more recent years by the main street of a small New England town. Seven fireplaces warmed the house over the centuries, all in desperate need of repair by the time we moved in to reset the flues against the wind and rain. Wrapped around the largest chimney was a wooden staircase that revealed the feet of ages grooved deep in the triangular steps forcing reflection each time we climbed those stairs, a silent communication with the dead. The winter wind roared across that valley pebbling the blown glass windows with ferocity not unlike the grating roar flung upon your Dover shore, a telling link between you and me. How strange these thoughts that create a narrative that bind two strangers in mid flight.

There are others, too, that shared this story unraveling in the night sky above the frozen tundra of the pole before its decent into London, though they knew nothing about the flight or you and me or how their lives became intermingled with ours as the hours passed. But you had seen the book I had brought to read before we fell to talking, a book of great sorrow and remorse where indeed the eternal note of sadness gathers in tremulous cadence slow and leads now as then, in Arnold’s day, to the darkling plain of human plight. Curious how the tales of suffering link the centuries seeking suffrage in faiths that ebb and flow in intensity fighting science with superstition even as science succumbs to barbaric weaponry to stave off that very superstition. If Arnold saw the revolutions in Europe and Napoleon’s siege of Rome as harbingers of human helplessness where neither joy, nor love, nor light, nor certitude, nor peace were possible, how might he perceive the eternal conflict that rages in the Holy Land today where, indeed, superstition and scientific folly unleash, with God’s grace, depleted uranium and white phosphorus on helpless souls as their very bones glow through the seared flesh consumed with fire. And though we grew up in different countries, Martin, we have the same visceral reaction to the revolutions sweeping the Plains of Abraham as Arnold and his wife looking upon the darkling plain where ignorant armies clash by night.

This conflict, Martin, became the substance of our meeting, as we, two old men who had lived through the most devastating years of human history, if it be human determined destruction of their fellow humans that is the hallmark of our existence, attempted to grapple with the minds that ruled this new century where ancient temples and coded laws gave license to a new barbarity. But is it new after all? Is it not like the storied albatross that hangs from Marlow’s neck as he retells yet again how the Thames flows ineluctably from London to the heart of darkness brought there by the Pureza de Sangre that flows in our Eurocentric veins making natural our perceived dominance over our determined inferiors. And that perception, that very perception, does it not, Martin, reflect the insanity of our cultures’ destructive desires to achieve ascendency through beliefs founded on myths that link our faith to the Almighty through Divine Right that demands the rebirth of infidels in Christ? Duty to God becomes the propellant that justifies our divinely ordained mission of insanity to spread absurdity across continents. Such is the flow of destiny century after century as we become but the current viewers of its manifestation. Strange how I had gone to England, to the learned village of Oxford by the Thames, only to meet a former Londoner who now lives by the channel into which that river flows before it makes its way toward Africa.

Are we but the newest residents of a world shaped by ideologies forged in the mind from birth by those who command our beings, our drives, our dreams, our reality that thrives on blood made evil deceptively dressed in the cleanliness and purity of the lamb? What after all drove Leopold to the throbbing black heart of Africa but the lie that licensed the endeavor, to save souls for Christ; what brought that same righteousness to the Puritan Divines that saw God’s presence and blessing in their slaughter of the Pequots, Satan’s minions; what malevolent tome of miraculous words from tribal days consumes our Congressmen and Rabbis who determine God’s gift of a homeland to be theirs regardless of the consequences to the innocents who live there, damned by that same God to everlasting Hell. What after all, Martin, do we see and comprehend from this muddle of unknowns that forms our reality; do we bring nascent thought into play or reconfigure all that impinges on our beings into a reality that is but regurgitation of some monolithic power’s will to which we submit.

How, then, does this become a narrative dressed in the expectations of the short story we began? If I am the author and you the protagonist, are you the you in your mind, in your image, in your flesh that sat beside me on the Virgin flight across the Atlantic, the fictional approximation of my mind, or is there a narrative that can be told of another whether conceived in the mind or fastened on by time and circumstance, a reflection that bears no semblance to reality except as a distillation that leaves it out. Certainly, Martin, it must appear strange to you that I would have attempted a short story framed within the ten hours of our chance meeting. But then what is a story but the recounting by a writer who can suggest a great span of the interaction of humans in chance occurrences that “distil(s) a world into a few square inches.” That by the way, Martin, is the understanding of your Today Programme’s James Naughty in his Introduction to The BBC National Short Story Award 2010 collection of award winners. Given that prescription, I would suggest, my friend, that your story is not mine to tell. (March, 2011)

A Nation of Golems

A Nation of Golems

By William A. Cook

November 5, 2009

 

‘Even the most perfect of Golem, risen to life to protect us, can easily change into a destructive force. Therefore let us treat carefully that which is strong, just as we bow kindly and patiently to that which is weak. Everything has its time and place.’ (Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, 1512-1609)

 

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 344-36 in support of H. Res. 867, a vote to reject the Goldstone Report Findings and Recommendations, thus protecting Israel against indictment for crimes against humanity and illegal acts of war as determined by the United Nations Human Rights Council’s special investigation of the Christmas invasion of Gaza this past year. The House of Representatives, acting as a body, embodies the most heinous machinations of the ancient legend of a mythical beast called the Golem.

The most famous of the Golem stories comes out of Medieval Prague where Rabbi Loew contended with the paradox of human existence as driven by human desire to control life on the one hand and God’s absolute power over life, “from dust to dust,” on the other. The good Rabbi, it is alleged, turned to the forbidden scriptures to give life to a human form created out of the mud of the Vltava River that flows through Prague; this figure constructed of clay, inanimate matter, a shapeless mass, imperfect, unformed, a body without a soul, responds in perfect obedience to his master.

He symbolizes the ultimate protector of the victimized as he assumed in ancient Prague protection of the Jews who were to be expelled or killed from their ghetto. To bring this monster to life, the Rabbi carved in Hebrew the word EMETH on his forehead, the meaning of which is “truth.” This being, living yet not whole, becomes a servant and protector of the people, a tool of his maker, but in time his purpose is slighted, his use abused by those who think only of their desires and self-indulgence.

In time this virtual Faustian figure seeks to know himself, rule himself, become his own master and in his soulless state, his ambition and arrogance assume control as he spreads his massive shadow of malevolence across the ghetto. Only the Rabbi can control him by rubbing out the first letter on his forehead, Aleth, leaving Mem and Taw—Death. Once loosed on the world, the Golem becomes a destroyer and hence the Rabbi’s admonishment above.

How do our representatives become a Golem? By obedience to their master. That master is Israel through its Zionist government and its multiple lobbies in the U.S., by their use of extortion and threat, and by control of monetary resources. There is no need to recount how these charges are true; books have been written about it, most especially those by former Congressman Paul Findlay and the recent study by Mearsheimer and Walt, Grant Smith’s America’s Defense Line, John Hosteller on the Iraq war, Aaron David Miller on the peace process, and Stephen Sniegoski’s Transparent Cabal.

A cursory review of the U.S. Knesset actions taken on behalf of Israel demonstrates conclusively the obedience “our” representatives pay to their owners: 2003, a resolution supporting force against Palestinians, 399-5; 2004, a resolution forbidding a return to the 1967 borders, 407-9; 2006, a resolution defending Israel’s illegal invasion and destruction of Lebanon, 410-8; 2009, a resolution defending Israel’s Christmas invasion of the defenseless people of Gaza, 390-5; and today, a resolution condemning the Goldstone Report issued by the UNHRC, 344-35. Every one of these resolutions support Israel’s illegal actions while the remainder of the world’s nation, excepting a few controlled by the U.S., vote against the crimes of the state of Israel. Their resolution, if adopted and acted upon in the Security Council, would make the state of Israel immune to law.

Rabbi Loew’s incantations brought to life the Golem of Prague’s ghetto, a mythical image that reflects a mind conditioned by massive oppression and defenselessness, a need to believe that there could be a way to protect the innocent against the terror that encircled them in their ghetto. But that mindset of necessity rejects the true power over life, the God that gives life, in favor of a dream of self-control over the forces that exist in the world, thus replacing obedience to God with a soulless form that is obedient to the hubris that contaminates a mortal. The myth explores the conflict between the self proclaimed overlord and belief in the God of the Jews. It is the confrontation of the essence of Judaism and the power of the secular forces that forego the true Torah, the polarity battle between oppression and indifference or compassion and love.

There is, as Rabbi Loew knew well, a Golem in each of us, the human form that we desire to be but cannot form because we are not alone in this world, because we must exist within a community of others, because we understand that to inflict our will on others gives license to others to inflict theirs on us, because we form societies to protect each other realizing that forging a society to fear its own survival breeds violence against its perceived enemies resulting ineluctably in devastation and death.

That is the curse of the Golem, to be brought into existence without knowledge of its master’s intent, yet obedient to that intent; to witness life behind the walls of the ghetto but locked into the mind of the elders that portray life beyond the walls; to feel the pulse of life beneath the carved “truth” that is emblazoned on the forehead, yet know no other truth than that imposed by the masters; to sense, as time passes, the masters’ inner passions, that gave rise to the creation of the Golem, erupt in vengeance against their own phantoms of inadequacy as they command the Golem to destroy all but those who will obey them, and know, that he is the means to avenge; hence the image of the Golem as the corrosive being within us that, once loosed, releases its acid throughout the body and the mind because we have become but a shapeless mass, unformed, imperfect, an artificial creature without natural sympathies, soulless—the obedient slave to another’s will.

This is the fate of our congressmen and women, indeed, it is the fate of the Jewish people in Israel who have built a wall around themselves, as the Jews in Prague did in the 16th century, fearing all but themselves, victims of all beyond the wall. Golems all, abandoning their God to placate their masters, the ruling secular Golems that have created a state of fear instead of a state for Jews, a state of oppression and indifference, a state of molded minds lacking human sympathy, a state willing to use its only friend in the community of nations for its own ends turning its representatives into pliant, obedient, mindless, soulless clay forms as heedless of the weak as their masters.

“Whence did you come?” asks Nathaniel Hawthorne. “Whence did any of us come? Out of the darkness and mystery; out of nothingness; out of a kingdom of shadows; out of dust, clay, mud…And why are you come? Who can tell? Only one thing I am aware of,–it was not to be happy. To toil and moil and hope and fear; to love in a shadowy, doubtful sort of way, and to hate in bitter earnest, –that is what you came for!” (Works, XIII, 18-19)

It is time for the good Rabbi Loew to remove “Aleph” and let our Congress rest in “Mem” and “Taw.”

 

The Eternal Jew Goes on Forever

“With these words he cursed me, this Nazarene

And now I’m just waiting for this world to burn!

Forever I wander, forever alone

Until the Judgment Day…”

(The Wandering Jew Lyrics, Reverend Bizarre)

William A. Cook

On January 19, the second day of Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza following its unilateral declaration of a cease fire that brought a halt to three weeks of unrestrained and relentless decimation of the imprisoned people, Ehud Olmert was photographed at the Arab Economic Summit in Kuwait, head thrown back in uproarious laughter as Italy’s Berlusconi smiled approvingly while fondling his shoulders as he stood behind him. In his article on the 20th, titled “Posturing and laughter as victims rot,” Robert Fisk observed “Palestinians (were) carrying the decomposing corpses of their dead” while Olmert reveled in his rest and relaxation from the arduous task of killing hundreds upon hundreds of children, oblivious it would seem to the lives he had destroyed.

Perhaps we have witnessed the most recent sighting of the wandering Jew of ancient legend, a mysterious personage last recorded in Utah in 1868 by a follower of the Mormon faith. Legend suggests that a Jerusalem shoemaker taunted Jesus on the way to crucifixion only to be rebuked when told, you “will go on forever till I return.” Hence the “Eternal Jew” forced to wander without hope of rest in death till the millennium. The legend swiftly became a metaphor in literary art finding life in German as well as Romance speaking countries from the early 1600s to the 1800s. So what does it mean and how does the wandering of Ehud Olmert reflect that of the Medieval Wandering Jew?

In 1846, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote “A Virtuoso’s Collection,” an exotic tale of the strange and fantastic. The collection of the title is a virtual museum of human history represented by artifacts that have become the hallmarks of a time, a people or a civilization. As Hawthorne’s narrator returns to the door by which he entered, he seeks to know the Virtuoso that has been his guide and tutor on this unique journey through human endeavor. He makes this observation:

I fancied … that there was a bitterness indefinably mingled with his tone, as of one cut off from natural sympathies, and blasted with a doom that had been inflicted on no other human being, and by the results of which he had ceased to be human. Yet … it seemed one of the most terrible consequences of that doom, that the victim no longer regarded it as a calamity, but had finally accepted it as the greatest good that could have befallen him. “You are the Wandering Jew!” exclaimed I. (emphasis mine)

Hawthorne uses the legend to capture that mystery of behavior that has haunted writers for centuries, a mystery that still befuddles our scientists that search for an explanation for actions that seem devoid of “natural sympathies,” actions that elicit no response to human suffering, emotional or psychological, to physical pain and anguish, to loss of those loved, a child, a son or daughter, a father or mother, actions inflicted for no perceivable reason, where guilt has not been determined nor compassion considered. The legend captures the man that witnesses the suffering of the innocent, the Christ bearing His cross though guilty of nothing but the spirit of human compassion for his brothers and sisters, the sacrifice of atonement, yet mocks the innocent to “go on quicker,” for the Wanderer “is linked with the realities of this earth… to what I can see, and touch, and understand, and I ask for no more.” Nothing can stand in his way as he rushes through life acquiring all that this world can offer, and at any expense, regardless of his impact on others. “The soul is dead within him,” Hawthorne proclaims, the natural sympathy for his fellow humans does not exist.

For three weeks the people of the world watched as the Zionist government of Israel systematically engineered the execution of more than 1300 people and wounded or maimed for life more than 5000, people locked inside a cage unable to protect themselves even by running away, for there was no place to run that the Israeli military could not see or destroy. Indeed, Israel’s Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, simply categorized Gazan civilians as “fighters” and their towns and villages “military bases,” thus enabling the IDF to continue its indiscriminate slaughter.  Yet her approach to this illegal invasion pales by comparison with Olmert’s colleague in his government, Avigdor Lieberman, who reflected that the government should drop an atomic bomb on them as the US did in Hiroshima. These are the faces that do not see the faces of those they mutilate and kill. Israeli TV blurs the images of the dead children and mothers lest they offend the citizens’ sensibilities.  It is this reality that brings to mind the ancient legend of the Wandering Jew.

How does one explain, no, how does one understand the mind capable of such gross, calculated and unmitigated horror? What people could sit in beach chairs, binoculars in hand, sipping Pepsis, and watch as the F-16s hurled $300,000 missiles into apartment buildings, university science buildings, United Nations storage facilities, mosques and schools, and family homes, totally absorbed in the splendor of the devastation? What minds could conceive the slow and methodical siege that locked the people of Gaza in their cage, unable to leave, unable to acquire necessary water or food or medicine, unable to find work, unable to control the sewage that poured into the streets and sea since they were unable to repair the destroyed infrastructure of their country and forced thereby to endure hours and days without electricity and water, forced to live in darkness while the occupying army sent sound breaking aircraft over head to shatter the silence of the night, forced to stand in lines for food, water, gasoline when and if available, forced to humble themselves before the invading army that struck at will … actions of a sick mind that has no relation to the presence let alone the existence of fellow humans, only the dementia that finds merit in witnessing the pain of another’s suffering.

Hawthorne grappled with this image of the lost soul, severed from the roots that carry all in the concept of humanity, where each is a brother or a sister to another and to all; where the teachings of the faiths that sustain humankind across the globe find love and compassion the fundamental life force that binds all and gives meaning to all; where mercy and kindness serve to heal and advance the commonweal; where the island that is this planet unites all humankind in bonds of necessary and never ending ties if there is to be a future for our children; this is the source of the human spirit that emanates from one all embracing soul that is the common experience of all that must endure the suffering and pain that is this life suffused and made endurable by the springs of love that give joy to the world. This is a concept that requires of all, sharing of all things, that each might survive despite the ravages of time and circumstance. It is the essence of all faiths that truly believe in the human spirit and the uncertainties that control our lives. It finds repulsive, as a consequence, those who seek to destroy the unity of spirit that binds all together in favor of personal gain, sought in the material acquisitions made possible in this world, regardless of the havoc wrought to achieve their ends.

The image of the Wandering Jew reflects that person who abandons his fellows for personal gain, who forfeits human love and compassion for the artifacts of this world gained at any expense, satisfied with the acquisition of wealth, of position, of power even when achieved by devastation and death since ultimately only he exists and all routes to his end are achieved. All humans are expendable and are, then, by definition inferior to the man free of moral or spiritual restraints.

The Wandering Jew is then, as metaphor, another rendering of the story of Cain who slew his brother, for which act he was cursed by God Almighty to wander the earth a fugitive. Why? “Listen to Cain as he walks beside his brother along the path of death: ‘There is no judgment and no judge and no world to come! No reward will be given to the righteous nor any account given of the wicked.’ Such is the belief of those who would declare their independence of any responsibility for their brother, accept any blame for their deception as they accompany him to his death, or bear any guilt for the wickedness they inflict. Without judgment for behavior determined as good or bad, without reward for acts of love or compassion, without retribution for evil and wickedness against his brother, Cain is free to do what he wills to do… Thus did Cain’s intent – satiating his selfishness, appeasing his jealousy, releasing his aggression – reveal the disconnect between his inherent evil and his higher nature” (Cook, The Rape of Palestine 311-315).

The Wandering Jew, like Cain, is Everyman. We are what we will to be: Cain or Abel, with a soul or without one, sympathetic to our fellows or indifferent, human or non-human. That is the metaphor of Melville’s Ahab, of Marlowe’s Faust, of Conrad’s Kurtz, of Hawthorne’s Doctor Rappaccini, of Bunyan’s Demas; it is the conflict inherent in everyman that has intrigued writers from the beginning of time, the chasm of duality that walks the earth, the body and the spirit, selfishness or selflessness, the ego dominant over all regardless of the consequences, the self inflicted wound that separates soul from body, and in that identity declares that he has attained the greatest good, to be not human, the ultimate loss of identity. Emptiness, mad.

Every civilization has had its Cain, its Ahab, its Wandering Jew. The image of Olmert laughing while the mother digs through the rubble of her home captures the cold-hearted man responsible for that death, that Mother’s pain, that instance that mirrors thousands of others piled high in Gaza, but it fails to capture the reality of the metaphor that has to encompass the devastation wrought in the name of Israel that stains the very soul of Judaism.

Compare these three weeks of merciless killing to the Nazis at the Warsaw ghetto; compare it to the wanton rain of death that leveled Dresden, the erasure of 64 Japanese cities and towns before the dropping of the atomic bombs, Nixon’s Christmas bombing of Cambodia. Choose the atrocity that people allow their governments to shower on the innocent. Argue that we have no control over the governments that act in our name, but witness the weeping child that we have failed to protect, witness the dead child cradled in the arms of its father his face contorted with grief, witness the maimed lying in the hospital bed no longer able to walk or see or hold a fork, witness what we will not let ourselves see, what we then tolerate as our military executes its duty imposed by our governments, witness and understand how we become complicit in their crimes, how we become the Wandering Jew, the Ahab, the Kurtz, the non-human.

In my lifetime, the science and technology of mass slaughter has reached levels of devastation beyond comprehension. Citizens can no more see the millions killed by atomic slaughter than the pilots that dropped the bomb from 25,000 feet. Computer controlled aircraft hurl incendiary missiles into crowded streets, white phosphorus falls from the sky turning black the skin it lands on, cluster bombs lay strewn on the fields of Lebanon awaiting the children that will play with them, bulldozers without drivers crush homes beneath their blades of death and destruction, and no one is allowed to see what havoc is wrought in their name. No longer does the Wandering Jew refer to a person, no longer does Cain kill his brother standing alone on the hillside, the metaphor does not hold. Cain is a nation complicit in its barbarity, Kurtz is the corporation that builds the instruments of death, the Wandering Jew is the soul of humans that stand by silent in their complicity content to see no evil and hear no evil, unable then to speak against that evil.

Olmert’s soulless Zionist government mirrors the state and becomes its identity. The world stands in horror at what that state has inflicted on a defenseless people, what Neve Gordon referred to as “raising animals for slaughter on a farm.” It gave Israel a chance to test its weapons from land, sea and air without fear of retaliation of any meaningful kind accept the peoples’ desire to live despite the ruthlessness of their invasion.

The people of Gaza will succeed because they will life. Their suffering will cry out to the people of the world and the world will respond in sympathy for that is the moral imperative that unites all on this earth. But just as Israel’s viciousness destroys Gaza, so in equal measure does it infect its own people with that viciousness. The very image of the Jewish people is threatened, their identity, their character, their uniqueness as a people; it is in the words of Yossi Melman ‘an image (of itself) of a madman that has lost it.”

Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak haKohen Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Palestine before the existence of the state of Israel, wrote of four harmonies of the human spirit. The first two proclaim the essence of the Jewish soul tied to the land of ancient Palestine. His teachings are uniquely focused on the Jewish faith, a Zionism of Jewish morality that stands in contrast to the secular forces currently running that state. But if Israel were to turn to his expansive thoughts as expressed in his last two harmonies, the potential for meaningful harmony between Jew and Palestinian might be possible.

These are the last two: “A third man’s soul expands beyond the Jewish people to sing the song of man, his spirit embraces all humanity, majestic reflection of God; And a fourth is transported still higher, uniting the entire universe with all creatures, and all worlds, with all of these does he sing …” This is the soul of Judaism that is now lost to self and the world. The harmony taught in the Psalms, “The earth is founded upon mercy,” (Ps. 89:13), the love taught in Leviticus, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” (Lev. 19:18), the value of the earth, “given to man to use and protect,” the prohibition against wasteful destruction and care for the needy, “That the poor of the people may eat,” (Exodu. 23:11), these teachings  have been the gift of the Jews to all men and women as they have shared their existence in all nations over eons of time, the very counterpoint of the image of the legendary Wandering Jew.

What if the nation of Israel should return to these values, to see in the Palestinians neighbors deserving of recognition and love, deserving of their land that has been given to man to use and protect, deserving of care and compassion that the poor of the earth may eat. What if the harmonies envisioned by Rabbi Kook were to guide the Israeli state so that the historical heritage of the Jews that has so aided the world in overcoming racism, prejudice, segregation, poverty and inequality everywhere might become the lantern of peace in Palestine and these two peoples, cradled in decades of animosity and vengeance, might find reconciliation in the land both love, respect and worship.