The Bookworm Beat 4-27-15 — “not yet the Apocalypse” edition and open thread

Woman writingMy brain is filled with Apocalyptic imagery, but it’s not because Obama is president, the Middle East is in flames, our southern border has collapsed, our economy is stagnant, Greece may drag down Europe, and Islamist’s are resurgent everywhere. It’s actually because last night, when my work load finally showed signs of a much-desired longish-term slowdown, I started reading two excellent books.

The first is Simon Sebag Montefiore’s lyrical and highly informative Jerusalem: The Biography, which takes the reader from Jerusalem’s pre-Biblical beginnings, to Old Testament and New Testament history, and then through post-Biblical history, all the way up to the 1967 War. It’s a lovely book, but I’ve just finished reading about Jesus’s crucifixion and am working my way toward’s the Kingdom of Israel’s destruction in 70 AD, so you can see why I’d be having an “end of days” feeling.

The second book that I’m reading, equally good so far, isn’t helping. It’s John Kelly’s The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time, another elegantly written book that makes you realize the speed with which civilization can collapse (as if the recent Ebola scare wasn’t reminder enough). I think too that Kelly, with a historian’s true knowledge rather than a Progressive’s fantasy-science melange, might just be a climate change skeptic. It’s this bit of information that’s the giveaway, about the changing climate and demographic conditions in Europe in the five hundred years leading to the plague:

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Are the headline writers dumb or malevolent? *UPDATED*

As you already know, I’m sure, the Ultra-Orthodox in Jerusalem are fighting hard to segregate men and women in public spaces in Jerusalem.  I posted about the fact that Mr. Bookworm analogized this small group, which is fighting against a democratic, egalitarian government, to the sharia law that exists across large segments of the Muslim world.  I doubt Mr. Bookworm arrived at this thought by himself.  I haven’t been reading the New York Times lately, nor listening to NPR, but I’m willing to bet that their coverage implies that this comparison is real and valid.

Today, the AP managed to state outright that the Ultra-Orthodox are aping the Nazis.  Here’s the AP headline:

Ultra-Orthodox Jews use Nazi images in protest

The implication, of course, is that the Ultra-Orthodox Jews outfitted themselves in swastikas and jackboots.  What the Ultra-Orthodox really did was to dress themselves up in concentration camp garb, thereby sending the message that they are helpless prisoners of a Nazi-style Jewish government:

Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered Saturday night in Jerusalem to protest what they say is a nationwide campaign directed against their lifestyle. The protesters called Israeli police officers Nazis, wore yellow Star of David patches with the word “Jude” – German for Jew – dressed their children in striped black-and-white uniforms associated with Nazi concentration camps and transported them in the back of a truck.

The Ultra-Orthodox’s stunt was tacky, offensive, ugly, distasteful, and inappropriate.  But the more correct description of this tasteless bit of street theater would be that “Ultra-Orthodox Jews use Holocaust-era Images in Protest.”  For the AP to have implied otherwise adds one more layer of indecency to the whole protest — and, worse, it’s a layer of indecency that dovetails perfectly with the Leftist (especially the European Leftist) effort to paint Jews as Nazis.  It’s bad enough when radical Jews describe each other as Nazis, without having the media pile on too.

UPDATE:  Somehow, this post seems apropos, insofar as it explains that the OWS add-on to the Rose Bowl Parade relied on Nazi imagery to depict the Jews’ alleged influence on world finances.

Jerusalem — and Paris

The French Foreign Ministry has taken umbrage at the notion that Israel claims sole proprietorship over its capital city, Jerusalem.  Never mind that those who wish to share Jerusalem with the Israelis (a) deny that Israel even exists and (b) would like to see all of Israel’s Jewish citizens dead.

You know, if we’re going to go around sharing capitals, I think Paris is far too insular, insofar as it considers itself merely the capital of France.  As someone who, despite Sarkozy, has trouble warming up to France, I think I’m fairly similarly situated to the Muslims who have, shall we say, trouble warming up to Israel.  I think, therefore, that Paris should be my capital too.  And since it will be my capital, I should have all of the rights of the French citizens who currently lay claim to that City.

I can see it now.  Because there are more of us Americans who dislike France, than there are Frenchmen in total, when elections come around regarding Paris, we win.  I can just see Paris in a few years under this regime:  Those rude, condescending, supercilious French people, and those hostile, antisemitic, misogynistic North African Muslims will have been cordoned off in a small French section (possibly one of the infamous banlieus).  The rest of Paris will be ours.  We’ll have a McDonald’s on every level of the Eiffel Tower; Hillary’s hippie museum can take up a wing (or maybe two) in the Louvre; there’ll be power boat races on the Seine; the dollar will be the accepted currency; and police officers will be helpful and polite.

Oh, and if the French are right about Jerusalem, I can see that too:  Lots of filth and dead Jews.  End of story.

It’s official: Obama doesn’t flip flop, he just does nuanced “rephrases” *UPDATED*’

For those of you who think Obama flip flops, your worries are over.  Hendrik Hertzberg, who writes the political op-eds at The New Yorker, explains that you’re just blind to the gossamer nuances of Obama-speak, nuances that place him squarely in the ring with all prior politicians (emphasis mine):

Winning a Presidential election doesn’t require being all things to all of the people all of the time, but it does require being some things to most of the people some of the time. It doesn’t require saying one thing and also saying its opposite, but it does require saying more or less the same thing in ways that are understood in different ways.

By George, I think I’ve got it, and I’ve got the perfect example of this brilliant rephrasing:  Obama’s Jerusalem speeches.  First, Obama tells Jews in June 2008 that “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.”  (Emphasis mine.)  One month later, he tells the rest of the world that “”The point we were simply making was, is that we don’t want barbed wire running through Jerusalem, similar to the way it was prior to the ’67 war, that it is possible for us to create a Jerusalem that is cohesive and coherent.”

Although simple minds might think that these two statements are binary opposites (read:  flip-flops) — with his first speech saying that Jerusalem will forever remain an undivided Jewish city and his second speech saying he really does want the City divided, except without that aesthetically ugly barbed wire running through it — those of us who appreciate Obama’s nuanced brilliance know that he was saying the same thing both times.  Let me explain:

You see, what you don’t realize is that Obama is a scholar of the finer points of Orthodox Jewish law.  What’s he’s actually talking about is the eruv and its effect on Jerusalem in the eyes of religious Jews, politicized Arabs and the secular world.  (Stick with me here.  This is going to make sense and it will explain to you all the gradated wonders of Obama-speak, too.)

Assuming you’re neither an Orthodox Jew nor the scholarly Senator Obama, and you don’t know what an eruv is, let me (or, rather, Wikipedia) explain (bolded, italicized emphasis mine):

A community Eruv (Hebrew: ערובmixture, also transliterated as Eiruv or Erub, plural: Eruvin) refers to the legal aggregation or “mixture” under Jewish religious property law of separate parcels of property meeting certain requirements into a single parcel held in common by all the holders of the original parcels, which enables Jews who observe the traditional rules concerning Shabbat to carry children and belongings anywhere within the jointly held property without transgressing the prohibition against carrying a burden across a property line on the Jewish sabbath. The legal aggregation is set up to have effect on the sabbath day only; on other days of the week ordinary property ownership applies. A valid aggregation has a number of requirements including an agreement among the property-holders and an aggregation ritual.

One of the requirements of a valid aggregation is that all the parcels must lie within a chatzer, or walled courtyard. For this reason, this type of aggregation is more properly known as an eruv chatzerot (Hebrew: ערוב חצרות‎), an “aggregation of courtyards,” to distinguish it from other types of rabbinically-ordained mixture procedures which also have the name eruv.

In modern times, when housing is not typically organized into walled courtyards, rabbinic interpretation has permitted this requirement to be met by creating a continuous wall or fence, real or symbolic, surrounding the area to be aggregated. The fence is required to have certain properties and consist of structural elements such as walls or doorframes. When the fence is symbolic, the structural elements are often symbolic “doorframes” made of wire, with two vertical wires (often connected to utility poles) and one horizontal wire on top connecting them (often using utility wires). The use of symbolic elements permits an eruv to make use of utility poles and the like to enclose an entire neighborhood of a modern city within the legal aggregation. In contemporary Jewish discourse, “an eruv” frequently refers to this symbolic “fence” rather than to the aggregation or legal status of the properties.

If you drifted off a bit during that scholarly disquisition, let me explain it in more user-friendly terms.  Orthodox Jews are technically barred from carrying burdens across property lines on the sabbath.  This was to make sure that, on the Lord’s day of rest, they didn’t sneak off and do some work outside of the community. When it became apparent in the old days that simply stepping out of your home with your baby in your arms to go to synagogue violated this rule, the rabbis came up with the idea of the eruv, which said that, for Sabbath purposes, the entire walled Jewish community was a single property.  Problem solved.

Nowadays, however, with Jews living in sprawling urban and suburban regions, how do you define a single community for eruv purposes?  Modern rabbis came up with a creative solution, with is to recognize a “virtual” community bounded by string or wire.  This means that, in the absence of the old medieval town wall, your neighborhood can encompass broader boundaries than the eye might suggest.

So, back to Barack Obama:  When he made the two statements that simple minds perceive as conflicting (read:  flip-flopping), he actually understood and was promoting the whole eruv principle.  In June 2008, he said Jerusalem would be undivided.  In July 2008, when he spoke of barbed wire (Wire!  Get it?), he clarified that, in his earlier speech, he was really speaking of the eruv.

What he’s saying — I’m so impressed I can scarcely fathom his Machiavellian (or do I mean Messianic?) brilliance — is that even if Jerusalem is politically divided with a Jewish and an Arab side, he wasn’t lying or pandering to the AIPAC crowd.  His later reference to barbed wire was code for his plan to create a low-key eruv around the entire City of Jerusalem, as opposed to that old-fashioned, crude barbed wire, so that the Orthodox Jews living there can wander freely on the Sabbath — as long as they don’t mind getting lynched should their wanderings take them into the Arab side of the “eruv-ly” undivided City.

Now do you get it?  The Oba-masterly nuance here is that a President Obama will demand a politically divided Jerusalem to satisfy the Palestinians and their fellow travelers, but he’ll set up a subtle eruv to keep the Jews happy.  Problem solved with truly Messianic (or do I mean Solomonic?) brilliance.

The only thing that confuses me is that good Herzberg, laboring mightily at the New Yorker to explain why all of Obama’s position changes aren’t really changes at all (they’re just subtle rephrasings), ignored the true genius behind Obama’s remarkably steadfast position on Jerusalem.  I guess that, unlike Obama, Herzberg is not a scholar of Jewish arcana, and this was one flip-flop he, poor ignorant sap, just couldn’t explain away.

UPDATE:  Although the above was written in a rather silly, snarky spirit, I do like to keep my facts straight.  Soccer Dad, who has more Jewish knowledge in his little finger than I will ever have in my entire body, clarifies some slight errors in the Wikipedia article from which I quoted:

More precisely, Biblically it is prohibited to carry from a private domain to public domain or 4 cubits (6 – 8 feet) in a public domain on the Sabbath.

The problem is that most modern public spaces do not constitute public domains according to the Torah definition. Given that these areas are undefined the Rabbis defined them as (Rabbinical) public space. As such they also provided a remedy for those who wish to carry in those areas.

An Eruv would be ineffective in a biblically defined public domain and one would still be prohibited from eitehr carrying within such a domain or transferring into a such a domain from a private domain on the Sabbath.

The laws of Eruv are very complicated and I have studied them a little. I am hardly an expert. The general rule with any type of Eruv – not just the carrying kind – is that it is a Rabbinic leniency provided to get around a Rabbinic stringency.

I hope this clarifies things a bit. I don’t think that the Wikipedia article is entirely correct.

UPDATE II: Power Line has another good example of Obama’s lies . . . no, I mean flip-flops . . . no, sorry, I mean “rephrasings,” this time regarding the Surge.

Second Amendment picture of the day

This is not a picture in America, but the top two pictures in this story illustrate perfectly why it matters that a nation’s citizens — the vast majority of whom are law abiding — can bear arms.

It is also interesting to note that, while the Beeb instantly tried to paint the Israelis as killers, this more “low brow” British paper, which has some of the highest circulation numbers in England, showed Israeli heroics and a wounded Israeli child, both of which I believe are images vastly more sympathetic to a nation beleaguered by terror.