Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Not enough golems to hold the centre

Holding the Centre

Yeats wrote the poem Second Coming in 1918 after the First World War which starts with:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
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.
I first came across the line "the centre cannot hold" in Babylon 5. Both in Yeats' time and in G'Kar's fictional time-line in B5, a great war came along soon afterwards. I'm quoting this because I believe that the centre can hold, I am optimistic for the future...

Disappearing Centre

In my community and in similar communities across the United Kingdom, there has been a shift happening away from the centre for the past few decades. Reform and conservative Judaism are drifting away (from my viewpoint) from the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox communities and the middle(-ish) ground of Modern Orthodox is shrinking. People are either choosing to assimilate and leave their Jewish heritage behind or making a sustained effort to engage deeper with their Jewish heritage.

When challenged on this viewpoint (which should certainly be challenged as it is my very biased opinion), I ask: "How many fourth generation Reform Jews do you know?" and on the other side I ask "How many people do you know who have become frum (observing of religious law) through Aish or other Jewish outreach organizations?"

However, despite the erosion of the middle ground I believe that the centre can hold, I am optimistic for the future...

Discernment

Back in the day when I was at University a couple of decades ago, it was possible to have a civilized conversation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - be critical of both sides and have a creative debate on various resolutions. Now it seems that there is such cognitive bias and so much of an "us versus them" mentality, that I wonder if those University days were just a dream.

Anyway, this part of the post is about discernment... as I believe that it is a crucial skill for any aspiring warlock or witch to develop. Especially given the variety of books, blogs, lectures, etc available in this age of connectivity.

For example, regarding the current conflict between Hamas and Netanyahu government.. did you know that there is a special United Nations aid agency for the Palestinians? Every other refugee in the world gets refereed to the UNHCR. The latter has "..As of April 2008, the UNHCR employed a staff of 6,351 people in 117 countries..." Whilst the former has "...employing over 25,000 staff, 99% of which are locally recruited Palestinians..." The reason why I am highlighting UNWRA is that they are not the neutral party the media might like you to think, here is a less positive view.

OK, so what about all the civilians who were killed in the last few weeks in Gaza? Again I recommend continuing development in the area of discernment to work out exactly who was killed. But Simon, all this is an extremely biased view of what happened... you might say and you would be correct. Don't believe me. But please do question the reporters who show Syrian photos and attribute them to Gaza and the same reporters who after the conflict admit to harassment and intimidation, as well as the fact that rockets were fired from civilian areas.

OK, last video and it's a long one. But it's important in my opinion as it's the words of a man who has fought in the Middle East and know how wars are conducted in this part of the world.

Conclusion

I would like to say that I am hopeful about the future, but I'm not so sure about that future for my family in Europe. Arguments such as these for legitimate protest against Israel have one glaring hole. The lack of protests around the Ukraine conflict is deafening.

The legendary Golem of Prague was originally created to prevent blood libels. As a trainee golem builder, I am not sure that I could ever build enough golems to counter the reporting that would have you believe that the Israeli army deliberately target women and children.

Discernment and dialogue are the two means by which I believe the centre could hold... and with those in mind I can retain my optimism for the future.

DISCLAIMER: I wrote this article in a sleep-deprived state. I will edit it in the coming days...