The Times led with a story about the biblical covenant being ordered by the Archbishop of Canterbury in order to maintain and develop the Anglican Church. Reminds me of Him upstairs (or as Kalela used to insist as a very small child that woman under the carpet: [did she mean the new American Episcopelian chief, by any chance?) and the Jewish people.
Contrary to popular belief, we were not chosen at all. According to midrash, we were dragged to accept the covenant of the Torah, practically kicking and screaming. For it was offered to everyone else first, but they refused, not being able to stomach laws against murder, adultery, theft and coveting etc. So we were only approached as a last resort, and didn't feel up to it (eat your heart out, New Zealand), but we were told not to be so silly and sort of then volunteered. And that has been the situation ever since. So there is definitely hope left for the Anglicans. But the main thing is that it shows that even the very greatest indeed can sometimes make mistakes.
And of course people of God have to wrestle with the tensions, arguments and conflicts, because (whisper it not in Gath), that is what a person of God is all about and also the definition of the word Israel.
And how appropriate for the situation in Israel today.
And that is the sermon over.
You can access the whole thing here.
As for adverse reactions to my two antisemitism postings on Ruth's blog. All I can say is that Jews are an ethnic minority (and recognised as such in law), so it is not the same as attacking religious beliefs at all. If you want to mock God, fine: because actually the deity is indefinable in Judaism, so you would just be making a fool of yourself: nothing to get hung up upon at all. But attacking Jewish people with blood libels and comparing them to Fagin, Shylock, Svengali and pigs is antisemitic. And if you don't think it is, then, as the other respondant stated, education really is at a low ebb in this country, but possibly not in the way they intended.
Because there isn't much of a gap between defining a sinagoga as ''A meeting for illicit ends' (latest version of the Diccionario de la Real Academia Espanola: Spanish equivalent of the Oxford English Dictionary) and attacking them, now is there? And it was Rowan Williams who pointed out that we all have to guard our synagogues at present, especially when rabbis in our area are beaten up. And there also isn't much of a gulf between that and members of parliament accusing the PM of being surrounded by a Jewish cabal either. And then people believing it and defending the preposterous idea that there is an international Jewish world plot.
Last night I sent round my new Israel address to friends and received two or three replies. The first was from the Bishop of Manchester and it was so amazing that I am afraid I sat down and wept.
Then from a household name who wants me to review his book when it comes out. From the wife of Andrew Shanks (mentioned in a previous blog) suggesting I go 'gently'. And one from Ruth, our former neighbour from Liverpool, who looked after Esther when I wrote my own book and was generally incredible. Now the kids have more-or-less flown the nest, she and Eric want to visit in Haifa and will look after Les when he moves nearer to Liverpool after I go.
And Lord Carey also wrote, backing me to the hilt on what I said at Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral a few weeks ago, and also telling me about developments with the Foundation for Reconciliation in the Middle East.
And these are the people who make the world go round.
JUST GOT SENT THIS FROM TWO OF MY FAVOURITE PEOPLE in HAIFA:
Stuart, who didn't know us, but put us up, and practically sorted us out, so that after a week or so, we knew that Haifa was for us, and Yoline, at Haifa Town Hall, who does not know me either, but who has arranged for somewhere for me to stay when I arrive and will help with all the practicalities of settling down.
And then Asher from Haifa University, who is helping me with material on the university's multi-cultural and interfaith policy for a lecture I am giving to the Council of Christians and Jews in Liverpool on July 18th, sent me the whole article just now as well.
Entitled A Jordanian in Haifa, it certainly rang bells for me. Hope it will encourage some of you to visit that beautiful city as well. And please bear in mind that the writer is actually doing a dissertation on cities
And here is an extract below: just to whet your appetite.
Everyone I contacted or met with in Haifa was genuinely welcoming and extremely helpful. The graduate student who shares my research interests received me - a complete stranger - in her home, helped me to settle down in Acre, and supported me throughout my stay with contacts, interviews, and so much more.
The professors at the Technion met with me, provided official and technical support for my research, linked me with professors and students with similar research interests all over the country, and invited me to present my work in their department. The professors at Haifa University were no less welcoming or generous with their time, advice, and offer of support.
It was simply overwhelming. From the gentleman at the train station that first night, to Arab and Jewish cab and sherut - communal taxi - drivers, to students at the Technion and Haifa Universities, everyone was simply nice.
I PARTICULARLY enjoyed a trip from Haifa University down to the city, where the gregarious voice and contagious laughter of the Arab sherut driver, combined with the mix of Arab, Druse and Jewish students (probably more, but that was all my inexperienced eye could detect) bewildered me. All smiled and helped, offered advice on the best transportation back to Acre. Some even went out of their way - despite my objections - to take me literally by hand to the train station.
Similarly, and after a trip to the Technion, a student, also unaffected by my answer to his question about where I was from, went off the bus with me and walked me to my next stop. While waiting for one of my meetings at a small local caf in downtown Haifa, I observed how Arab owners interacted with their wide mix of clients. Everyone smiled, acted cordially and respectfully to each other; something - unfortunately - I thought other cities lacked.
Looking back, I realize that Haifa was the only place where people sincerely smiled, where the air was not thick with tension, and where there existed a wonderful mix of all backgrounds, religious and ethnic. Not only was there diversity - Israel is generally diverse - it was how people enjoyed the mix that distinguished Haifa.
One might speculate more about what makes Haifa so special, and propose theories that range from geographical compositions to demographic ones. What is important is that, like many other visitors, I will always cherish my Haifa memories.
The writer, a Jordanian architect-planner, is doing her doctoral work at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning the University of Michigan.
My 'junior' rabbi is also a solicitor and therefore lives in the heart of the real world. He has known at first hand what it is like to be a rabbi in today's hostile environment. But what an absolutely outstanding person he is, ably supported by his truly lovely wife, who I only really met for the first time a couple of weeks ago.
It's like this: he only started in the rabbi post a few years ago, but as far as I am concerned, proved that he was a tsaddik by writing a letter of support for all my endeavours, which were sent to members of the Anglican Church. And believe me, for a rabbi in north Manchester to do that for one of their 'flock' is unbelievable. But that is because he also loves Israel. He was also kind enough to say in the letter that I was a regular shul attender and knew my stuff, which is one of the reasons I do try to attend shul as often as possible.
This letter actually helped enormously in the Anglican world, especially for some reason with Bishops. They are dying to communicate with rabbis, especially Orthodox ones, and so much progress has now been made on that score. It is almost a miracle. But it also helped on a local radio broadcast. Because, unbeknown to me, a copy of this letter had been sent to the local radio people before they interviewed me, ostensibly on interfaith work and the joys of teaching Hebrew. So I wondered why the interviewer was bringing up Israel all the time. It later ensued that the the diocesan interfaith advisor, Steve (who has also featured on this blog) had sent this letter to local radio, and so they thought I was a great expert on Israel and decided to quiz me on that instead. But everything turned out all right in the end, as they had me back to talk about teaching Hebrew, but that is another story.
But what is so great about our 'junior' rabbi is that when he heard that my shipment had been packed earlier than in most cases, he and his wife invited us round for Shabbat (on the hottest day of the year) and immediately stated that he now had a good excuse to visit Haifa. Which is really marvellous and quite an honour. Because for some, Haifa is regarded as completely 'secular' within Israel, whereas others fall in love with it and know it is special, and he is in the latter category.
And all his children are wonderful too, especially his eldest daughter, who when I was having to do security on one Yom Kippur, found it delightful that I was quizzing her as to who she was, where she lived, and who her father was. And when she said 'the rabbi', we both burst out laughing, because she entered into the spirit of the moment with alacrity.
That Shabbat at his house was one of the nicest Shabbatot that we have spent here, and we felt totally at home in their house. And he even attended my final lecture in Manchester on Shabbetai Zvi, the false Messiah, some of whose antics were very embarrassing to say the least. And my 'junior' rabbi didn't even bat an eyelid.
And he and his lovely family will be extremely welcome in Haifa.