Israel and Islam. What is it that really divides the the two, keeping the children of Jacob and Ishmael in perpetual war?
It turns out the difference stares us in the face, at the root of the words themselves. Clarity in understanding the wars of the Middle East comes when grasping the words in the original languages, Hebrew and Arabic, a point Dennis Prager explains in his book Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph.
In Hebrew the word “Israel” means to “wrestle with God” or “to struggle with God.” Jacob was renamed Israel after spending a night wrestling with God’s angels. Struggling and arguing with the idea of God is what characterizes man’s relationship with Him in the Torah. Abraham talks back to God, arguing humanity’s case. This perpetual shifting and negotiating, new reaching out to the Divine is mirrored in the way the Bible is put together and how Jews and Christians learn to study it. We wrestle with God by wrestling with the text, trying to assemble the pieces in new and better configurations, building on the sages who have come before us. In Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchk’s The Lonely Man of Faith he shows how this movement back and forth is built into man’s nature as reflected in the two creation stories in Genesis. Both describe man’s orientation to God and it is our challenge to shift back and forth between them.
In Islam the idea of man arguing with Allah or debating the proper interpretations of the holy text is blasphemous. In Arabic the word “Islam” means to submit to Allah.
While the Bible is a document made of numerous texts across the centuries depicting many mysterious and often conflicting understandings of God and competing schools of interpretation, the Koran purports to be the revelation of one prophet who supersedes all the others. And his book has an easy cheat system for how to make sense of conflicting passages: when two parts conflict, just go with the later prophecy. Abrogation! The practical result of this is that the violent, later prophecies are still in effect for Islam. And where did its doctrine of “struggle” manifest? In its call to wage Jihad. The struggle is not primarily with a transcendent deity, but to impose Shariah law — a Caliphate — onto the entire planet. There’s no mystery between man and Allah in the Koran, the relationship is clear: we are his slaves.
The more one studies the history, culture, and contemporary conflicts between Israel and Islamic states and Jihadists the more evidence one finds for this root breakdown between a free people and an enslaved people. Two of my most important guides in coming to grasp these issues have been P. David Hornik and Robert Spencer who I’ve had the pleasure of of editing each week for years. Today I present collections of their work together, Hornik based in Israel and providing analysis of the news in the Middle East and the cultures influencing it; and Spencer connecting the Koran with the actions of its modern day adherents today.
If there are themes you’d like to see David or Robert explore then please get in touch with your ideas: daveswindlepjm @ gmail.com or @DaveSwindle on Twitter.
Click here to read “Begin to Understand Islam With These 118 Robert Spencer Articles“
One of the understandings of Israel I’ve drawn from David’s writings is the paradox of the culture: that Israel is both very religious and very secular and that the range of religious expression varies widely within the country. David rightfully posits that this tendency lies in the Torah itself. I start this collection of David’s work with his “Abraham Ancient and Modern” series. Here’s an excerpt from the beginning:
Last year a study of Israeli Jews found that 84 percent of them believe in God. It came as a surprise to many. Israeli Jewry is commonly divided into “religious” and “secular” sectors, with the former making up only about 20 percent. It turns out, though, that a large majority of the “secular” are theists.
The “religious-secular” division of Israeli Jewry has roots in the Book of Exodus, which introduces laws about Sabbath observance, kosher eating, personal and ritual purity, and so on. “Religious” Jews in Israel are those who follow these laws — as further elaborated in subsequent books of the Bible, and interpreted and codified by the rabbinical tradition. “Secular” Jews in Israel usually follow some of the laws but are not committed to them as a whole.
For instance, and maybe most prototypically, “religious” Israelis stay home on the Sabbath, observing both the injunctions to “do no work” and “kindle no fire” on this day. Secular Israelis kindle their car engines and go for family outings, their Sabbath in some ways more similar to Sunday (the Jewish Sabbath falls on Saturday) in majority-Christian countries.
“Secular” Israelis, though, are mostly theists; they live in the Land of Israel and are usually committed to doing so, not infrequently to the point of life-threatening forms of army service; and they are generally responsive to the holiness of Jerusalem and other aspects of Jewish tradition. A “secular Israeli” myself for almost three decades, I’ve long thought that the “secular” or “nonreligious” tag fails to do justice to a more complex, interesting reality.
Looking beyond the Book of Exodus to the book that precedes it — Genesis, and especially one of its central characters, Abraham — may offer richer and more affirmative ways to think about the issue.
Click here to continue reading “Abraham, Part 1: Are ‘Secular Israelis’ Really Secular?.” In David’s own approach and body of work he embodies this approach too. This collection contains both the secular in his news articles and political polemics and series on the world’s worst purveyors of antisemitism, to the religious with his series on Jewish holidays, to the territory in between with his skeptical but sympathetic series on the emerging science of near death experiences.
I hope that through this collection more can come to appreciate David’s inspiring worldview and see how they can apply his insights about life in Israel to their own journey through the sacred and secular.
Abraham Ancient And Modern Series
- Abraham, Part 1: Are ‘Secular Israelis’ Really Secular?
- Abraham, Part 2: God’s Gadfly or Meek Servant?
- Abraham, Part 3: Do You Have to Marry a Jewish Girl?
- Abraham, Part 4: Does Holiness Get Lost in the Fog of War?
- Abraham, Part 5: Can The ‘Wild Man’ Ishmael Be Tamed?
Israel: Leper or Light Unto the Nations?
- Israel: Leper or Light Unto the Nations? Part 1: The Whole World Against Us
- Israel: Leper or Light Unto the Nations? Part 2: That Bird Could Be a Mossad Agent!
- Israel: Leper or Light Unto the Nations? Part 3: From Woodstock to the Promised Land
- Israel: Leper or Light Unto the Nations? Part 4: Why Is Israel So Lousy at Making Its Case?
- Israel: Leper or Light Unto the Nations? Part 5: Whichever It Is, I’ve Married It
- Israel: Leper or Light Unto the Nations? Part 6: Europe Loves Jews, Just Hates Judaism and Israel
- Israel: Leper or Light Unto the Nations? Part 7: Syrians in Israeli Hospitals Fear ‘Monster-Jews’
- Israel: Leper or Light Unto the Nations? Part 8: Jerusalem Dig Strikes Rare Gold
Near Death Experiences
- What Near-Death Experiences Tell Us
- Near-Death Experiences: Two Books Provide More Compelling Evidence
- Near-Death Experiences—A New Take on Life, Part 1: Sam Parnia Explains Where the Field Is Leading
- What if They Gave a Review of Your Life and You Had to Come?
- Introducing: A Deity Who Makes Sense
- Near-Death Experiences—A New Take on Life, Part 4: Brian Miller’s Case Challenges the Skeptics
- Near-Death Experiences, a New Take on Life, Part 5: Can God and Evil Be Reconciled?
- 4 Amazing Facts Suggesting the Mind Can Exist Independent of the Brain
- ‘I’-Sight: When the Blind-from-Birth Can Fully See During Near-Death Experiences
- 4 Amazing Archaeological Finds in Israel This Past Year
- 4 Reasons Israel’s Future Looks Bright as the New Jewish Year Begins
- Farewell to a Fighter: Meir Har-Zion, Larger-than-Life Israeli Legend, Dies at 80
- Israel on Holocaust Remembrance Day
- Israeli Independence Day, 2014
- Israel’s Embattled Pro-Israel Priest
- Israel’s First Astronaut: A Tale of Tragedy and Miracle
- ‘Nakba’ Concentrates Israeli Minds
- Obama’s Full-Court Press on Israel
- 5 Reasons Why Liberal Jews Will Never Support Israel
- A Review of David Solway’s The Boxthorn Tree
- 5 Ways Israel Keeps the Peace in the Middle East
- 5 of the Latest, Dumbest Statements About Israel by Jewish Liberals
- Why Is Washington Enraged Over More Homes for Jews in Jerusalem?
War in the Middle East
- Goldstone’s Mea Culpa and Israel’s Wars
- 3 Kidnapped Boys, But the Usual Cold Shoulder
- Israel Buries Sons, Mulls Response
- The 10 Most Disturbing Palestinian Propaganda Videos
- The Insane Hamas War
- 6 Videos That Show the Truth About the War in Gaza
- Why Israel Defeated—But Didn’t Crush—Hamas
- Next Round—Islamic State Vs. Israel?
- The Shavuot Holiday in Israel: Joy in the Law, Joy in the Land
- Purim: A Wacky Tribute to Life
- 4 Things to Get Liberated From This Passover
- Tu Bishvat, Israel’s Holiday of Trees
- Chanukah: The Triumph of Light
- Simchat Torah: Dancing and Singing with the Law
- Sukkot, the Autumn Harvest Festival
- Israel on Yom Kippur: Renewing Life Amid Traumas of the Past
- In Israel, a Rosh Hashanah of Apples and Gas Masks
- Israeli Women, Part 1: Ace Pilots Reporting for Duty
- Israeli Women, Part 2: Island of Progress in a Dark Sea
- Israeli Women, Part 3: The Jews’ Iron Lady, Golda Meir
- Israeli Women, Part 4: Great Ladies of Hebrew Song
- Simone by Starlight: How to Lose a ‘Date’ But Gain the World
- Simone by Sunlight: Can People-Pleasing Save a Romance?
- 4 Things You Should Never Do to Find Lasting Love
- 4 Signs That You’re on the Way to Lasting Love
Life Reflections and Advice
- Memories and Mysteries of a Friend Dead at 40
- Sacred Places: Real, or Do We Make Them Up?
- What I See at the Secret Hour
- Why the Beasts Fail to Understand Israeli Happiness
- American? Israeli? Who Am I?
- How I Became a Conservative
- 3 Tips for Falling Asleep at Night
- 10 Ways My Life Improved Since I Moved to Israel
- 5 Realizations as My 60th Birthday Draws Near
- My Murdered Friend
- The 12-Step Guide for the Recovering Obama Voter
Music, Art and Culture
- Goodbye, Literature
- 4 Old, Dreamy Songs
- 3 Unwritten Short Stories Still Haunting This Ex-Fiction Writer
- The Wonder and Beauty of Israel’s Old, Old Mosaics
- How Great Jazz Artists Express a Peculiar Kind of Hebrew Happiness
- Master of Music, Bungler of Life
- David Solway’s Musical Debut: Blood Guitar and Other Tales
- Habibi: A Moroccan Poet Sings to His Love
The Ten Worst U.S, Purveyors of Antisemitism
- The Ten Worst U.S. Purveyors of Antisemitism, #10: Gordon Duff
- The Ten Worst U.S. Purveyors of Antisemitism, #9: Willis Carto
- The Ten Worst U.S. Purveyors of Antisemitism, #8: John Mearsheimer
- The Ten Worst U.S. Purveyors of Antisemitism, #7: David Duke
- The Ten Worst U.S. Purveyors of Antisemitism, #6: Patrick Buchanan
- The Ten Worst U.S. Purveyors of Antisemitism, #5: Ron Paul
- The Ten Worst U.S. Purveyors of Antisemitism, #4: Ali Abunimah
- The Ten Worst U.S. Purveyors of Antisemitism, #3: Thomas Friedman
- The Ten Worst U.S. Purveyors of Antisemitism, #2: Students for Justice in Palestine
- The Ten Worst U.S. Purveyors of Antisemitism, #1: Louis Farrakhan
The Ten Worst Purveyors of Antisemitism Worldwide
- The Ten Worst Purveyors of Antisemitism Worldwide, #10: David Irving
- The Ten Worst Purveyors of Antisemitism Worldwide, #9: Roger Waters
- The Ten Worst Purveyors of Antisemitism Worldwide, #8: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
- The Ten Worst Purveyors of Antisemitism Worldwide, # 7: The Golden Dawn Party
- The Ten Worst Purveyors of Antisemitism Worldwide, #6: The Jobbik Party
- The Ten Worst Purveyors of Antisemitism Worldwide, #5: the Guardian
- The Ten Worst Purveyors of Antisemitism Worldwide, #4: the BBC
- The Ten Worst Purveyors of Antisemitism Worldwide, #3: The Palestinian Authority
- The Ten Worst Purveyors of Antisemitism Worldwide, #2: Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi
- The Ten Worst Purveyors of Antisemitism Worldwide, #1: The Iranian Regime
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