A New Place Of Exile

Richard Hutton

Category: All Religions Are One

Jewish Voice For Peace’s Statement on Contemporary Islamophobia.

Those brave few who read my various articles/essays etc. will know how much I admire Jewish Voice For Peace. The following text is their statement on the Islamphobic sentiments recurrent in the United States at the moment (hyperlinks in the original).

Dear Supporter,

Within the next ten days, Jewish people will welcome a New Year, even as the holy Muslim month of Ramadan draws to a close. These are times of special significance for us, and yet these joyous occasions are marred by what is happening in the world around us.

The so-called peace talks are beginning today under the shadow of ongoing violence in Israel and Palestine. In the United States, we are approaching the anniversary of 9/11, and the rising tide of manufactured bigotry against Muslims is reaching a new high.

As the peace talks begin, we condemn the murder of the four Israeli settlers last Tuesday in the occupied West Bank. Violence against civilians, any civilians, is never the answer.

We also note that while the U.S. government condemned Tuesday’s brutal attack, it never condemned even the assault on Gaza almost two years ago, when over 1400 people, mostly civilian, including over 400 children, were killed.  This disproportionate response is an indicator of the apparent inability of the U.S. to be an “honest broker” in these talks. (You can find two sobering analyses of the upcoming talks in these two pieces: Hoping Against Hope and Top Ten Reasons for Skepticism.)

As difficult as the situation is in Palestine and Israel, we cannot ignore what is happening in the United States. As Jews, we feel an obligation and a responsibility to speak up for the rights of all of our citizens and residents — rights that we should enjoy regardless of religion or ethnicity. We are gravely concerned by the new wave of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab prejudice — including violence and threats of public burnings of the Qur’an — that the planned building of an Islamic Cultural Center near Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan has brought to light.

We are particularly disappointed by the role being played by some leading Jewish-American institutions, founded to promote human rights and democracy, that are standing now on the side of bias and prejudice. When the Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and the American Jewish Committee oppose the unconditional rights of Muslim-Americans to build their mosque, they oppose the religious freedoms of all Americans and the Jewish values we all share.

Sadly, the decision of organizations like these not to vigorously fight for the rights of Muslim Americans appears to be rooted in their impression that bias and prejudice against Muslims is advantageous to Israel. On the one hand, we hear false and misleading claims of anti-Semitism to silence critics, on the other, are the appeals to Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism to foster alienation from the Palestinians and their struggle for human rights and dignity. This is not good for Americans, not good for Israelis, and not good for Palestinians.

Just as the hurtful and dangerous rhetoric is increasing in New York, so it is increasing in Israel. Just last week, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a former Chief Rabbi of Israel and spiritual head of the Shas Party, a member of the governing coalition, repeated his 2001 admonition for the annihilation of Arabs, adding, “It is forbidden to be merciful to them.”

Turning back to the U.S., as we are honoring our holidays, American Muslim leaders have expressed fear that when Muslims gather to celebrate the end of Ramadan, their gatherings might be wrongly interpreted as a celebration of the 9/11 attacks. We remember darker times when we Jews celebrated Passover in fear because of the heightened potential for blood libel accusations and pogroms.  We remember when our sacred books were burned in public square. We wish our Muslim brothers and sisters a joyous and safe holiday.

We are now in the time of Teshuvah (repentance). We call on all Jewish leaders and on all our Jewish brothers and sisters to pause and reflect. As we start a new year, we ask all of you to join us in reaffirming a shared commitment to confronting Islamaphobia and anti-Arab racism with the same determination we have when facing anti-Semitism.

Shannah Tovah and Ramadan Kareem,

Sydney Levy
Jewish Voice for Peace


Gotthold Ephraim Lessing: ‘Nathan The Wise’

From Nathan The Wise

Once in the East there lived a man who owned a ring of unimaginable worth.
It bore a jewel in which a thousand colours played; and the ring had the power to make the wearer loved by all people, and by God. It was no wonder that this man would never let the ring leave his finger, or that he resolved that it should never leave his family.

The man bequeathed the ring to his favourite son, and with it the instruction that he in turn should pass it to his favourite son, and that henceforth – ignoring all priority of birth – the favourite son should be master of the house by virtue of the power of the ring…

From favourite son to favourite son the ring passed down through the ages until it came to a father who had three sons. All sons were equally obedient, all equally attentive, and all equally loved by their father. And so, according to which son pleased him most, at the end of a long day spent riding or talking, and with the embers dying in the grate, one by one the father pledged the ring to each of his sons.

However, death approached the father, and left him dismayed. He could not bear to think that two of his sons had trusted him, and now must be denied. So the father sent in secret for a masterful jeweller, and commissioned him to make two copies of the ring – sparing neither cost nor effort until they were identical with the original. The jeweller obeyed; and when the rings were brought before the father, even he could not tell which was genuine and which the replicas. Joyfully the father summoned his sons one by one and gave to each his blessing and his own ring. And so the father died…

What happened next is predictable: the father had scarcely breathed his last before each brother came forth with his ring and claimed to be master of the house. They haggled, they argued, and they fought. All in vain. No brother could prove which was the true ring.

The brothers finally brought their case before a learned judge. Each made their statements, swearing that they had received their ring directly from the father’s hand; and that the father had given each his personal blessing. All three brothers declared that their father could not possible have deceived them, and each contended that – much as they may love one another – their brethren must therefore be at fault. Thus each brother vowed to expose his siblings’ treachery, and then exact their revenge.

To this the judge replied: ‘The dispute will only be resolved if you can bring your father to the witness stand – which you cannot; or if the true ring makes a statement – which is most unlikely. Failing that, I must dismiss the case. However, I have heard that the true ring has the power to make its wearer loved by God, and by all people. Perhaps that is your sign. A false ring could not do this. So think carefully: which brother is loved most? Does each brother only love himself? If the latter, then all three of you are deceived, and all of your rings are false. Perhaps the true one has been mislaid, and your father had these three copies made as a replacement?’.

The Judge had not finished, however. He continued: ‘Thus, if you desire a verdict you must go elsewhere. But if you will take counsel, I advise the following: accept the situation as it is. Each of you has been given a ring by your father. Have faith that it is the true one. Maybe this was your father’s plan after all: to end the tyranny of the single ring. It is clear he loved you all, and loved you equally: why would he disadvantage two by favouring one?

You could do worse than follow his example. Strive towards such unprejudiced affection in your own right. Instead of fighting amongst yourselves, vie with each other to prove the power of your own ring through gentleness, patience, charity and a deep humility before the love of God. And if after a thousand years the power of your ring still shines amongst your children’s children’s children, then I will summon you again before this judgement seat. A wiser man than I shall then preside, and he will give his verdict’

by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (based on the translation by Edward Kemp)

Robert Burns ‘To A Louse’


(On seeing one on a lady’s bonnet at church)

Ha! Whare ye gaun, ye crowlin ferlie?
Your impudence protects you sairly,
I canna say but ye trunt rarely
Owre gauze and lace,
Tho’ faith! I fear ye dine but sparely
On sic a place.

Ye ugly, creepin, blastit wonner,
Detested, shunn’d by saunt an’ sinner,
How daur ye set your fit upon her –
Sae fine a lady!
Gae somewhere else and seek your dinner
On some poor body.

Swith! In some beggar’s hauffet squattle:
There ye may creep, and sprawl, and sprattle,
Wi’ther kindred, jumping cattle,
In shoals and nations;
Whare horn nor bane ne’er daur unsettle
Your thick plantations.

Now haud you there! Ye’re out o’ sight,
Below the fatt’rils, snug an’ tight;
Na, faith ye yet! Ye’ll no be right,
Till ye’ve got on it –
The vera tapmost, tow’ring height
O’ Miss’s bonnet.

My sooth! Right bauld ye set your nose out,
As plump an’ grey as onie grozet:
O for some rank, mercurial rozet,
Or fell, red smeddum,
I’d gie ye sic a hearty dose o’t,
Wad dress your droddum!

I wad na been surprise’d to spy
You on an auld wife’s flainen toy;
Or aiblins some bit duddie boy,
On’s wyliecoat;
But Miss’s fine Lunardi! Fye!
How daur ye do’t!

O Jenny, dinna toss your head,
An’ set your beauties a’ abread!
Ye little ken what curséd speed
The blastie’s makin!
Thae winks an’ finger-ends, I dread,
Are notice takin!

O wad some Power the giftee gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion!

By Robert Burns

Anne Bronte ‘The North Wind’


That wind is from the North: I know it well;
No other breeze could have so wild a swell.
Now deep and loud it thunders round my cell,
Then faintly dies, and softly sighs,
And moans and murmurs mournfully.
I know its language – thus it speaks to me:

‘I have passed over thy own mountains dear,
Thy northern mountains, and they still are free;
Still lonely, wild, majestic, bleak, and drear,
And Stern, and lovely, as they used to be

‘When thou, a young enthusiast,
As wild and free as they,
O’er rocks, and glens, and snowy heights,
Didst often love to stray.

‘I’ve blown the pure, untrodden snows
In whirling eddies from their brows;
And I have howled in caverns wild,
Where thou, a joyous mountain-child,
Didst dearly love to be.
The sweet world is not changed, but thou
Art pining in a dungeon now,
Where thou must ever be.

‘No voice but mine can reach thy ear,
And Heaven has kindly sent me here
To mourn and sigh with thee,
And tell thee of the cherished land
Of thy nativity.’

Blow on, wild wind; thy solemn voice,
However sad and drear,
Is nothing to the gloomy silence
I have had to bear.

Hot tears are streaming from my eyes,
But these are better far
Than that dull, gnawing, tearless time,
The stupor of despair.

Confined and hopeless as I am,
Oh, speak of liberty!
Oh, tell me of my mountain home,
And I will welcome thee!

By Anne Bronte

William Blake ‘The Divine Image’


To Mercy Pity Peace and Love,
All pray in their distress:
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy Pity Peace and Love,
Is God our father dear:
And Mercy Pity Peace and Love,
Is Man his child and care.

For mercy has a human heart
Pity, a human face:
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine
Love Mercy Pity Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk or Jew.
Where Mercy, Love & Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.

By William Blake.

William Blake ‘The Little Black Boy’


My mother bore me in the southern wild,
And I am black, but O! my soul is white;
White as an angel is the English child:
But I am black as if bereav’d of light.

My mother taught me underneath a tree
And sitting down before the heat of day,
She took me on her lap and kissed me,
And pointing to the east began to say.

Look on the rising sun: there God does live
And gives his light, and gives his heat away.
And flowers and trees and beasts and men recieve
Comfort in morning, joy in the noon day.

And we are put on earth a little space,
That we may learn to bear the beams of love,
And these black bodies and this sun-burnt face
Is but a cloud, and like a shady grove.

For when our souls have learn’d the heat to bear
The cloud will vanish we shall hear his voice.
Saying: come out from the grove my love & care,
And round my golden tent like lambs rejoice.

Thus did my mother say and kissed me,
And thus I say to the little English boy.
When I from black and he from white cloud free,
And round the tent of God like lambs we joy:

I’ll shade him from the heat till he can bear,
To lean in joy upon our father’s knee.
And then I’ll stand and stroke his silver hair,
And be like him and he will then love me.

By William Blake

Thomas Hardy ‘The Oxen’


Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
‘Now they are all on their knees,’
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
‘Come; see the oxen kneel,

‘In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,’
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

By Thomas Hardy