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WHAT I OWE TO ZIONISM.

By Paul Merkley.

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One day in the early Spring of 1979 there appeared an item on the Department of History of Carleton University bulletin board (just a few steps down from my splendid and spacious office), drawing attention to a forthcoming teaching exchange, open to my University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Just imagine! Me and Gwen and our four children living in Jerusalem, our accommodation paid for by the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University – in exchange for a little lecturing on favorite topics!

It came completely out of the blue!  Gwen signed on after minimal discussion, and the children, ranging from six years old to 18, seemed keen – or at least, they pretended to be. Gwen quickly set to the herculean effort of getting six of us packed and organized. Each of us would be allowed one suitcase, for six months! If we forget Amy’s stuffed animal toy (Sylvester) it would be the end of the world. We would have to find  an English or French-language school in Jerusalem that was open to a Canadian child at Grade One level. We would have to get passports and medical records for all six of us. If we failed to get Michele enrolled as an exchange student at Hebrew University; if we could not work out the procedure for Sharon and for Bob to fulfil in Jerusalem the requirements for their High School year here at home — it would all fall apart.

I had originally assumed that there would be many candidates, and that my candidacy would likely be the least attractive to the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University. But already the chilly effect of anti-Zionism was closing down reason in  all of the professional organizations and the chattering class, so that the thought of living in the Jewish State had little lustre – I mean, in comparison with Italy or Spain or Germany. Non-Jewish candidates like ourselves were a special rarity.

In fact, all four of my children, as well as their mother, came away from our semester in Jerusalem with at least a rudimentary  understanding of the Jewish legacy and a strong commitment to honoring the Jewish people.

Years later, I learned that the field of contestants for that exchange visit in 1980 came down to me! The low prestige of Zionism among academics was already being born out by hassles that take place, year after year, in the various professional and academic associations, where Resolutions of denunciation of Israel for its alleged ongoing crimes against the “Palestinian people” and measures intended to make sure that the members of the various associations never have to break bread with visiting Israelis.

Seeking the company of Zionists is considered very poor form by those who provide direction in the company of academics and intellectuals today. Back in the days of my active teaching at Carleton University, I would make my way every day past an array of fierce anti-Zionist propaganda, contributed by the Student Council and affiliated Arab and Muslim advocacy groups. I cannot say that my vocal Zionism has de-railed my career. But it certainly has not helped it.

As for me, that semester began forty years of steadily deepening commitment to the study of Judaism and the History of the Jews.  I have subsequently undertaken ten trips in all back to Israel – mainly to the visit the Central Zionist Archives. Three scholarly-academic books eventually came out of this research.

All of this immersion and re-immersion  in the History of Israel and in the present State of Israel has simultaneously strengthened my Christian faith. It led me, about two decades after my initial visit, to active membership in the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, which  vigorously advocates on behalf of Israel in the churches. Meanwhile the leaders of the so-called called “mainline” churches have been slipping deeper and deeper into pro- “Palestinian ” advocacy – a hegira that inevitably undoes the commitment to history, to theology and  to truth.

Immersion in the History of Israel should not be undertaken lightly. It is extremely difficult to concentrate the minds of European and American and Canadian and British historians on the simple but powerful fact of the immensity of the History of Zion. There are, for example,  roughly three-and-a-half-millennia more History packed into the History of Israel than there is in the distinguished History from which Canada emerges!

We Christians cannot hope to understand the Jewish identity unless we at least make an effort to sort out the story of the Ancient Egyptians, the Ancient Akkadians, the Ancient Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks and the Romans,  as well as a succession of Islamic Empires and the British Empire.

And then there is the story of the Creation of the State of Israel, Seventy Years Ago this May.

Quite apart from this matter of the longevity of the record of Israel, there is the simple fact that the History of Zionism carries us right down to the present day. It is full to bursting of the biographies of incredibly heroic men who  committed their entire lives to a cause that was generally regarded as hopeless in their own time. I think of Theodor Herzl, who said of his commitment in 1897 to the impossible programme of Zionism: “He who wants to be right in thirty years must be thought crazy for the first two weeks.” And I think of Chaim Weizmann, and David Ben Gurion and the other giants who dominate Israel’s public life in our own time. Heroism on the scale of that which each and every one of these contributed to their Cause is rare at any time and is virtually extinct today – as far as I can see. For this reason alone, I recommend the study of the lives of the major Zionist figures.

The story leading to the establishment of the modern State of Israel is a bright line running through all of recorded History for the last three millennia and more. An understanding of the roots of Zionism takes serious scholars back to Biblical times, when the Jewish people slowly got used to the idea of being a distinct people, separated by God for a particular purpose.

Zionism is the word that correctly describes the process that brought Israel back to existence as a nation in 1948 after many centuries of diaspora. Zionism is the correct word for the spirit of loyalty that has sustained her ever since, despite her patently impossible situation, surrounded by an utterly hostile world which Jews are not permitted to enter.

Working on the story of Zionism is not a matter for the faint of heart. “Zionism” is there in the earlies books of tanaach – Hebrew Scripture. It is the force that gives meaning to the disjointed troubles of the Patriarchs. It is the Cause to which the LORD calls David and the Prophets. It sustained the People of God thereafter through three millennia of challenges. And in my own lifetime it has issued in the re-establishment of the People of Israel in eretz Israel – where their history began.

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BEYOND BLASPHEMY

VARIOUS DEGREES OF BLASPHEMY.

By Paul Merkley.

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Two recent news items shed light upon the present state of prestige of the Christian faith in   our part of the world.

The first is an item about an ice cream company in Toronto and the part it is playing in the long-standing public campaign to deprive Christian faith of all dignity so that people can feel free to dismiss it altogether.

The second is a news item about the recent death and the solemn all-hands-on funeral at Cambridge’s   prestigious Cathedral of a greatly-admired man who publicly proclaimed contempt for Christian faith.

Some Things Are Not Funny.

NEWS ITEM: “Sweet Jesus ice cream parlour faces

backlash over name,” Toronto Star, March 25, 2018.

Powerful proof of the low estate to which the symbols belonging to Christian faith have fallen is the story of a Toronto of ice-cream company with many branches which calls itself Sweet Jesus For Life www.sweetjesus4life.com. This outfit has come to life so swiftly that nobody seems to have seen it coming, and so the  fact that there  is now a very large petition campaign to get it to cease and desist from its blasphemy has only just caught up to Toronto’s news media.

Everything about this controversy calls out the instinct for frivolity that lies close to the surface in every mind whose thinking-processes have been  flushed away by constant commercial advertizing. In some of the advertising of the Sweet Jesus Ice Cream company we find the familiar scene of a nativity in a manger — with an ice cream cone in the place of the Infant Jesus.

Some thoughtful people are calling upon Christians to “boycott” the Sweet Jesus Ice Cream parlour and its products company https://lifepetitions.com/petition/blasphemous-sweet-jesus-ice-cream. A worthy course of action, but can we not agree that calling upon Christians to “boycott” is superfluous? Any alert Christian will recognize that just to walk up to the counter and utter the name on that menu is gross blasphemy.

What is truly distressing is that the makers of this product are calculating that the number of people who despise Christian faith so greatly outnumber those who cling to it, that getting a giggle out of Christ is a financial winner.  Who can say that they are wrong? But the thought does occur: would they dare put the name of Prophet Muhammad in place of Baby Jesus? They would be dead before sundown.

Open mockery of my faith, the declared but nominal faith of a majority of Canadians, is a proven winner in the marketplace.  In recent interviews, the morons who own the Sweet Jesus Ice company claim that it could not occur to anyone that blasphemy is mockery and that a price should be paid for mocking the name of Jesus in this knuckle-dragging public way. These mockers know that it is hate speech and likewise know that nobody cares. We have  got to the point where getting a giggle out of the baby Jesus will promote sales.

Asking Christians to boycott this blasphemous commerce should be a no-brainer. The mere act of standing up to the counter and asking for this product requires standing with the mockers of Christ – just for the sake of an ice-cream treat.  Has it really come to this?

 

The Death of A Champion of Atheism.

But then – if nobody cares anymore about what is said and done with the elements of our faith, why is it that people revert to the repertoire of Christian faith and approach the professional  clergy for their services and for the use of their buildings when it comes time to bury atheists?

This thought occurs as I read the news-item about the elaborate funeral held last week for Stephen Hawkin, a prominent champion of atheism, in the Cathedral Church at Cambridge University. There was a procession into the church, complete with senior Anglican clergy in full costumes. Inside, a Christian religious service was officiated by the Rev. Cally Hammond, the Dean of Gonville and Caius College at Cambridge University. There was organ music and hymns, including He Who Would Valiant Be, Sleep Fleshly Birth, and Jerusalem.

 

According to the New York Times,

Now Stephen Hawkin, the English cosmologist and black hole maven who died last week, and Sir Isaac Newton, the Englishman who founded modern physics, will rest together for eternity, or at least for its practical equivalent: the lifetime of the stones that make up Westminster Abbey in London.

Are these words  meant to be profound?  Or are they meant for a giggle? Or does anybody understand the difference anymore?

 

But really this is just blather –totally void of meaning. It does not rise to the level of blasphemy, I suggest a new word: sub-blasphemy – which I will define as blather struggling to rise to the level of blasphemy and failing.

 

At the funeral, there were testimonies, of course, to Hawkin’s contributions to the deepest science.  The vast majority of people who cannot get their minds around quantum physics or cosmology but who think that, being educated, they ought  to, depend upon the integrity of a very tiny company of people who do understand it (or say that they do) for the verdict that a great work was done by this brilliant man. The rest of us just take as given the judgment about the man’s brilliance and the related judgment about the meaning of this esoteric study. We trust that they are right and that no great consequences will ensue if they are not..

 

But among other complications is the fact that the great scientist paraded his scientific discovery as proof of the idiocy of believing in God.

According to the New York Times:

Hawkin became one of the world’s best-known and most inspiring scientists, known for his brilliance and his wit. [Hawkin’s] work focused on bringing together relativity — the nature of space and time — and quantum theory — how the smallest particles behave — to explain the creation of the Universe and how it is governed. He discovered that black holes, the fearsome hungry pits of bottomless gravity, were not final death but would leak and radiate, eventually exploding, recycling matter and energy in ways that still challenge physicists’  understanding.

Then comes this thought:

You didn’t need to understand the mathematics to grasp the notion of gaping maws sitting at the bottoms of galaxies or at the end of time, or the six-foot-deep hole with your own name on it.

If you will believe that that means anything, then you will believe anything.

Again, the New York Times:

It is hard not to perceive, peeking out from behind the math and inscrutable space-time diagrams on which this debate takes place, the need and desire of all humans for some kind of reassurance that death be not final, that something is left behind.

For himself, Hawkins has said:

We are each free to believe what we want and it is my view that the simplest explanation is there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realisation. There is probably no heaven, and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that, I am extremely grateful.

While clearly meant to be profound, these words are simple blather – totally void of any fungible meaning. Because it is so vague, it does not rise to the level of blasphemy, however. I suggest a word: sub-blasphemy.

 

But look again at those hymns:

He who would valiant be ’gainst all disaster, Let him in constancy follow the Master. There’s no discouragement shall make him once relent His first avowed intent to be a pilgrim ….

Since, Lord, Thou dost defend us with Thy Spirit, We know we at the end, shall life inherit. Then fancies flee away! I’ll fear not what men say, I’ll labor night and day to be a pilgrim.

Nothing evasive or vague here.  Let’s pray that whatever friend or relative set upon this text as appropriate for singing at the funeral of this courageous man saw something in him that contradicted his professed atheism –something that he withheld from the world.

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A Most Miraculous Anniversary.

BY Paul Merkley.

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The Lord shall set His hand for the second time to recover the remnants of His people and He shall set up an ensign for the nations and shall assemble the outcast of Israel and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. (Isaiah 11:11.)

 

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SYRIA’S FUTURE

Syria’s Future.

By Paul Merkley.

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The Latest from the Syrian Front.

Just a few days ago, the United Nations appealed for an immediate cease-fire in Syria. This occurs as the people of Syria face a humanitarian crisis on the scale of that which now besets Yemen. In both places, the rattle of death is pervasive.  No-one anywhere in the land his head, for fear of having it shot off. Continue Reading »

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