The desert fathers are a puzzle and a paradox. Spend a little time in their company and you'll be throttled by grace--the strange, unmanageable mysterThe desert fathers are a puzzle and a paradox. Spend a little time in their company and you'll be throttled by grace--the strange, unmanageable mystery of a life focused into a white-hot point of recollectedness, the simplicity of willing one thing. Their pithy distillations of spiritual experience burn the throat but warm the belly, like a stiff whiskey. Enjoy with moderation....more
Well, coming to the Middle East, I can safely say I knew nothing of the history of the Israeli State beyond the fact that it existed and mostly JewishWell, coming to the Middle East, I can safely say I knew nothing of the history of the Israeli State beyond the fact that it existed and mostly Jewish people ran it. Staying here in Bethlehem for over a month meant we got a great deal of the Palestinian perspective on the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, but as far as the events that led to the creation of the State of Israel and the circumstances under which the Israeli Army eventually occupied those territories, no one was able to fill me in. This book happened to be on the shelf in the retreat center, and so I sank my teeth into it--and it's a fun book to read, that's for sure. Less a plodding chronicle than a look at what happened from the perspective of eyewitnesses on the ground and in positions of diplomatic and political responsibility, the authors manage to craft a narrative that is quite gripping.
It is most definitely written from the Jewish perspective, though a great deal of the research comes from Arab sources from within the city during the years and months leading up to the outbreak of armed warfare in 1947-8 and the creation of the State of Israel by a U.N. Mandate (known among the Palestinians as "the catastrophe"). There is no doubt that there were acts of tremendous bravery and outrageous barbarity on both sides, especially in the months leading up to the withdrawal of British forces. The siege of Jerusalem put the 1,500 residents of the Jewish quarter of the Old City through starvation and the prospect of instant death at the hands of Arab artillery shelling the skyline for over a month. An estimated 750,000 Arabs fled their villages before the advancement of the Israeli army and were confined to refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt, many of which exist to this day. Atrocities on both sides fed the righteous fury of disciplined soldiers and terrorists alike, and reading about the mutual slaughter carried out in a city revered by three world religions is one of the most frustrating and sickening accounts of armed conflict I've ever come across. Yet pinning the contradictions and insanity of these conflicts on religion alone would be inaccurate, as it would be more appropriate to assign them to religion taken captive by political ends.
The book concludes with the armistice of 1948 and the assassination of 4 of the 5 Arab leaders involved in the conflict (presumably by other Arabs indignant at their failure to follow through with their intention to resist any peace plan that included the UN Partition plan that allowed an Israeli State). Much has intervened since then to create the state of affairs that now obtains in this region, but I'm a little better equipped to understand what drives the passionate struggle for independence and statehood on both sides of the wall. ...more