Shabbat Nowruz

Shabbat Nowruz

Shabbat Shalom / Happy Nowruz

Nowruz Nah RuzNowruz is the new year celebration for Iranians which comes on the Spring Equinox – which is today. It is a time for joy, hope, celebration, presents. President Obama called out “Happy Nowruz” yesterday, as this day arrived in the region formerly known as Persia, due to the Earth reaching that designated place in its orbit around the sun. This day is also significant to the Zoroastrian Faith, The Baha’i Faith, and others.

Lunar Eclipse 2015 / Blood MoonToday also, however, happens to be the first Jewish Sabbath after the recent elections in Israel. And it comes during a cycle of Blood Moons that many believe have historic prophetic significance. In other words, this day is at the center of a swirl of real-world and symbolic happenings. Let’s take stock of the situation

Israel faces greater uncertainty in the region, including the fear that the $5B in funds to rebuild Gaza, and the efforts of Abbas at the UN continue to pose an existential threat to the Jewish state. The Middle East Forum recently published an excellent summary of this – a balanced representation of the challenges facing the new government in Israel. Obama and IranHere in America the President and other elected representatives are at odds over what is to be done in the region as he pursue negotiations with Iran that many feel will lead to disaster. One reason this seems to be a valid concern is related to the New Year beginning now in Iran. Their New Year holiday coincides with that of the Baha’i Naw-Rúz, and they are a sizable religious minority in Iran, to which I happen to belong. And yet Iran has a long history of persecuting the Baha’is – including murder, terror, torture and incarceration. This does not bode well for the future of mankind.

Thankfully, there is a God in heaven who will see to it that His Will is ultimately fulfilled.

The random virtues card I drew was cooperation. “Working together for the good of all… the willingness to stand side by side and use the different gifts each of us has to offer.” Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace.” General Dwight David Eisenhower, 34th President of the U.S.A.


Dwight D. Eisenhower EisenhauerFrom the linked article above “The Eisenhauer (German for “iron hewer/miner”) family migrated from Karlsbrunn, Germany, to North America, first settling in York, Pennsylvania, in 1741, and in the 1880s moving to Kansas. Accounts vary as to how and when the German name Eisenhauer was anglicized to Eisenhower.”

Two thoughts come to mind. Christ was to return with a Rod of Iron, to set up 1,000 years of peace. And and “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks:” which would require an Eisenhauer.

Netanyahu has been referred to as a modern Churchill, who also comes to my mind in this context, but I had not thought to compare him to Eisenhower, who served in WWI and was the supreme allied commander in WWII. It was the US entry in WWII that ultimately saved what was left of the Jewish population in Europe and elsewhere, enabling the establishment, in 1948, of the Jewish state, which collected the desperate and dying remnant of the people still clinging to the Covenant of Moses.Juif

There is much in the news about Netanyahu’s approach to cooperation, and a two-state solution. The controversy is related to whether more pressure should be put on Israel or its enemies to cooperate. Many feel that a certain minimal standard of cooperation needs to be applied to both parties, rather than the path taken by my heritage-nation, Sweden for there to be more cooperation by the Israeli’s.

Beat their Swords into PlowsharesThese are important topics, because, to reverse the Iron hewer’s quote,  only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can prevent the need for force, as men look towards the dawn of eternal peace.


Netanyahu’s Moment

Netanyahu’s Moment

Benjamin Netanyahu will soon address Congress in a polarizing Polaroid moment. He’s a lightning rod for US internal politics highlighting tension between the three branches of Government and the US population.  Crossroads MediumThe Executive Branch is livid, and overreacting.  The Legislative Branch is divided, but pulling strongly against the President. The Judicial Branch may become embroiled in challenges to Executive Branch actions. The Red / Blue state divide is mixing and morphing to purple as issues collide and alignments slide.

In short, the US, Israel and the world stand at a major crossroad.

Where do you stand?

This Article might provoke some thought in that regard.

My 6 year old daughter pulled Mindfulness as the Virtues Card for me to reflect upon. It is “living reflectively, with conscious awareness of our actions, words and thoughts – attentive to others needs. Living mindfully lightens our lives by helping us to detach from our emotions. We transform anger to justice. We cultivate our inner vision, aware of life’s lessons as they unfold.”

Wow.Netanyahu's Moment

On the back of the card “Can you cleanse your inner vision until you see nothing but the light?… Can you step back from your own mind and thus understand all things?”

Tao Te Ching

“Mindfulness brings us serenity.”


Je Suis Charlie Who?

Je Suis Charlie Who?

My Bachelor of Arts degree features a major in Theology and a Minor in French. This odd combination qualifies me for very, very little. It does, however, lead me to reflect on what is just below the surface of the current Je Suis Charlie meme sweeping the Western World.

Searching for truthDr. David Wainwright, may he rest in peace, not only taught me French, he was one of my most respected mentors and an accomplished public speaker, who wasn’t afraid to address topics others avoided. I often reflect on a sermon he gave in the 80’s for the church that sponsored Ambassador College, where I was studying. He used the layers of the onion to symbolize how ignorance and misinformation must be stripped away to uncover truth.

What interested me most is that his analogy was true to the onion. There was nothing inside.  He didn’t put defined boundaries around Truth, which is why he was such a powerful mentor. He left it up to the individual, even within an organization generally comprised of people telling us exactly what to believe.  The balance between a collective and personal view is a topic that fascinates me.

Which ends the general philosophical noodling and gets to the point of this blog – the situation in France. Many Americans find the French rude and stuffy, but I love the language, the culture, and the people. I came to know them quite well living with four different families across northern France, including the Paris region, during a college immersion program. They can be very warm, genuine, and have big hearts. But the individuals aside, when it comes to their collective approach to Islamic Terrorism over the last 50 years there is little to like about France.

Je Suis Charlie

Je Suis Charlie

Suddenly everyone knows Charlie Hebdo – the French weekly satire magazine which may have inspired an American equivalent, The Onion, founded in Madison, where I live today. Ironic, since the meme from the Charlie Hebdo attacks is “Je Suis Charlie” – “I am Charlie”. Stripping off the layers of this French onion reveals that Charlie is an American whose last name is Brown. Yes, it’s the peanuts character. Do the French know this, and relate to Charlie Brown, I wonder? Do they have a Charlie Brown style anxiety about identifying with the Jews?

Is that, perhaps, why they tried to exclude Israeli Premier Netanyahu from participating in the recent rallies? Among the people who can legitimately claim “Je Suis Charlie” the Jews should be considered exhibit A. How can the French be so gauche? Where did such attitudes and perspectives originate?

The roots of the modern nation’s conflicted relationship to terrorism may be embedded in France’s own “Reign of Terror“. That, and the focus of their own colonialism may be behind their affinity for the Arab world which over the last 50 years has focused way too much of its energy on hatred for Israel. It goes beyond attacking cartoonists, it denies Israel’s right to exist, and seeks to drive its people into the sea. And while elements of French society are anti-Islam, they pale in comparison to France’s historic antisemitism. France has a long and illustrious history with this particular evil, which became especially visible during the World War II era.

It continues to lurk in the shadows, but can be clearly seen, if you know where to look. A double standard was applied to the Charlie Hebdo attacks and the subsequent attack at a Jewish Supermarket. This hypocrisy goes hand in hand with the false equivalency France applies to Israel and its enemies. There is an old “joke” that Europe has never forgiven the Jews for the Holocaust, which highlights the ongoing tendency to blame the victims of Islamic Terrorism, – when they’re Jewish, which they usually are. For this reason it’s especially important to pay attention to how France ultimately processes the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Will they finally begin to hold the perpetrators, including their culture and beliefs, responsible for the global hatred and murder that is being spawned, or will they childishly and selfishly focus on the handful of their own who fell victim to it? Will this current crisis drive the people of France to peel back the layers of the onion that have formulated their national perspectives in this confusing and troubled age? Or will they continue to scapegoat Israel and the Jews for a problem they, in fact, helped create?

Alan Dershowitz, for example, goes so far as to say the French “Played Footsie with Terrorists“. They’ve done this with Israel too. They enabled the Israeli nuclear program, which arguably has enabled Israel to survive, and thrive, as a beacon of multicultural diversity in a dark region. But France regretted their participation. They are torn, conflicted, and don’t really know who they are or what they stand for.  They don’t want to be seen as Antisemetic, but they still can’t identify with the Jews. Those sentiments run deep. In fact, there are those who believe Arabs imported antisemitism from Christian countries in Europe.

Regardless of where one stands on these various topics, and of the issues of concern in this current wave of French solidarity, I applaud the engagement of the French on the topic of the attack on Charlie. And as Dershowitz pointed out, the US President should absolutely have joined in. A crisis is a terrible thing to waste. And there are worse icons we could identify with than a newspaper that adopted Charlie Brown as its muse. But all of us, and at this moment in time, especially the French, need to reflect deeply on who and what we are.  We shouldn’t just “Suis” the latest fad. Reacting to attacks and conforming to mass movements is a fast and effective way to wrap more onion layers around large groups of people.

Diligent independent investigation of the truth is required to emerge from behind the veils of the onion layers, and into the light. If enough individuals engage in this activity, society can be transformed. Civilization has proven repeatedly that when large masses of people quickly adopt an identity they don’t fully understand, there are lots of tears. They flow freely when history crushes the onions we choose to inhabit.

Peeling the onionIn keeping with a blogging promise I made some time ago, I pulled a random Virtues card (from my deck of 100 cards obtained through The Virtues Project) and Courage came up. No challenge making many connections here. I’ll just end with excerpts of the quote from the front of the card and let my readers form their own. After all, each of us lives inside our own unique onion.

It’s helpful, though, as we’ve done here, to reflect upon the soil in which it grew. As you do, do so with Courage. And strip those layers off – one by one.

“Courage transforms fear into determination. It is embracing life fully, without holding back, doing what must be done even when it is difficult or risky. When we are tempted to give up courage supports us to take the next step. Courage opens us to new possibilities, and gives us the strength to sacrifice for what we love. At times we need courage to accept the truth, and to pick ourselves up after mistakes, ready to make amends and try again.”