03 August 2009

Let's Start the Bidding

Fantasy Number One
Move to Tzipori in the North of Israel. Tzipori, one of the original rabbinic communities established by the early rabbis in the wake of the destruction of the Second Temple. Tzipori was rather "Greek" in its outlook and its synagogue mosaic floor is a clear indication of certain artistic syncretic tendencies among its worshipers. There is a heliocentric zodaic chart in the middle of the mosaic and motifs depicted that are also paralleled in other Temples and even some Byzantine churches that were contemporaneous with certain aspects of the post-Second Temple Jewish life in the North. Fascinating stuff. Only a small sliver of Tzipori is actually excavated and so in this fantasy, I run an archaeological dig that has the clear goal, over the course of the next twenty to thirty years, of uncovering most of ancient Tzipori. Its homes, its marketplace--anything else that may be seen--and re-creating an ancient city that will be a living laboratory of learning. Because of Tzipori's mixture of Greek and Jewish culture, it is an ideal place to build an international center of pluralistic learning. So in this fantasy, I also run a center for pluralistic learning, hosting Jews, Christians, Muslims, people of all faiths as well as non-believers to engage in digging, learning, and the enjoyment of Galilean retreat in all its beauty and splendor. A hotel and spa is part of the experience for those looking for a getaway with rest, fresh air and good food; and for others, there is ongoing excavation and reconstruction; while for still others there is learning, lectures, and intra/inter-faith dialogue always happening.

The retreat facilities are "green," employing the latest Israeli research in energy and architectural achievement and spawns its own community that lives nearby, called Givat HaGan (Park Slope, get it? More accurately "Park Hill" but you get the idea) and becomes a model pluralistic community that supports contemporary Israeli democracy in action. Initial investment will be several million dollars. Let's start the bidding.

Fantasy Number Two

Start smoking a pipe and imitate only the best characteristics of Yigal Yadin and Nelson Glueck. Don't imitate the bad characteristics. Raise millions of dollars to take over the excavation site of all the material destroyed and taken from beneath the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, dumped in garbage heaps by the Muslim Authorities in order to attempt to erase the Jewish presence on the Temple Mount. In this fantasy, these foolish and arrogant leaders are apprehended and forced to read history books alongside holy books, including re-reading the Koran itself, which makes reference to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem (Hello??!!) Take over this dig because right now that dig and the other digs similar to it (City of David, Western Wall Tunnels) are in the ideological hands of people who are attempting to eradicate any Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem. This is being done under our eyes, as we speak or in some cases, as we sleep and dream. For instance, early Sunday morning August 2, at 5 am, trucks supported by hundreds of policemen evicted two Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarra to make way for two Jewish families, who are being moved in with the good graces of the investment dollars of right wing American Jewish devlopers and casino owners like Ira Rennert and Irving Moscowitz, who are allowed, with millions of dollars of their own money, to help determine Israeli policy toward Arab residents of East Jerusalem. (I met with a friend today who said we should get the cell-phone numbers of every member of Netanyahu's cabinet and for the next two weeks call them at 2, 3, 4 and 5 am on the dot, every hour, every day, in order to wake THEM up in the middle of the night.) Now in Wisconsin, where I come from, the Potawatomi Tribe owns some casinos. So we need some Native American Indian cash and then we need to use that money to buy Irving Moscowitz's land and Ira Rennert's land (his, in Long Island, is Algonquin, I believe) and then remove them, preferably in their silk pajamas, in the middle of the night.

That's where I appear again, with my pipe (!) and yes, gloves and a riding crop. Think Groucho in "Duck Soup." Surrounded by Indian chiefs. Think Mel Brooks in "Blazing Saddles." As they scream outrage at this grave injustice (Irving whines about disrupting his "shluffy time") I add a degree of dignity to the proceedings by firmly and quickly slapping each of them in the face with the back of my glove. And then have them arrested for killing the silk worms that made their pajamas. They are sent north, to Givat Hagan, along with the Muslim authorities, to do time, learning and pluralistically tolerating each other.

With the profits from the Native American casinos (and any other contributions you'd like to send) I redevelop East Jerusalem as an historically sane place. Where Jews and Arabs can live together, but only if each side is treated fairly by the government in the quest for deeds, leases, and building permits. Millions flock from around the world in order to see and appreciate each other's historical sites. Meanwhile, the Muslim authorities who authorized the building of the garbage dump made from Second Temple artifacts, along with Moscowitz and Rennert, are sent on a kayak trip down the Jordan River, courtesy of Kibbutz Kfar Blum. They have a wonderful time, splashing in the water, laughing, getting to know each other. They barbecue under the Eucalyptus trees and watch the sunset, turning the Hermon Mountain into a marvelous array of colors, the likes of which have never been seen. The late night Boggle game breaks down due to language barriers but the men, much to everyone's surprise, recover. Tired from their adventures, the group retires to Givat HaGan for good wine from the Golan Heights and baklawa from Nazareth.

At midnight it's lights out, I say sternly, tapping my pipe on the mantel. "Irving! Ira! In your pjs! You too, Sheikh! We have a whole day of text study on pluralism, tolerance and understanding to tackle tomorrow and I want you guys at your best! Now, sweet dreams, good night and in the morning, apricots!"

Let's start the bidding.


1 comment:

afrosam said...

This is a wonderful fantasy, especially to someone who's interested in archaeology and the history of religion and Jerusalem's role in that history.

One small note: it was the Byzantine Christian authorities who turned the Temple Mount into a garbage dump in the late antique period.

As the story goes, when Umar ibn al-Khattab entered Jerusalem in 638 CE, he found the Temple Mount with the help of a Jewish aide named Ka'b, and ordered the site to be thoroughly cleaned and purified. He then erected a simple prayer shrine and prayed.

Interestingly, he prayed toward Mecca and the "Foundation Stone" at the same time. All of this is to suggest, according to some sources (Muslim and otherwise) that he was familiar with, and respectful to, Judaism and its once holy site.