It will soon be Purim; a Jewish Festival of enjoyment and celebration. I wrote about this very same festival last year around the time I celebrated with friends in North Manchester, great fun. But what is Purim? What is the story?
Purim is the story of Esther and how she saved the Israelite people of Persia:
There once lived a King by the name of Achashverosh, who ruled over Persia in the third century, BCE.
The story begins with a grand feast that the King was throwing at his palace. Irreconcilable differences propelled the King to divorce and seek a new queen. In search of a new queen, the King commanded his men to travel throughout the kingdom in search of the loveliest of maidens so that he could view them and choose the most beautiful to be his wife and the new Queen.
Around this time there lived a gorgeous woman named Esther. She lived in a small province with her uncle Mordechai. She knew that being the Queen of Persia would be good for her people, so she prepared herself to be brought before the King.
Once the King saw Esther he stopped looking and she became the new Queen of Persia.
One day while passing by the palace gates, Mordechai overheard two guards plotting a revolution with the intent to kill King Achashverosh. Mordechai informed Esther, and the militants were captured and executed. Mordechai saved the King’s life.
The King had an advisor named Haman. This advisor was power hungry and conniving. Haman disliked the Israelites, especially Mordechai. When Haman would travel throughout the towns, he expected the people to bow down to him, as he was second in command to the King. Mordechai refused to bow.
In order to gain favor with the King and rid himself of Mordechai and his people, Haman devised a plan to kill them all. Haman used his sharp tongue and twisted the thoughts of Achashverosh, alleging that Mordechai’s people would cause a problem for the King and that the King should lend his seal to a petition to have them destroyed. The King authorized the genocide and letters were written and sent to all the provinces of Persia bearing the King’s seal.
When Mordechai caught word of this, he tore his clothes in mourning, dressed in a sackcloth and cried before the King’s gate.
When Esther was told about her uncle’s behavior she sent him new clothes, but he refused them. He sent her a message telling her to go to the King and plead for the lives of her people.
The law in Persia at that time was strict; no one was to approach the King unless they were summoned. To disobey was punishable by death. Esther sent word back to her uncle that the townspeople should fast for three days, she would do the same, and after the three days she would approach the King.
After three days, Esther went to the King who was so pleased to see her that he held out his scepter and asked her if he could grant her a request. Esther asked the King and Haman to join her in her quarters for a banquet that she would prepare on the following day.
As Haman left the Palace that evening he saw Mordechai. So full with hatred was he for Mordechai, that he resolved the next morning he would ask the King’s permission to hang Mordechai in a public spectacle on gallows fifty feet high.
That same night the King could not sleep and he asked to hear the daily chronicles, which recorded the events of the palace. There the King learned that Mordechai informed the King about a scheme to overthrow the kingdom and kill the King. Mordechai had saved the King’s life, but had not been rewarded for his loyalty.
When Haman arrived in the morning, the King asked Haman’s advice as to the appropriate manner to honor a person that has found great favor with the King. Haman, assuming that it was he who was to be honored, said that the man should be allowed to wear the King’s crown, the King’s clothes and should be led through town on the King’s horse, proclaiming that this man is favored by the King.
King Achashverosh accepted the idea and told Haman to give this honor to Mordechai. Enraged, Haman followed the King’s orders. That night was the banquet that Queen Esther had prepared for the King and Haman. The King was so pleased with her, that again he asked Esther if he could grant her a request. This time Queen Esther asked her husband to save her life, the life of her people, and her uncle, Mordechai, who the king had honored that day. The King was horrified that the life of his queen and his devoted Mordechai were threatened and demanded to know who was responsible for this. Esther replied that it was Haman.
Haman fell to his knees before the King and pleaded for his life, but the King ordered that Haman be hung on the very gallows that he had intended for Mordechai. Mordechai was then made the new advisor to the King.
However, the order of genocide could not simply be revoked, so the King ordered that the Israelites be informed and armed to fight in their own defense. Due to their awareness of the kabbalistic tools of unity, the 72 Names of God, and their understanding of the cosmic cycles of the kabbalistic calendar, the Israelites of Persia triumphed over the Persian Army. They awakened the power of miracles available in the month of Adar/Pisces. And moreover, they were able to alter their destiny.
(Story c/o livingwisdom/kabbalah.com)
So what does this story tell us? what does it teach?
The story of Purim is a story that teaches that we must overcome one of our greatest enemies; doubt.
Esther could not affect the destiny of her people until she affected the cause of their impending calamity. By saying her people should fast for 72 hours and give succor to one-another she helped her people come together, to overcome the desire for self alone and awaken the energy of unity through the experience of sharing. The king armed them, they fought and overcame their impending doom.
For Jews the time of Purim is a time of celebration. If you go to a Jewish area wherever you find yourself, in whatever country you are you will almost certainly find a community in festive mood. Parties, cake, drink, face-painting for children and general merriment – a time of joy.
Doubt is an enemy of achievement an enemy of aspiration. Doubt of others is bad, but Doubt of yourself is worse. Be sure of yourself, know who and where you are in your life. Know who and where you would like to be in your life. Do not doubt yourself and go and achieve.
These are the lessons from Esther.
The problem with OXFAM is typical of most large NGO’s; the need for cash, and lots of the it. But if you listen to OXFAM you could be forgiven for thinking that the problem with OXFAM is SodaStream & Scarlett Johansson.
Scarlett Johansson has been an OXFAM Ambassador for around 6-years and so she says, she’s rightly proud to have been associated with the organisation. However, as with many of these organisations there’s a but and big but at that. Scarlette Johansson has a sponsorship deal with a commercial organisation, in this case SodaStream. Nothing unusual in that sort of set-up, famous people are often associated with a brand to promote further brand awareness. Makes perfect sense.
And here in lies the problem for OXFAM; SodaStream are an Israeli company who’s operations are based in Judea & Samaria (Ezor Yehuda VeShomron), what most people would understand as the West Bank Palestinian Territories. Under international law this area is classified as occupied. This is debatable but not the issue at hand. OXFAM actively campaigns against the Israeli occupation.
I wont go into the spoils of war argument here but I could.
But wait a minute, SodaStream who’s employee base is 15% Jewish Israeli and 85% Palestinian Israeli operates an equal pay and conditions policy for those doing the same work. Effectively their policies are colour blind. Scarlett Johansson recognises this and is proud to be linked to SodaStream on this basis.
In many other countries companies foreign owned or not are generally welcomed as wealth promoters and employers and as tax payers. So what does OXFAM say, well their stance is the same as those who support the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions movement (BDS). OXFAM is a human rights organisation. In their view the company is illegally based on occupied territory and they cannot have an Ambassador who is linked with such a company, its a contradiction that cannot be maintained.
Well they may hold that view but if they honestly do hold that view then they should have sacked her and not allowed her to leave. OXFAM have plainly took the gun, loaded it up, took aim and shot themselves in the foot!
The fact is that most if not all large NGO’s are heavily reliant on sponsorships for their finances. They have huge, almost crippling salary bills to pay and they therefore need the corporate support to survive. The issues of deprivation, human rights and equality become very quickly a secondary thought. In short OXFAM took the view that they needed Scarlett Johansson more than she needed them (she didn’t).
By contrast Ms Johansson has said she is proud to be associated with SodaStream as a company that promotes cooperation and interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestinians. She said the company was committed to “building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbours working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights. That is what is happening in their Ma’ale Adumim factory every working day.”
The reason, the real reason why OXFAM didn’t tell or even ask Scarlett Johansson to leave; she was no longer welcome as an Ambassador, is that they relied on her for good branding. I have to think that they may live to regret this decision.
As for Scarlett Johansson, well she has handled her self with dignity and has shone a light on the ridiculous BDM movement. Trade is without question a leveller and a conduit for peaceful cooperation.
I have been following with interest and repulsion in equal measure the Dieudonne saga in France, partly because I’m obsessed with France and partly because of my innate fear of all things fascist/right-wing/nazi and following the very public goal celebration in the UK by Nicolas Anelka recently.
Dieudonne shows have been cancelled in some parts of France but not without a public outcry from some sections of the society that this is an attack on freedom of speech or freedom of expression. But I find myself thinking as one who will willingly defend the right of freedom of speech even when I fundamentally disagree with the sentiments being expressed, that actually even a bad clown can make a mistake and may even break the laws of the land. Wearing a red nose or pretending to give humor never prevented anyone from committing a crime. If a thief steels a motorcycle he has committed a crime even when he does in an amusing way.
However, Dieudonne, the sinister clown seeks to further his obnoxious views through so called humor. By going on a tour, publishing dates and venues he is being provocative and foolish. The French have not prevented his freedom of expression but have prevented public discord and a potential for civil conflict. Dieudonne is not a victim, he has not suffered a crime against humanity, he has had his talentless show which trades on scandal and abuse brought to a close in the name of public safety.
Dieudonne only speaks to those who cling onto the unintelligible thought of anti-Semites, to them his act, if indeed that is what it is, is a source of humor. He therefore only speaks to a small but nonetheless nuisance minority of people. To this day there are conferences and a vast number of books which speak of the Nazi Holocaust, a permanent stain on modern society. To think that this could be a subject for humor frankly beggars belief.
The notion that the law can impose limits on public behavior to me is something which should and must be challenged frequently. But the exploitation of crimes against humanity for the humor of a very few is not an area I would recommend to anybody as a place to challenge accepted decencies. His act is a cynical insult for his own reward. His act is one of many which seeks to raise the infamous beast of anti-Semitic thought from the ashes of hate.
It is quite amazing to me to notice that resistance of Dieudonne and his like comes from all sides, both left and right leaning thought. Of course Dieudonne argues that he provides a refuge in humor from the Zionist, he may well do this but I ask what is Zionism in 2014?
Certainly 100 years ago when the thought was to make a Jewish state the idea was simple; to provide a state that all Jews from around the world could come to where safety was guaranteed. I recognize the visionary genius of Theodor Herzl without question. However, Zionism in 2014 may look as if it is all about the West Bank and Gaza but really is this so? I think Zionism today is the same as it ever was, especially when you consider the threats from Iran, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Hesbollah, Hammas…
If only Dieudonne could see the threats from without the ‘Zionist’ state maybe then he wouldn’t be such a sinister clown about it all.
To add to the anti-Semitic attacks which are frequent the need for humor at the expense of the dead is an insult. To do this at the expense of Holocaust dead is a crime!
2013 will be memorable for many reasons for me; personally I have started my journey to a new life in the South East of France with the sale of my home in Manchester. The money is in the bank, I have a nice house on the outskirts of a town in Northern England and a house rented near Grasse from which to conduct my search for a new permanent home.
But what of one of the reasons I despair so much about Britain – the far right!
Well 2013 was a bad year for the EDL, it cannot be denied. They lost their charismatic leader Tommy Robinson in an exit facilitated by the Quilliam Foundation and a BBC documentary. But the organisation’s demise could have come sooner, had it not been for one key factor, the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby on the streets of Woolwich.
The killing, in broad daylight near Rigby’s army barracks, gifting Robinson, aka Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, a new impetus. In dire financial straits and concerned about neo-Nazi elements in his midst, the EDL leader had wanted a way out for some time, say those close to matter.
“Prior to Lee Rigby’s murder, the EDL was finished. It was physically dead…” said Matthew Collins of Hope not Hate the anti-Fascist movement. The founder and leader, Lennon (Robinson) had absolutely no interest, he was worried about going to prison. The EDL had radicalised people, however, people who thought they had no way of expressing what they didn’t like. So 2,500 people came out in Newcastle after Lee Rigby’s murder.
No such response to 7/7 and no response either from the numerous Muslim Organisations. The EDL gave people a branch on which to cling in what they thought were desperate times. But no longer I think. Social integration never really existed in Britain and the EDL spoke to those who believe that the country is being over-run by immigration, the EDL feeds those fears to its own ends based on hatred.
Since Robinsons departure the EDL has become quiet but insists it will go on, but how without the media friendly (well media worthy is probably more accurate) Robinson it is difficult to say. The EDL may pass but the ideology will not. The EDL has radicalised around 3000ish working class men into counter-jihadists who will be looking for a new home, new leadership at the very least. They may (re)turn to the BNP who have a political foothold in the European Parliament through their leader Nick Griffin or they may find solace in UKIP (unlikely though, these are working class men not high rolling bankers).
It would appear however distressing that the tattooed working class racist thug is here to stay and should the Muslim community remain separate; alien to some, then these thugs will persist and may go on to kill in kind.
2014 is probably the last year we will hear that chant of E – E – EDL! but if our French cousins are anything to go by then the far-right will re-emerge again and again in ever more nasty and ugly guises I fear. Helped in recruitment no doubt by the gutter press media and acts of plain stupidity in public by those in the eye of the media. Take for example yesterday where Nicolas Anelka made a goal celebration which appeared to be the quenelle salute made famous by the French comedian Dieudonne. The gesture is strongly linked to anti-Semitism in France. The perfect example of why tensions will be persistent.
The end of the EDL? I think yes. The end of racial hatred and the far right? definitely not I’m very sad to say.
- EDL Leader Steps Down (soasspirit.com)
- EDL founder Stephen Yaxley-Lennon admits mortgage fraud (edlcriminals.com)
- Anti-Muslim hate crimes ‘soared’ after murder of soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich (standard.co.uk)
- The criminal convictions of Stephen Yaxley Lennon. (edlcriminals.com)
- The EDL Walsall victims named #edl #footballcasuals #nwi (ufohunterorguk.com)
- Tommy Robinson, Kevin Carroll, Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer Breaking with EDL (atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com)
- EDL Humiliated in Exeter (exeteredlnews.wordpress.com)
- EDL is humiliated in Exeter as anti-racists take to the streets (socialistworker.co.uk)
- “Beheading the EDL” (atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com)
What are things that we should remember of Nelson Mandela?
1948 was a symbolic date in many ways, not least because during this year the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was being drafted and the very same nations writing this declaration were wholly supporting the South African Apartheid system. Nelson Mandela stood as a powerful personality against the Apartheid system, he stood for equality for the right of a black skin person to be judged equal to a white skin person and to a brown skin person. He also stood for the right of the white and the brown skin people to have equality with black skin people.
Nelson Mandela embodied the notion of equality. He asked but 2 questions:
- Is it fair that because a person has white skin that they have more rights than those who don’t?
- Is it fair that because a person has black skin that they have less rights than people who don’t?
What remains of these questions about skin colour is found in the collective imagination. All nations must be sure to say collectively that their nation belongs to them no matter what colour your skin is, that each and every one of us has a role to play, that we have equality of opportunity and of responsibility.
There are un-countable millions who feel as I do that an educated population provided with equality of opportunity not judged on skin colour or religious practice has within its collective imagination the resources to overcome the challenges of harmful ideas and victimization.
- Nelson Mandela, 1918 – 2013: Remembering an Icon of Freedom. Nelson Mandela Dead at 95 (lubwamai.wordpress.com)
- Mandela Memorial – What does Nelson Mandela mean to you? (amnestybg.wordpress.com)
- nbcnews: Nelson Mandela dead at 95 Nelson Mandela, the revered… (shortformblog.com)
- Nelson Mandela Dead At 95 – Slashdot (michaltheil.wordpress.com)
- Nelson Mandela, from apartheid fighter to president and unifier (ampoch.wordpress.com)
- Remembering an icon in Nelson Mandela (fiwebelize.com)
- Remembering Nelson Mandela (abclocal.go.com)
- Africa has lost a man who brought a rainbow of possibilities (Nelson Mandela) (ashabaanita.wordpress.com)
The media is fond of shining a spotlight on our asylum system, it makes good copy or TV. Its not the best way of running a debate but it does illustrate a reality that should not be overlooked. Britain like the rest of developed Europe is facing increasing asylum demands, probably in the region of 70% increase in the last 8 years.
The influx of asylum seekers is as a direct consequence of the numerous conflicts and wars around the globe. Asylum of itself is not a problem and should never be seen in terms of being a problem, its the fact that there is at the same time massive economic migration going on. Asylum is a tradition of most developed western European nations, a proud tradition in most cases and it must be preserved, it must be accepted that we are fortunate and have the honor of assisting those who need our help. I find it shocking that there are some who reside in this country who feel differently.
Nonetheless, it might be fair to comment that our processing centers are perhaps close to full and stretched for staff. The cracks are becoming obvious. The system is unable to deal with complex situations meaning it slows and blocks preventing those who might most need our help from getting it because we just don’t know they need it.
We should feel rightly proud that asylum seekers come to our countries with the intention of seeking help and maybe even settling on a more permanent basis. The contribute to the wealth (economically and culturally) to our societies. But its clear that the social support systems cannot support these people, those employed to help, the case-workers burn-out with massive levels of sickness absence. All the time the human tragedies build. There is a need to protect the individuals but also there is a need for process which is at best a delayed process.
I would agree with anybody who said reform is urgently needed. Without question we should not settle for half measures, current failures should be corrected, but not at any cost. The economic cost of failure is mounting but so is the probable economic cost of doing the job right. My experience in industry is that doing something right first time is the most economically cost effective way of doing a job. I have no doubt that the same apply’s to the asylum system.
Delays might be necessary, so improved holding centers to accommodate the asylum seekers while the initial checks are being done would be a really good start. Simplification of procedures and processes would also help greatly. These two factors would simply add to the quality and speed of service provided, making it more respectful and certain in outcome.
A win-win in anybody’s language I guess.
At the borders of course better directional control would be needed, this is not a resources issue but probably a training and information issue.
And then once a final decision is made the person if successful should be assimilated into society. With a fully renovated procedure the asylum seeker and society will be both better served.
Final decisions are important and really need to be as speedy as possible. I’m sure most would agree that an asylum seeker should not have to face an almost endless wait on deportation or not. There has got to be clear pathways for those who do not gain asylum, they should not be expected to wait for an appropriate moment for return to their own country. Our collective responsibility as a European Union should be ensuring those who want and need out help can access it but those who do not are dealt with firmly, fairly and quickly.
- Asylum policy ‘shameful, disturbing’ (sbs.com.au)
- Nigerian asylum seeker on hunger striker in Britain loses release bid. (newsafrica.co.uk)
- The PS are now hoping that Kouvola stops receiving asylum seekers and quota refugees by 2016 (migranttales.net)
- Barracks to house asylum seekers burnt down in Serbia (worldbulletin.net)
- Morrison delivers warning to asylum seekers on Nauru (sbs.com.au)
- Detention centres inhumane: UN (theage.com.au)
- Australian Customs Rip Asylum Seekers’ Boat in Half, Probably by Accident (gizmodo.co.uk)
- UN alarmed over conditions in asylum-seeker camps in Nauru and PNG (abc.net.au)
- Serbian bid to house asylum seekers foiled after barracks burnt down (timesofmalta.com)
- Asylum seeker arrives dressed as cricketer (abc.net.au)
Eric Hoffer: “The Jews are a peculiar people: Things permitted to other nations are forbidden to the Jews. Other nations drive out thousands, even millions of people, and there is no refugee problem. Russia did it. Poland and Czechoslovakia did it.Turkey threw out a million Greeks and Algeria a million Frenchmen. Indonesia threw out heaven knows how many Chinese–and no one says a word about refugees. But in the case of Israel, the displaced Arabs have become eternal refugees. Everyone insists that Israel must take back every single Arab. Arnold Toynbee calls the displacement of the Arabs an atrocity greater than any committed by the Nazis. Other nations when victorious on the battlefield dictate peace terms. But when Israel is victorious it must sue for peace. Everyone expects the Jews to be the only real Christians in this world.”
Elie Wiesel: I marvel at the resilience of the Jewish people. Their best characteristic is their desire to remember. No other people has such an obsession with memory.
Benjamin Disraeli: “The view of Jerusalem is the history of the world; it is more, it is the history of earth and of heaven.”
Leo Tolstoy: “What is the Jew?…What kind of unique creature is this whom all the rulers of all the nations of the world have disgraced and crushed and expelled and destroyed; persecuted, burned and drowned, and who, despite their anger and their fury, continues to live and to flourish. What is this Jew whom they have never succeeded in enticing with all the enticements in the world, whose oppressors and persecutors only suggested that he deny (and disown) his religion and cast aside the faithfulness of his ancestors?! The Jew – is the symbol of eternity. … He is the one who for so long had guarded the prophetic message and transmitted it to all mankind. A people such as this can never disappear. The Jew is eternal. He is the embodiment of eternity.”
Winston S. Churchill: “Some people like the Jews, and some do not. But no thoughtful man can deny the fact that they are, beyond any question, the most formidable and most remarkable race which has appeared in the world.
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe: “Energy is the basis of everything. Every Jew, no matter how insignificant, is engaged in some decisive and immediate pursuit of a goal… It is the most perpetual people of the earth…”
David Ben Gurion: “In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.”
John F. Kennedy: Israel was not created in order to disappear- Israel will endure and flourish. It is the child of hope and the home of the brave. It can neither be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success. It carries the shield of democracy and it honors the sword of freedom.
John Adams: “I will insist the Hebrews have [contributed] more to civilize men than any other nation. If I was an atheist and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations… They are the most glorious nation that ever inhabited this Earth. The Romans and their empire were but a bubble in comparison to the Jews.”
Mark Twain: “…If statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of stardust lost in the blaze of the Milky way. properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and had done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it.
The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed; and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”
- Jews in Judaea (jewsdownunder.wordpress.com)
- Knesset to Speak Up for Rights of Jews Expelled from Arab Lands (israelnationalnews.com)
- Breiman: Both PLO and Iran are successors of the Nazis (ivarfjeld.com)
- Jews Around the World Celebrate First Night of Hannukah (voanews.com)