Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Christian missionary literature in Israel

Jewish date:  9 Siwan 5772 (Parashath Naso’).

Today’s holidays:  Wednesday of the Eighth Week of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of Marcina (Greek Orthodox Christianity), Feast Day of St. Winnie Ruth Judd (Church of the SubGenius), Feast Day of Joan of Arc (Thelema)


I would like to note something before I forget about it.  I have requested free books from missionaries before.  (Why should I not take advantage of their generosity for my research?)  Recently I requested a number of books from Christian missionaries again.  And I received quite a lot:

This time most of what I requested was in Hebrew, though there is a copy of the American Standard Version (in English) and الكتَابُ الُمقَدّسُ, which is the Christian Bible (Hebrew Bible + New Testament) in Arabic.  (I started working on Arabic again, and I am not looking forward to reading the Qur’an in the original.) Two of the books are copies of the entire Christian Bible in Hebrew (the New Testament part being a translation), and another two are just the New Testament.  (Actually I got three, but one is a duplicate.)  The other books include topics such as Christian theology, religion and science, history, and fiction.  Interestingly, everything was sent to me in plain envelopes whose return addresses were post office boxes.  In no case did any envelope give any indication that Christian missionaries were the senders.  I am aware that Jews in Israel tend to hate missionaries, but this level of secrecy suggests extreme fear or paranoia.  Also, I got a rather high rate of fulfillment of my requests, indicating that these cautious missionaries are also very serious about spreading their message.

If anyone knows where I can request a free Zohar, Tanya’, Arabic Qur’an, or Greek New Testament (the one I have is interlinear), please let me know.  I have not been able to acquire any of these for free yet.



Sunday, May 20, 2012

Yerushalayim Day

Jewish date:  28 ’Iyyar 5772 (Parashath BeMidhbar).

Today’s holidays:  Day 43 of the ‘Omer (Judaism), Yerushalayim Day (Judaism), Seventh Sunday of Easter (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of St. Edward II (Church of the SubGenius).


I am still working on the LaVeyan Satanism review.  In the meantime, I would like to call attention to two articles relevant to Yerushalayim Day.  The first, “Jerusalem Day: What Happened 45 Years Ago?”, is a short summary of what happened in 1967.  The other, “'This is where I belong'”, is an eyewitness account of what happened.



Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Homosexual marriage, the Mayan calendar, and an Israeli spy bee-eater

Jewish date:  23 ’Iyyar 5772 (Parashath Behar).

Today’s holidays:  Day 38 of the ‘Omer (Judaism), Feast Day of Isidore (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of St. Jagger (Church of the SubGenius), Nakba Day (anti-Semitism).


I have completed reading my collection of LaVeyan Satanism books.  Now I have to get around to working a review…

In the meantime, I would like to note a few items.

1) “Same-sex unions and intermarriage: Against as a Jew, for as a citizen”:  Elli Fischer correctly recognizes that there is a difference between what is morally or theologically correct and political rights.  Governments are not good institutions for determining the truth, and so as a matter of practical policy we aim to keep them religion-neutral, just as we aim to keep the government from interfering with people’s business in general when they are not doing anything to hurt other people.  This is the difference between not approving what one’s neighbor is doing that does not hurt other people and having the government stop him/her from doing it.  Fischer also notes that religion and politics being too closely intertwined can lead to politicization of religion.  For comparison, see Rav Shmuley Boteach’s “Obsession Over Social Sexual Issues Is Destroying America” and “Why American Religion Isn't Refining American Values”, which complain about the politicization of religion objections to homosexual marriages and abortion in the United States; Rav Boteach claims a corresponding lack of emphasis on other moral issues.

2) “Nevermind the Apocalypse: Earliest Mayan Calendar Found”:  And, just as everyone with enough sense has been saying all along, the Mayans did not claim that the World ends on December 21, 2012.

3) I know at times that I have noted religious humor, but the Turks have made an anti-Semitic claim which is probably unintentionally funny:  “Turkey suspects bird of being Israeli spy”.  I suppose it is possible (or will be possible) to cyborgize a bee-eater and use it as a spy drone, but no claims of having pulled any electronics out of the bird are mentioned, and it seems like an awful lot of trouble to go through, and a human spy is arguably more practical and useful.  Also:  if one is going to make a ridiculous claim, at least one should try to make it awesome.  The Egyptians at least had the sense to make the claim that Israel was using sharks, which are 39 times cooler than bee-eaters.



Thursday, May 10, 2012

Lagh ba‘Omer bonfires and HapPijamoth

Jewish date:  18 ’Iyyar 5772 (Parashath Behar).

Today’s holidays:  Day 33 of the ‘Omer/Lagh ba‘Omer (Judaism), Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of the Apostle Simon (Greek Orthodox Christianity), Feast Day of St. John Holmes (Church of the SubGenius).


Last year I somehow missed the Lagh ba‘Omer bonfires.  This year I planned ahead and captured a few pictures last night at a vacant lot near the local mall:

This activity was primarily one of children and families and included roasting marshmallows.  Bonfires also seem to be a relatively recent practice.  For more on current lore on Lagh ba‘Omer, especially inaccuracies in it, please see “Lagh Ba’Omer - A Gratuitous Holiday”.  It takes an hour to listen to the lecture, and it is in Judeo-English, but it is well-worth it.

This poster advertises a Lagh ba‘Omer parade and show this afternoon, courtesy of Ḥabbadh.  Parades are not a Lagh ba‘Omer tradition, but given that Israel is the only predominantly Jewish country on the planet, one has to expect that celebrations of Jewish holidays over here would be scaled up to a larger scale than in the Diaspora.  The man pictured on the poster and featured at the show is Gershon “Geri HambuGeri” Mandelba’um, a character from the Israeli children’s show HapPijamoth (“The Pyjamas”).  I have seen seasons 3, 4, and 5 of HapPijamoth on-line as part of my efforts to better understand spoken Modern Hebrew, and so I am going to use this opportunity to talk about the treatment of religion in HapPijamoth.

HapPijamoth belongs to the genre of “stupid shows”, not meant to be taken seriously and with most of the characters being not particularly bright.  (This is not an insult, but a statement of fact.  For example, one of the main characters, ‘Odhedh Paz, actually thinks he is pregnant in one episode, despite being unambiguously male.)  The show is named after a band, HapPijamoth (who actually wear pajamas during performances), and strongly associated with the band is Geri Mandelba’um (who runs a low-quality hamburger restaurant called HambuGeri) and his teenage daughter Roni.  HapPijamoth and Geri frequently get into trouble due to their lack of intelligence, greed, ignorance, laziness, and lack of foresight.  Roni is smarter than any of them and seems to be in the show for teenagers to identify with.

Given that this is a stupid show, no topic is treated particularly deeply, including religion.  The average episode ignores religion altogether, though it is dealt with from time to time:

  • One of HapPijamoth, Qobbi Faraj, has a superhero-level ability to change his appearance.  (If they ever explain this, it is not in an episode I have seen.)  One of Qobbi’s alter-egos is Sabbabah Sa’li, apparently a parody of the Qabbalist Baba Sali.  This quasi-character’s speech is very difficult to understand, and I do not mean that he speaks with an accent which gives me trouble or he speaks too fast; a lot of what he says is deliberately ungrammatical or nonsense, to the point where the other characters do not know what he is trying to say.
  • Roni often asks for (or extorts) money from Geri.  In one episode he takes money out of a ṣedhaqah (charity) box and gives it to her.
  • In one episode Geri attempts to get kashruth certification for HambuGeri.  In order to avoid having to hire a rabbinical supervisor, he claims that his rav is Sabbabah Sa’li, which gets Qobbi into trouble since not only is Sabbabah Sa’li not on record as being ordained, but Qobbi lacks even rudimentary knowledge of kashruth.  A song in this episode about HapPijamoth becoming ba‘ale teshuvah (becoming religious) is not reflected in their behavior.
  • One of HapPijamoth, Yamith Sol, enters a talent show doing an interpretive dance which goes horribly wrong in that the chair she uses during the dance falls apart and has to be repaired on stage.  The music she chooses, ’Eḥadh Mi Yodhea‘?, is a traditional Pesaḥ song reviewing a number of the basics of Judaism; her outfit and dance are not consistent with the song or observant Jewish norms.
  • Season 4 ends with all the characters mysteriously dying.  Season 5 begins with HapPijamoth in the Gan ‘Edhen for TV shows, which seems based on a popular American Christian conception of Heaven, and trying to go back to Earth in response to a prayer from a child who is distressed that the show has ended.  One of HapPijamoth, Nathan Qupperman, is put into the role of God, though as a shining human-shaped being rather than incorporeal; he declines to go back to Earth.  Geri is in the Gehinnom for TV shows, a place blatantly based on a popular American Christian conception of Hell, complete with the demon king ’Ashmedha’y in the role of the Devil.  It goes without saying that HapPijamoth are successful in their quest, as failure would mean the end of the show.  ’Ashmedha’y recurs in another episode, in which one of his schemes ends up destroying the Earth, which gets him in big trouble with YHWH.  (Yes, that gets undone, too.)
Theological rating:  D (the afterlife episode is what really did it in).

Peace, and please be careful burning stuff today.


Update a few hours later:

I am aware of the incongruity between a Habbadh event and a character from a show with a theological rating of D.  This is Earth.  Weird things happen here.  I did not plan to attend the show, period.  That did not stop it from being held in the basketball court next to the synagogue I went to for minḥah (afternoon services).  And I heard Yaniv Polishuq doing his Geri HambuGeri character, including his trademark taunting (for which mere transcription cannot do justice).  And he even did a song including the trademark taunting.  Given the incongruity, the effect was surreal.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The end of the world, Indonesian intolerance of atheism, and bacon-flavored syrup

Jewish date:  14 ’Iyyar 5772 (Parashath Behar).

Today’s holidays:  Day 29 of the ‘Omer (Judaism), Pesaḥ Sheni (Judaism), Fifth Sunday of Easter (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of St. Guiness (The Stout) (Church of the SubGenius), Feast of Saint George (Arabs in Israel).


I am going too long between posts again.  I am still rereading my LaVeyan Satanism books, finding rather a lot of the attitudes of Ayn Rand in there.  In the meantime, I would like to comment on a few items in the news:

1) “Miami cult who tattoo themselves with 666 say the world will END on June 30”:  I have no idea what self-proclaimed Antichrist Jose de Luis de Jesus of Growing in Grace International is thinking.  Please note that predictions of the end of the world so far have been all wrong, and I have no a priori reason to believe that De Jesus’s prediction is any different.  But I have marked the date in iCal, and if the world does end, I will be downright shocked and the first to admit he was actually right (if I still exist in some form at that point).

2) “Atheist in Indonesia Facing 11 Years in Prison for Saying 'God Doesn't Exist'”:  Indonesia has the reputation of being a fairly tolerant predominantly Muslim country.  Yet Alex Aan, an atheist who posted on Facebook his belief that God does not exist, was beaten up by an unruly mob and sentenced to 11 years in prison for his beliefs.  There is a very obvious question of why the government of Indonesia recognizes only six religions (Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism), suggesting that the government is more interested in maintaining peace between the existing religious groups rather than enforce a general tolerance for all religions.  That an atheist can be so maltreated is definitely not consistent with freedom of religion.

3) “Rabbi Approved: Kosher Bacon Syrup”:  Harold sent me a link to this, and it just struck me as weird. There is no actual bacon in the syrup.  The only thing wrong with it is mar’ith ‘ayin, that it may create the false appearance of consuming bacon.  Then again, the product is clearly labeled as bacon-flavored on the label.