Very soon we will all forget what happened yesterday in that synagogue in Pittsburg : one little lad circumcized and eleven people killed.  Anti-semitism exists, even in the U.S.  But that country has always been vociferously pro-Israel.  Why ?  Because many of its people (the Protestant majority) identify with it.  Americans believe they are the New Israel, and have been since their beginnings (check out the verso of a dollar bill and admire the Great Seal of the United States with its inscriptions “Annuit Coeptis” (“He has blessed our beginnings”) and “Novus Ordo Seclorum” (A New Order of the Ages”).

Before I go any further, let me suggest that some readers have already switched on their alert-button : he is going to say something anti-semitic !  I found, during my ten years in the States, and during the numerous seminars I conducted later in many of them, that as soon as you mention the word “Jew” or “Israel”, some people think you are going to attack them, their country or their religion.  My sister converted to Judaism and is the mother of a family of practising Jews.  As a student and professor of Theology and with a life-time behind me of fascination with the phenomenon of religion, I am more familiar than most non-Jews with the history of this persecuted people.  If anything, I am pro-semitic, an admirer of the courage and accomplishments of this “race” (!), though not of their – or anyone else’s – religion.  Which does not mean that I am anti-Arab or anti-Palestine.  The two-state solution is, in my view, the only . . . solution ( a word we can no longer hear without thinking of the abomination of desolation which was the Holocaust, the Shoah, Hitler’s “Final Solution”).

To return to my point.  America, like ancient and modern Israel, was born of an exodus.  It was not the Pharaoh or the Führer who forced the 102 Protestant pilgrims on the “Mayflower” to seek asylum in America but the English monarch James 1.  In their first colony in Massachusetts, their legal code was the Bible.  The first project for the Great Seal of America, supported by Benjamin Franklin, was an illustration of the Hebrew crossing of the Red (reed) Sea, with the inscription “Resistance to Tyrants is Obedience to God”.  Congress actually proposed that in the embryonic United States (thirteen colonies at the time) English be replaced by the Hebrew language !  The motion, like the proposed Seal, failed to be approved, but courses at Yale, Princeton and Columbia universities were given in Hebrew, as were students’ final dissertations.  No wonder that the city I lived in for seven years – Tulsa, Oklahoma – was called “the Buckle” of the “Bible Belt”, as H.L. Mencken in the 1920s had baptized a wide area of ultra-conservative southern States (dear to the Donald . . .).

I doubt that many Bible-Belters have ever heard of any of this.  Then again, Rednecks are not renowned for their erudition or even general knowledge.  If that sounds arrogant – I knew it would get some backs up – let me reassure you that I learned all this myself only recently . . .

RIDENDA      RELIGIO

 

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