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Entertaining but ultimately fatuous,
This review is from: The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount (Hardcover)
This book was published in 2000 so it has a very feel Nineties about it. It seems intent on deriding all types of fundamentalism but one mostly encounters well-published cases of Jewish and Christian extremists involved in crimes relating to the Temple Mount. There is nothing wrong with irreverence, but it is clear that Gorenberg was either completely unaware of the mounting threat of radical Islam or decided to underplay it. Yes, folks, those fundi Christians and Zionists are the main threat - that is what the mass media feed us so it must be true?
The Temple Mount, an area of such significance, and the city of Jerusalem, should be treated in a much more serious and scholarly fashion and that is why I recommend The Fight for Jerusalem by Dore Gold. Having said that, Gorenberg's work still has value in his chronicle of the various incidents involving disturbed or fanatical individuals, the occasional flashes of humor and the insight into Israeli politics through the 1980s and 1990s.
The author repeatedly warns against perfectly sane and mainstream Jewish and Christian groups that cherish Mount Moriah for its history and prophetic significance, because he fears that their attachment to Judeo-Christian prophecy contribute to inciting crazed individuals on the fringes to take radical action. He paints with a wide liberal brush when he repeats the slur that "prominent American fundamentalists ... support ... Israel while looking forwards to an apocalypse in which they expect Jews to die or else to convert." For the real motives of Evangelical support for Israel in the Land and in the Diaspora, please consult Standing with Israel by the Jewish author David Brog. There is also a witty and empathic look at Christians who love Israel in A Match Made in Heaven by Zev Chafets.
Gorenberg claims that the disappointed expectations of certain fringe groups in the year 2000 will only lead to more extremism. There has been very little evidence of that on the part of Jews and Christians, but quite disturbing developments on the Islamic side. He frets about the actions of the Israeli government that has taken pre-emptive action against a cult group by deporting them before they had a chance to attempt mischief. I think the Israeli government is right in exercising vigilance and taking strict actions against groups intending to cause disturbance on the Mount. About the suicide/homicide bombings and the obsessive anti-Semitic propaganda in the Arab media and official publications like Palestinian Authority textbooks, he doesn't have much to say.
What I found valuable is the information on the layout of the actual Temple Mount and the theories of various archaeologists on the exact location of the Temple, the Holy of Holies and the real identity of the rock. It might be the one covered by the Dome of the Rock or the one northwest of that covered by the Dome of the Spirits. A map of the area makes it all very clear. Other revealing insights include the tolerant way in which Israel acknowledges the authority of the Waqf, a Muslim body, over the Mount itself while Jews agree to pray at the Western Wall. That has been the agreement since 1967 when Jerusalem finally returned to Israel.
Gorenberg notes that people are story dwellers who live in stories passed down by a long cultural tradition and that millennialism is likely to end in despair. Throughout the book he singles out Binyamin Netanyahu for special criticism, claims that literalism and the false hope of the end born of the 1967 War were fallacies joined by the ancient error that God could be owned by owning a place. He indeed has a problem with "literalism", claiming that it is often the method of millennialists who look forward to an entirely new world: " ... they place prophetic texts at the center of religion - and insist that the words must be read as factual, tactile accounts of the future." Nowhere does he even entertain the notion that them thar Scripture might have something important to say. I infer that he is oblivious to the fact that the rebirth of Israel in 1948 was the major miracle of the 20th century.
The period since the publication of The End Of Days has indeed seen events taking an ominous turn, but the threat comes from Israel's neighbors in the Middle East, not from Jewish or Christian Zionists. The Iranian president Ahmadinejad threatens to erase Israel and claims to have 600 missiles aimed at Israel while boasting about his country's rush to produce a nuclear weapon. Syria, known to possess unconventional warheads, receives North Korea's nuclear weapons and tries to conceal them in the far east of the country. Backed by these two rogue states, Hezbollah is rearming in Lebanon. In the south, Israeli towns suffer barrages of rockets from Gaza. All this while a new tide of Antisemitism, often in the guise of Anti-Zionism, is sweeping the world.
Those who are interested to find out what those Scriptures that Gorenberg sees as only stories have to say on the matters of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount and the Land of Israel, will find some interesting thoughts in Epicenter by Joel Rosenberg, The Final Move Beyond Iraq by Mike Evans and Why Care For Israel? by Sandra Teplinsky.
For all its misguided ideas, wrong priorities and ignoring of the elephant in the room or should that be the Mastodon on the Mount, the book still provides some important information, a few laughs and insight into the Israeli post-Zionist mindset of the late 1990s. It concludes with 15 pages of notes and an index.
DNA & Tradition: The Genetic Link To The Ancient Hebrews by Yaacov Kleiman
Ruth & Esther: Shadows Of Our Future by Frank Morgan.
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Initial post: 16 Dec 2009 14:49:28 GMT
Rowland Nelken says:
The history of the last 2500 years is littered with the stories of mayhem caused by folk who take Biblical and Koranic prophecy literally. My childhood was dominated by the cruel totalitarian cult of Jehovah's Witnesses. Its effective founder, Judge Rutherford worked Theodor Herzl into his Bible based scheme for the End of Days and Armageddon. He also spent the JW Orgs' money on a mansion and Cadillacs in readiness for the resurrection, as predicted in the Bible, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in San Diego in 1925. Christopher Columbus believed that Isaiah had foretold his Atlantic trip as well as his ultimate reconquest of Jerusalem for Chritendom. This had to happen before the World's end in 1658. It is tragic, as much as it is comic, to read that analogous fantasies are still abroad, often in powerful places, in the 21st century. Biblical, Koranic and Hadithic prophecy are such that any absurd scenario can be dreamed up. Gorenburg's book was written before the rise of Ahmedinejad. Gorenburg's familiarity with text crazy apocalyptic loonies, though, is clearly manifest in this book. He would no doubt be as dismayed as I am at their continuing dangerous idiocy, be they Jewish, Christian or Muslim.
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