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Today, sadly, we buried my grandfather, Dr. Herman Miller.
As I wrote in my first post – Game On – my grandfather helped establish WarningStar Intelligence. Having lived 99 and half years, he brought a priceless infusion of knowledge, experience, and insight into this young company. Now, with his passing, his gentle spirit continues to inspire us.
At the gravesite, we stood and said the mourner’s Kaddish, the Jewish prayer that asserts belief in God despite our terrible loss.
Though my grandfather embraced his Jewish identity and was a lifelong supporter of Jewish and Israeli causes, he was no theist. As a trained physician and a man of science born in the early 20th century, he witnessed the horror of the Holocaust which, in addition to killing Six Million Jews, also murdered the faith of countless more who couldn’t understand how their chosen god would allow such travesty.
Dr. Miller was quite critical of religiosity, especially within his own faith-community of Judaism. As many secular Jews do, my grandfather felt contempt for the radical Hasidic Jews in Israel who dressed in medieval garb, took welfare from the state while righteously condemning it at the same time. He was also critical of liberal Reform Judaism of which he was a part until he left, because of certain rabbis' focus on money and membership dues.
Now, personally I happen to believe in a Creative Intelligence (no pun intended.) I’ve had many great debates with my grandfather about theology and philosophy and was never able to convince him otherwise. But I suspect that my grandfather might concede defeat as he finds himself in a heavenly abode reunited with his lost loved ones. Of course, I could be wrong, but one can hope!
So as our family ritualistically recited the Kaddish prayers, I silently gazed at my grandfather’s casket and couldn’t help but think about Judaism and the problems within the religion that manifest in extreme forms today.
While my grandfather was being buried in America, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took an opportunity to condemn so-called “price tag attacks” carried out by religious Jewish extremists.
“Price Tag Attacks” are acts of vengeance carried out by radical religious - often youths - against a variety of targets: Arabs, Christians, Israeli security forces. They are attacks intended to exact a “price” for perceived or real offensives against the Jewish communities of the West Bank. Offensives could be anything from an actual terror attack against Jewish settlers – to the Israeli government tearing down an illegal outpost.
In other words, price tag attacks are meant to serve as deterrents.
Usually the tactics entail low-level vandalism against property such as graffiti against churches or tire-slashing. Although in some cases the “price tag attack” reaches the level of terrorism.
The “price tag” phenomenon indicates the presence of a deeper subversive subculture within the Jewish religious community in the West Bank. It reminds us that Judaism has a small but influential fundamentalist contingent, capable of carrying out acts of terror that can change the course of history, as Rabin’s assassination did in 1995.
There are dynamics currently at play in Israel that threaten to increase Jewish radicalism in that country.
In recent history, “price tag attacks” can be traced back to the Israeli government’s plan in 2005 to disengage from Gaza. That meant forcefully uprooting religious Jews from their Gazan settlements and turning over sacred land to Hamas, the Muslim terror organization that immediately used the land to fire missiles at neighboring Israeli communities.
For the Nationalist Zionist movement, and I suppose also the non-Zionist Haredim, the Israeli government’s withdrawal from Gaza was an act of betrayal, and remains a source of Jewish dissension against the government and the military today.
The rage fueled by what is perceived as a corrupt government’s sacrifice of sacred land is feeding the flames of zealotry within certain Jewish corners, some of whom are capable if not willing to carry out deadly attacks of reprisal.
In some ways, the situation today reminds me of the state of Judea around 70 CE, when the Jewish zealots were enraged at the Judean aristocracy and priesthood, who were colluding with the Roman occupying forces at the expense of religion.
The Jewish zealotry at that time was strong enough to rip apart Judea at the seams and destroy the Jewish state of that time. Jewish zealotry and internal divisions created by religious ideology now threatens the stability and future of the democratic state of Israel, if the current government (and more importantly, the people of Israel) tolerate such extremism.
In the meantime, we can expect that the propagators of the price-tag attacks to continue whenever there are Jewish outposts or settlements dismantled. This puts at risk some of Israel's best friends - Christian tourists and religious pilgrims, since churches seem to be a trending target by Jewish extremists, perhaps over fears of the Vatican's closer ties with the State of Israel.
As I’ve written in past posts – Islamic extremism is not unique, in the sense that its rooted in the same fanatical source found in Judaism and Christianity.
In fact, Judaism can be understood as the progenitor of this certain kind of monotheistic radicalism, since the Torah / Old Testament is the bedrock and foundation of both Christian and Islamic theologies. Therefore Jewish extremism, where it still exists, is very important to understand, because it teaches us about Middle Eastern religious radicalism in general.
It again comes back to our twisted idea of “God”. If we believe in a deity who encourages death upon the unbeliever, then at least some of us will find little remorse in carrying out violence against these "unbelievers".
The worst part is this: the belief that god allows the murder of gentile children, as a small but dangerous segment of the Israeli settler movement represented by Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira maintains, is not a heretical deviation from Jewish law. It’s actually backed up by Jewish law. Just read the book of Numbers – where Moses is ordered by Yahweh to destroy the Canaanites, down to every last child.
Therein is the problem with Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religion. Therein is the source of the justification of violence in the name of God. And therein is the reason why my grandfather, like so many others of his generation, lost faith in organized religion.
But where Dr. Miller lacked theology, he made up with by his undying conviction in love. Love for his family and friends, for his country and the health of his patients. This love is more important and real than any theological construct.
And love is the principle that animates WarningStar Intelligence as we attempt to carry on Dr. Miller's legacy by serving as a protective force in an afflicted world.
God Love You, Gramps (1913-2013)