Friday, May 23, 2008

Burning Bibles

One of my friends sent me a very surprising BBC article today. While it is not surprising to hear about "crimes" committed by the "occupational regime", this article is different. Firstly, unlike other articles about Israel, what is said in it actually took place. Secondly, I have never heard about Jews burning bibles. While the New Testament is a rather unpopular book in the eyes of Orthodox Jews, such act is a strange thing to do.
After reading this article I checked an Israeli news site. It turned out that the BBC article was correct but not especially accurate. The following is a list of details that were either not mentioned or distorted:
1. Missioner activity is forbidden by law in Israel.
2. Burning of religious literature is also a criminal act.
3. Upon discovering this, a journalist filled a complain in the police department against the mayor deputy.
4. The BBC article says that "Messianic Jews complain of institutionalized discrimination and are demanding all those involved be put on trial". There is no mention of this in the Israeli articles I found. I hope it is not true. Such behavior reminds Hamas - first fire a rocket than blame Israel for firing back.
5. The deputy major is an Orthodox Jew. In the photo below he is standing near a pile of burned bibles. 6. It appears that not whole bibles were burned but only The New Testament.
7. The deputy major was acting according to a religious law that called Jews to destroy Christian property if they can do so without bringing harm on themselves. It was not a conflict between missionaries and authorities, but between two religions groups.

Overall, this is a very pitiful incident. It is very clear what that the reasons behind it were. The both sides wanted to please God. And they both committed crimes in the process.

I don't want to talk about the people involved in this incident, but I want to highlight a very worrying trend that surfaces in it. We all know the saying "Where books are burned, people will be burned next". This happened in Nazi Germany. Why did it happen then and why it happened again in a town called Or Ihuda (Light of Judea)?
To answer this question we will have to look on Nazi Germany. Recently I was told that I am wrong in saying that most ordinary Germans didn't want the war to begin. The argument I was presented with, is that if indeed an average German was a peaceful soul than more Jews would be saved. However, this argument ignores one important trait of our society. People prefer to be leaded by other - a large part of our society prefer others to think for them. I have recently read about a study that clearly showed that to direct a random crowd of people all you need is that a five percent of the crowd would know were to go. The same goes for politics. One person is not enough, but there is no need for the supporters of a particular idea to have a majority. They need only a small percent that will support them, and the rest will follow.

Why this happens, and how is this connected to bible burning? The answer is simple - people like to feel good about what they do. We want to feel that our deeds are right. Why do you think the phrase "Got mit uns" (God with us) was used by Nazis? Hitler, just as other before him, gave people confidence. People believed that what he says to do is right and didn't question him. Those who behave this way are similar to sheep. They just follow the herd, all you need to guide them is a few well trained dogs. In this case the dogs are the fear of responsibility for your actions - if instead of following you are going by yourself, all the responsibility is yours and yours only.
For religious leaders it is even simpler. They just say: "Do what I say and you will go to heaven. Disobey me an you will go to Hell." In many occasions it works surprisingly well.

I feel that by burning books people only show their weakness. Instead of showing what is wrong in what they burn or giving other people an option to choose, they prefer to destroy. However, it is a worrying trend.

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