Tuesday, 26 October 2021

The City of Abraham by Edward Platt

At last, I have finished a book!  
Through no fault of my own books are piling up on the 'To Read' shelf.  I do not know where they have come from!  Some of them have been lying about for years it appears.  Others have bookmarks in them from long ago so they will have to be restatred, from the beginning I suspect, at some time in the future.  
However, I have finished this one.
Hebron is a very contested city in Israel held territory, taken during one of the wars.  To Jews it is the city in which David first ruled as King over the southern part of the land, then called Judah.  David reigned there after the fall of Saul and seven years later he became king over all of Israel both the northern kingdom, later called 'Israel,' and Judah.  The united kingdom settled and happy under King David, a time of joy and certainty under his rule.  This became divided after his sone Solomon died, the wealthy kingdom soon split into two once again.  
Hebron is important to Jews and Muslims as Abraham himself was buried in the cave nearby where a huge building now stands over the place considered to be the cave in which he was buried. Abraham as you know not only had Issac as a son, his grandson Jacob became the name from which Israel is known throughout the Old Testament, he also had Ishmael via Hagar and he is seen as the father of the Arabs. No Muslims in those far off days as you know.   
Today many Jewish settlers have moved in and built their Settlements over many parts of the city, including the highest point considered to be the centre of old Hebron, a city dating back eons into the past.
The writer, the typical English middle class trendy, goes to Hebron with the intention to avoid taking sides, as if!  Folk like him already have a leaning towards the Arabs however little they know or understand the middle east.  There again, reading the book it becomes very easy to take sides with the Arabs, the Settlers, protected by Border Guards, Soldiers and Police, do not make themselves attractive, and as I found myself in Israel eons ago, Israeli Jews are not that welcoming to tourists even though they depend on their money.  
The land some say is divided between Jews and Arabs, it is however divided much more than that.  The Israeli population are themselves divided into many factions, many on the right, many on the left, also there are religious Jews divided into similar factions. Add to that the division between those that came from Spain with those arriving from Russia, and then there are holocaust survivors, or indeed those who feel shame at avoiding capture.  
Likewise the Arabs have divisions, Fatah and Hamas, tribal divisions, those in Hebron from those in the North, all making the simple choice of who to support difficult.  All however, are trapped in a war zone featuring occasional outbursts of serious violence and constant daily stone throwing from one side or another, and always the others fault!  
Simple people claim there is a simple answer to the division in the land, reading this book I found a constant depression returning as there is no obvious answer to the mix.  Everybody has a claim, everybody is right, and everybody goes back deep into History for their claim.
Palestinians claim to have been there since time began, I am sure some DNA tests would reveal many indeed have history going back thousands of years.  However, so many have moved through this very small space, many remaining when the invaders moved on, it would reveal also a mixture of middle east heritage from many sides.  I wonder if such a test has been conducted?  Maybe the results were to inflamable to reveal?
The Hebrews certainly possessed the land from the time of Joshua, around 1200 BC possibly, until driven out by the Romansd after the war of 70 AD and the revolt of 135 AD?  Some Jews might well have remained though most were exiled.  
For well over a hundred years possession has belonged to the Jews, they clearly are in control, and yet it is possible for Jew and Arab to live together quite happily, there is a desire for this amongst many in Hebron and elsewhere.  However, on both sides others disagree, and all are armed.
The settlers are another thing altogether.  I had the idea settlers were mostly American Jews who considered themselves John Wayne fighting the Indians, and in Hebron this can be seen amomg many there.  The settlers do not come across as open-minded, considerate or lovable.  Indeed, their violent and aggressive behaviour would easily temp us to join with the Palestinians locals in throwing stones.  When one video was revealed though Israel TV indicating settlers behaviour in Hebron many Israeli's turned against them.  It also shocked the settlers to realise they did not represent all Jewish people.  
I naturally wanted to know more about the ancient Historical sites, however, the settlers have erected their homes above the main 'dig,' the part of Hebron David walked and many have ruled from.  There will be no 'digs' for many years.  
The Tomb of Abraham also turns out to be somewhat disappointing.  Although illegal to dig down underneath some have in the past gone down through tunnels and found ancient caves with bones and fragments, but sadly no proper modern archaeology can be conducted.  It will be obvious that with all the passing armies since Abraham was buried some 4000 years ago these caves, if indeed these are the correct places, will have been ransacked many times by the curious seeking riches.  So, another Historical site turns out to be not what it might be after all.  
I am just glad Hebron is Hebron, and this may well be the place David ruled but no work to prove this can occur these days.
The author attempts to talk to all people in the city, Arabs, Jews, even an occasional settler, and we see the human cost of what they call the 'occupation.'  We find soldiers, young, badly trained conscripts, bored, frightened by both sides, confused and angry, all hoping to go somewhere better than this.  The Police limited by the army, the army limited by settlers, the courts decisions often ignored, and the rule of law changing according to someones whim.
And yet we see people on both sides happy to trade with one another, to use the markets, even to meet and discuss on occasions.  As always the majority just wish to get on with their lives and ignore the troubles around them.  It must be remembered that many Jews and Christians lived reasonably happy lives for generations amongst the Arabs, rare was the conflict.  So we must question why, since the end of the 19th century, has such a situation arisen?  Jews were found across the middle east, now none are found in Iraq, and others flee to Israel or the US!  
I think it would help if the author, Edward Platt, knew and understood the biblical  background better.  Another ignorant of Christianity, he quotes from the Authorised Version of the Bible (he calls it the KJV) even though venacular bibles have been around for 70 years, indicating his desire to put the bible down rather than learn from it, and his knowledge of Islam is similarly short.  Clearly he has made an effort to read what a Sunday School could have taught him but this however, has not opened his understanding of the people, the background nor the future of this land, which is a serious failing in this book.  
The book being published in 2012 is slightly out of date, nevertheless it gives an insight into the people of the land today, some idea of the Historical background, and, for me, a depressing knowledge that no easy answer can be found.  The book however, is worth a read, just to get one man's insight into the people living in this mix.  
God remains in control of this land, however, it is clear the people living there have not sought, or if they have sought, have not found his answer, to the situation.  If the Good Lord has indeed put the Hebrews back in his land we cannot remove them.  But are these his Hebrews?  Are they living his way?  Jesus is their Messiah and until they know him they will not find his answer for the land.  Until his Spirit moves there life will continue like this.  However, God is there, and when we see Hebrews turn to his Messiah Jesus en masse we will know that soon his Son will return.


the fly in the web said...

I think you need someone who is a scholar t do that sunject justice.
I am wondering whether to buy 'The Burgundians' which is due out sometime soon. Written by a scholar, an interesting subject, but the price is a bit out of my normal range, Still 700 odd pages....break the price downj by page an it dos not sound so much.

Adullamite said...

Fly, No scholar can do that, too many contentious people.
I saw a review of that book, all marriages and battles, but it is a subject I know nothing about.