MADNESS AND MONOTHEISM
Palestine as Psych Ward for the West
Jerusalem attracts all kinds of people. Religious fanatics and cranks of different degrees of mental derangement seemed drawn as by a magnet to the Holy City, men and women who thought themselves the reincarnation of saints, prophets, priests, messiahs and kings.
--Bertha Vester, Our Jerusalem
Hechler had a touch of madness, and so did Herzl…It would seem that such is the rule today for the ones, Jews or Christians, who believe in the unique destiny of the capital of Israel – Jerusalem – as the place of spiritual espousals and salvation for the entire world. Blessed is the madness which hungers for the absolute…
--Andre Chouraqui, The Prince and the Prophet
Of all crotchets in the world the most mischievous…are religious crotchets.
--Edward Wilmot BlydenA Christian Madhouse
Accursed is a land that has been lumbered with the title of "The Holy Land". The sole geographic entity on the planet that bears this dubious distinction is Palestine. To be sure there are numerous cities around the globe called "holy"-- Rome, Mecca, Karbala, Lhasa and Lourdes to name but a few. But once outside the city limits of such a municipality at least the visitor can take a deep breath, loosen the collar and pull out a hip flask for a quick restorative. But to place at the very fulcrum of religious belief a holy land
, where the vast majority of that religion’s adherents do not live?
Where every rock, every scrap of a ruin, every town, every mountain or rill, every shard is heavy with perceived significance for millions of people not resident in that land? To have the bad fortune to be the native of such a land, a map of which can be found on every Protestant Sunday school wall
in the United States which displays the land’s ownership attributed to the so-called tribes of Israel? Green for Gad, pink for Asher, yellow for Judah: God’s real estate plat in tasteful pastels, confirming a sense of ownership in the minds of young congregants from the very beginning of their religious instruction.
The cultural resonance of this embedded concept is incalculable; its impact on Palestine’s original inhabitants is immense. A land that a heavily armed and righteously powerful portion of the outside world has long deemed holy in its entirety and over which accordingly it has asserted ownership rights both conscious and unconscious. A land about which the Archbishop of York smirked in 1875, a year when Teddy Herzl was barely out of knee pants: "Our reason for turning to Palestine is that Palestine is our country. I have used that expression before and I refuse to adopt any other".  To the natives of such a land, born in innocence of western Judeo-Christian crotchets -- for crotchets they are -- this is misfortune indeed.
Complete essay available on StateofNature
, Spring 2006.