Author:  Doron Kornbluth

2011. Mosaica Press. Paperback. $17.99. 

What makes this book difficult for me to write about is that one isn’t sure just where the author is in the various stories: for example, is it he who meets with the Dalai Lama, or is it one of his many pupils. However, at the beginning of the book he has these words of advice to the reader:

“This volume can be read any way you prefer ... Each of its chapters is independent of the others. In each one, I take on a different role. Sometimes I am old, sometimes young. Sometimes male, sometimes female. Skim through, find something that piques your interest...” And then the explanation for the book: “Modern Jews often lack clarity on why they are Jewish. ... What does our Jewishness offer us, and the world?”

The monk in an ashram who meets with the Dalai Lama is told the following when the Dalai Lama learns that he is from Israel:

“Why are you studying here? Judaism is the Mother Religion. You should go back to Israel and look into your own heritage. You have a tradition. Everything you seek is there.”

The young man goes back to Israel and struggles with the difficult conditions of living in this country. He begins by waiting on tables in a kosher restaurant in Tel Aviv.

After a long period of time he says: “I now understand Judaism’s wisdom in taking practical life (eating, working, etc.) and spiritualizing it through prayer, blessings and contemplation.... I have become a proud, connected Jew. And I owe it to the Dalai Lama.”

Yes, writes Doron Kornbluth, the Jews are different. The book cites the many Nobel prize-winners and refers to the great scientists, doctors, writers, musicians and leaders for peace (among others) who have created great art and made notable advances and discoveries for all the nations on this globe. And this from a people which often constitutes the smallest number among the minority groups of almost any country.

It is here that I become uneasy. Having lived in Israel for about half a century, I have had to face the uncomfortable fact that most Jews are not different from many of the people I have met in various parts of the world. There are good, bad and inbetweeners, and there are intelligent people, dullards and, once again, the inbetweeners.

My non-Jewish friends and enemies in South Africa told me that the Jews were different, and somehow, when I came to Israel I expected this to be true. At first sight a Jewish policeman in Israel fills the newcomer with wonder. Only afterwards does he realize this means that there are Jewish criminals in Israel as well.

The statistics don’t lie – many of the world’s great men were Jews – and this out of all proportion to their numbers. I wonder if envy might be a weighty reason for the discrimination and lack of tolerance shown to the Jews throughout the ages and up to the present day.

“The truth is that I may never be able to explain why being Jewish is so important to me...the ultimate reason for my Jewish attachment is beyond words and beyond logic. I can’t explain it. But it is,” writes Doron Kornbluth.

The book is full of information, Biblical and otherwise, regarding the + 3500 years history of the Jews. It is easy reading: even the most abstruse subjects are written in a colloquial and informal manner.

Probably the most powerful and emotive part of the book is an appendix – Appendix III – written by Dr. Ze’ev Maghen. Dr. Maghen makes out a strong case for a different type of love preached by the sages – a love that has 'preference' as its starting point. He does a hatchet job on John Lennon’s song Imagine, which he confesses is 'a beautiful ballad'. But 'it is a death march, a requiem mass for the human race,' and he cites Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot as examples of people who tried to create one world.

Poor John Lennon – I think it was a sort of paradise on earth he was thinking of, in which all people could live in harmony and peace.

To do the book justice this review should be twice as long as it is, and written by someone more skilled in these matters. However, a spark has been lit somewhere. I have decided to dig into my library and do more research on this subject.

A fascinating book, a powerful book, and above all written in a style which is both immediate and immensely readable.

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