“The Wise Shall Understand.”

I remember, when I was a child, my parents telling me an old Jewish folk tale, about a Jew who was constantly threatened and pressured by his local priest to convert to Catholicism. Eventually, the Jew gave in to the threats and converted. The priest, who did not entirely believe in his new parishioner’s change of heart, decided to pay him a surprise visit, to make sure the Jew wasn’t backsliding into Jewish ways. He chose a Friday for his visit, certain that if the Jew was pulling the wool over his eyes, the Eve of the Jewish Sabbath would be the best time to catch him in the act of adhering to Jewish practices.

Sure enough, when he arrived at the Jew’s house, he found the new convert and his family sitting down to the traditional Sabbath meal, the table laden with delicacies – including (oh, horror of horrors!), a succulent platter of meat.

“What is this abomination?” the priest thundered. “This is meat you are eating! Do you not know that today is Friday? A true Catholic would be eating fish! Only a Jew would eat meat on a Friday!”

“Indeed, no!” replied the Jew. “This is not meat. It is fish!”

“What nonsense is this?” snarled the priest. “Do you take me for a fool? I have eyes in my head! That is meat – no doubt about it!”

“No, no, sir. It is fish!” the Jew insisted.

“Fish? How can you stand there before me and tell me that is fish?” snapped the priest.

“Very easily,” the Jew replied. “Last week, you splashed a few drops of holy water over me and said: Now you are a Catholic. I realised that this holy water of yours can work miracles. So this afternoon, I splashed a few drops of holy water over the meat my wife brought back from the market and said to the meat: Now you are a fish.”

Yesterday, the United Nations General Assembly said to the “Palestinians” (who are not,  and who never have been, a people): You are now a nation state, your borders are the 1967 borders and your capital is Jerusalem.

And the wise shall understand. (Daniel 12, v.10)


About Shimona from the Palace

Born in London, the UK, I came on Aliyah in my teens and now live in Jerusalem, where I practice law. I am a firm believer in the words of Albert Schweitzer: "There are two means of refuge from the sorrows of this world - Music and Cats." To that, you can add Literature. To curl up on the sofa with a good book, a cat at one's feet and another one on one's lap, with a classical symphony or concerto in the background - what more can a person ask for?
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27 Responses to “The Wise Shall Understand.”

  1. David Allon says:

    Great story!

    And regarding Jerusalem, its remarkable that 136 countries recognise Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital, but none recognise it as Israel’s capital. What a world we live in!

  2. Bianca says:

    The issue is not quite as clear-cut as you imply. If the Palestinians are not a “people” then of which countries are they citizens? And should the countries of which they are citizens have sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza Strip (respectively) where they live?

    Or should they be given voting rights in Israel? Or is your message to them “stay and be disenfranchised or leave”?

    • I think, Bianca, that you are confusing “peoplehood” with “citizenship”. The “Palestinians” living on the West Bank under Jordanian rule had (and many still have) Jordanian citizenship, after Jordan invaded the West Bank in 1948. In fact, the majority of Jordanian citizens were “Palestinians”. Furthermore, the Kingdom of Transjordan, now known as Jordan, was part of the original Palestine mandate, entrusted to Britain by the League of Nations. Britain’s action in “chopping off” the greater part of the mandated territory in order to give the Hashemite family what was basically a private fiefdom, was illegal. There is basically no difference betwen those “Palestinians” living on the West Bank and those living on the East Bank of the Jordan. Jordan is, de facto, a Palestinian state, so why should they now have a second state? Moreover, it was not until the 1960s that the idea of a separate “Palestinian people” was born. As late as 1977, PLO executive member Zoheir Mohsen admitted, in an interview with the Dutch newspaper Trouw: “Between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese there are no differences. We are all part of ONE people, the Arab nation. Look, I have family members with Palestinian, Lebanese, Jordanian and Syrian citizenship. We are ONE people. Just for political reasons we carefully underwrite our Palestinian identity. Because it is of national interest for the Arabs to advocate the existence of Palestinians to balance Zionism. Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity exists only for tactical reasons. The establishment of a Palestinian state is a new tool to continue the fight against Israel and for Arab unity.”
      And as if that wasn’t enough, even former Knesset member Azmi Bishara has admitted the non-existence of a separate Palestinian people. Hear him for yourself (I hope you understand Hebrew): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3n5-yG-6dU
      I do, however, want to make clear that I am not advocating that we deprive the Arab citizens of Israel of their civil rights. I just do not agree that they have national rights.

      • Bianca says:

        First, regarding the history, the League of Nations mandate did allow for separate arrangements to be made for Transjordan and the presence of a British-officered Arab Legion meant that it was not completely independent. (It wasn’t recognized by the UN until 1948 – although changed from an Emirate into a Kingdom in 1946.)

        Secondly, my concern is with the here and now. Whether Jordan is a Palestinian State with a Hashemite/Bedouin minority or a Hashemite/Bedouin state with a Palestinian minority is irrelevant to the Arabs in the West Bank, much less the Gaza Strip. The combination of Palestinian and pan-Arab national identity is no different from the European ambivalence as to whether they are Europeans or French, German, Italian, Polish, Dutch, British, etc respectively. It is not for some one on the outside to tell them what their national identity is, or to tell them how their part of the world should be divided up between nations.

        The residents of the West Bank and Gaza have the right to be citizens of whichever country is in control over the territories in which they live and have been living – all their lives. That is to say they shouldn’t have to choose between giving up their homes or being aliens in their own homes. Whether the country that controls those territories is “Palestine”, Israel, Egypt or Jordan is not my concern. You choose and let the rest of us know. My only concern is that whatever country controls those territories, should give citizenship to those who live there.

  3. bernard says:

    Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Good for you Shimonafromthepalace

  4. CATachresis says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how the eyes of the world have been blinded to the truth. However, I believe this is biblical prophecy coming true before our eyes! In the book of Romans ch 11 it says it all. Israel will be saved according to prophecy.

  5. Maccabee Warrior says:

    @Bianca, the “Palestinians” were offered a state of their own in 1948. They turned it down and tried, instead, to prevent the birth of the neighbouring Jewish state. In 1956 and again in 1967, the Arabs again tried to destroy the Jewish State – and lost. In 1956, Israel evacuated the land she had ended up with – only to find that in 1967, the Arabs again tried to destroy her. After 1967, Israel was ready to negotiate but the Arabs again refused (No recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no peace with Israel). After the Oslo Accords, when Israel handed over territory to the so-called “Palestinian Authority”, Arafat and his cohorts found ways, again and again not to sign a peace treaty. In 2005, Israel evacuated the Gaza Strip hoping for peace but instead, got a reign of terror (in the shape of a rain of rockets). A couple of years ago, Netanyahu declared a 10-month unilateral moratorium on settlement building in the West Bank, because Abu Maazen refused to negotiate unless Israel accepted pre-conditions (so what the hell was left to negotiate?) – and STILL the Palestinians fought shy of negotiations, adding more and more pre-conditions. So now I say, what you sow, so you shall reap. After WW1, a population exchange took place between Turkey and Greece. It’s been done before, it can be done again. Israel has accepted hundreds of thousands of Jews forced out of Arab countries since 1948. The “Palestinians” should be absorbed into those lands in place of the Jews who left.

    • Neil says:

      1) They didn’t try to destroy the Jewish State in 1967. It was Israel that attacked Egypt then.
      2) Israel only nominally accepted the Partition Plan. From the beginning they fought to expand.
      3) In 1967 Israel attacked Egypt (again) using the same “they were going to attack us” argument.
      4) After 1967 Israel did NOT offer to negotiate with the Palestinians.
      5) When Hamas won the democratic elections, Israel put the squeeze on them, first withholding money from them that wasn’t there’s to withhold and then imposing a blockade. That was what caused the shelling.
      6) “Population exchange” is an Orwellian way of describing the expulsion of Palestinians. The Arab states have offered the Jewish refugees the right of return without linking it in any way to the right of the Palestinians to return to their homes in occupied Palestine.

      • Neil says:

        Sorry, point 1 should have been 1956. It was an unprovoked Israeli attack backed up by the imperialist forces of Britain and France – a conspiracy that they at first tried to deny.

      • Technically, it was Egypt that committed an act of war against Israel in both 1967 and 1956 by closing the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. This was legally a casus belli.
        I have no idea what is the basis for your claim that “Israel only nominally accepted the Partition Plan”. They accepted it but the Arabs rejected it and immediately attacked the Jewish “state in the making” the very day after the Partition vote! If Israel then fought to expand, they can hardly be blamed – though I don’t see what is your basis for the claim that they fought to expand from the beginning. At “the beginning”, they were already under attack by the Arabs.
        I also don’t know what is the basis for your claim that Israel didn’t offer to negotiate after the Six Day War. Abba Eben publicly stated that “everything is negotiable”, but the Arabs responded with the famous “Three No’s” of the Khartoum Declaration: “no peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel”.
        See: http://www.sixdaywar.org/content/khartoum.asp

  6. CATachresis says:

    Is it true, as I have heard, that the so-called “occupied” territories which the Israelis are supposedly building on illegally are in actual fact by international law deemed to be “unallocated” land and therefore up for grabs?

  7. @Bianca “The combination of Palestinian and pan-Arab national identity is no different from the European ambivalence as to whether they are Europeans or French, German, Italian, Polish, Dutch, British, etc respectively. ”

    That is a false analogy. The Europeans were, first and foremost, French, Germans, Dutch etc. who, at a later stage, decided on a certain degree of union. But with the Arabs, they were first and foremost Arabs and their separate national identities, as Syrians, Jordanians, Lebanese etc. are largely the result of post WW1 colonialist map-drawing by the European powers.

    • Bianca says:

      Shimona – “with the Arabs, they were first and foremost Arabs and their separate national identities, as Syrians, Jordanians, Lebanese etc. are largely the result of post WW1 colonialist map-drawing by the European powers.”

      The same could be said of Africa (with the adjustment that they were tribal rather than Pan-African). Their boundaries too do not reflect their national identities but rather the legacy of past colonialism.

      But are you then saying that modern boundaries are invalid because in the past the people who lived there had different attitudes and that it is for YOU to decide for them what their national identities should be? Is that not somewhat arrogant?

      The majority of Jews do not live in Israel despite the Law of Return. From this one may conclude that most Jews do not have a Jewish national identity and that the oft-quoted “next year in Jerusalem” is, at best, a second preference and not indicative of their primary identity. Thus Jews are (as the Palestinian National Covenant states) “citizens of the countries in which they reside.”

      Now of course, this applies to those who reside in Israel proper. But are you then saying that Jews should be allowed two preferences but Palestinian Arabs limited to one? To be dictated by you?

      • @Bianca
        “The same could be said of Africa (with the adjustment that they were tribal rather than Pan-African). Their boundaries too do not reflect their national identities but rather the legacy of past colonialism.”

        With the Palestinians, we are talking about a fictitious “national identity” that was concocted with the express intention of using it as a counterweight to the centuries-old Jewish identity.

  8. Bianca says:

    @ shimonafromthepalace
    There was never a single Arab nation. Even the pan-Arab national identity only dates back to the last few decades of the Ottoman Empire. Most national identities are recent. Do you really think that any Austrian or Hungarian wants to be part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire?

    There is nothing fictitious about the Palestinian national identity. They can’t want to be part of an pan-Arab state because there is no such state for them to be citizens of. It is not for you to dictate to them what their identity is. It is the Jewish national identity that is a fiction. American Jews are American, French Jews are French, Argentine Jews are Argentine and British Jews are British. I concede that Israeli Jews (and Arabs) are Israeli. But West Bank Arabs are not “West Bankian” (nor, since the Rabbat Conference of 1974 are they Jordanian). And Gaza Arabs are not “Gazian”. By there only choice and consciousness they are Palestinian. And if you want them to respect your national identity, then you must respect theirs.

    • Bianca says:

      Pardon my mispelling: there should be their.

    • @Bianca – you are conveniently ignoring the point that their own leaders have admitted that the “Palestinian” identity is a fictitious one, invented solely for the purpose of countering the Jewish national identity and, according to Zoheir Mohsen, only temporary until they can implement their pan-Arab state. Both he and Azmi Bishara admitted this.

      “It is the Jewish national identity that is a fiction. American Jews are American, French Jews are French, Argentine Jews are Argentine and British Jews are British”.
      Once again, you are confusing “citizenship” with “nationhood”. The Jews have been a nation, in their own eyes and in the eyes of the world, for 4000 years. Receiving citizenship in other countries (which, BTW, happened only with the so-called Age of Enlightenment in the late 18th/early 19th century in Europe) does not negate their nationhood.

      • Silke says:

        in the 70s I was told that knowing modern Greek would be a helpful language when travelling in Africa because even the smallest village was likely to have a Greek merchant at the time. Did those Greeks lose their nationhood? If so, nobody ever told me.

    • Silke says:

      haven’t the Jews got a book which proves their identity as much or even much much more beyond reasonable doubt as do other national myths?

      Is there an equivalent for Palestinians to lets say even something as confused and confusing as the Icelandic Sagas? The only thing that pops into my mind is Arabian Nights – do Palestinians figure in there? prominently or not so prominently?

      • Bianca says:

        Why should the Palestinians need a book of ancient legends when they were actually LIVING there until they were driven out in 1948?

        The Britons have no written legends dating back 2000 years. It wasn’t until late Romano-Britain that they even developed their own writing system. (The educated among them spoke and wrote Latin.) What we know of Boudica, for example, comes from the Romans. Surely PEOPLE LIVING THERE is a more important consideration than a written collection of stories.

        And one “admission” by one Palestinian leader does not make Palestinian national aspirations illegitimate. They have to live (and be citizens of) SOMEwhere! What then should the expelled people who were living there do? Apply for citizenship in a unified Arab country that doesn’t exist? Or do what the Zionists did and CREATE a new country to serve their needs – with or without a backstory of fables. Just as Israel is a NEW country that has only some very limited link to its self-serving fables.

      • It’s more than one admission by more than one “Palestinian” leader. The claim that I am making is that they, themselves, don’t really see themselves as a people.
        Israel is not a “New” country – I think you mean it is a new State (in modern terms of statehood) – but I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “Why should the Palestinians need a book of ancient legends when they were actually LIVING there until they were driven out in 1948?” and “a backstory of fables”. Are you trying to say the Bible is untrue? That the Jewish People did not live in the Land of Israel? What, exactly, are you driving at?

      • Silke says:


        after WW2 lots of Germans had to flee, were driven out from where they had lived. What happened to them? I am sure you know exactly what happened. Were local Germans happy about or even kind to the new arrivals – as per most accounts they weren’t, they were even outright mean towards their co-nationals. But they did their duty and absorbed them. Housing was provided and the newcomers helped by working hard at integrating themselves.

        I keep hearing and reading lots of talk of Arab brotherhood and unity – somehow does the fact that they keep their brothers and sisters living in refugee camps makes me doubt their sincerety.

  9. ShimonZ says:

    You reminded me of a story my mother once told me on the same subject. A Jew who was in business with a devout Catholic, and the two of them became good friends. But the Catholic kept at him to try and save his soul. And little by little he began to have some influence. Until, after a couple of years he convinced him to meet his priest, and the three of them had long theological discussions which finally resulted in the Jew finally deciding to convert to Christianity. He was formally babtised, and came home, and told his wife she could forget about milchik and fleishik, she could throw out the pesach dishes, and they would start taking trips to the sea shore on shabbes. He was now a Christian. The wife was in shock, but in a way she had expected it because he had already spoken to her about what a wonderful friend he had found in his Christian business contact. She decided to wait and see how things developed. The next morning, she got up to make him breakfast, and as she was working in the kitchen she could see him davening in the living room. She approached him, and said Chaim, I see you have tfilin on, and are praying in Hebrew. Didn’t you tell me yesterday that you had converted? To which he groaned and then smacked his head, saying, ‘oy, my goyisha kopf!’.

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