The saying goes “Happy New Year” but even the 10-second rush as one year ends and another begins is not always happy. One may be dragged into the transition by tradition or a zealous partner. Some people saying “Happy New Year” are known to be struggling with bereavement and a host of ills. Transitions, like New Year celebrations, provide an opportunity to hope and plan for better things, but hiding in the corner are the terminal illnesses that have restrained human progress for centuries.
Perhaps the most famous transition is the “War to End all Wars”, a disappointing turn for sure. A close second is the creation of the League of Nations (the predecessor of the United Nations). I recently came across a turning point in the return of the Hebrew people to Palestine. The leadership was as zealous as can be, but a terminal illness was shaping the transition into a fatal venture.
In my recent essay Ezra, Scribe and Zealot I uncovered a maze of inconsitencies and a web of injustices. The treatment of aliens hit a new low, as Ezra forced Jewish men and women to divorce their alien spouses. To add insult to injury Ezra ordered the children “sent away”.
The inability of the leadership to speak to and care for the alien spouses and their half-breed children shows an incredible lack of vision, absent initiative, and an unsepakable low in interpersonal morality.
Since Ezra’s appeal was to the constitution of the Israelite nation one has little to hope that transitions guarantee security and progress, especially when one is constrained to look back to traditions and sources of reliable guidance. His zeal for the Law blinded him to common decency and stymied any chance that relations with Gentiles would ever take its place at the centre of Abraham’s vision for a global family of faithful. Ezra’s campaingn for Jewish racial purity put him in a sobering conflict of interest with the Persian government. After all, it was a Persian (Gentile) monarch who had responded to God’s call to restore the Jewish exiles to Palestine, complete with financial and military support. The Jew-Gentile worldview held by many observers is still a fatal illness which, if allowed to persist, will further corrupt the goowdill that should be at the core of revolutionary thinking, renewal movements and transitions.