Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Parting the tunic – the Price of Jealousy


We are in the chag Chanukah - the feast of dedication, service of God and education (chinuch/חינוך), lights, endurance, material miracle with the oil and this will happen for us in this year 5773, leading to the 65th anniversary of the State of Israel. This Shabbat Vayeshev - וישב - (Jacob) lived (in the land of his father's sojournings, Eretz Canaan), the weekly Torah reading is from Bereishit 37:1-40:23.

It is said: "Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons because he was his son born in the old age and he made him a striped tunic (k’tonet pasim/כתונת פסים). Joseph was talented and passed on the evil gossip his brothers had to their father.

The weekly portion is dedicated to Joseph's special biography: a seventeen years old shepherd pasturing the sheep; a dreamer : "vayyachalam chalom - ויחלם יעקב חלום - Joseph had a (leading ahead) dream". Joseph develops dreams that will come to maturity along an long-term extended period of time and somehow still unaccomplished at the present. He was sold by his brothers who were so jealous that they could not decide to kill him. Division may at times save the lives of some people endangered by enemies that would not agree on such a simple issue as a murder and thus choose a distorted solution.

This is why ransoming the prisoners has been a major mitzvah in all Jewish communities until now. In Israel, this obliges making every possible efforts to redeem and obtain the liberation of Israeli soldiers captured by other armies. It is the kind of mitzvah that is a basic one, and remains an indisputable sign of "love towards our fellow people".

Indeed, Jews observing the Mitzvot and developing a loving and caring spirit of love toward God and any human being cannot betray any single Jew the way Joseph was sold by his embezzled brothers. Ransoming is a must as it has always been in force throughout the history of Christianity. It steadfastly supports and immensely helped the Jews in the process of ascending to Israel.

The haftarah (additional portion from the Books of the Prophets) is the reading from the Book of the Prophet Amos (2:6-3:8). The main problem consists in considering how we accept or not the realm of the Mitzvot as a true way to freedom. "For four (transgressions of Israel), I will not pardon them (ashivenu - אשיבנו : we shall not give any positive response or change of penance) for their selling of a righteous man for money (michram bekesef tzadik - מכרם בכסף צדיק) and a destitute/poor man for shoes (veevyon baavur na'alayim - ועבעון בעבור נעליים) ... And a man and his father go to a betrothed young girl (naarah - נערה) to profane My Holy Name (cf. Tamar) (Amos 2:7).

These are the issues that we have to face this week with regards to history. They envision Joseph fate and destiny, Judah's affair with Tamar, Potifar's wife harassing Joseph show the development of what is wrong and can be corrected and lead to freedom after false possession or desires and treason.

Once upon a time, we had a woman who was the only man of the Israeli government, Golda Meir aka Golda Mabovitz/Meyerson (1898-1978). Born in Kiev/ Kyiv (Ukraine), she joined her father who had left for Milwaukee (Wisconsin) and worked as a carpenter. She went up to Rome to visit Pope John XXIII who welcomed her: "I am your brother Joseph (you hardly can recognize)". At least her father had a Vatican-valued profession: thus, Jesus' father, Joseph, as hers was carpenter. When she went on mission in Russia (somehow her home country), she had asked an apparent friend to free from jail some of the most valuable Jewish fighters who could help creating the State of Israel. She was promised they would be released. They were all murdered overnight or so.

On the one hand, this shows the treason of false friends; on the other hand, a persistent but honestly confessed substitution declared with much bonhomie - good-nature expressed by the good old Pope who actively did save thousands of Jews during the war.

We use to commit the one mistake that empoisons the relationships between Judaism and the Christian Churches is precisely present in this statement. The wonderful and rare pope was a Gentile and not the son of the first Twelve (sons of Jacob). The second Twelve were Jesus’ disciples according to the Christian tradition.

Pope John XVIII proposed a meaningful and challenging question to Golda Meir, the daughter of the Jewish carpenter. Just as Joseph’s brothers could not recognize the brother whom they had sold, Golda Meir – in the name of the Jewish people portraying the State of Israel – could hardly imagine or even accept that the Pope could be her brother sold by Jewish brothers who would save her and her new-old State rescued from history and permanent substitution.

This anecdote shows that goodness can be too evident and though remain a disfigured usurpation. This is the first spiritual aspect that we must consider from the prophetic haftarah read in Amos: it is clear that the dialogue between Golda Meir and the Pope was very heartfelt and nice. The anecdote shows a substitution. Because the real problem, that could turn to some vitz/וויץ (joke, a kidding and kind one), is that the Pope might did not recognize Golda Meir as being the real Benjamin and Jacob. This continues in the present in most cases about who is the Verus Israel (true Israel of God) whose substance and nature cannot be changed by vestments or attitudes foreign to the world of the Mitzvot.

Similarly, Judah and Tamar came wrongly together by some dramatic mistake and trick. The concern is that blindness does not mean falsification. Blindness means that we do not accept to see what is extant because reality is too much for what we can stand and what the others can accept.

The Talmud has it about the roots machar-מכר – to sell, mecher – sale, makkar-מכר – be acquainted, friends, mecherut-מכרות – sales/neighboring friends. Thus, “the seller is presumed to sell liberally, i.e. all except what is excluded (and ought to be defined)” (Bava Bathra 64b). Or, “a man can be sold for his theft, not a woman” (Sota 1c). But Joseph had not usurped, captured or, worse, bought his father’s love.
Jealousy remains a spiritual disease or discomfort that was ravaging Joseph’s brothers. Then, Joseph and his brothers could not anticipate the far-reaching spiritual significance of their mutual attitudes and decisions. When the Prophet Amos recounts the events, he envisions something of what history has brought from the limping of Israel and its survival that still stuns or even stupefies the Nations and the Jews alike.

The State of Israel will turn to 65 years old in two major steps. The first one is amazingly occurring just before this Shabbat Vayeshev on November 29 (kaftet - כ"ט), 1947) and corresponds to six decades and five years after the UN historic vote accepting the partition of Palestine, on Kislev 16 (tetzayn - ט"ז), 5708).
Due to some hazard or sign of the Providence, five years ago, when I worte the first version of this article, the civilian 60th anniversary started with a shemittah year of remittance/שמיטה on Kislev 19 (yodtet - י"ט) 5768).

It is a suggestive and relevant date in the Jewish history. Nobody cares about the Hebrew date of the UN vote that fell on Monday. Good enough. Just a reminder that makes sense this year of new "partition", the world was plugged in Annapolis (USA, not in Ancient Greece). Now, the partition vote was still a decision taken by the Nations and this has always been meaningful for the coherence of Israel spiritual history.

I do not intend to get into the discussion on the "recognition" at a very tiny level of a "non-existing" Palestinian State. It does not exist as such for the moment and would require the full agreement of the State of Israel. There is no "recognition" taken this year by the United Nation's General Assembly. "Observer state" allows the entity of the Arabs living in the territory of "Eretz Canaan" to get some kind of slow-slow admittance to the "concert" of the Nations. It does not interfere at this point with the core of the weekly portion. I aim at focusing on something very special that is the essence of the existence of Israel as a free and independent entity.

The question is whether one can seriously consider that the State of Israel only came out subsequently to World War II with a Western UN vote of false if not fake "good conscience": the partition could also be interpreted as follows: the Jews will sink in the hour following their independence. It was both a Gentile and Jewish reflection and our sinking is still en vogue.

Is it the consequence of the Holocaust? Joseph’s sale to the merchants is definitely the prelude to a will of extermination. The Shoah is at the present a major concern for some European countries and a Western Church interrogation. Jews cannot abstract themselves from community responsibilities in such a devastation that tracks back their experience to the Churban/חורבן (destructions of the Temple).

The State of Israel emerged and develops as the ''impossible'' challenge allowing a rescued nation to be overflowing with unexpected pardon. Things are simple and crude: who is/are my brother/s?

Disguised or rescued from flames of passions, ignorance and hatred? We are thus the descendants of Cain who had dared say to God: “…hashomer achi anochi השומר אחי אנכי – am I my brother’s keeper?” God said: “What have you done! The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.” (Gen. 4:9-10). The same blood continues to cry out. Then, the miracle means something else.

The  65th anniversary of the UN partition vote falls on the 209th anniversary of the “Alter Rebbe” Zalman Schneur of Lyadi’s release from prison where he had spent 52 days in Saint Petersburg upon the denunciation of some Lithuanian Jews (mitnagdim/מתנגדים, opponents to Hassidism). He was freed on Kislev 19, 5559.

It became the Rosh Hashanah of the Hassidic movement as a spiritual envisioning movement, in particular the Chabad. The point is that two modern hassidic rabbis have been sent to jail because they were denunciated by “brothers”. They were men of charity and pity. How can we build anything if we are not responsible for others, even those who would eventually attack or harm us? On this November 29th  , many elements track us back to Joseph being sold and still pardoning, as Cain had killed his brother; God put a sign of protection on his forehead. The Hassidut celebrate a day of liberation of men who were dedicated to soul freedom. Somehow, the partition vote opened a tiny way to Israel’s freedom and existence.

The real question we face on this day is that God made something, a dealing – ‘alila - עלילה (“He is terrible in his dealings with man, Tehillim 66:5”). Whatever faith, philosophical, doubtful attitude, humans seem to miss the chance of really getting to know if God accepts goodwill or exerts a strict determination. Suddenly, Nov.29th/19th events show; they are beyond any human control. We forget this or think we are strong when we are simply looking for some way-out. Freedom is not a way-out. It is life to the full.

This is why let’s cool down about Annapolis, Iran nuking projects… God’s dealings include the hurricanes in the US, the tsunamis in Indonesia, hunger, AIDS and war in Africa, Gaza human hell. What shall we do when the Chinese and the Yuan will rule the world?

This date is like a Passover Seder Dayenu verse: it would have sufficed - דינו. We only got a tiny irrational partition, just as the betrayed Master of Hassidut was released from jail. All the disciples of Jesus, to begin with the first one, had abandoned or betrayed him. Israel and Palestine are not juicy scoops. It shows how faith can be twisted and thus leads to redemption.

Av Aleksandr (Winogradsky Frenkel)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Struggle For Light!


Feasts are mostly recurrent and cherished rendezvous celebrated throughout the year. Hanukkah\חנוכה or the "Feast of the Lights" is a special moment. The festivities might have mentally begun for some people with Halloween. The Russians did introduce Santa Claus' clone festival in some Ded Moroz\Дед Мороз (Granpa "Freeze") mainly consisting of sweets, cakes, letters to get some gifts by the end of the civilian year. Well pumkins, carrots, Thanksgiving turkeys, chocolates...

It is time to get the sufganyot\סופגניות or jelly doughnuts that are more and more sophisticated. The Ashkenazi's prefer to add the "latkes\לאטקעס - fried potatoes pancakes". Of course a lot of balloons. We love balloons at all times in this country and a lot of mishloach\משלוח - gifts or chanikke-gelt\חנכה-געלט, special Hanukkah money for the children.

We pass from what the Jews have always considered as the above "Gentile" Feasts to the miracle that happened in the Temple. Things are not so simple. It seems that, in mixed families, "Chrismukkah", combining Hanukkah with Christmas are slowly replaced by separate and more coherent feasts.

In the end, there is a kind of secular "chres'mas" feast that is more secular in some parts of the country, showing unclear X-mas trees and Santa Claus intertwined with candles...

With regards to Hanukkah, during eight days, we shall everywhere light the eight candles by using the first one, the shamash\שמש = server. Huge candelabra lightning usually organized by the Lubavitch ChaBaD.

 They also distribute small ones, more homely. Joyous days for times of uncertainty.

One thing is sure: light overcame and overcome darkness and " Nes Gadol Haya Po\נס גדול היה פה - a big miracle happened here (in Israel) or Sham\שם - there (as viewed from the diasporas)". It is more luminous to interrogate your “dreyd’l\דריידל or savivon\סביבון” (little top) about your future than any soothsayer in town.

Hanukkah is the only Jewish feast that leaps over two months: it starts on Kislev 24 (12/20) and ends on Tevet 2 (12/28/2011). The shamash\שמש (server) used to light the candles is the source of flushing sun brightness (shemesh\שמש). Indeed, Hanukkah is more lunar reminding about how the Moon births each month, then disappears still constantly showing again as a sign of Divine Providence and care.

Miracles are God's flickering winks. But even if God shows much confidence in us - quite unbelievable by the way! - what is more important to learn or experience this year through this feast? A victory? God's constancy? our survival and humankind's existence? Or God's shining pardon when we hardly can stand or appreciate each other?

The weekly reading portion reports how Joseph, Jacob's preferred son, had received a splendid tunic. His competences and good look inflamed his brother’s jealousy. They sold him to an Ishmaelite. There is a point: it made more sense to them to sell him rather than killing him. In the original text, there is no moral or spiritual discussion. Joseph could be killed. The brothers were more afraid of their father Yaakov than of God. By selling him, they could at least think they could "capture" the price of the tunic. Human societies as such that we also can prove the existence of tunics and "clothes" and still murder those who should or could wear them.

Joseph kept the moral attitude. He steadfastly refused to step down and be seduced by Potifar's wife. She put him to jail. There, he started interpreting dreams with insights and finally was called to explain Pharaoh's nightmares about some cows' forms.

Thus he predicted seven super-productive years followed by seven years of hunger. So get ready to spare and develop your economic system was Joseph final touch to Pharaoh who assigned him as his chief governor. Last but not least, in Genesis 38, the role game between Tamar and Judah, who cheated and abused her... or each other.

With regards to cows and economic collapse, this is very up-to-date. Everywhere in the world soothsayers will show to explain how the upcoming years will be full of hardships, under- and unemployment growing in the rich countries, more indebtness and poverty. We raely feel responsible in such situations. Egoistic and self-centered reactions are the common rules.

We do not see or hear some prophets who could teach us the value of time, the wisdom of time and how we can "spend both time and values". This is why the Book of Kohelet is wise: there are indeed times and instants, delays, periods. It makes man human and humane to be able to "manage" in terms of righteousness and growth the time and measures that are entrusted to us.

This is totally on line with Hanukkah. It is evident that we can connect Hanukkah to the historical events that happened when the Syrian-Greek emperor Antiochus Epiphanes.  He decided to annihilate the Jews in 167 B.C. We always focus on the Maccabean revolt and fight. True.

But, to begin with, it is important to underscore the frightful passivity of the Jews in times when pleasures, leisures and la-la land ways of living were more agreeable with some Greek tact than to make one's existence a sacrifice for the traditional realm of the Mitzvot-מצות/ Commandments.

This is a constant test for the Jews. We easily  can trap ourselves in some pleasuring places and habits. The same as for Exodus from Egypt: once free in the desert, the ancestors regretted “the onions of Egypt”! – not some latkes or sufganyot for which one can get nuts and lose full dough.

In that particular case, they were ready to lose their souls and brains. They wanted to go back to the place where they could get but their usual food + slavery = wonderland.We are quite the same right now! The problem is that we are the world and Faith has spread all over the planet. "Exodus" would imply to get out from where we already went out but it is far more difficult to figure out. When peoples have been saved and released several times and convinced themselves and the others that the yare more free than anywhere else, it is not time to flee to March or the Moon or any other star to find some "Little Prince" and a new society to convince. We sit "put" in our prejudices and still want to be redeemed.

Some areas are so spoiled at the moment that they just cannot see that they are in the same situation as when decadence and sliding down morals were collapsing. On the one hand everything is cheap and still it costs huge amounts of money.

With regards to the Greek culture that had spread throughout ancient world, the prestige of the language, culture, refined lifestyles, ancient Greek salads or so as we do love them, the music that spaces us out, all these habits developed into slowdowns toward the observance of the Jewish traditions and Temples services.

At least, Greek culture focuses on beauty, absence of scars, hedonistic and philosophical positions. The Jews got re-operated – rejecting Judaism and the sign of circumcision – in order to participate, for example, in the Olympic games.

Is it so remote from our way of living? We live in a Jewish State. A blessing - good enough! If we can really and freely accept the yoke of the mitzvot/Divine Commandments. It may happen that we behave as part-time new pagan peoples that arrived in Israel from all the parts of the world.

We would not wear one kippah or woman head cover at home (abroad) and suddenly would get three on the top. At some bus stations very pious young boys and girls are disguised like Halloween pumpkins avatars till they get into the bus, put on the yarmulke (skull caps), change their look into more modest dress.
A real jew has to comply with constraints that are not easy to observe and require in-depth education and training. Thus, the Maccabees acted as true fighters, but in a way that is rather similar to the despotism imposed by the then hated Greeks.

The problem was that the Syrian-Greek emperor decided to destroy the Jewish way of living by imposing a ban on three major "Mitzvot/מצות" / Commandments of the Torah: a) To cancel the sanctifying of the New Month (Rosh chodesh\ראש חודש); b) To abolish the Brit-Milah\ברית מילה (circumcision) the sign of the Covenant with Abraham; and c) To suppress the celebration of the Shabbat\שבת, the day on which the Jewish Community recognizes that God is the Creator of the Universe and that He gave His Law (Torah\תורה) in order to comply with His Will.

The High Priest Matityahu ben Yohanan, from the town of Modi'in decided to fight Antiochus in order to preserve the values. Was it a “national - nationalistic” movement? Is it possible to speak of "ethnic/ethnicity the way it is rather trendy, in particular in the New World Eastern Orthodoxy Churches?

The actions conducted by the High Priest and his family mainly preserved a conscience of God's Presence and reality, His morals and Words.   They evicted the oppressors after three years of harsh struggle but the victory was mainly a spiritual miracle.  They took over the Temple of Jerusalem. Thus they had to purify and to re-dedicate it.  They found a single cruse of olive oil and could light the lamps of the menorah (candelabra, a "lamp" in Hebrew), which burnt for eight days in a row.

The miracle of the light showed at that time the importance of spiritual struggle and resistance, which are still very much an up-to-date challenge.  We might often give up our religious forces and abandon the commandments of God.

A community of faithful can be destroyed by using two different methods. This does not only concern the Jewish Community but also the Christians:

a) Physical annihilation as the Jews were exterminated during World War II at the time of the Shoah-שואה/ Churban\חורבן (reduction to nothing) (catastrophe) and previously mentioned in the Bible in the small scroll of Esther.  This is the Feast of Purim.

b) Cultural annihilation, which is often very subtle and not very clearly determined. The purifying of the Temple by the Hasmoneans shows this particular kind of spiritual behavior giving to God the right and first place.  In the Christian world this is very similar to the spiritual resistance of the saints and martyrs throughout history, especially over the 20th century.

The first step of the struggle conducted by the Maccabees ended on 25 Kislev and this is one of the explanations given for the name of the Feast:  Hanukkah,  i.e. "HaNUKH\הנוח" = "they rested [on the KH = 25\כ''ה]".

In fact the word is mentioned in the Second Book of the Maccabees since Hanukkah is "dedication, inauguration" (Talmud Tractate Shabbat 21b). This tiny lamp of oil was found unexpectedly. Would it be possible to compared this to the song we sing during Pessach: “Dayeinu\דינו” :”If God had only done such and such a miracle… that would have sufficed”?

Indeed, we are not strong in confessing (our) faith. At times, we might understand that what is imperiled, in ourselves as in our society, is precisely God’s Presence and steadfastness. It did suffice for God’s witnesses that one single oil lamp was ready to burn. They  rededicated the Temple.

In this respect, Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount are interesting: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses it taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is not longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:13-17).  

Av aleksandr (Winogradsky Frenkel)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

When Stomachs Are Full Or Empty: The Shame Of Holodomor

When Stomachs Are Full Or Empty: The Shame Of Holodomor

The national emblematic animal we have in Israel is undoubtedly the cow, the nourishing milky Israeli cow. One of the most conflicting issues we face today is "food" and how to eat properly, decently, with measure in order to avoid growing fat or “phat” and distort the image of human forms.

The "few extra pounds" can dramatically change into full overweight that endangers life and flexibility, even at the mental level. This is known, for example, that the Samoan people in the Pacific Ocean islands were put on a strict diet. North Americans have also their reputation connecting hours of television with junk food. Hebrew slang "jank/ז'אנק" corresponds to fat, unhealthy food basically due to laziness and absence of body motion.

Look at the children at 2 pm. in the Old City; small Arabs boys and girls, teens swallow over-sugar junk, always the same candies. The kids grow fat very quickly. Same hour, another day in a city bus, Jewish pupils and elder people "nosh" huge munchies, full of oil, French fries or choco-something with strudels and various cakes. Oily King and Queen Size pizzas...

In restaurants, the tables are still full of half-crunched plates. They will be thrown to the trash because the Law is very strict - at least it is health-centered! But what a waste of food and quite often of very expensive dishes. At the same time, all kinds of wonderful volunteering associations distribute more and more food to impoverished families that are more and more in dire indigence. I know families whose kids go every night to bed with only two yoghurts or so. This is in Jerusalem and other cities of the country.

In Europe, privation and poverty lead the association and benefactors to create Winter "food providing centers and points" and hunger is a major concern everywhere, also affecting so-called "wealthy" states as the United States...

It is a must and a real mitzvah to share meals, ot only to invite to banquets. Isaiah said that people could come and eat freely = gratis; it is not that clear in English. Matthew 10:8 repeats the basic rule "You received freely, give freely".

Food and distribution of food to everybody has always been a major concern in the Jewish tradition. Middle-Easterners have suffered from hunger and famine throughout history. This is why the "Birkat HaMazon/ברכת המזון - Blessing (after) of Meal(s)" is a positive commandment that cannot be swallowed up speedily. "Eretz chemdah\ארץ חמדה - a nice (because nurturing) earth" whose fruit and plants are excellent.
As mentioned in the prayer's psalm: "yachlu anavim | veyisba'u\יאכלו ענוים- וישבעו - let the lowly eat | and be satisfied" (Psalm 22:27), food does not only aim to nurture or feed, but also to satisfy and rejoice the belly, i.e. individuals and collectivities. Food is a challenging question for survival. In the TaNaCH, "hunger/r"av = רעב-ה" is a significant plague that attacks a region on regular basis.

The Middle-East region has always been endangered by the conquest of desert and wilderness over nature and fields. The soil can become emptied or dried out and crops disappear. Hebrew makes no distinction between "hunger" and "famine" which is a rather high-level wide-spread epidemic catastrophe. "Ra'av\רעב" means people are hungry or affected by a famine. Talmud Bava Bathra 8b states that "famine is a severer affliction than war". Chapter 5:8 of the "Pirkey Avot\פרקי אבות - Sayings of the Fathers" insists on the fact that the "sacrificial meat never became putrid” and that God always provided with space and abundance.
There is an insightful but so obvious statement in Sukka 52b: "a small organ is in man (stomach), when you starve it is is satisfied; when you satisfy it, it is hungry". “Re’avon\רעבון” also means “hunger, famine” as in Kohelet Rabba V:10: “Did the Lord give the manna as food of famine in scantiness?” whereas “ra’avtan\רעבתון” is a voracious eater, a glutton and a greedy person that eats on his own, i.e. that he does not restrict his appetite for drink (Talmud Bava Betsia 25b).

In the Bible, famine and hunger alternate with periods of abundance appeared from Genesis and the warning to Joseph who interpreted Pharaoh’s bovine dreams. Somehow, he finally anticipated the miracle of manna in the wilderness; famines are indeed worse than wars and gave a push to conquerors when Jerusalem was besieged during the time of the two destructions of the Temples. The Book of Lamentation/Eycha-איכה cries out a profound distress as mothers were eating theirs kids (Lamentation 3:20). A horrible question that makes “swallow” or frentically eat up, a sort of disease made of anxiety and lust for short-term satisfaction that sways up between overweight or anorexia for young girls and women.

Eating is also the banquet like the “se’udah hashlishit\סעודה השלישית – third Shabbat meal” when the tzadik shares the meat and delivers his teaching: word becomes a banquet or a festive “farbrengen\פארברענגען” (ingathering). The same as when Jesus asked his disciples to feed the crowd on the mount and they were reluctant considering the people could go and buy the food (Matthew 14:13, Luke 9:13). In the Eastern Orthodox Church, one similarly uses to blessing five loaves, grains, oil and wine as sharing “lechem\לחם – bread” that remains “lachma\לחמא-ה – meat, flesh” in Arabic and consists in distributing food to the full (cf. the plentiful measure of barley gathered by Ruth 3:15).

Harvesting is a feast everywhere and whatever religious beliefs. Thus, in fall 1621, the Mayflower pilgrims shared the bread with the native Indians who were having their Keepunumuk = harvest feast. Nice partaking of fowl, fish, wheat and corn as in so many parts of the world.  President Abraham Lincoln’s intuition of a national day for all the Americans to thank God for the homeland’s wealth was a bit prophetic but not realistic at that time. It became possible in 1863.

Interestingly, Thanksgiving Day – which as in Canada is a harvest feast –  was determined as the fourth Thursday of November by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1939, by the time of the Great Depression. The law came into force in 1943, during World War II. The day is a secular, national and international turkey festive harvest meal (earlier in October Canada because of the time for harvesting).
Curiously, the final date was defined during the hardships of the Great Depression in which lots of Americans lost their money, suddenly fell in need and meals were distributed all over an impoverished country. At this point, the Goldene Medine\גאלדענע מדינה (“Golden State” in Yiddish) still reckons a huge number of needy and people who do not have enough to eat.

In Israel, huge portions of fat oily pizzas or greasy big hamburgers (that originally were the usual meals for the poor Jews on board to America! Cf. P. Kriwaczek: Yiddish Civilisation, p.311). They settled among nations that always need to chew or absorb food. But he waste is unbelievable.

Turning back to the East and looking to the Ukraine, November 25th is the official Ukrainian national Day of remembrance for all the victims who died of “Holodomor/Голодомор – famine killings, using famine for mass murders”.

The famine was projected as a political way to hunger and thus kill the Ukrainian inhabitants of the Soviet Ukrainian Republic. The word, in Ukrainian comes from “moryty holodom\морити голодом – to let impose death through famine, hunger” as it happened in 1932-1933. Before the first World War, my family was exporting grains from the Ukraine to Europe and the Ukraine was known for “feeding Europe”.
After 1920, the Soviets favored the Ukrainians for a short while, then obliged by law to implement a process collectivization. In these wide regions of rich fields and harvesting where small family farms were normal and often rather big compared to Europe or in our region, collectivization suddenly introduced a system that stopped private properties. This allowed the emergence of less and less productivity.

The government of Moscow decided that a certain amount of grain supply should be delivered in 1932, but by the end of the year, it was clear that the target would not be reached. On January 15, 1933, more than 100.000 people were sentenced either to death or deportation. The government required to be given all the “harvest” and available grains, which drastically provoked the famine. It appears that, contrary to the other famines that afflicted the former Soviet Union from 1921 recurrently till 1947 etc., there has been a political decision to hunger the Ukrainian nation, in particular the peasants who had backed the independence movements in 1917 by the time of the Revolution.

The Soviet government never accepted to recognize this form of extermination of the Ukrainian people, mainly in the agricultural regions. It seems that some grains were provided, still in low quantity. On the other hand, the famine caused the death of ca. 3,2 million people, mostly Ukrainians, but also Russians, Jews, Poles, Volga German and Tatars.

The statistics are not clearly upgraded at the present. They show that these peoples were intentionally submitted to hunger in order to kill them. Nowadays, the Ukraine has defined this period as a “genocide”; other specialists speak of a “mass murder”. It is not possible here to explain all the elements that were interwoven in the backgrounds of the Ukrainian society at that time. Since the early days of this “holodomor/голодомор – famine mass murder” we have had here eyewitnesses who were multi-survivors as so many Jews lived in the Ukraine.

How peculiar that a lot of Jews first fled from the Ukraine to North America where the time of harvesting and getting the crops became a feast of “Thanksgiving”;or others arrived just recently to Israel. Faith often obliges to refrain from eating at certain periods of the year; but never to die of hunger.
Just the opposite: between feeling hungry and “malle\מלא – full, satisfied”, there is the need for wellness. Bread and soup do save.

Av Aleksandr (Winogradsky Frenkel)

Friday, November 9, 2012

NEW DAYS 1 - ימים חדשים א'

  • NEW DAYS 1 - ימים חדשים א'

«Недаром помнит вся Россия про день Бородина! Not in vain does All Russia remember the day of Borodino»
, a word to word translation that is so significant this year. All Russia celebrated with much emotion and sensitivity the great victory at Borodino when Napoleon was kicked out and speedily had to leave the Slavic Tzarist Empire of Holy Russia of the True Orthodox Faith, the "Third Rome" that could resist and face Europe.

The event was not considered with much emotion in the Western world. Some historians did recall it in Israel, but just because there are many Slavs in the new State of the Jews. Russia has a great sense of history on the long-term basis. "Wait and see" sounds European, "Patience and tolerance/wisdom" was pretty much Albert Einstein when he made the statement in 1938 about the creation of a Hebrew State. Doubts and hesitations. "Geduld und Weisheit" in German. Archbishop Aristarchos' constant motto to me in our discussions over the past fifteen years at the Greek/Rum-Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. We speak German and he might some day even get to some Yiddish. At least, I spoke a few words in Yiddish with Pope Benedict XVI when he visited us. At hte moment, the archbishop is getting to Russian.

In a very short paragraph, numerous identities and backgrounds are mentioned on a world that changes; no way to stop the move. An elderly pope, a very kind archbishop that is the pnevmatikos/duchovnik - spiritual guide and the hierarch who has the official blessing to hear the confession and release the members of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, eventually in many tongues. In 2001, he became the General Secretary of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. For years he had read the Gospel in Hebrew on Easter Sunday. He did understand and accept me to take his place. As other clergy of the Patriarchate, he had studied Hebrew at the University of Jerusalem. There is a small group of Greek hierarchs who still meet and speak Hebrew, which makes a difference. They are likely to open up to the "new State and human reality of the Israeli society".

Indeed, Metropolitan Christodoulos (the Dragoman - in charge of the respect of the rules of the Patriarchate) and Archbishop Aristarchos studied at the University of Jerusalem, just the way the Melkite Hierarch Elias Chacour did. New generation and new prospects. The Greek clergy was not born in the country: they arrived in Jordan. They are "headquartering"  today under the Israeli law, i.e. an administration that brought the Jews to exercise the control over the holiest places of Christianity in Jerusalem. The Christians were used to the Ottoman administration, the British, the Jordanians. They had never thought of any Hebrews.

The Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem - as all Christian denominations - still depend on the Jordanian King in Jordan and would never dare dispute the right of the Hashemite dynasty, son of King Hussein who was saved by the Greek Orthodox monks on the Temple Mount when his father King Abdullah was murdered on July 21, 1951. The King of Jordan is a Muslim; on the hall of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem there is a photograph of King Hussein as also a copy of the Achtiname, the Decree signed in 637 A.D. given by Caliph Omar Ibn al Omar to Patriarch Sophronios, the then-representative of all the Christians that lived in Jerusalem. The nascent Islamic rule accepted to spare the Christians and the Jews and the law is still meaningful and in force at the present.

Archbishop Aristarchos was appointed as Secretary General of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem by the now deposed Monk and former Patriarch Irenaios of Jerusalem who was elected in 2001. He replaced Metropolitan Timotheos of Vostra who had been in charge of the Secretary General of Jerusalem over 20 years and was assigned to the office by late Patriach Diodoros who elected in 1981 by the Holy Synod of Jerusalem. He passed away on December 20, 2000. Metropolitan Kornelios was then chosen as locum tenens (managing patriarch) until the election of Patriarch Irenaios. Metropolitan Timotheos was the second candidate to challenge Metropolitan Irenaios in the "race" to take the place of Patriarch Diodoros.

Metropolitan Timotheos of Vostra - as other members of the Greek Orthodox members of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher - had spent many years in the former Soviet Union. he studied at the Theological Academy of Leningrad and became a spiritual son of late Metropolitan Nikodim who incidentally died in the arms of late Pope John Paul I of Rome.

Metropolitan Irenaios - who had spent many years as  the Exarch-Representative of the Holy Sepulcher in Athens - was chosen to the See of Jerusalem and intended to change different things. This was quite difficult for diffierent internal and external reasons. The Israeli government did not recognize him till late 2004. In between, huge internal re-structuring was considered to be conveyed and Archbishop Aristarchos had the task to pave the way to renew the Patriarchate in his quality of Secretary General.

In 2005, Archbishop Aristarchos appealed to many members of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. They decided to require the remoting of the then-acting Patriarch Irenaios. On May 24, 2005, a special pan-Orthodox Synod convened under the authority of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios of Constantinople and confirmed the deposition, calling to the election of a new patriarch of Jerusalem.

Archimandrite Theophilos was firstly assigned as the archdeacon of Patriarch Benediktos of Jerusalem who still has a great prestige in the Church. The great hierarch had allowed the encounter of Pope Paul VI with Patriarch Athenagoras in 1964 in Jerusalem. and was consacrated to episcopacy by Patriarch Irenaios in February 2005. The new archbishop of Tabor and the Holy Sepulcher (a new position that did not exist previously) studied in Athens, at the University of Jerusalem and also - this should be noted - at Durham, the Anglican place that is the See of the newly elected Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt. Rev. Justin Welby.

It meant that, in accordance with a general ruling that had been in power for centuries, the head of the traditional local Church of Jerusalem is a Greek. This can lead to numerous interrogations and troubles, denials, rejections or whatsoever. This has been and still will be for long a heritage that tracks back to more than any tradition. the price is quite special for the Church as a whole, the Body of Christ "in totality". It is a requirement to fight phyletism and the members of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem are indeed aware of the fact. This is another question whether to know how to open up the local Church to the reality of "universality". The Church of Jerusalem has discovered and must face the fundamentals of a full "holy, Catholic and orthodox and apostolic" substantial "embodiement of the fulfillment of all promises in the resurrected Lord. The Greek are astoundedly more "neutral" in the present context", avoid all sorts of local nationalism bording on true "phyletism" and they trace back to Byzantinism as it has been from old in the Middle-East. Greek culture is also connecting the local Christians to the "wide world", the close-by Greek society and the language created most European languages and some Semitic tongues (Talmudic Aramaic).

One thing needs to be said and this is not correctly understood by many commentators. The Patriarchate of Moscow is head managed by senior Church members who have a long experience of terrible troubles, persecutions. The Russian Church has also to show that it is reviving, strong-minded and quite powerful. This will be confirmed or denied in the coming decades. At the moment, the Russian orthodox Church could gather together all the different tendencies that exist in the Russian Church, avoiding real and significant split.

With regards to Jerusalem, all things being considered, the traditional position of the Patriarchate of Moscow is to respect and thus comply with the decisions taken by official Orthodox synods. This is why Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem and the leaders of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem would hardly be denied and there would be no "coup" to remove the "governing team". On the other hand, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem will have to recognize that the Church came to a turn some twenty years ago with the "perestroika/перестройка". it means that in the course of the forthcoming decades, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem will have to evolve whereas to become some "international place of delegation and representation" for all the Orthodox of the world. This will take time and the Rum Orthodox (Roman Orthodox) move is on the way. it maybe not so evident for the faithful and the different nations of the world.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow wisely declared upon his arrival at Ben Gurion that some fifty years ago only 2 (two) people could visit the Holy Land and come to Jerusalem. The Soviet Union management never cancelled the relationships between the two patriarchates. The Patriarchate of Jerusalem has a metochion in Moscow. Archimandrite Theophilos spent two years as the Exarch of the Holy Sepulcher there. Archbishop Theophilaktos of Bethlehem studied in Moscow and remained the exarch of the Holy Sepulcher (Patriarchate of Jerusalem) till he was called back to Jerusalem after the election of Irenaios...

The arrival of Soviet newcomers buzzed with excitation all the local Churches in the Holy Land. They did not migrated to the Holy Land. They came back to Israel as having a birthright following the "Law of Return" that allowed Jews and their non-Jewish family - if any - to return to Zion and Jerusalem.

There are no "Russians or Ukrainians or Latvians or.." in the State of Israel. Indeed, they came from the Slavic cultural area. As President Shimon Peres declared at Moscow, the whole of Israel as a modern state has profoundly been shaped upon the arrival of immgrants from the Eastern Europe, Tzarist Empire, Bolshevik Revolution and Soviet Union of different republics under Russian influence. In Israel, they are "Israelis". This is new and rarely perceived adequately.

The State of Israel questions the Churches. It does interrogate the Patriarchate of Moscow on the mood this reviving structure can accept and recognize to the full the existence of the Hebrew society that is definitely relevant.

The State of Israel will never hinder the Christians to visiting the Holy Land sites. Indeed, there is a change: decades ago, the people in charge of the religious affairs were far more educated about Christianity in Israel. On the other hand, the Hebrew State has a lot of specialists, university researchers, ordinary people that are interested in the parallel develop of Christianity and Judaism on this soil of Canaan that was given to the full to Abraham and his descents as a promise of benediction beyond generations, all through the ages.

It maybe significant that Patriarch Kirill landed at Lydda-Lod on the eve of Shabbat Chaye Sarah/שבת חי שרה (Genesis 23: 1 - 25: 18), how Abraham could manage to get a pice of land to bury his wife Sarah. "Not a iota, not a "tag" of the Law/Torah will pass that all will be accomplished" (Matthew 5:18).

Archpriest Alexander A. Winogradsky Frenkel

Thursday, November 1, 2012

In 312 A.D. - 1700 Years Ago

In 312 A.D. – 1700 Years Ago

October 28th, 2012. On the same day, the Jews celebrate this year the passing away of Rachel Immenu/רחל אמנו or "Rachel, our Matriarch", the beloved wife of Jakob-Israel. She died on Heshvan 11, 1553 years before C.E., i.e. 3.565 years ago according to the Jewish traditional comput. On the same day, the Jews also commemorate the death of Mathuselah that tracks back to 3.668 years ago, again after the Hebrew "calendar".

In both cases, Judaism turns on this peculiar day to the most ancient and venerable ancestors. They seem to be "virtual". Many would think they are symbolic or include the lives of different individuals that have lived along sequential followings of generations. Each personality is meaningful and modern Jews, as well as all the monotheists, can trace back till the remote times of the human call to faith and trsut in the Divine Presence, the One Most High Lord.

It maybe a sign that in this year the Muslims come today to the festive night of the Aid-al-Adha, the Sacrifice of the Lamb.

This implies that all mankind is significantly drawn into spiritual search and much powerful dates that mark history. There is a real desire or nostalgia that days are not passing away like dried bones or leaves. On the contrary, our years and ages are supposed to lead us to pertinence, coherence. They challenge the "mish-mash or tohu wabohu" by overcoming any presupposed idea our being out of "nowhere and no hope".
On the other hand, historic memory can be very short-sighted. In the Sixties, surely as a consequence of the various dramas that affected Europe, the Catholic Church called the Second Council of the Vatican to gather in at Rome. The Second World War and the Iron Curtain that had fenced Europe and the world appealed to open up the barriers of stiff traditions and frames. By that time, the Orthodox Churches could not participate at the same level and with the same decisional right of some noticeable equilibrium.

Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople and Pope Paul VI could meet in 1964 in Jerusalem with the assistance of Patriarch Benediktos of Jerusalem. The lifting of the anathema that took place there could pave the way to conclude the Council of Vatican II. At the present, things have changed because most of the Eastern Orthodox Churches were not free to ascertain any official positions on the different matters discussed at the planetarian and universal level of the "Ecclesia Universa".

The Council of Vatican II could further convince the Roman Catholic Church that it is the first and sole "decider" in terms of Church regulation. It should be repeated that the article taken in Lumen Gentium 48 that "the Body of Christ is larger that the Catholic Church" is a part of the liturgical statement that the Church is wide, great, large, profound and broad (St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians 3:18).

The Roman Canon Missæ summarizes this in a magnificent phrasing during the Eucharistic anaphora: "pacificare, custodire, adunare et regere digneris toto orbe terrarum: una cum famulo Papa nostro N. et Antistite nostro N. et omnibus orthodoxis, atque catholicae et apostolicae fidei cultoribus/ to pacify, safeguard, unite and reign over all the earth; with our Pope N. and our Bishop N. and all those who practice the Orthodox and Catholic and Apostolic faith (put into practice the faith that is "upright, authentic, glorious" as also "open to the totality/ kath'olon" and the moving forward and bringing the good news of the Kingdom).

At the present, these definitions are distorted and split among several jurisdictions, obediences and Churches. They are embattled in showing their good right and true heritage.

A major event took place on October 28th, 312. We do move on and "survive" on this intuition that overcame Emperor Constantine who ruled over the Roman Empire. On this day, he had a special vision at the Milvian Bridge that a sign, described as the Chrisma or sign of the Cross of Jesus of Nazareth, would ensure his victory or rather lead him to conquer... freedom and tolerance in the name of the everlasting Light of Christ.

It took a long time before Emperor Constantine truly accepted Christianity to the full. He supposedly was readily a "closet" believer when he left Gaul. Born in Serbia, his father had died in York. His mother, Saint Helena, was a very strong-minded and convinced Christian "matriarch" who eagerly sought the history of the faith and wanted to fix the bases of True Faith in its authentic context.

She led Constantine to dedicate a large part of his life and thurst for conquest to ascertainingthe basis of the nascent Christian religion. It was evident, at that time, to be prfoundly "European and internationally minded".
Other people have accounted that Constantine had a vision at Noon just before the battle at the Mulvian Bridge had begun. Eusebius wrote that Constantine told him personally about his vision in the sky: "Hoc signo vinces/ In this (sign), you will conquer, win, be victorious". The Greek phrase is more coherent as "  εν τούτῳ νίκα " should have been accompanied by the specific sign of the Chrisma or (chi) and (rho)  ☧, i.e. the two letters that are part of the Greek name of "Christ = Χριστός".

Constantine spent most of his life as an "unclear believer". By the time of the battle, he got persuaded that the Sun who was venerated by the pagans had turned to be true in the Son of Man, the Messiah Jesus Christ proclaimed by the Early Church. For three centuries, the believers had to suffer mockery and persecution. Constantine had no tactical reason to accept the Christian faith: the elite, hierarchy, managers of the Roman Empire were mostly pagans.

Indeed, Christianity brought new features, unknown to those who worshipped idols and false gods. For example, it was quite difficult for a woman to get a proper answer from a goddess like Aphrodite. The deity was supposed to give pre-determined responses. When women started to address Mary, the Mother of Jesus, it substantially changed the relationship of the individuals and the community to a person that linked life, death and resurrection, silence, confidence and everlasting life, i.e. atonement.

Over the past 1700 years, the history of the Church showed a rich and apparently expanding competence to conquer, settle and, quite often, submit numerous nations. To begin with, Christianity as we share it at the present was born from the Battle at Milvian Bridge. It appears like a sort of "encounter beyond time and space, diachronic and synchronic layers" that the Church commemorates on October 28/15, 2012.

The event is not much present to Church agenda. Most Churches are involved in open or silent, underground conflicts of interests. This deals with the new order of modern societies after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire ("finalized" in 1922), the end of World War II (1945-7) and the emergence of new States in the Mashrek and the Maghreb, with the new  official State of Israel. The fall of the Communist regime in many countries of Eastern Europe and thus the split of the Union of the Socialist Soviet Republics allowed the Eastern rite Churches to rise up anew. Each Church and all the Church jurisdictions try to re-define their policy, territory and authority.

Most councils did work at some "ecumenical" level that can be denied by one or more jurisdictions, in particular by some local Orthodox Churches (Patriarchate of Moscow and most Orthodox patriarchates and recognized autocephalous Orthodox Churches mentioned in the diptychs). Today, different conferences and encounters celebrate the decisions taken, inter alia, during the Second Council of the Vatican (1965). By the same time, other international meetings continue to envision the possibility of a pan-Orthodox Council.
Objectively speaking, things are somehow special. Ecumenical councils went broken down from the time of the first Ecumenical Council at Ephesus (325) when the Assyrians/Nestorians left the Common Church. Still, a real ecumenical council should track back to 787 AD. and reconnect with the Eastern Orthodox Churches that emerged from the catacombs after the fall of the Communist power, thus only 20 years ago.

A real Ecumenical Council would pre-suppose that all Churches being totally equal and considered as at the same level of authority and rules of Canon Laws could gather together and revive, revise and bounce the dynamic forces of the living Body of the One Who is proclaimed as the Son of Man.

This is not the case at the moment. We are indeed in a time of "identification" of al the Churches.
The vision that enlightened Constantine at the Battle of the Mulvian Bridge had other acumens, insightful intuitions and perceptions. They progressively became more chromatic, not symphonic, but quite segmented. Some scholars would consider that the Christian world is totally split. We have this view in Jerusalem. Heretics remain heretics and feuds; many New World believers may arrive at Jerusalem and pretend that one father and his father have opened a new Church duly recognized by the legal system of their local State and admitted within the Union.

We would this call a "balagan-disorder", maybe the bipolar social schizophrenia linked to constant will of power, might and managing of the souls with the pretence to release them from all constraints and possible yokes?

Years ago, I was invited to participate in the "revision of the first Jerusalem Synod-Council" decision that took place in Jerusalem in 49-52 AD. The event aimed at gathering Catholics and Messianic Jews and at "re-considering the balance" between Jews and Gentiles" whereas to repair the progressive rejection of the Jews from the Holy, Orthodox and Catholic and Apostolic Church. How is it possible for an official Catholic entity to dare suggest that the Messianics should join the Church in totality? How comes that being gathered all together, the faithful could make a repair and claim that there are "true Jews" among them and, subsequently, they could rebuild and heal the tragic ecclesiastical mishaps?

It was so amazing to see "Gentile faithful" bowing in some praying extasy before the Jewish (or so, not that clear) members of the group!? Psychedylic?! They were dear friends. There were among them very talented and respectful theologians.

But how can they even come to the idea that no Church would ever accept that OK. let's track back to the first beginnings and make the whole scene anew...! It is sad if not pathetic. Pathetic because we are not the masters of history. We can only manage not capture what we inherit from old, especially with regards to what concerns love, hate, wrongdoings, total confusion of sentiments and long-distance relationships. We are not allowed to play with this.

This is why the victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 should allow to considering the long journey that we have gone through the illusions of centuries. Over the ages, Christianity has spread and it continues to sway over the world. It appears and disappears. it means that the Church moves ahead of history with the Words of an everlasting call. It glimpses, goes back and forth. In 312, i.e. only 1700 years ago it called the heathens/pagans to act with tolerance toward Faith.

1700 years have passed, nearly two mellenia, two thousand years. This paves the way to more diversity. Faith does not depends on us only, it also depends on how God looks at us. This, we can't know. it only belongs to Him and how He wants to entrust us and the future generations.

Av Aleksandr (Winogradsky Frenkel)

November 1, 1944: The Repose Of Metropolitan Andrew Sheptytsky

November 1, 1944: the repose of Metropolitan Andrew Sheptytsky

Each year, I am glad to write something on late Meztropolitan Andrii Sheptytsky who died on November 1st, 1944 under the communist rule in Ukraine. 68 years have passed. His personality will definitely question the Church, Judaism, Israel, the Jewish authorities in charge of determine who acted with exceptional insights during World War II. At the present, the Ukrainian Churches are broken down into several contradictory positions and directions. Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Belarus and the territories that were under control of the Habsburg during the lifetime of Metropolitan Sheptytsky got through new - maybe not final - borders and incite to constant debates on the real space alloted to each nation or so-called State.

Kyr Andrii Sheptytsky was not a Ukrainian nationalist. He lived in a time when East and West rediscovered their long-age Christian traditions. He was well-aware of the deep connections that should be reinstored in his own episcopal territory of Ukriane and Transcarpathia, with incourses into present Hungary, Romania, Poland. His "serving authority" expanded till North and South america, Africa and Australia due to the first large foreign worker emigrations. The Ukrainians had to make their money abroad and often used to come back home or to settle in the diaspora.
Russia was also a part of his canonical territory before and during the Bolshevik Revolution. Things changed drastically after World War II, when all the clergy and lay people were submitted to harsh persecution and extermination. Twenty years ago, the collapse of the communist power created a new situation. Each jurisdiction felt free or "released" in the Slavic area. The Greek Catholics and the Orthodox Church(es) started to measure their influence and redeployment. They could not settle their own disagreements for the moment and this is evident. It will take some time.

The Ukrainian Church is tempted as it has often been throughout the ages. Ukraine is not really defined in stable borders. The whole country and State is more likely to be compared with a "kordon = a rope, frontier" that cannot be fixed and changed a lot in the course of historic turbulences.

The language is very close to Church Slavonic. It has not the prestige of Russian or Polish, is often denied or considered as a sign of strict nationalism. When I pray in Ukrainian along with Hebrew and Yiddish in Jerusalem and Israel, many faithful do not understand why I do so! But they do not think of the fact that we are in a rare situation in the Hebrew State: Jews and Ukrainians could arrive and build the country by working peacefully and legally in Israel while it was absolutely not the case in the Ukraine, from the ancient time of the Tzars, the Yiddishkayt, the civil war and Revolution, the communist rule and the Nazi occupation for a while and only in sqome specific areas in the West.

From 1958 till now, Metropolitan Andrii Sheptytsky has been viewed as through various chromatic kaleidoscope by the Poles, the Ukrainians, the Russians, the Germans, Hungarians, Romanians, Jews and Gyppies, the Byzantine Eastern rite clergy, the Latin clergy and the corresponding flocks.

When Kurt Lewin, the son of the late Rabbi of L'viv who was murdered as he had left the house of the Archbishop major, could hardly explain to the Ukrainian clergy that he met in Innsbrück and Canada what the real situation has been in the Ukraine and the unbelievable courage shown by Metropolitan Andrii. They were more linked to the Nazi fallen Reich. Moreover he was a Jew and his listeners were not that interested in the Patriarch of L'viv saving lives of Jews and non-Jews for the sake of Christian and human rights and decency.

The recent developments of Church relationships and difficulties in trying to resolve the numerous Church entities and multi-faceted "Eastern Orthodox and Eastern rite" bodies could lead to scan history as it appeared in the 20th century by the time of short independence of Ukraine after World War I. One of the elements that could allow a wide prospect of the situation and to compare with present-day evolution is to be found in the English version translated by Fr. Serge Keleher (+ in 2011) of the book written in French by Fr. Cyrille Korolevsky, a great friend and collaborator of Metropolitan Andrii Sheptytsky, Metropolitan of L'viv (L'vov, Lwów, Lemberg, Leopol). The procurator in charge of collecting all the documents is still Mgr. Michael Hrynchynshyn, a Canadian Saskatoon-born Ukrainian bishop who was called to work on this exceptional hierarch in 1958, when the trial of canonization started. Kyr Michael Hrynchynshyn is now retiring from his office in Western Europe, but will definitely continue his service for the recognition of Metropolitan Andrii with much dedication and eager.

I wrote manyoecuménisme, Christianisme oriental, Judaïsme, Ukraine, Orthodoxie notes and articles to Metropolitan Andrii Sheptytsky. Born on 1865/07/29 in Prybylchi (Poland-Ukraine) he died on 1944/11/1 in L'viv. It is again and again possible to mention Prof. Gutman's (former Yad VaShem responsible) that this man of faith was beyond all standards and norms. He spent his life facing permanent aggression from many sides and still acted with wisdom and insights for the good of the Greek Catholic Church of Ukraine, in the mainland and abroad.
He allowed Metropolitan Evlogyi and Archbishop Vladimir appointed by Late St. Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow to reach France and thus to develop the Eastern Orthodox Russian presence in the West.
He is also without contest an exceptional and outstanding personality in the way he worked to help the comprehension of the Jewish identity and culture. In 1916, he organized a great pilgrimage to the Holy Land and there read and spoke Hebrew fluently. In his diocese/eparchy he could spontaneously met in Yiddish and Hebrew with the Jewish communities. We know at the present that he vehemently protested against the deportation and extermination of the Jews to Hitler and Himmler by sending telexes. His famous "Nie Ubyi/Не убий - Thou shalt not kill" pastoral letter sent to all the churches and priests under his responsibility remains a unique act of courage ever shown to that extent by a member of the Christian clergy and high hierarchy. Kurt Lewin ("A Journey Through Illusion" the book has been recently translated into Ukrainian) described how Metropolitan Andrii Sheptytsky directly saved numerous Jews and children by hiding then and protecting them.

Metropolitan Andrii was paralyzed and spent his time in a wheelchair during the last 15 years of his life, he could manage to control the Ukrainian Church in times of unbelievable turbulence, assisted by his brother, Fr. Klement, and a wide network of connections that still kept him isolated during the Communist regime and the second World War.

The Poles accused him of having left the Roman Rite in order to restore the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. He has been in contact with most of the contemporary thinkers (Metropolitan Evlogyi, Vladimir Soloviov) and helped create places of encounter between the Eastern and Western Churches, thus paving the way for a renewed dialogue, such as the Monastery at Chevetogne.

He has been considered as an "overall suspect": twice, he was obliged to manage the invasion of the German army that took control of the Ukraine (Western area) and then to combat the Nazis. He had to face the civil war in the Ukraine, the Bolshevik Revolution, the rise and power of the communists, twice and in different circumstances. Stalin did not dare (and this is also unique) touch the Greek Catholic clergy and waited till the 40th day of mourning was over to seize and deport the clergy.

He has been accused of treason and collaboration with the French and/or the Germans (World War I), the Nazis (World War II), the communists (in between and till his death). Strangely enough - though it is a typical habit, the archives that best depict his actions were to be found in the communist Soviet offices of the KGB.
I often mention his "trudy/труди - works" and would read his sermons or pastoral letters in Ukrainian in my church and on different occasions. This is a very simple matter: undoubtedly, Metropolitan Andrii Sheptytsky's attitudes and personality go far beyond the Ukrainian Church.

It would be a terrible mistake, that sadly often shows at the moment to make an icon of Metropolitan Andrii's dedication and venerate him as a Ukrainian nationalist. On the other hand, he was definitely aware - with the words, style and ideas of his time - that the Church that developed from Kiev and expanded in the Ukraine and the widespread Slavic areas has a specific universal role to play in the symphony of the Body of the Resurrected Lord.

This is not the way people would consider his path at the present. It is suspicious because his personality overgoes all the standards of the clergy hierarchy, in particular in such a troublesome region as Ukraine and the surrounding countries and cultures. He showed an exception character that was not to be found among the Christian clergy during the time of the Catastrophe. Conflicts are easier to mention than unity as he tried to achieve some of his goals in times of incredible hardships.

In Israel, Metropolitan Andrii's actions and thoughts should be a model of reflection upon the situation of Israeli society. Social and inter-cultural, ethnic, spiritual and political problems show intriguing parallels with our building of a new and unexpected human reality. Our society matches and gathers together Jews, Arabs and other ethnic groups, beyond and often against their own will or acceptance.

In many ways, Metropolitan Sheptytsky deals with something that is really close to our turmoil or contemporary "pangs of birth". He answered to hatred by love and strongly called to ethics and moral dynamics with faith.

I definitely do not intend to present the following excerpts of the above mentioned book by some political or religious a-priori's. I would not give an opinion about the troublesome religious situation in the Ukraine in the present. It would by just full of pretence and would restrict and fence the possibility that such a personality allows to open up as he did envision new prospects. Moreover, in the present context, this portion of the text is never referred to and is ignored. It shows that history in the region comes up and up again, with a constant mixture of call to opacity and blindness. As Raphael Lempkin stated with much insight and defined after World War II, the Slavic regions have no real in-depth experience of any legal structure. Therefore, until now, all the nations that live among the concerned people are systematically "slaughtered down" by the absence of real justice. Even Christian "righteousness" is deprived form the local cultural awareness and denied.

It is also worth noting how Metropolitan Andrii finally used to take decisions and keep on the line that underscores the spiritual benefits of the faithful, an aspect rarely expressed by the media nowadays.
Andrew proposed as Ukrainian Patriarch
"Among the many questions demanding the attention of the Ukrainian government (headed by Paul Skoropadsky in 1918-1919) the ecclesiastical organization for the country. What Catholic organization was left in Tsarist Ukraine was all Roman, except for the small Greek-Catholic group which was just beginning to organize at Kiev. Only later, under Petliura's government, was Ukraine represented at the Holy See, first by Count Michael Tyszkiewicz, the scion of an old Ukrainian family which had been Romanised like so many others, and then when the Count was sent to Paris as head of the Ukrainian delegation at the peace conference, by Father François-Xavier Bonne, a Belgian Redemptorist who was serving as a Greek-Catholic so as to help the Ukrainian immigrants in Canada. Father Bonne had come to Galicia and in Count Bobrinskoy's time was named eclesiastical administrator of the district of Ternopil - since he was a Belgian citizen, Bobrinskoy did not dare to expel him. For the moment, Skoropadsky was only concerned for the Orthodox Church.

There of the Russian Church, at the moment when the Bolsheviks were taking power in Moscow. were two parties. Those favourable to a future accord with Russia would wish an arrangement with Patriarch Tikhon (Beliavin) of Moscow, elected on 28 October (O.S.) 1917 by the National Council of the Russian Church, at a moment when the Bolsheviks were taking power in Moscow. In Kiev, this party recognized Metropiltan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), former Archbishop of Volyn, who had been one of the most active propagandists for Orthodoxy in Galicia; he was confirmed as Metropolitan of Kiev by Patriarch Tikhon. Those who demanded complete independence for Ukraine also had to demand ecclesiastical independence with a Ukrainian chief hierarch, according to the customs of the Orthodox Church. As the two groups did not come to any understanding, a council was called for 21 JUne 1918. The autocephalist party dreamed of establishing a Patriarchate at Kiev, like the one in Moscow, although Kiev had nver had a Patriarchate - historically Kiev had been a dependency of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

An attentive observer will realize that the autocephalist party was moved purely by nationalist considerations and thought very little of dogma. This group actually ofered the patriarchal throne to the one who most represented the Ukrainian world in his own person, Metropolitan Andrew Sheptytsky - who was in communion with the Holy See of Rome. If this proposal would have been accomplished it would have had vast consequences, when one considers the significance of ecclesiastical communion according to the Orthodox understanding. Ecclesiastical communion depends uniquely on the head of the particular Church, whom the metropolitans and bishops solemnly commemorate during the services. If this chief hierarch is Catholic, his whole Church is Catholic in view of his communion with the Pope. Since the only point of doctrine which matters for the great majority of the people, and even for the lower clergy, is the recognition of the Papal primacy of honour and jurisdiction, the election of Metropolitan Andrew would have reunited Ukraine to the Catholic Church in one moment. Although this prospect was dubious, one can understand how seriously he took it. However he had to set clearly in a letter to Archduke Wilhelm, the son of Archduke Charles Stephan, the Austrian candidate for an eventual Ukrainian throne. The draft of this letter was later found when the Poles searched the Metropolitan's palace in L'viv; the Poles published it with a photographic facsimile of the beginning and the essential section, in an effort to prove the Metropolitan's political intrigues. No résumé could replace the actual text:

"L'viv, 13 June 1918
I have learned htat one party of the general Synod of the Ukrainian Church which is to assemble one the 21st of this month (the letter is dated) is thinking of offering me the dignity of Ukrainian Patriarch. This initiative is both an expression of opposition to the election of Anthony as Metropolitan of Kiev and a concrete affirmation of the autocephaly, Although the reactionaries are mortally opposed to autocephaly, it nevertheless is the wish of the Ukrainians. The Hetman (Paul Skoropadsky at that time) has declared that if the Synod does not come to a decision on the matter, he will have to grant the autocephaly himself. Should the first eventuality come to pass, I shall inform Your Imerial Highness of the matter andof my eventual position in the affair. I could only accept an absolutely free election by a large majority which would thus have canonical value according to the principles of the Eastern Church. It goes without saying that such an election would by its very fact mean an acceptance of the Church Union. For the moment, the powers which I have received from Pope Pius X are sufficient. Naturally, I should also ask the assent of His Majesty.
"At L'viv it is difficult for me to have more exact information. Since people know that I have been in favour of this idea for a long time, they urge me to prepare the election by some propaganda. In principle I would not want to do this, and anyway there is not enough time. If Your Imperial Highness knows or should learn anything on this matter, I would be most grateful to have the information..."

One mus read this letter with great attention. It shows that the Metropolitan was favourable to the idea of the autonomy of the Church in Ukraine, which is completely in accord with the principles of the Eastern Church and to the current practice of the Catholic Church, with the proper understanding of the term "autonomy". In the seventeenth century, there was a proposal to erect a Patriarchate at Kiev, and Propaganda considered the matter; I have found (says Fr. Cyrille Korolevsky) the proof in the archives and the copy I made was in the Metropolitan's hands. He read everything I sent him with the greatest attention. On principle, he did not wish to do anything for his personal advantage. He saw a means to joint the whole of Ukraine to the Catholic Church, provided that the election was done by a large majority, which would have assured stability. of jurisdiction of the Pope, who would have had to confirm this election. And in the Metropolitan's view, such an offer would mean, in practice, the acceptance of church union, that is the recognition of the primacy of the jurisdiction of the Pope, who would have had to confirm this election. No Catholic bishop in the Metropolitan's position could have acted more appropriately and more prudently.

As to Skoropadsky's conviction that he himself could grant the autocephaly, no one who knows Orthodox practice will be surprised, because for the Orthodox Church the supreme authority after Christ - Who is no longer on earth - is the Ecumenical Council, but such a Councilsince 787 (the Orthodox do not consider the council has not been held of 869 which condemned Photius ecumenical). The Romanian Patriarchate was founded on 4 February 1925 by the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church and received legal sanction from the Kingdom of Romania on 12 February of that year. Only afterwards was the assent of the Patriarchate of Constantinople requested - Constantinople did not refuse. It was the same for the Bulgarians, although in that case Constantinople took longer to concede. According to the principles of the Orthodox Church, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has a primacy of honour, but no primacy of jurisdiction.
But back to Kiev. The party opposed to a complete break with Russia gained the upper hand so the idea of autocephaly for the Church of Kiev was abandoned by the Council. Was the whole idea viable? Certainly not: Kyr Andrew (Sheptytsky) would have had the greatest difficulties to convince the bishops to accept the primacy of the Pope, let alone the other controverted dogmas, and there would eventually have been an internal schism."
The Polish-Russian armistice was signed on 11 October and ratified by the Polish Diet on the 23rd. The definite treaty was made on 18 March 1921".
Excerpts from: Cyril Korolevsky: Metropolitan Andrew (1865-1944), translated and revised by Serge Keleher, L'viv 1993, pp. 213-217). The original book by Fr. Cyrille Korolevsky - born Jean-François Charon at Caen (France). His account in French is difficult to read because of the many mistakes in French. He was a brilliant priest and had spent most of his life in th service of the Eastern Churches. His testimony gives a unique description of the multi-faceted and numerous problems that Metropolitan had to face during his long pastoral service of the Greek-Catholic Church in the Ukraine and abroad, in particular in North and South America. He was very capable and acute. His testimony is indeed essential at the present because his had envisioned the many developments that show up at the present in a very troublesome situation. Nonetheless, being a French by birth and having open-minded views and prospects on the Eastern Middle-Eastern and Slavic Churches, he describes the facts with much distance that a local specialist would hardly reach. His book "Métropolite André Szeptyckyj, 1865-1944 - was published in Rome in 1964 in "Працi Украïнського Богословського Наукового Товариства - Opera Theologicae Societatis Scientificae Ucrainorum - vol. XVI-XVII with a preface by Cardinal Eugène Tisserant, one of the greatest specialist of Eastern Churches.

Incidentally, it should be noted that Cardinal E. Tisserant, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Churches at Rome, pleaded the cause of the first Hebrew-praying four Roman Catholic priests who celebrated in the language in 1952; he had stressed that the Chaldean Oriental rite was the most adequate, but the Western origin of the concerned clergy drove it to full Latinization. N.B. "Hebrew in the Church of Jerusalem" has been in use by the blessing of a remarkable translation by Fr. Levinson of the Divine Liturgy by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow in 1852, i.e. before the restoration of the Patriarchate of Moscow.I use this text because of its official recognition, validity and real beauty.
It should be noted that the above mentioned quotation from a specific situation confronted by late Metropolitan Andrii Sheptytsky should correctly be understood. In his quotation and comments, Fr. Cyril Korolevsky draw the attention of the readers to very special points. These are very parallel to the situation that the Eastern Orthodox Church is embattled with at the present in Ukraine. The excerpts are followed by a clairvoyant description of the dangers that Ukraine can both generate and be obliged to affront from the part of the Poles, the Central European Powers and Russia. Interestingly "za kordonu = at the frontier, on the rope of the border that has always been difficult to determine". As if the "cord", also maybe mostly in a spiritual connection would imply the emergence of a lot of unexpected and "imperiling" factors. We should also keep in mind that the history of the Church of the Rus' of Kiev and then Moscow has been tragic over the centuries. It has been deeply assaulted by invaders coming from Asia (Mongols, Tatars) and from the West (Poland, Lithuania).

Nonetheless, Eastern Orthodox Churches of the Rus' have also been also influenced by the Westerners, both the Latins and the Protestants that introduced special habits that were not present in the Greek tradition (Holy Confession).

This text should be measured adequately. It shows one or two invariants and also refers to constant traditions of the Eastern Orthodox Churches that should normally be respected by the Oriental Churches united to Rome. A last remark that is very rarely mentioned. The Second Council of Vatican was adopted by the Roman Church and its Oriental components, provided that the Patriarchs heading the Oriental Churches would confirm and ratify the decision upon their return to their local ecclesiastical areas. This had not been done. They never convoked the concerned Synods for different reasons. Some Churches - like the Greek-Catholics/Melkites - claim to adopt the decisions of the Council with the provision that the Eastern Orthodox Churches would also join in such decisions, which can hardly be the case for the moment. It is evident that the Roman clergy and faithful are not directly concerned or aware of this pending situation.

The Act of Declaration of Independence of Ukraine (Акт проголошення незалежності України) was passed on August 24, 1991 by the Ukrainian Parliament and widely confirmed by the referendum dated December 1, 1991 (90% of the voters). This happened 18 years ago and the National Day will take place on forthcoming Monday 24th of August 2009.

With regard to the exceptional personality of Metropolitan Andrii Sheptytsky and the "above any sort of nationalism" position that he adopted, this text, as many others readily quoted in other notes and articles, brings some light on how to go ahead with God's assistance.

archpriest Aleksandr [Winogradsky Frenkel]
av aleksandr

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The children of Gregorios the Illuminator, the Armenians in Jerusalem

It really makes sense to live in Jerusalem or to serve there. it is always significant and full of signs, insights to reckon and count days and "glimpses" received the Most High.

Twenty-one years ago, the Armenian Soviet Union Republic became an independent country, apparently free from the Caucasian neighboring State (Azerbaidjan) and, mainly the Russian Federation. It was on October 21st, 1991. Ever since, the country had to face terrible economic hardships and mishaps. The Armenian Church is very old, once of the most ancient autonomous Churches. It allowed Armenia to become the first Christian State in the world in 301 AD when Saint Gregorios the Illuminator confirmed the faith that had initially been brought into the area by the Apostle Thaddaeus and Bartholomaeus
On upcoming October 28, 2012, the Roman Christian Churches (Both Orthodox and Catholic as present in the Roman Empire) will celebrate the 1700th anniversary of the victory at the Milvius Bridge. Emperor

 Constantine had the Oecuménisme, religion, Moyen-Orient, Orient chrétien, Israël, Jérusalem
vision that by the Sign of Christ, he would be victorious. It was in 312 AD. and the Edict of Milan that recognized Christendom with more tolerance than full acceptance was taken a year later at Nis (Serbia) in 313 AD.
The Armenians got "self-controlled". They left the Common Church of the origins in 351 while the Byzantine Patriarchate of Jerusalem got full "independence"...

Today, on October 22, 2012, Patriarch Torkom/Torgom of the Apostolic Armenian Church in Jerusalem has been buried close to Mount Zion where there are many sectors dedicated to the main ancient local Churches in Eretz Israel. He was 93 years-old. The noticeable aspect is that he was born in the desert, as his parents were fleeing the 1915 genocide perpetrated against the Armenians. indeed, other inhabitants and Christians have been persecuted by then, but the Armenian genocide is special because its peculiar constant backgrounds.

Patriarch Torkom has served for years in the United States. He arrived very early at Jerusalem. The Armenian Church has a great library at the Saint James Convent in Jerusalem. Over the long period of his service at the head of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, many works have been conducted: at the Holy Sepulcher, the Armenians are present with their part of the (Armenian) Golgotha, that is going further till the church that is located down the stairs, on the way to the place where Saint Helena found the True Cross. On the right, many excavations have been done, surveys and different drawings, writings were found showing the most ancient historicity of the location.

Torkom Manoogian, as most of the Armenians of the region, was a survivor. This is quite a problem till now for many countries in the world that are not likely to recognize the authenticity of the "genocide". It is a pending question for the Israeli State. Many people think that the Jewish authorities are not ready to recognize the Armenian genicide due to the special relationships of the Hebrew State with Turkey. The argument may make some sense, not to the full.

Israel is rather suspicious about the non-recognition of the Holocaust-Shoah. The extermination of the Jews is often denied, mainly by the local Holy Land Christian Churches. Israel is hardly recognized as well. Raphael Lempkin - the renown Jewish and Polish lawyer who "invented" the word "genocide" during the Nürnberg Trial - could hardly define what mass murders of such intense and dramatic consequences could mean. The case of the Jews is special because constant pre-Christian and Christian era pogroms, plundering, killings against the Jews did aim at annihilate and wipe out, erase the "Divine" call of the Jews to witness to the Creator.

When the Jewish State was created, in 1949, the new State became responsible for the Christian Holy Places in the Holy Land. It got enlarged after 1967. The Christian Churches had not anticipated such a renewal of the Jewish life and religion as such. For many, "deicide" may have been banned from usual speech, but it is still very present. It concerns all the denominations... as curiously also those that may seem to defend Judaism. The main issue is "superseding" and in the realm of faith, there has always been a strong competition that consists in "getting all into one" but consider that each creed and its group is better than any other.

The Jewish communities experiences - maybe too much - the reality of being left aside when Israel calls for assitance and full recognition. At the present, "Shoah" is strangely commemorated by the Catholic Church on a day that is not the same as the one chosen by the Jewish community! In the Slavic area, old place of extermination of the Jews (Baby Yar) is venerated as a place where "Ukrainians or Russians" have been executed. This is a real process of "superseding".

It may come in the end that Israel will recognize the Armenian "genocide" as such because of the very similar fate that both Jewish and Armenian communities had to face for the sake of the Lord.
Archbishop Aris Shirvanian, born in Haifa in 1936 has been elected to work as Locum Tenens, as acting Armenian Patriarch till the new patriarch be elected in forty days.

We have to look at the maps. The former Ottoman Empire is on the spot and "quakes, shakes, quivers". This is true in the Mashrek and the Maghreb, i.e. in most of the areas where the Ottoman rule was in force till the fall of the monarchy in Turkey on November 1, 1922, i.e. 90 years ago in one month. The Armenian Apostolic Church is present on most continents at the present. Its cradle is located in the Near and Middle-East, torn by permanent conflicts over the ages in the Caucasus, part of Turkey, Kurdistan, moving to the West and to the East, along with previously Roman and Persian Empire teritories, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt down to Ethiopia. It prolongs its influence to present India, which should also be taken into consideration.

Indeed, Caliph Omar I (Ibn al-Khittab) came to an agreement in 636-7 with the head of all the Christian denominations, Patriarch Sophronios of Jerusalem. Mar Sophronios could convince Omar not to destroy the most holy places of worship for the Christians (as listed then: the Armenians were counted as among the local believers). This was signed by the Omar as the leader of the Muslim emerging "faith and international power". It is known as the "Achtiname or Decree/Covenant of Omar Ibn-al-Khittab, Umariyya Covenant" in 637. The Muslim leader accepted, in the name of the Prophet and the nascent Umma, to recognize the right of the Christian communities to continue to worship in Jerusalem (Church of the Anastasis or Holy Sepulcher) and Bethlehem (Church of the Nativity).

Patriarch Sophronios led then Umar to all of the Holy Places in Jerusalem, and also to the Temple Mount where the Caliph decided to build some very simple prayer "hut" made of branches.
This implies that the Christian denominations surrendered to the Muslim power in April 637. We still live under the decision that has been passed by that time. Umar was very respectful toward the Christians. he avoided entering into the Holy Sepulcher in order to spare the holy site and not to cause some confliect with the Muslims.

The Umariyya Covenant has been in force till our days and the present national and religious governing and ruling authorities. The Achtiname is mentioned by the Eastern Orthodox Churches during their meetings in the Middle-East. They track back to the experience f the local Christians throughout the centuries to pave the way to the future.

It is not easy. The Western Churches often adopted a "post-colonial" attitude that still includes very "colonialistic" considerations. The Latin Patriarchate and the Franciscan Custodia of the Holy Land maintain their control over a vast region that extends from Cyprus through Turkey, the Middle-East and Egypt. The map is quite the same for other Churches (Antioch, Jerusalem are smaller). The territory does not take into account the changes that happened after the collapse of the Ottoman rule.

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna wrote dissertations on Patriarch Sophronios. It is quite coherent, not only because he always had been interested in the Oriental and Orthodox Churches. It is obvious so far Austria and the Habsburg Austrian Hungarian had stopped with much difficulty the Ottomans in Vienna (1683). At the Rum-Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, we also have students who work on this subject because it is at the core of the situation.

Things seem to be frozen or "on a chilly stand-by". Interestingly, the Covenant of Omar I is much read and gives way to many contradictorial interpretations. The local Churches crossed the ages because they could insightfully approach the development of the Muslim power. The same occurs at the present with the intriguing agreements passed by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem with Qatar and in its talks with the other Arabic Peninsula states.

In 638, Caliph Omar appointed an Armenian Patriarch in Jerusalem. The assignment was made before 351 AD. when the Armenian Church broke with the One Church of that time (with the exception of the Assyrian/Nestorian Church that had left at Ephesus, 325 A.D.). This decision initiated a progressive split among the local Christians. Of course, the Armenians left, followed by the Syrian-Orthodox (mentioned as "Jacobites" in the Decree), the Copts and the Abbyssinians (sic for Ethiopians).

It should be noted that the procedure of making such an appointment is typical for allo the rulers. The same happened in Poland, France, Russia where the leaders wanted to cause disagreements or hatred, opposition between different denominations or nations. Jerusalem is indeed a good place for spiritual and human or religious zigzagging. It is the navel or center of the combat between Good and Evil, Divine Presence and Satan, the Devil.

The Decree has something more that is rarely mentioned in the context of the Churches: Caliph Omar also allowed the Jews to come back and freely worship in Jerusalem and the "Eretz".

This point is special. Since the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the end of World War II, Europe went through the collapse of the traditional European empires (Habsburg, German Reich, Russia and other States that had become "kingdoms" after World War I). Today, Europe endeavors both to unite and to segment into small "national" or "clerical" entities. On the other hand, the Ottoman Empire gives no clutch to any former colonial power.

The British Mandate, the Jordanian and then Israeli rule over the Holy Land did not abbrogate the Decree. The local faithful of the Churches are well aware of this situation. The Israeli State started to act with much respect to all the denominations. There are numerous documents issued by the Knesset during the War of Independence that prove a real concern to take decisions on the Churches or religions with a spirit of righteousness.
The State of Israel took over the most sacred and holiest religious sites of Christianity in 1967. The Israeli government firstly had the competent personnel to handle these matters. At the present, things got too embattled. The Churches - all of them - often behave as if their presence was of "divine right" and they would not accept or recognize the authority of any government. This is quite the case with regards to general "ambiguous" attitudes of the local Churches toward the Hebrew State. They had been trained to comply with the requirement of the Arab authorities. The Palestinian Authority exercises a Muslim power - this should be tracked back to the time of the Ottoman empire and the Omar Decree.

The foreign Churches based throughout the world do not reflect upon their being "in exile" from Jerusalem! This is why traditionally strong-minded and deciding Churches (Rome and the Eastern rite Patriarchates" who were "conceded the Communion" (sic) with the See of Rome and Moscow, Beograd, Tbilissi, Bucharest among other jurisdictions) are at pains to really act in the place of the local Churches.

The future of the Armenian Church appear to be "endangered" in the Middle-East. The Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, Mesrob Mutafyan, has to be replaced. The election of a new patrtiarch is post-poned on a regular basis. In the meanwhile, some churches are reopened in Turkey and Armenians that had been forcibly converted to Islam may return to their mother Church.

In Jerusalem and Israel, many Armenian seminarists arrived from Arab regions but could not find their way locally. Nowadays, many youths come from the Armenian Republic. They speak Russian and often study in Moscow or Saint-Peterburg. The local population often assimilates to the Israeli society. Administrative problems should be treated with respect. The Church has been present in the Land from the very beginning of Christianity. The history of the Armenians should also be taken into consideration provided that all accept the laws in force.

True, the Armenian clergy - just as the Orthodox clergy and others - is often mocked by some "fanatics". People are prejudiced in ways due to ignorance: no, the Inquisition never took place in the East! On the other hand, it is difficult to overcome "ethnic" prejudices often based on mutual irrational and non-connecting slander.

Patriarch Torkom was brought to earth at Zion, where it is said "that all (living) were born there" (Psalm 87:5) after the Church of Jerusalem had celebrated the memory of Saint James Alphaeus and on the eve of the feast of Mar Yaakov, Saint James the protohierarch of Jerusalem and Adelphotheos (Brother of the Lord) also positively mentioned as a "just" in the Talmudic treaty Gittin. Yes, the feast starts now for the Gregorian Western calendar and will be "efficient" in thirteen days at Jerusalem.

Archpriest av Aleksandr (Winogradsky Frenkel)

N.B.: The above picture shows the Armenian Catholicos Karekin and Archbishop Aris in Jerusalem.