Professor Joe Goldblatt
The recent news of the successful arrival of the vaccine to immunise us by helping eradicate the Corona – 19 virus was indeed very welcome news. The scientists and government leaders whose epxertise, policies and funding helped us achieve this milestone are to be commended. However, I wonder, if our society might also just need an even more super vaccine to provide a greater sustainable overall quality of life in the future.
As the world has struggled with the loss of over one million lives due to the panedmic we have also experienced a dystopian time where citizens are extremely divided regarding their political opinions. The recent acrimonious USA presidential election is one example of this great divide, however there are many similar examples throughout the world and certainly within the United Kingdom and even in Scotland.
It seems to me that we are witnessing a time in our lives where viciousness, anger and distrust have triumphed over love and compassion. It is easy to see how we arrived at this dark place through the growing distrust of politicians, media and other institutions that at one time were held in very high esteem in our society.
How we now find our way to a place where we, as the great human family, come to trust and respect one another again, is not completely clear. Here are two historic examples that are particularly relevant at this time of year regarding how our ancestors, when they were also lost in the wilderness, found their way home to a kinder and more compassionate world.
Three thousand years ago, a tribe of Jewish people known as the Macabees returned to their temple and found that it had been badly damaged by those who wished to harm them. Each Jewish temple includes an everlasting lamp that is displayed above the sacred arc where their torah’s (the old testament scrolls) are kept. The everlasting light symbolises the eternity of the almighty. Their everlasting light had also been damaged and there was only enough oil left inside to burn for three or four days. The Macabees had to choose whether to allow the flame to burn out or to travel to collect more oil. Their travels would take eight days. They chose to follow their faith and when whey returned they witnessed a miracle. The light was still burning bright. And so it has been for Jewish people all over the world and in Scotland for a very long time. This year the Jewish people are celebrating this miracle during the annual festival of Hanukka from 10 – 18 December. Despite many threats, challenges and obstacles, this small group of Jewish people is now, through the development of a new Edinburgh Jewish Cultural Centre, continuing to make new miracles by sharing their rich culture with others.
Another Jewish family at this time of year also experienced a miracle. Joseph and Mary sought shelter in Bethlehem to give birth to their child. There was no shelter to be found and the baby Jesus was born in a manger. I have visited that very humble manger and as a Jewish person I was deeply moved by the experience.
The US Agency for International Development invited me in 2000 to travel to Israel and Palestine to help the Mayor of Bethlehem plan the millennium celebrations for the town where some believe the first new year occurred.
Upon arrival in Palestine, I found that the hotel arranged for me was highly unsuitable due to numerous health and safety violations. Very quickly my hosts found a new hotel and it was in fact named The Manger Hotel and was on the same square in Bethlehem where Jesus is purported to have been born. As I lay my grateful head upon the pillow that first night I smiled thinking that only a few thousand years ago another Jewish family could not find accomodation and here I was resting comfortably in a four star hotel right next door to the modest manger where Mary and Joseph were offered hostel.
In both the case of the Macabees and Joseph, Mary and Jesus, love, faith and community united to provide protection and some would argue, miracles were conceived that positively changed the world. Perhaps it is time for the citizens of Scotland’s capital city and our fellow citizens throughout Scotland to ask, “How might we help conceive a miracle now?” The miracle that many of us would like to see is the reuniting of those individuals whose first instinct is to use scorn and criticism to gain followers with those who wish to listen to their neighbours concerns and mutually find their way back together again through acts of unselfish love, kindness and compassion.
Therefore, the super vaccine that is needed now in my opinion may also prevent each of us from pulling away from one another in anger and insult and instead find our way home together, just as the Macabees and that other Jewish family did thousands of years ago.
Professor Joe Goldblatt is Emeritus Professor of Planned Events at Queen Margaret University and has travelled many times to the holy land. He is also chair of fund raising for the Edinburgh Jewish Cultural Centre. To learn more about the Edinburgh Jewish Cultural Centre visit www.jcc.scot or to learn more about Professor Goldblatt’s views visit www.joegoldblatt.scot