Israel officially a theocracy. Orthodox Rabbi speaks out against ultra-Orthodox monopoly over Israeli life. Santa begins to look more credible.

This remarkable opinion piece in the New York Times is written by an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi who considers himself to be at war with the Ultra-Orthodox lunatics who have been given a special role over Israeli political life - and now define in strict exclusive terms who can be called a Jew. You couldn't make it up. The reality is that those who oppose the strictures (i.e.: insanity) of the ultra-Orthodox rules can risk imprisonment. Seriously. Orthodox Jews have been arrested and imprisoned for breaking the religious law. In many important respects, Israel is now a theocracy every bit as controlled as Saudi Arabia or Iran. Democracy? My ass.

The Rabbi is arguing for a more inclusive concept of Judaism than the one proposed by the Ultra Orthodox rulers. This impacts on citizenship and who can reside in Israel, who can marry whom - and even whether they can be married - and how their children are treated by the state and the rights they can have. OK. His fantasies of god are not quite as extreme or utterly ridiculous as the Ultra Orthodox lunatics who run the show but he's still pretty flakey - and utterly misses the big picture point. Why not have a wholly secular Israeli state? Why does religion (adhered to by only a minority) have a say in constructing state laws at all? Why would Muslims and Christians living in Israel want to live under any of these laws - whether Ultra Orthodox or merely Orthodox?

Having said that, the entire concept of Israel - and its intimate relationship to the Jewish religion - is childish, irrational and bizarre. Secular or historical rights are one thing, but anyone who actually believes that "Man was created in God's image" (what infinite image would that be?) and that a piece of land on the planet was especially reserved by this "human" god for his "chosen people" (and that the "contract" made between god and Moses is incontrovertible "proof" that the deal is valid) is quite insane. There's no other word for it - yet that is what both the Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Jews (and many Christian evangelicals and fundamentalists) profess to believe. If it hadn't been invented and institutionalised through 3,000 years of very turbulent and frequently neurotic history, and if someone came up with that fairy story today, they'd be locked up. "I have here in my hand a piece of paper, authored and signed by god which allocates and permits my wife and me... and some of our friends.......' Yeah, right.

Let's face it, it's much more rational to believe in the possibility that Santa Claus circumnavigates the world on a reindeer-driven sledge on one night every year to deliver presents to all children than it is to believe these infantile and absurd myths. The physics of Santa's task is extreme - to say the least -- but the metaphysics of the Torah or Old Testament is not only improbable, but impossible. As the great 17th century philosopher (and expert in Hebrew) Benedict Spinoza argued in his Theologico-Political Treatise, the Old Testament prophets were not only not very bright and frequently contradictory, but they had powerful "imaginations" i.e.: they were lying, manipulative, self-serving and making-it-up as they went along.

As for believing in the possibility of Santa's work, post Star-Trek and the invention of Warp-speed, it's doable - at a pinch. "According to one scientist, Santa will have 31 hours to deliver presents to around 378 million children due to the rotation of the earth. This means he will have to deliver gifts to over 822 houses per second, with his sleigh travelling at 650 miles per second to cope with the magnitude of the task – that’s 3000 times the speed of sound!

The weight of all the presents in Santa’s sleigh complicates matters. If each child in the world was allocated one present weighing less than 2lbs, the sleigh would still weigh around the same amount as the Empire State Building – which would need 214,200 reindeer to pull. But (and this is a big but) the weight and speed of the sleigh would cause the reindeer to burst into flames almost immediately.

"Another scientist adds that 9.3 million MegaWatts of energy would be needed to power Santa’s sleigh in order to get around the world in one evening while carrying presents. To have any hope of making this amount of energy, you would need 414 of the world’s biggest power stations.... and 30,000,000 litres of fuel."

Damn. Makes you think. Santa's science doesn't seem to add up......  perhaps he doesn't exist after all ? 

Read more from New York Times

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10 litres down: 29,999,990 to go.