the friend online
11 August 2006


Letters - preview
A good death
I found myself in great sympathy with Peggy Heeks (28 July) except for the statement 'Suffering can bring spiritual growth'
  • In terms of dying this seems to be something of a contradiction
  • A year ago my ninety-one-year-old, religiously cynical, working class Geordie mother lay dying
  • I can imagine leaning towards her weary old face and shouting (she had only a quarter hearing and the oxygen mask was making a loud hissing noise), 'Never mind the suffering mam, just feel the spiritual growth!' I would have received no reply, just a look of utter contempt


    This is a preview of the full article - to see the whole thing, or to post a comment you need to login, or alternatively you could try a free sample!


    Alec Macpherson-Glasgow, 31 August
    Thank you, Simon. My worry about my comments is that I am accustomed to a certain writing style which may not be as “digestible” as The Friend!

    From my experience as a recent arrival to RSoF - and from a loose acquaintance in Gush Shalom - I have no doubt that the great majority of Friends want to believe in the concept of Israel. I would like to know of Quakerly forums here dedicated to a rational discussion on the matter. Stumbling blocks I have witnessed, however, is the [mistaken] beliefs that the onus of responsibility lies with Israel and that all that is required is for *only* her to compromise. Furthermore, it is assumed that believe in her immaculate conception.

    Only Cloud Cuckoo Land has experienced this. Unfortunately polemicists on both sides in the mainstream media of the argument tend to paint grossly one-sided images: they are terrorists, we are virtuous; we are freedom-fighters, they are occupiers. War is a series of bunglings and mistakes which are sometimes held together by a strong enough lattice of successes to allow a victory to be achieved. And, of course, the victors’ mistakes evaporate while those of the losers are emphasised. War should horrify us all. Often its keenest supporters are happily ensconced many thousands of miles away from the conflict, snoozing in their armchairs.

    No more, please! Both sides are populated by humans, prone to mistakes but also capable of tenderness and grief. I believe that the opportunities promised by Oslo fell foul to a gang-murder by extremists on both sides. I was extremely uncomfortable at the acts of ‘collective punishment’ on Gaza during Operation Summer Rain. I can only describe the attack on Hezbollah (and, inevitably, Lebanon) as grossly disproportionate, regardless of the underlying cause; it was born, partly at least, out of the civilian Olmert’s desire to be seen as a “tough Jew” and as effective as the previous military elite.

    But no more!

    Peace, but how?

    simon gray, 30 August
    Friends who are interested in a 'digestable' overview of the history of the State of Israel which is reasonably neutral in its presentation could do no worse than to read the Wikipedia articles on it - starting point

    Alec Macpherson-Glasgow, 25 August
    I was concerned to see Michael Oppenheim say that “Jews feel” territories occupied in 1967 “to be unarguably bequeathed to them by the Old Testament”. This is wrong both factually and conceptually. Approximately 100 000 Israeli citizens live in West Bank settlements - which I consider to have been grave and immoral mistakes - compared to some six million within the green line, i.e. pre-1967 boundaries. I have no desire to pedal the notion of Israel’s immaculate conception; equally, however, it is no more tainted by original sin than any other country (except, maybe, Iceland). I accept there are bigots and religious nationalists in Israel, as within any society, but have genuinely never met an Israeli or Zionist Jew who believes in a Greater Israel. They consider the continued occupation to be a drain; a drain on their economy and international prestige; a drain on their emotions from occupying a population which does not want to be occupied, regardless of whether they perceive it as necessary for their security.

    Zionism is a word thrown around like flour-bags during an end of term party at St Trinians. I see it as the foundation of modern Israel and a historical fact which, moreover, was influenced by secular egalitarianism as much as religious ideal. Any sense of military hubris which Israelis felt in 1967 or any desire for continued expansion has long since vanished, to be replaced by a simple wish to remain within secure borders. I cannot deny, nor see why I should, that even secular Zionism considers the establishment of Israel to be an integral part of Jewish identity. However, it is not the only part. Maimonides, the rabbinic scholar of Andalus widely considered to have best codified the principles of Judaism, does not mention a return to Zion (or, for that matter, ’chosen-ness’) in his 13 basic articles of faith. Such notions of their being enshrined in the Old Testament come from just that - the Christianized Old Testament and European perceptions.

    So, hardly ‘unarguable’ evidence of a belief in divine ordination. The statement that “Palestinians regard as their historical home”, while true, detracts from the changing demography of Israeli Jews. Through intermarriage, a great many now share common ancestry with Levantine Jews who remained in the area following Roman times. Not to mention those Sephardim who became firmly established there and in neighbouring Muslim in the centuries following their Expulsion from Iberia. The notion of an ethnically separate Ashkenazy identity, in Israel at least, is disappearing almost as fast as it did c. 1940. If one is to cite the ’unarguable’ fact of a Palestinian historical home, one should also consider this.

    By Michael’s defining all “Jews” as one homogenous blob driven by religious ideal, and setting it against the historical reality of a home to an ethnic group of “Palestinians“, I read the accusation of irrationality against the former group. Whilst I have no reason to suspect Michael of bad faith, amateur theology, when used in this fashion, can lead to nasty situations; as we saw recently with Jostein Gaarder’s, frankly, venomous quasi-Biblical diatribe against the concept Israel. (This struck me as a rambling stream of consciousness that we might hear in an anti-Meeting!)

    Joanna Clarke, 21 August
    I was interested to read the correspondence about Benjamin Haydon’s painting of the Anti-Slavery Convention of 1840, held at the National Portrait Gallery. The Society’s Library holds a printed key to the painting, giving the names of delegates, which was published in the Sunday Magazine in 1865. On our copy pencil marks have been added to some names, clearly indicating known Friends. Out of 131 names, only 21 have been marked in this way. However, this marking up is clearly incomplete, since neither Anne Knight nor Joseph Pease have been marked. Also left unmarked are some delegates with familiar Quaker names, such as Cadbury, Hodgson, and Backhouse. There may be more work to be done in identification, but by checking against the Annual Monitor, David Hall (Letters, 18 August) has produced a more realistic tally of 45 names.

    As John Lampen stated in his letter (11 August), there are few portraits of Friends before the later 19th century. Previously, there had been a tendency among Friends to reject the visual arts along with music, dance or drama. Quaker schools allowed botanical drawing and the sewing of samplers - seen as useful in teaching practical skills - but there were no expressive arts allowed. To commission a portrait would be seen as vanity as well as expensive. Friends who would like to know more about the changes in Quaker attitudes will enjoy David Sox’s book Quakers and the Arts: ‘Plain and Fancy’ (Sessions, 2000).

    We have some silhouette portraits of Friends from the early 19th century, but the real change came in the 1840s, when Friends took to the new art of photography with some enthusiasm. The Library’s collection is rich in photographic portraits from the 1850s and 1860s. It has been suggested that 19th century Friends saw photography as producing plain truth, whereas painters tended to flatter their subjects. Today we are perhaps more aware that the camera can also lie – and that digital enhancement has introduced another layer of potential deception.

    Michael Oppenheim, 14 August
    After expressing his bewilderment over the current Middle Eastern violence, Mic Morgan has asked "how do we break the circle?".

    The underlying problem, I believe, is the continued settlement by Israelis of the Palestinian territory conquered in the 1967 war. Land which the Jews feel to be unarguably bequeathed to them by the Old Testament; the same territory which the Palestinians regard as their historical home.

    Until the Israeli Settlers are either removed behind the pre-1967 borders, or agree to live under Palestinian jurisdiction, there can be no peace in the Middle East.

    David J. Hall, 14 August
    Following John Lampen's interesting letter I looked at the list of those
    included in the Anti-Slavery Society Convention portrait at the National
    Portrait Gallery and thought that there were quite a few Quaker names( I
    used the printed catalogue of the collection). Comparing that list with the
    index to the Annual Monitor, the nineteenth century publication of Quaker
    obituaries, forty-five people seemed to be in both lists and there were
    more possible names that could be those of Friends. So Friends are a little
    better represented in the NPG than John feared, at least for the nineteenth


    This week's .pdf
    In this week's online edition... rss edition
    Africa: Celebration and Challenge
    Kim Lanning, Sussex East MM
    Aspects of Mysticism - FREE sample article from the new Friends Quarterly available
    David Blamires, Editor Friends Quarterly

    Protesting Friends arrested
    Middle East reactions
    News Round-up
    Finding the vision for Meeting for Sufferings from 2007 onwards
    Rachel Carmichael, Clerk to Meeting for Sufferings
    Jessica Metheringham & Judy Kirby
    Living our faith locally
    Sarah Santhosham, Jeff Austin, and Sophie Ramsay
    Endeavours to Mend
    Clare-Marie White
    Exploited and ignored
    David de Verny
    A kindly light
    Rommel Roberts
    Friends: link up!


    Things to do, where to stay, people to see etc...

    download this issue

    save this page

    most recent comments:
    Letters, Ala
    Quaker approach to business under the spotlight, David Hitchin
    Tackling the pay gap from both ends, anonymous poster
    Some more equal than others?, anonymous poster
    Climate Camp experience, Frances Laing
    Climate Camp experience, Frances Laing
    The centrality of worship, Andrew Hatton, Maldon LM, Essex
    In the care of the Meeting?, chrissie hinde
    Lockerbie grief and justice, Jennifer Barraclough
    The centrality of worship, Peter Arnold
    The top ten reasons (plus three) why bottled water is a blessing, Fee Berry
    Letters, David Hitchin
    Marriage and committed relationships, Fee Berry
    George Fox and same gender partnership, Chris Bagley
    Marriage and committed relationships, Chris Bagley
    Meeting for meditation?, Barry
    Meeting for ‘weorthscipe’?, Gerard Guiton
    Report shows that all is not well in multicultural Britain, chrissie hinde
    Johann Sebastian Bach and the Jews, Peter Arnold
    Prisons: our growth industry, Peer Arnold

    Save on your phone bills with:
    the phone co-op - your voice counts