Column JN issue September 23 2016 by Jenni Frazer
From time to time, as everyone does, I get notifications on social media as to who has decided to follow me — though not those who have thrown down their linen napkins in disgust crying “I will follow her no more, sirrah!”
This week, however, I was amused to discover that a person from what I can only describe as the Corps of Kabbaloonies had opted to follow my various musings. Oy, I thought to myself, someone who thinks Kabbalah as presented by the Berg family to ensnare the wide-eyed and foolish, particularly, for some reason, Hollywood types who don’t just think that the red string is a “look”, but is an entire lifestyle. Oy, Mr New Follower, have you got the wrong woman.
Because, as I hope regular readers will have discerned by now, I cannot abide credulous nonsense, whether it finds its form in conspiracy theories or ludicrous superstition.
Top of this week’s Loony Tunes offerings — well, it’s a bit hard to say which is madder.
First up is the gematria meme floating around in the wake of the stroke suffered by Israel’s ninth president, Shimon Peres. Gematria, as is well-known, is a system of numerology, most often used within genuine Kabbalah and not the Bergian version, which assigns numerical values to letters and then offers an interpretation, sometimes mystical.
But what can be made of this? “Something weird. Shimon Peres signed the Oslo Accords on-September 13 1993. Shimon Peres had a stroke today —September 13 — and he’s 93 years old. The Accords were agreed on 23 years ago, and his year of birth is 1923”.
Is anyone who reads this supposed to shiver uncontrollably and wonder at the forces of darkness which have conspired to bring together this magical arrangement of numbers? Please. Is there the minutest of suggestions that somehow Peres brought this medical misfortune upon himself by his association with the Oslo Accords? Again, do me a favour.
Moving on from this abject nonsense we find the deputy mayor of Ramat Gan, Adva Pollak, who has felt obliged to issue what surely ranks among the funniest of po-faced statements ever uttered by a municipal official.
Deputy Mayor Pollak’s problem, it transpired, was to do with the art garden of the city’s national park. In this garden there are a number of statues, one of which, by the late sculptor and artist Menashe Kadishman, is an abstract metal figure called “Birth”.
Crowds of young, religious women — almost all of whom, it seems to me, could do with a smack round the head and a reality check — have been thronging in to the Ramat Gan art garden and LYING DOWN ON THE STATUE, in the belief that it will help them have children.
Mr Pollak gravely responded: ““We inform the public that this statue has no special powers, and is merely one of many works of art on display in the park. It would be wrong to attribute such powers to the statue. We welcome visitors who wish to enjoy the art, but I call on them to refrain from lying on it.”
Almost the best thing about this story is that Kadishman was aggressively secular and — if there is an afterlife in which he did not believe — is doubtless roaring with laughter at the phenomenon he has inspired.
Israel, unfortunately, is a magnet for this kind of rhubarb. Those with long memories may recall a supermarket in Israel which had a grungy chair at the entrance, the sort used by the security guard or for over-burdened shoppers to sit down for a minute while they re-aligned their purchases. And suddenly this grungy chair became an object of worship, as several women who had briefly used it discovered they were pregnant. Queues formed in order to sit in the newly holy grungy chair, the chair that could dispense fertility!
On Israel’s Highway 443, any day of the week, you might see a line of people who have got out of their cars in order to fill up water bottles with supposedly “holy” water coming out of a pipe in a wall by the road. The pipe is a new addition to channel the water, now referred to as a magic spring. The fact that it is probably the overflow from an aqueduct further up the hill does not deter these wanna believers.
And don’t get me started on the utter commercial nonsense which is Amuka, a “shrine” near Sfat which — with its candles and notes and superstitious pilgrimages — could give Catholics and their miracles a good run for their money. If, you are told, you go to Amuka with an open heart, all your wishes will come true.
With the best will in the world, and with, indeed, an open heart, I have only one response: it’s all rubbish.