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What makes a peaceful co-existence in Jerusalem so difficult?

Jerusalem is holy three times – for the Jews, Christians and Muslims: What makes a peaceful co-existence here so difficult?

 From Euronews with Luis Carballo –Prof. Gideon Aran was Interviewed  On the occasion of Pope Francis visit to the Holy Land.

1. First, let me state it clear – considering the circumstances, the current Jerusalemite interfaith relations are not too bad. The frequency and intensity of the recent violent incidents are low, especially if you view it in historical perspective (think of the Crusaders bloody massacre of both Jews and Muslims…), and if you compare it to other religiously charged places with explosive potentiality across the globe (like Nigeria, Iraq, Lebanon and more).

Watch the full Interview:

Gideon Aran
Click on the picture To watch

2.  The above mentioned relative quiet is particularly impressive if you take into account the fact that it is not just a religious divide, but also a national strife with socio-economic and cultural implications as well. Actually, the religious rivalry is superimposed upon the political armed confrontation, and this makes the Middle-Eastern conflict much harder to solve.

3.  What makes the religious reality in Jerusalem unique and particularly interesting is the fact that there are three protagonists here. In Jerusalem three – essentially exclusive – religions compete with each other. In most past and present  analogous cases there is a frontal opposition between just two players, which results in a zero-sum game. See the classic opposition between Christianity and Islam in Istanbul, for example. Once a dyad becomes a triad, new options open, among them the option of creating coalitions, that is, alliance of two partners against a third party, and then it may occasionally change. Such coalitions may increase tension or decrease it. Right now, for instance, Jews in Jerusalem collaborate with Christians (including Arab Christians!) against their common enemy – Islamic Fundamentalism. On other issues Muslims and Christians join forces against Jews.

euronews - Gideon Aran

4. Let’s face it: each of the three Abrahamic religions claims to monopolize the “truth”, despite their common ancestry or rather because of it. As they emerged along history, first Judaism, followed by Christianity and later Islam, each established itself in an alternative distinct place, far away and very different from the other: Jerusalem, Rome, Mecca. And yet, at the same time, in a dialectical counter tendency, all three were attracted to the same original site, coming back to Jerusalem and insisting on exclusivity or at least a suprimacy there.

Paradoxically enough they shed much blood – theirs and others’ – to replace each other at the very tiny spot –less than one square Km where so many holy sites are squeezed in. Please join me in observing the Old City – look at the monumental structures, one a top the other, or juxtaposed with the other:  The remains of the Davidic temple constructed at the 10-8 century BC, and the Herodian temple destructed in the 1st century AD, then the Al-Aksa mosque and the Dome of the Rock erected at the 7th century, and then, beginning at the early Middle-ages, the building of the many layers of the Holy Sepulture.

euronews - Gideon Aran


And mind you, on the early 20th century, Protestant Christianity put up its own sacred places – look at the Holy redeemer Lutheran Church, of course, meant to be the tallest tower within the walls, only 50 meters far from the Roman Catholic and the Greek Orthodox Church, and the Ethiopian, and the Armenian, and the Assyrian, etc etc..

Lately Price Tag attacks are targeting not only Muslim but also Christian institutions: Why this change?

1. Nothing is new under the sun. There are several precedent cases to the recent one. I remember from my early childhood in Jerusalem during the Fifties and Sixties some incidents of violence – mainly symbolic violence – directed against local clergy and monasteries. It was especially intensive during the first years after the foundation of the state, when the churches were engaged in intensive and quite explicit missionary work, focusing on the conversion of low class new immigrants Jews and holocaust survivors.

euronews - Gideon Aran
price tag

2. Israeli Orthodoxy consists about 20% of the local Jewish population. A certain portion of these religious people truly believe that Israel’s arch enemy is not the Arabs and Muslims but the Christian world. Ironically some of the most extreme anti-Palestinian religious Jews (particularly the hawkish far-Right wing of the National-Religious) claim that the ultimate and deeper confrontation is the one with the Church with whom there are still some fundamental theological as well as blood accounts to settle.

It is only due to current geo-political emergency reality or strategic pressing reality that the Jewish attention is temporarily diverted to the Middle Eastern conflict. Once the regional 100 years old tough problem will be finally solved and all Arabs will be defeated and evacuated, then all religious energies will be directed to retribution and winning  over Christianity.

euronews - Gideon Aran

3.  Actually at present, the real target of Price tag activities is neither Muslims nor Christians but Jews.  They try hard to embarrass the “establishment” – the Israeli government on the one hand, and the Jewish West bank settlement leadership on the other hand. They claim that both betray their mission, and they employ different kinds of provocations to present them as cowardly, hypocrite and impotent.

4. Price Tag is not a well organized underground committed to a systematic and coherent ideology. This phenomenon is made of peripheral youth, mainly dropouts, bordering with juvenile delinquency that act out its frustrated aggression and select targets quite randomly. In a sense their behavior could be seen as hooliganism and should be treated as adolescent anarchism. Now, this is not to belittle their import or under-rate their danger ,but to clarify the grave situation which may radically change from bad to worse if not promptly tackled.

 Prof Gideon Aran was Interviewed to Euronews with Luis Carballo On the occasion of Pope Francis visit to the Holy Land.


Gideon Aran: The Cult of Dismembered Limbs

This text consists of two books organically blended. The first deals with Zaka. It is an analytic description of this unique religious/political phenomenon based on extensive field study. The second is essentially conceptual.

Written By Prof. Gideon Aran 

It discusses suicide terrorism through an alternative theoretical prism and in debate with several hegemonic lines of argument in the vast literature on this hot topic. At the focus of this study is the actual bombing arena. Nonetheless, the book seeks to make research-related comments relevant to the sociology of death and of the body, to the study of Palestinian and Israeli societies, to ritual studies, radical religion, and more. Continue reading Gideon Aran: The Cult of Dismembered Limbs


Biblical Priests and Zealots

Zealotry, I am arguing, is a paradigmatic religious lethal violence. Brutal zealots play a significant role in Jewish canonic history and exegetical heritage.

Written By Prof. Gideon Aran 

The methodic examination of this rich reservoir of authentic materials offers an opportunity to advance our understanding of religious violence, its dynamics and implications. The present article illustrates the scientific potential of the sociological study of sacred texts. At the background of this and related research is the exposure  and rereading of the Jewish religious legacy of violence – often dormant, at other times dominant – alongside a legacy oriented towards peace, moderation and accommodation.

The above two maintain intense dialectical relationship.

While my broader project is to trace the normative, moral and political aspects of zealotry, in this particular paper I am focusing on its cultic aspect, relating it to the issue of collective and bodily boundary management. Furthermore, I draw attention to the homology of the ideal-types of zealotry and priesthood conventionally considered polar opposites in many respects. I usually employ the elaborate corpus of our accumulated knowledge on priesthood as a means to help me solve the riddle of zealotry.

In this article I exploit some insights concerning zealotry to shed light on yet unidentified dimensions of priesthood. Among others, I suggest that priests might be seen as zealots in a golden cage. A positive feedback from Jewish Studies scholars encouraged me to carry-on my Jewish Sociology project.


“The Legacy of Religious Violence in Judaism” – Lecture by Gideon Aran

“The Legacy of Religious Violence in Judaism”

Lecture by Gideon Aran at The Graduate Institute, Geneva

Tuesday 29 April 2014, 18:30 – 20:00

The lecture discusses the Jewish case of religious violence. This by no means implies that Judaism is more (or less) violent than any other religion. In fact, we witness an impressive legacy of non-, or, anti-violence in Judaism.

Gideon Aran
Gideon Aran

However, I will rather focus on the dialectical relationship between religious tradition and violence in Jewish history and mythology, and in the contemporary Jewish world, particularly in the Jewish State. My argument regarding Jewish violence implies a general theoretical model of religious violence that can be applied in a comparative context.

This lecture offers a partial survey of the components of Jewish tradition relating to violence while analyzing and illustrating their development and influence along three Millennia from biblical times, through the middle ages and modernity to these very days.

I’ll analyze the various transformations that these violent motifs have undergone, their linkage to ever-changing social and cultural circumstances, their social-political roots and implications, and their relationship to other Jewish traditions.

I’ll trace how ancient motifs have emerged and been processed over time, and observe present day violent behavior in the light of ancient motifs. Along the way, I will explicate the dynamics that characterizes the Jewish violence tradition and its paradoxical natureby clicking here

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Zaka’s Active Key Role In The Middle Eastern Suicide Terrorism Scene

Anyone who has viewed footage of a suicide attack in Israel will have seen bizarre bearded men busily working at the center of the gruesome site. At a certain moment they turn their fluorescent safety vests inside out. Previously the orange side, emblazoned “medic” was on display. The reversed side is yellow and bears the word “Zaka”, a Hebrew acronym that stands for Identifying Disaster Victims.

Notes by Prof. Gideon Aran

Zaka is an organization of Jewish Ultra-Orthodox (haredi) volunteers that has gained a monopoly on managing the deaths of victims of terrorism in Israel. It operates a network of a few hundred well-trainee and well-equipped personnel throughout the country. These men can arrive at any terrorism site rapidly, offer first aid, and then turn to their central task—carrying for the bodies of the dead in strict obedience to Jewish religious (halakhic) ritual norms and in keeping with traditional Jewish respect for the dead. Continue reading Zaka’s Active Key Role In The Middle Eastern Suicide Terrorism Scene


Prof. Gideon Aran – Academic Study And Precipitants Of Suicide Terrorism

I trace a surprisingly hitherto unchallenged tendency of academic study to focus either on the precipitants of suicide terrorism or on its consequences.

Notes by Prof. Gideon Aran

Prof. Gideon Aran
Prof. Gideon Aran

The literature looks, on the one hand, at what preceded and ostensibly led to the attack (i.e. the HB’s psychological and social profile, his motivations and the organization’s ideology, the recruitment and indoctrination of the HB, the structure of the terrorist cell, the socioeconomic conditions that give rise to ST, the policies and military actions that elicit it, and the culture that embraces ST and praise the HB). Continue reading Prof. Gideon Aran – Academic Study And Precipitants Of Suicide Terrorism