Philosophy and Religion -- the Gate to Perfection: The Idea of Peace in Jewish Thought by Walter Homolka and Albert H. Friedlander

By Cragg, Kenneth | The Middle East Journal, Spring 1995 | Go to article overview

Philosophy and Religion -- the Gate to Perfection: The Idea of Peace in Jewish Thought by Walter Homolka and Albert H. Friedlander


Cragg, Kenneth, The Middle East Journal


The Gate to Perfection: The Idea of Peace in Jewish Thought, by Walter Homolka and Albert H. Friedlander. Providence: Berghahn Books, 1994. xv + 108 pages. Append. to p. 120. Bibl. to p. 128. $19.95.

Reviewed by Kenneth Cragg

There is something deeply wistful yet strangely pathetic about this short book, which contains in the appendix the text of the Declaration of Principles (DOP) of September 1993, preceded by 73 pages of exposition on the nature of peace in Talmudic and Rabbinic traditions. The book's title is drawn from a Jewish liturgy: "Peace is the Gate of our Perfection." The wistfulness lies in that very juxtaposition. The pathos is in the fact that no realist attempt is made to consider the essential belligerence of Zionism, as evidenced in the long decades of its pursuit. The book came too soon to wrestle with the contradiction evident in "peace-processing" itself. Sadly, it seems quite incongruous to bind together in one a quite praiseworthy academic exposition of devout ideas and a highly ambiguous document of current politics. The reader thus becomes aware of a quest for goodwill pursued by the exposition. The discussion lacks any exploration of how Zionism now sees itself compatible with peace, except on the basis of final Palestinian acquiescence in the success of Zionism's real politik.

That crippling silence holds Walter Homolka's first six sections (pp. 1-72), translated from the original German, in a gallery for inspection. The tribal invasions of Joshua are explained as within the cult of the war god, Adonai Zebaoth, a cult that was outgrown in the development of the shalom concept. "Every truthful prayer is linked with Jacob's seed: every successful war with that of Esau. The concept of God as the harbinger of peace finally suppressed that of a God of war once and for all" (p. 42). It must be wondered whether David Ben Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, would have agreed. …

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