Sunday, December 25, 2005

Cousin Josh

Happy Birthday Cousin Josh

Today is the birthday of my distant Israeli cousin Yehoshuah ben Yoseph, or Josh as I refer to him. A strange, charismatic and contradictory character, he was a bit of a hippie like many Israelis of his age group. This is perhaps unusual for someone born during a security operation in the West Bank, raised in the Arab Triangle, and living near Kinneret and the Golan Heights. More characteristically he was one tough cookie, a traveller as well as a charmer and even a bit of a ladies man. He also kept rather eclectic company, called bullshit when he saw it, and was often accused of spinning some bullshit of his own. A true Sabra Israeli.

Arguably someone whom one would not be too ashamed to have as a relative.

Josh came to a sticky end. He crossed a buch of guys that between them evolved into one of today's most feared and brutal organisations. That's right. He crossed the Jewish-advised Italian outfit who ran the place . Josh should have been more careful in his actions, and his choice of friends. Of course, it is claimed that he carried out a program of intentional self-sabotage in those crucial final days. The outcome of that episode is still hotly debated.
But today is his birthday, not the anniversary of his demise. So lets focus on his legacy, and his message.


Much has been said about Josh by those that are not his relatives. I do not presume to be able to add anything here.

It is also important to put Josh into another context.
He is certainly not the last great Israeli enterpreneur. Nor is he the last heretical Jew to leave a mark on Western Civilisation for better or for worse (Disraeli and Spinoza come to mind for the former, Marx and Trotsky the latter)

What message do I take from Josh ? Well, as it happens, I don't. But that does not prevent me from respecting him as a family member, and holding similar respect for those who decide that his ideas were valuable. Nor does it prevent me from wishing him and them well on his birthday, which for them is an important event for some reason.

So what is the point here ? The point is, that for some of us there really isn't much of a point.
How would some of my Josh-worshipping friends feel if I started worshipping one of their cousins, and perhaps even taking offence when they made light of the whole thing ?
So getting closer to the point, I do not seek to deride or mock Josh-worhippers in any malicious manner, but ask their leave to enjoy my annual ironic take on their obsession with my odd hippie cousin.

And now the point: best wishes to my Josh-worshipping friends. Peace and goodwill towards all men means that I tolerate your kind but insistent proselytising, and you tolerate stuff like this post, and even manage a chuckle or two.

Most importantly, you may be pleased to know that I am still prepared to scoff down your Chrismas pudding, happily accept your presents and snog comely well-wishers under the mistletoe.

You get to play with a dreidl, eat latkes and light a menorah if you like.

Happy Chanukah !

Update 30/12/2005

Thanks to links from Tom Paine at Silent Running and Zev, this is by far the most popular post on the blog. Those interested in a different take on Judaica may also enjoy some unexpected parallels between two very distant times and places quite relevant to the current Festival of Lights.
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