I was looking forward to hearing the iconic Stephen Hawking, the internationally renowned English theoretical physicist as he helped celebrate Shimon Peres’ 90th birthday at next month’s annual “Facing Tomorrow” Presidential Conference in Jerusalem.
The conference gathers the world’s top leaders and intellectuals for discussions on everything from science and technology to religion and politics. Past attendees have included former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Google founder Sergei Brin, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
And what a great choice it was. To hear from a man who has continued to make his indelible mark on the world despite suffering from a debilitating form of the neuro-degenerative disease ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) that has left him completely paralyzed.
Indeed, some of the technologies that have served as Hawking’s lifeline to the world were developed by INTEL, a company with deep roots in Israel.
But it won’t happen.
After agreeing to deliver the coveted keynote in Jerusalem, the highly unorthodox Hawking, who has visited Israel four times, has caved to the prevailing virulent anti-Israel orthodoxy among the United Kingdom’s elite and announced he’ll boycott because of Palestinian protests.
It's interesting that Hawking, who is a principled atheist, has some kindred souls among theologians of the Church of Scotland.
In their spiritual wisdom, the Church will vote on a report next week entitled: “The Inheritance of Abraham? A Report on the ‘Promised Land.’”
It questions the notion that the Bible "supports an essentially Jewish state of Israel." The report alleges that "increasing number of difficulties and current Israeli policies regarding the Palestinians,” and challenges this viewpoint.
"Possession of any land is clearly conditional,” we are told. “The question that arises is this: Would the Jewish people today have a fairer claim to the land if they dealt justly with the Palestinians?"
Biblical promises about the land of Israel were never intended to be taken literally, or as applying to a defined geographical territory, the report argues.
Instead, it said: "They are a way of speaking about how to live under God so that justice and peace reign, the weak and poor are protected, the stranger is included, and all have a share in the community and a contribution to make to it.
"The 'promised land' in the Bible is not a place, so much as a metaphor of how things ought to be among the people of God. This 'promised land' can be found -- or built -- anywhere.
"The desire of many in the state of Israel to acquire the land of Palestine for the Jewish people is wrong. The fact that the land is currently being taken by settlement expansion, the separation barrier, house clearance, theft and force makes it doubly wrong to seek biblical sanction for this."
"There is guilt among Western Christianity about centuries of anti-Semitism that led to discrimination against the Jews, culminating in the total evil of the Holocaust," it noted with the clear implication that Israeli crimes cancel out earlier Christian sins.
Israel’s behavior "raises particular questions for the Church of Scotland as we seek to respond to the question: "What does the Lord require of you…?"
The paper leaves little to imagination as to how Church members should respond: Demonize and de-legitimize the Jewish State and her Zionist supporters.
Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, responded for Jews everywhere: "It reads like an Inquisition-era polemic against Jews and Judaism. It is biased, weak on sources, and contradictory. The picture it paints of both Judaism and Israel is barely even a caricature. The arrogance of telling the Jewish people how to interpret Jewish texts and Jewish theology is breathtaking.
"If the church cannot build bridges, can it at least refrain from burning them?"
The founders of the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement's pious but poisonous call to demonize one nation—the Jewish State of Israel, have wrought a miracle of sorts—throwing together Church Elders with the world’s most famous atheist, Stephen Hawking.
Too bad this miracle won’t help a single Palestinian, but will further fan the embers of the world’s oldest hatred: anti-Semitism.