Israel Stories

Friday, September 02, 2005

Palestinians, Virgins and other Myths

Palestinians, Virgins and other Myths

Some years ago I read a most unusual article in the Guardian Newspaper. It was unusual form two perspectives, firstly the content and nature of the article led me to believe it must have taken much courage for the editor to print and number two it came very close to sympathizing with Israel.

The history of the current conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been riddled by twisted facts and distorted histories. Many questions have been purposely left unanswered, for example, where is the Palestinian State, who are the Palestinian people, when did they ever have autonomy. The list goes on. Funny thing is, if you trace the ownership of the currently disputed territories there is no mention of a Palestinian people. But you know all of that.

Our Rabbis may have been accused, over time, by the unlearned of twisting our history or religion to suite themselves but the Guardian Newspaper brought to my attention a very interesting fact: The Koran forbids suicide of any kind. Hamas have legitimized it by saying that it is martyrdom in the name of a jihad (holy war) that is totally acceptable. There is, however no mention, in the Koran of a 72 virgin reward.

This naturally leads me tell you about, what the Guardian Newspaper considers, the most fascinating book ever written on the language of the Koran, and if proved to be correct in its main thesis, probably the most important book ever written on the Koran. Christoph Luxenberg's book, Die Syro-Aramaische Lesart des Koran, available only in German, received an enthusiastic reception, particularly among those scholars with a knowledge of several Semitic languages at Princeton, Yale, Berlin, Potsdam, Erlangen, Aix-en-Provence, and the Oriental Institute in Beirut.

Luxenberg tries to show that many obscurities of the Koran disappear if we read certain words as being Syriac and not Arabic. I cannot go into the technical details of his methodology but it allows Luxenberg, to the probable horror of all Muslim males dreaming of bliss in the Muslim hereafter, to conjure away the wide-eyed houris promised to the faithful in suras XLIV.54; LII.20, LV.72, and LVI.22. Luxenberg 's new analysis, leaning on the Hymns of Ephrem the Syrian, yields "white raisins" of "crystal clarity" rather than doe-eyed, and ever willing virgins - the houris. Luxenberg claims that the context makes it clear that it is food and drink that is being offerred, and not unsullied maidens or houris.

In Syriac, the word hur is a feminine plural adjective meaning white, with the word "raisin" understood implicitly. Similarly, the immortal, pearl-like ephebes or youths of suras such as LXXVI.19 are really a misreading of a Syriac expression meaning chilled raisins (or drinks) that the just will have the pleasure of tasting in contrast to the boiling drinks promised the unfaithful and damned.

The Guardian article goes on to ask the question if the ‘Shahidim’ (‘martyrs’) of September eleventh and those ever willing bombers in Israel would think twice if they knew their reward would be a bowl raisons instead of 72 maidens.


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