Real sadness at saying goodbye

Jewish Telegraph
Real sadness at saying goodbye

It isn’t too often that I agree with George W Bush and here is the trouble. If you have been reading my column regularly over the past seven years, you’ll already have a clear idea about where George and I connect.
Not on the Road Map for Israel: I have always believed that Ariel Sharon has a dozen ideas during his morning shower better than anything the Pentagon can dream up in a month of committee meetings.

Not on the war in Iraq: unlike George, I’ve seen active service, I’ve fought on a battlefield, and when he was dodging the draft I was dodging shrapnel. And I know that killing will always lead to more killing.

Not on abortion: I have every reason to hate it, for I lost every one of my brothers and sisters to backstreet abortionists. But I know, whether it’s legal or not to terminate a pregnancy, it is going to happen. Maybe if my mother had been able to go to a pregnancy counsellor, instead of being at the mercy of my father’s will, she might have been able to keep more of her babies.

But you knew these things. I have written about them before.

Where George and I agree is on the teaching of science in schools. We both think that children should be told that human beings don’t have all the answers, that there are many mysteries that science simply cannot solve, that the simplest questions often become the most profound riddles – simple questions like, “where did we come from?”.

I raised a cheer for Bush when he suggested that schools across America should teach the rudiments of “intelligent design” as well as evolutionary theory.

It seems as logical as teaching metric and imperial systems of measurement, feet and metres, or French and German, or classical music and jazz.

Darwin theories have never seemed like the whole of the answer to the “where do we come from?” question. They don’t address spiritual dimension – where do our soles come from? Where do our spirits go? Intelligent design is a refinement of creationist theory – it accepts that life evolves, but it points out that evolution cannot create life. For creation, a creator is required.

Children should know this. It’s wrong to teach science as if everything is known, as if atheism is the proven path to intellectual purity.

I respect all religious beliefs when they are sincerely held, and, of course, I would defend the late Robin Cook’s right to believe in a universe without a God, and I would defend Tony Blair’s conviction that Christianity is the true way of God.

I don’t believe either viewpoint, but no-one should be denied their faith.

Most especially children should not be denied, young minds should be opened by teachers, not trapped shut. The concept of a creator should be implemented in every growing human mind as an idea that can be accepted or rejected as the child matures.

It is wicked to teach people that the notion of God as a leading force is heretical to the creed of science. I meet many people who are embarrassed to admit to their friends that they feel an instinctive certainty that God exists – they fear they’ll be labelled gullible, or superstitious, or illogical.

That fear and guilt was instilled in them at school, when they thought that Darwin was right and God was dead (the last time I checked it was the other way round).

I feel passionately about this. That’s why you’ve heard me say it all before.

It’s time for me to end this column. I am sad to say it but I don’t want to bore you.

It’s been a fantastic privilege to write these pieces – more than 300 of them – and I am deeply grateful to the editor, Paul Harris, for giving me so many thousands of column inches to say so much.

I have talked about many of the fascinating people I have known during my career, from Ali to Dali and Moshe to Maggie.

The best of these columns were collated into a book, Unorthodox Encounters – I wanted to call it Unorthodox Jew, but that was a step too far across the line of controversy. At least I never had to worry about that with the Jewish Telegraph – not a word was ever censored, though I sometimes drew fury and outrage from readers.

I have discussed the bible, my encounters with UFOs, my experiences of war and kibbutz and lawsuits and fatherhood. When I began these columns, my children were teenagers, now they are in their 20s, making homes of their own.

Most of all, I wrote about my mother, and all she gave me – my whole and my moral toughness and my life itself.

It was a privilege to be able to write a tribute to her in these pages when she passed away last month.

Whatever I attempt to write now for the Jewish Telegraph will always run the risk of being an anticlimax – and that’s not fair on the editor, myself or, most importantly, the readers. It makes me sad, but I am signing off. God bless all of you.


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