24th July 1998
Stone me! Now ornaments fly
You might find this hard to believe. OK, you won’t believe it. In fact, you’re going to be sure I’m making this up. But I’m not.
One of my ornaments has teleported itself through the wall.
See, I told you – you don’t believe me. Would it help you to know I couldn’t believe it myself at first? And neither could the friend who saw it happen.
Sefi, who is a highly successful Israeli architect, was staying in my home for a few nights, and he was trying manfully to share my interest in the internet one evening while I surfed the World Wide Web. He was trying, but his attention was wandering. I guess watching someone else operate a computer can be thrilling for only so long.
So he started doodling on a loose sheet of paper on top of the photocopier, and that’s when the ornament appeared. It was a small, light blue, stone globe, and it was suddenly rolling across the photocopier lid.
The stone was carved by South African bushmen, and had been given to me by a prospector, a real Indiana Jones type, who joined me on an expedition dowsing for minerals in the Kalahari. We struck a vein of gold, and ‘Indiana’ gave me the rock because he said it looked like Earth from outer space – I think he suspected I was an alien.
Well, this little blue stone certainly spaced me out. It lived in the family room, on a high shelf. How could it materialise in the air and drop softly onto a piece of office equipment? And why would this happen?
I offered the stone to Sefi, as a permanent reminder of the realm beyond our senses, but he didn’t want it. He said he liked things in his home to stay where he put them.
Now here’s something you will be able to believe. Physicist Anton Zeilinger and his team at the University of Innsbruck has succeeded in teleporting sub-atomic particles across his laboratory, exploiting a loophole in reality whereby electrons become ‘entangled’ – mimicking each other even where there is no physical connection.
You believe Dr Zeilinger, don’t you? Even though it takes ultra high-powered microscopes to observe electrons? And even though you didn’t see it happen yourself?
Of course you do. You’re a modern Jew. And modern Jews trust science – even when they don’t trust the tales of columnists, and the evidence of respectable businessmen… even when they don’t believe their own eyes.
So by the same token, even if your name is Cohen, you probably didn’t believe that all Cohanim are directly descended from Aaron, the brother of Moses. Until, that is, the scientists proved it.
Being a Jew means your mother was Jewish, but being one of the priestly caste means your father was also one of the elect. In other words, the caste-mark passes from son to son to son. And a story passes too – that Aaron’s male descendants served in the Temple of Solomon after the Exodus, and only their sons were admitted into the priesthood. The tradition has been continued ever since – long after the story was dismissed by many as a fairy-tale.
When David Goldstein, lecturer in evolutionary biology at Oxford University, conducted a study into the genetic make-up of 306 Jewish men, he was astonished to discover the Cohanim were indeed all descended from one man who lived 2,000 to 3,000 years ago. Their Y chromosomes, a major part of their bodies’ cellular blueprints, shared vital features – features not found in the other men.
Mr Goldstein stops short of identifying Aaron as the common ancestor. To be scientifically certain, he would have to conduct DNA tests on Aaron’s body, which is about as likely as finding the stone tablets which his brother used to note down God’s Law, tucked in a back corner of a junk shop in Golders Green.
So all we’ve got as evidence is the testimony of thousands of Jews, over hundreds of years. Half of the story has been demonstrated true – but as for the rest… it’s not what the scientists would call proof, is it?
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