“No pot on Passover” (& Israelis invent Internet-free computer connection)

April 04, 2007

* Israeli scientists develop revolutionary new software that enables computers to communicate directly with one another without the Internet
* Next they say they can develop software allowing cell phone users to speak for free without the need for using a cellular operator
* Bullet-proof Israeli ambulance enters Ramallah to save Palestinian baby
* Canadian philosophy professor compares 9/11 bomber Mohammed Atta to Jewish biblical hero

This dispatch mainly concerns Israel.

 

CONTENTS

1. Arab language academy to be established in Israel
2. Israeli team creates communication between computers without the Internet
3. Poland interested in training its air force pilots in Israel
4. “No pot on Passover”
5. Poll: 77 percent of Israeli Jews believe in God
6. Arab lesbians hold conference in Haifa
7. Israeli ambulance enters Ramallah to save Palestinian baby
8. Olmert: Abbas reneged on promise to free Shalit
9. Palestinian rocket fire at Israel continues despite “truce”
10. Canadian choir to present biblical Jewish hero as suicide bomber
11. “In Mideast, a growing linguistic divide” (Washington Post, April 1, 2007)
12. “Portable ECG machine uses cell technology” (San Fran. Chronicle, March 26, 2007)
13. “Choir to depict bible hero as a suicide bomber” (National Post, March 28, 2007)



[Note by Tom Gross]

ARAB LANGUAGE ACADEMY TO BE ESTABLISHED IN ISRAEL

The Israeli parliament, the Knesset, has passed a law to establish an academy for Arabic language and culture in Israel. The new academy will operate in parallel to the existing Hebrew Language Academy.

In Israel, Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages of the state. Ibrahim Abu Shindi, co-director of the Citizens’ Accord Forum, who spearheaded the initiative, said, “This is a big step forward and is an official recognition by the state of the identity and culture of Israel’s Arab minority and its important contribution to Israeli culture and public life.”

It is hoped that the academy will be a center for research, and for nurturing Arabic language with an emphasis on the local dialect, culture and folklore of Arab citizens of Israel. The academy, which will open in early 2008, will work with Arabic departments at universities both in and outside Israel.

Each of the Hebrew and Arabic academies are to receive similarly-sized generous government funding. Academies for the preservation of Yiddish and Ladino will also receive much smaller funding from the authorities.

Below, I attach an article from the Washington Post, which (because in the Post’s opinion there is little else to report on in the rest of the world other than to highlight the problems they can find with Israel) devotes 1500 words to what they call the “growing linguistic divide” between Jews and Arabs. “As their physical separation grows, a shrinking number of Israelis and Palestinians are studying each other’s language, a casualty of the enduring hostility between two peoples still sharing one land,” claims the Post.

ISRAELI TEAM CREATES COMMUNICATION BETWEEN COMPUTERS WITHOUT THE INTERNET

A group of Israeli scientists from the Technion in Haifa led by Professor Roi Friedman have developed WiPeer a new software that enables mobile and desktop computers to communicate directly with one another in a local area without any mediating factor, such as an Internet server. The software, which is available for free on the Net, enables users to send messages, pictures, files, movies and games to one another wirelessly within a 100-300 meter radius.

The user-friendly application platform enables simple communication between computers in close proximity 100 yards inside a building, and up to 300 yards in the open air. Users can transfer dozens of pictures from one computer to another in less than a minute, and even a 700 MB file can be transferred in up to 15 minutes. It is also possible to carry on chats without disturbing anyone in the vicinity or to play collaborative games like chess. And all of this will be possible without any Internet connection.

“For example,” says Friedman, “employees who go abroad on company business may be seated separately from one another in the airplane. With this software, they can work together on their presentation during their flight.”

The software was completed earlier this year and two weeks ago became available at www.wipeer.com. Since it was published, many thousands of people have downloaded it and it has attracted much attention on web sites and blogs throughout the world.

The next achievement the Haifa team are aiming for is to develop software for the cellular phone which can bypass cellular operators and offer free calls to anyone within close proximity, such as a shopping mall, a school, or a sports stadium.

Israeli scientists have also developed a portable electrocardiograph machine that can transmit highly detailed data on heart activity to physicians by cell phone. For more, see the second article below, from the San Francisco Chronicle.

POLAND INTERESTED IN TRAINING ITS AIR FORCE PILOTS IN ISRAEL

In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, Poland’s foreign minister Aleksander Szczyglo said that his country is interested in training its air force pilots in Israel.

Szczyglo, in Israel to sign an expanded military cooperation agreement, noted that the Polish Air Force had purchased F-16 fighter aircraft from the United States and wished to train its pilots in Israel, where they could take advantage of the experience and reputation of the Israel Air Force.

The Polish foreign minister was also hopeful of cooperation between the two countries in the fight against terrorism: “Israel has much experience in fighting terror and our army and security forces are interested in holding joint training in various areas including the war against terror.”

During his recent visit, Szczyglo also praised relations between Israel and Poland. “In the past several years, Poland has represented and expressed Israeli interests without reservation in the European Union, and that is not something that can be taken for granted,” he said.

“NO POT ON PASSOVER”

Israel’s pro-marijuana political party has announced that pot is forbidden for observant Jews on Passover, the Jerusalem Post reveals. A spokesman for the Green Leaf party announced that cannabis was among the substances Jews are forbidden to consume during the week-long Jewish festival, that began on Monday.

Biblical laws prohibit eating leavened foods during Passover, replacing bread with flat crackers called matza. Those rules have also been extended to forbid other foods like beans and corn, and more recent rulings by rabbis have further expanded the ban to include hemp seeds, which today are found in some health oils and in marijuana.

Green Leaf is a small political party that lobbies for the legalization of marijuana, which is a popular drug among Israelis despite being illegal. Although the political party is by no means a Jewish religious authority, the group decided to warn its observant supporters not to use the drug during Passover. “You shouldn’t smoke marijuana on the holiday, and if you have it in your house you should get rid of it,” Michelle Levine, a party spokeswoman said.

However, the rabbinic injunctions banning hemp were never adopted by Sephardi Jews, who come from countries in the Middle East and North Africa. That means there is no reason they can’t keep smoking marijuana, Levine said except of course that the drug remains illegal, despite her party’s best efforts.

POLL: 77 PERCENT OF ISRAELI JEWS BELIEVE IN GOD

In an extensive poll of over 1,000 Israeli Jews carried out for Israel’s biggest newspaper Yediot Ahronot before the Passover holiday and published on April 2, 2007, 77 percent of Israelis said they believed in God. 8 percent said they believed in “not God but some greater power” and 12 percent said they were outright atheists.

Regarding religious practice, 50 percent said they were Secular, 30 percent described themselves as Traditional, 12 percent as Orthodox, and 8 percent as Ultra-orthodox.

ARAB LESBIANS HOLD CONFERENCE IN HAIFA

The following is an update to Islamic fury at Palestinian lesbian conference in Haifa (& Arab praise for kidnapped BBC man) (March 14, 2007).

Defying threats of violence from Islamic extremists, Arab lesbians gathered in the Israeli city of Haifa last week for a rare public event. Homosexuality is strictly forbidden by Islam, and a statement issued by one of Israel’s main Muslim groups described it as a “cancer” in the Arab community.

As a result only a few of the Arab women in the crowd of about 250 were gay, said Samira, 31, a conference organizer, who came to the event with her Jewish Israeli girlfriend. This, she added, was a sign of how much Arab women feared being identified as lesbians in a society where “honor killings” remain a problem.

Many of the attendees said they were sad that the only place safe enough to hold a conference for gay Arab women was in a Jewish area of Haifa, which has a mixed Arab-Jewish population.

“This conference is being held, somehow, in exile, even though it’s our country, but it’s not being held in Nazareth or Umm el-Fahm (two large Israeli Arab towns),” said Yussef Abu Warda, a playwright.

ISRAELI AMBULANCE ENTERS RAMALLAH TO SAVE PALESTINIAN BABY

A bullet-proof Israeli ambulance last week entered the West Bank city of Ramallah to save a six-month old baby who was in critical condition after inhaling toxic substances.

This was the first time an Israeli ambulance had entered into Palestinian territory for six years. After Israeli ambulances were attacked by Hamas and Fatah gunmen, in recent years they would only go as far as the Israeli army checkpoints, where they would pick up Palestinian patients in need of medical care in Israel.

The paramedics evacuated the unconscious baby, just a few hours after two other babies, who went to the same daycare center as the boy, died of similar symptoms. Upon arriving in Ramallah, the ambulance was escorted by a convoy of Palestinian police, who accompanied it all the way to the hospital, and blocked roads to ensure it got through safely.

The baby along with his parents was taken to the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer in central Israel after receiving a special permit from the Israeli army due to his serious condition.

PALESTINIAN ROCKET FIRE AT ISRAEL CONTINUES DESPITE “TRUCE”

Palestinian gunmen in northern Gaza fired another Qassam rocket into Israel yesterday as Jews celebrated the Passover holiday. Almost 200 rockets have been fired at Israel since the November 2006 “truce.” 150 have landed inside Israel. The Israeli government, fearful of international criticism, has largely failed to respond to these rockets.

OLMERT: ABBAS RENEGED ON PROMISE TO FREE SHALIT

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has violated his concrete promise to free kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit before a Palestinian national unity government was formed.

Olmert revealed that Abbas had made the commitment a number of times in meetings between the two leaders, and also during three-way summits that included U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and foreign heads of state.

For more on Gilad Shalit, see the dispatch Saving Corporal Shalit (June 28, 2006).

CANADIAN CHOIR TO PRESENT BIBLICAL JEWISH HERO AS SUICIDE BOMBER

The third and final article below is from the National Post in Canada. The paper reports that “a Victoria choir will next month present Samson as a suicide bomber. Simon Capet, music director of the Victoria Philharmonic Choir, says he wanted to update Handel’s Samson oratorio to be relevant to today’s audiences by drawing comparisons to ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. ‘We didn’t want to just present the work as a simple morality tale,’ says Mr. Capet. ‘There is a social and political commentary here that’s important.’”

The setting of the oratorio will be 1946 Jerusalem. Capet says he chose the period to draw comparisons to the bombing of the British headquarters at the King David Hotel.

Capet continues, “Is there any difference between pulling down a pillar or blowing a bomb? ...Samson killed thousands of people. To show him in the traditional mythological sense does a disservice.”

Comparing Samson to a terrorist is becoming more widespread. Shadia Drury, a philosophy professor and Canada Research Chair for Social Justice, recently compared Samson to World Trade Center bomber Mohammed Atta.

-- Tom Gross



FULL ARTICLES

A GROWING LINGUISTIC DIVIDE

In Mideast, a growing linguistic divide
Shrinking numbers of Israelis, Palestinians studying each other’s language
By Scott Wilson
The Washington Post
April 1, 2007

www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/31/AR2007033101104.html

Recruiters from Israel’s military intelligence first identified Ran Vittelson, a stellar Arabic student, as a blue-chip prospect when he was a sophomore at the large public high school here.

Quiet and studious, Vittelson has a rare talent for Arabic, a language of dwindling interest to Israeli Jews, many of whom identify it with their enemy.

“I’ll be translating Arabic texts and listening also to avoid terror attacks,” said Vittelson, 18, who will begin his compulsory army service after graduation in a few months.

Malek Iram, a Palestinian merchant, is also a talented language student. The aluminum siding salesman is studying Hebrew, a language of declining interest to Palestinians who identify it with their enemy, at a small institute in the West Bank city of Hebron.

“I have to understand what the Israeli businessmen are saying,” Iram, 26, said after class on a recent afternoon. “Otherwise, I’ll be at a disadvantage.”

As their physical separation grows, a shrinking number of Israelis and Palestinians are studying each other’s language, a casualty of the enduring hostility between two peoples still sharing one land. Those Israelis and Palestinians studying Arabic and Hebrew, both official languages of the Jewish state, are doing so for reasons that reveal vastly different outlooks on the future.

“The attitude on both sides toward the other language, and by extension those who speak it, is very disappointing,” said Sasson Somekh, who helped found the Arabic department at Tel Aviv University nearly 40 years ago. Now retired, he is lobbying against its closure. “Both sides are just very afraid of the other,” he said.

Judging by enrollment in universities and private institutes, the number of Israeli Jews and Palestinians choosing to study the languages has fallen by a third in some places and nearly disappeared in others since 1993, when the Oslo peace accords established the semiautonomous Palestinian Authority and began separating the two peoples.

Many Israelis look to Europe as their prime economic and cultural reference point. In business, the language they need is more likely to be English or French than Arabic. Today, among those Israeli Jews studying Arabic, many more than a decade ago are doing so for one reason: preparing for service in the Israeli security agencies.

By contrast, many Palestinians view Israel’s thriving economy as the nearest path to prosperity, even though fewer and fewer of them have permission to work in Israel. For ambitious Palestinians, Hebrew remains the lingua franca of business and a useful tool for navigating the Israeli military checkpoints.

“At the end of this there will be two states,” said Mazen Abu Shamsiya, who runs the Hebrew language institute in Hebron that Iram attends. “But I am convinced Israel will never live without the Arabs, so long as there is an economic connection.”

In Israel’s Jewish public school system, Arabic is technically compulsory through the 10th grade, although about 35 percent of students choose instead to study French or Russian or to enroll in religious schools where Arabic is not required.

Israeli Arab students, who attend separate schools, are required to study Arabic and Hebrew. All Israeli students must pass an English exam to graduate. In the Gaza Strip and West Bank, the Palestinian Authority does not teach Hebrew in public schools.

In a survey commissioned last year by Israel’s Education Ministry, Israeli high school teachers said the main challenge in teaching Arabic was the “low image” of the language among Jewish students, a majority of whom said it should no longer be compulsory.

“If you study French, you are part of a sophisticated literary culture,” said Shlomo Alon, the ministry’s head of Arabic instruction in the Jewish school system for nearly two decades. “That’s the true explanation, but no one wants to say it.”

On Alon’s office door hangs a poster featuring the Arabic alphabet, the insignia of Israel’s military intelligence appearing prominently in one corner. The branch gives teachers classroom materials and tests the brightest students in their sophomore year. Only 2.5 percent of Jewish 11th- and 12th-graders choose to study Arabic at the highest level, a number unchanged since the start of the most recent Palestinian uprising six years ago.

Military intelligence recruits serve in safer posts than their classmates in the infantry. The classical Arabic taught in high school does not help with conversation in a language complicated by various dialects. But it is the form used in TV and radio news broadcasts in the Arab world, which the recruits monitor.

“My friends think it’s a bit odd that I study Arabic,” Vittelson said amid the din of his high school’s hallways clearing out for Passover break. “But they are wrong.”

Rosh Haayin, a town of 30,000 on Israel’s coastal plain, highlights the demographic challenge facing military recruiters as the flow of Jews from Arabic-speaking countries dries up and the first new immigrant generation dies off.

Jews from Yemen, raised speaking Arabic, once dominated Rosh Haayin. But they now account for roughly 10 percent of the population, composed mostly of middle-class Jews with European and Russian backgrounds who have little interest in Arabic. “There are very few native Arabic speakers left in the Jewish population,” said Carmit Bar-On, who teaches the language at the high school here. “There is a problem teaching Arabic because there is a problem between Arabs and Jews.”

After military service, fewer and fewer Israelis are studying the language in university, threatening the future of some Arabic departments.

At 73, Somekh, the retired professor, is the dean of Arabic studies in Israel. He arrived a native Arabic speaker from Baghdad in 1951 after graduating from high school there. His Arabic classes swelled following the 1973 Middle East war, then dipped when the first Palestinian uprising began in 1987, he said. Since the Oslo accords, enrollment has fallen more than 30 percent, even though, he said, “the threat to Israel is higher than ever.”

Reflecting the mood in Israel, he lamented, “A friend of mine tells me we are now a high-tech economy that the Arabs have nothing to do with, so now we can turn our eyes to the West.”

Three years ago, after Somekh had stopped teaching full time, the university president told him that he was considering closing the department. “I told him the whole world will say the largest university in Israel just closed its Arabic department,” Somekh said. “That scared him. But there is still this feeling of needing to get away from them as far as possible. This is the attitude shown toward Arabs and toward Arabic.”

Last month, Israel’s parliament voted to establish the state’s first Arabic academy to promote the language.

Ulpan Akiva, a language school that occupies a seaside compound in Netanya, is the first stop for many new Jewish immigrants seeking to learn Hebrew.

Before the uprising and Israel’s construction of a separation barrier, scores of Palestinians also studied Hebrew there each year, including a Hamas spokesman who uses the language in Israeli television interviews. Today, two West Bank doctors are the only Palestinians in the course.

The school also offers Arabic, which once attracted Israelis from a variety of political and professional backgrounds, including Jewish settlers from the West Bank. Most Jewish adults now enrolled in its Arabic courses work for the government as teachers, police and military officers.

“It’s the wall, it’s anger, it’s fear,” said Esther Perron, the institute’s ebullient director. “But whatever happens, they will be here and we will be here. So let’s talk.”

Yasser Khatib, director of the Palestinian Yasser Cultural Center in Hebron, learned Hebrew at Ulpan Akiva in better days. Now he runs his own language institute.

The school’s Hebrew teacher learned the language in an Israeli prison, where many Palestinian political leaders jailed during the uprisings learned it from fellow inmates.

Before the most recent uprising, Khatib said, hundreds of Palestinians were enrolled in his three-month Hebrew courses. “Now,” he said, “you can count them on one hand.”

On the eve of that uprising, which began in September 2000, the Israeli government allowed 100,000 Palestinians from the West Bank to work and trade in Israel. Now that number is 50,000, among them a satellite dish salesman, two cut-stone merchants and a traveling toy vendor studying in Abu Shamsiya’s second-floor classroom in Hebron.

A female medical student fields Abu Shamsiya’s questions, hoping Hebrew will help her secure a gynecology residency at Jerusalem’s prestigious Hadassah Hospital. Then there is Hanadi Tahaboub, a 32-year-old homemaker wearing a pink head scarf.

“When I am at checkpoints and I hear Israeli soldiers talking among themselves, I feel like an illiterate,” Tahaboub said. “Now at least I will know what they are saying.”

Special correspondent Samuel Sockol contributed to this report.

 

NEW ISRAELI TECHNOLOGY CAN TRANSMIT HEART DATA DIRECTLY TO DOCTORS

Portable ECG machine uses cell technology
Israeli firm’s device can transmit heart data directly to doctors
By Matthew Kalman
San Francisco Chronicle
March 26, 2007

Israeli scientists have developed a portable electrocardiograph machine that can transmit highly detailed data on heart activity to physicians by mobile phone.

The CardioSen’C is considered an advance in portable heart-monitoring devices because it uses many more electrodes to measure heart activity and is equipped to communicate the results instantaneously to a cardiologist.

SHL, the Israeli company behind the CardioSen’C, says its machine can dramatically reduce deaths from heart attacks through early diagnosis of patients who might otherwise hesitate before calling a doctor or rushing to a hospital to be monitored.

This is how it works: Patients attach 12 electrodes to their chest and upper body and strap the battery-powered unit on the front of their chest. Automatic digital transmission allows the electrocardiograph, or ECG, results to be transmitted at the highest-quality available and at a high speed to the patient’s cardiologist for instant diagnosis.

The machine is so small that readings can be taken anywhere, even while traveling. The unit is automatically connected via digital cell phone to a dedicated medical control center.

The company has also developed a system called “double transmission monitoring,” which allows the control center to direct the operation of the electrocardiograph and the transmission and download of data by remote control while medical staff talk to the patient.

Patients who suffer from heart disease, are recovering from bypass treatment or simply feel they are at risk are now in a position to measure their heart activity.

According to a report in the March issue of the journal Emergency Medical Services, coronary heart disease causes about 1.5 million Americans to suffer acute myocardial infarctions or heart attacks every year, resulting in about 500,000 deaths. Nearly half die before reaching a hospital.

The CardioSen’C can diagnose arrhythmia, ischemia and myocardial infarction.

Erez Alroy, co-chief executive officer of SHL, which specializes in telemedicine technology, said patients who don’t feel well can use the machine to measure their heart activity and consult instantaneously with physicians reading the data in real time.

“When people don’t feel well, it can take time to make the decision to go to a physician or a clinic. Maybe they put it off until the next day. This is a crucial time, when there can be irreversible damage to the heart,” said Alroy.

Heart patients who until now have been scared to travel for fear of being too far away from a doctor or clinic to measure their condition can now test themselves and be in immediate contact with an expert who speaks their own language.

“We have customers who are transmitting their ECG from any part of the world you can imagine,” said Alroy. “Most people hesitate before going to a local doctor abroad. They are worried about problems with the language, about the lack of medical history. We find that people prefer to call ... back home, where they can speak their own language and then take instructions. People on holiday find it a very useful tool.”

Alroy said the unit would make taking an ECG no more trouble than taking your temperature. “We believe in the future more and more people will have various medical measuring devices at home,” he said.

SHL plans to market the CardioSen’C first in Israel, where the company already has more than 70,000 cardiac patient subscribers, and then in Europe. The company plans to market the unit later in the United States, where it is expected to cost several hundred dollars.

The company’s first ECG machine developed for patient use has already been approved for use in the United States. Its CardioBeeper 12/12 is a handheld ECG transmitter capable of sending a full ECG reading to the monitor center in 12 seconds via a standard phone line. The company has also developed a simple pin-prick blood test that can determine in seconds whether a patient has suffered a heart attack.

Mobile ECG machines that transmit data by phone to physicians are already available in the United States, but SHL said the CardioSen’C has several advantages over the existing services.

One of the competitors to SHL is CardioNet Inc., whose Mobile Cardiac Outpatient Telemetry unit is designed for use at home by patients and is already operating in more than 25 states.

The CardioNet unit consists of a sensor, monitor and base. Patients wear three leads attached to a lightweight sensor worn on a neck strap or belt clip that continuously transmit two channels of ECG data to the monitor.

The information is transmitted by wireless to the base unit, which transfers the data by landline or cell phone to the CardioNet Monitoring Center for review by a certified monitoring technician.

Irit Alroy, chief technology officer at SHL, said that while both devices collect ECG data and use cellular technology to transfer the information, SHL’s “CardioSen’C is a 12-lead ECG, similar to machines found in hospitals. There is a significant medical difference between a 12-lead ECG and a two- or three-lead ECG. (The 12-lead ECG can) diagnose many more types of cardiac events, in fact any condition that can be diagnosed by a full ECG in a hospital. Also, the cell-phone technology in the CardioSen’C is in a chip embedded in the device. It does not require an additional monitor and a base unit.”

 

CANADIAN CHOIR TO DEPICT SAMSON AS A ZIONIST TERRORIST

Choir to depict bible hero as a suicide bomber
Samson to be a Zionist terrorist
By Sarah Petrescu, CanWest News Service
National Post (Canada)
March 28, 2007

www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=249e7155-1044-463f-a1d4-6f5cafa5912b&k=80884

In the Bible, Samson is a hero who used his superhuman strength to do God’s will by pulling down pillars in a Philistine temple, killing thousands and himself in an act of vengeance.

But in what’s sure to be a controversial interpretation of the story, a Victoria choir will next month present Samson as a suicide bomber.

Simon Capet, music director of the Victoria Philharmonic Choir, says he wanted to update Handel’s Samson oratorio to be relevant to today’s audiences by drawing comparisons to ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.

“We didn’t want to just present the work as a simple morality tale,” says Mr. Capet. “There is a social and political commentary here that’s important.”

While the music will not change, the setting of the oratorio will be 1946 Jerusalem. Mr. Capet says he chose the period to draw comparisons to the bombing of the British headquarters at the King David Hotel by the militant Zionist group Irgun in that year. Menachem Begin, who ordered the attack, would later become Israel’s prime minister and win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mr. Capet says presenting Samson as a terrorist is not meant to offend anyone or point the finger at one group, but to challenge our notions of what a terrorist is.

“Is there any difference between pulling down a pillar or blowing a bomb?” asks Mr. Capet.

“Samson killed thousands of people. To show him in the traditional mythological sense does a disservice,” Mr. Capet says.

The choir would not be the first to drawing comparisons between Samson and terrorism.

“There’s a large focus on this right now, with Israel being presented as the Samson figure,” says Andrew Rippin, dean of humanities at the University of Victoria and a specialist in Islamic studies. American journalist Seymour Hersh coined the term “the Samson option” in his book about Israel’s development of a nuclear arsenal.

Shadia Drury, a philosophy professor and Canada Research Chair for Social Justice, recently compared Samson to World Trade Center bomber Mohammed Atta in a talk at UVic. In her book, Terror and Civilization: Christianity, Politics and the Western Psyche, she argues that terrorism is a biblical problem.

“The concept of a collective guilt is a flawed morality,” she says. “The idea that ‘We’re on the side of God and everyone else is evil’ has and always will be disastrous.”

Ms. Drury says she thinks the choir’s modern interpretation of Samson scheduled to run April 5, 7 and 8 is heroic.

But local Rabbi Itzchak Marmorstein says comparing Samson and the Irgun bombing will offend Jews and Israelis.

“It’s an inappropriate comparison that promotes a shallow understanding of history,” says Rabbi Marmorstein. “Israelis never supported Irgun or that kind of terrorism. They weren’t heroes ... and Begin went into politics legitimately decades later. He wasn’t some crazy terrorist.”

One man who is already uneasy about the performance is Samson himself, played by Vancouver Island tenor Ken Lavigne.

“I’m really struggling with this,” says Mr. Lavigne, 33. “I can’t help but feel that a number of people will not enjoy this rejigging of a biblical hero.”

Mr. Lavigne says he has warmed up to the idea of putting on an Irgun uniform and wearing a bomb-belt to sing the emotionally charged part since discussing it with Mr. Capet.

“Simon wants to get people talking about music and its relevance today,” Mr. Lavigne says. “In the end I’ve had to accept that whoever I thought Samson was, what he committed was an act of mass murder.”


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.