The Bible’s Defense of Cities

In the book of Genesis, it is the fratricidal Cain who founds the first city, and Sodom and the other “cities of the plain” are dens of sin; by contrast, heroic figures—as is true in other biblical books—tend to be shepherds. Leon Kass has gone so far as to argue that, in the Torah, “the city is rooted in fear, greed, pride, violence, and the desire for domination.” For Kass and others, the best prooftext can be found in a passage read in synagogues last Saturday, where the inhabitants of Babel say, “Let us build a city and tower with its head in the heavens.” Looking to the counterexample of Jerusalem, Yehuda Goldberg attempts a different reading of Scripture’s attitude toward urban life:

The origins of Jerusalem and the Tower of Babel are parallel in many ways. Both arise when there is unity, either in the land or the world at large. The Tower is built as the world begins to gather from scattered settlements and becomes unified around a central city. David builds Jerusalem as he unites his kingdom and attempts to unify his nation around a central city. Both Jerusalem and the Tower are built around a central tower or fortress. . . .

Yet, the story of Jerusalem diverges from that of the Tower of Babel. In the subsequent chapters after the capture of the fort at Jerusalem, one would expect David to consolidate power around his capital. [Instead], his primary preoccupation appears to be ensuring that Jerusalem is the earthly dwelling place of God. First, David brings the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. [Then] David seeks to build the Temple in his new capital, a dream his son Solomon will bring to fruition.

David recognized, as did Aristotle, that the city is a place where human virtue and excellence are uniquely poised to flourish. He also recognized the opportunity that urban life provides to glorify God in the world. . . . City dwellers may not depend on God to send rain in the proper time [as do farmers], but they do rely on God to help protect them from their enemies and to help culture, art, finances, and education blossom. These realms, which supplant mere survival and necessity with human flourishing, are areas where it is often difficult to acknowledge God’s presence in human affairs. Yet, when a city’s inhabitants do manage to recognize the link between the prosperity of the city and God, they are declaring to the world that God’s power spans from the minute to the great, from the farm to the metropolis.

Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: Aristotle, Hebrew Bible, Jerusalem, Leon Kass, Tower of Babel

Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University