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The Arab Wisdom in Israel


Divine Knowledge Has No
Boundaries and Belongs to All
Carlos Cardoso Aveline
Theodor Herzl (photo) foresaw a strong cooperation between Muslims and Jews
A significant number of Arab citizens are getting tired of hatred and violence. They would like to see their communities recovering from the disease of anti-Semitism.  Some of them have a feeling that peace will be better attained in the Middle East and around the globe when the Arab world strengthens its commitment to its own wisdom tradition.
Misled by propaganda, millions of Arabs today seem to support terrorist organizations and their varied actions of boycott against Israel. This is because they lack access to proper information and have no real freedom of thought.
When they get a chance to open their eyes to the healing influence of the Universalist dimension in their culture, common sense will be possible whether they live in Gaza or New York.
Israel is ready for a policy of mutual respect. Arabic wisdom is necessary in the Jewish State. Of course fanaticism is worse than useless, and the Arab wisdom says: “Creeds are tribal, faith is universal.”
A similar idea is ascribed to King Oglo of Tashkent: “Creeds disperse, knowledge unites”. And Abul Alaa Al-Ma’arri, an eleventh century poet, wrote:
“The Exalted Stars, some say, do also feel,
Just like us, and think and talk too;
For Heaven’s sake, do they also have creeds
That would brand us Muslim, Christian and Jew?” [1]
Courage is necessary in life. However, many a form of violence expresses the feeling of fear, not confidence. The Arab tradition is right in teaching that actually - “Courage is facing one’s [own] weaknesses.” [2]
Divine knowledge is common to all nations, and the Buddhist Dhammapada points to the same direction:  
“Better than a man who conquers in battles a thousand times a thousand men is he who conquers himself. He indeed is the mightiest of warriors.” (Chapter eight, verse four, Theosophy Company edition)
The same tenet is taught in other words by the Arab tradition: “Change yourself and your luck will change too.” [3] The sentence is true regarding a community, as much as an individual. Peace depends on building right relationships among nations, and one should consider these sober warnings:
* “Nations curse one another, although they come from one father and one mother.”
* “Don’t launch arrows of curses at your enemy, lest you hit your friend.” [4]
The cult of death and revenge leads nowhere. The politics of hatred produces sad consequences. What we wish to others, this comes back to us. Unhappiness gets reduced as soon people decide to sow what they want to harvest. The Arabic wisdom teaches:
* “Charity banishes evil.” [5]
* “See with others’ eyes, and they will see with yours.” [6]
Respectful reciprocity paves the way to contentment. In order to really listen to the others, however, one must listen to oneself in the first place. In classic theosophy, as in Judaism, heeding the voice of one’s conscience is of fundamental importance, and the Arabic wisdom says:
* “Have a good conscience and fear no evil. Conscience is the judge from whose verdict one can’t escape.” [7]
No one can delay the rising of the Sun in the morning or prevent a peaceful dialogue when people are ready for it. Once the time comes for different nations to awaken from spiritual ignorance, the lack of ethics will disappear. Theodor Herzl, the man who founded modern Zionism, had his reasons to predict that Arabs and Jews would live side by side as true friends. In his revealing 1902 novel “Altneuland”, Herzl described the cultural atmosphere of the Jewish State, whose creation he correctly foresaw and started preparing nearly half a century before the actual independence of Israel took place in 1948.  
As a historical project, the building of the country is still unfolding. The Jewish State has been following the broad lines established in Herzl’s vision. And he did not foresee a separation between Jews from Arabs. His One State Solution would emerge in harmony.
Herzl certainly saw some of the challenges ahead. He of course did not elaborate in his books on the need to face wars and terrorism for long decades before a lasting peace with the Arabs would become possible. It was implicitly understood that the peaceful vision described in “Altneuland” would take an uncertain amount of decades and efforts to fully express itself in practical intercultural terms. Yet Herzl knew that sooner or later hatred and other forms of blindness inevitably pave the way to wisdom, cooperation and mutual help. One of his “Altneuland” characters refers to a level of peace which will flourish once the necessary conditions exist:
“…My associates and I make no distinctions between one man and another. We do not ask to what race or religion a man belongs. If he is a man that is enough for us.” [8]
The passage shows that - contrary to the opinion of ill-informed people - the Zionist project is essentially theosophical. The same prophetic character in Herzl’s novel adds:
“I shall not bore you now with our political controversies. They are the same here as everywhere else in the world. But I can tell you that the fundamental principles of humanitarianism are generally accepted among us. As far as religion goes, you will find Christian, Mohammedan, Buddhist, and Brahmin houses of worship near our own synagogues.” [9]
All religions are already respected by the State of Israel. One can even say that the 2018 status quo regarding the Temple Mount is unfair toward the Jews. Interreligious coexistence will occur in complete harmony once blindness and prejudice are conquered in the souls of people.
It is true that an Eastern Master of the Wisdom wrote:
“As for human nature in general, it is the same now as it was a million of years ago: prejudice based upon selfishness; a general unwillingness to give up an established order of things (…)”.[10] 
And one of the main characters in Herzl’s novel says:
“The human pack nourishes itself on prejudices (…). Well, then. Since prejudices cannot be wiped out, they must be overcome.” [11] 
As soon as people start transcending bigotry, they can learn from one another. An Eastern Master wrote in a letter to a Western lay-disciple: “Learn, child, to catch a hint through whatever agency it may be given. ‘Sermons may be preached even through stones’.” [12] The popular tradition of Arab culture uses similar words to establish the same tenet: “Extract gold from stone, and extricate pearls from the sea, and accept the good word from whomever speaks it.” [13]
The Arab world has reasons to feel due gratitude for the Jewish tradition. Everyone must have respect for his elders and Judaism is one of the main sources of young Islam.
All nations share the same universal wisdom. An inscription over the portals of colleges in Arab Spain reproduces this axiom:
“The world is supported by four things only: the learning of the wise, the justice of the great, the prayers of the righteous, and the valour of the brave.” [14]
And in the Jewish “Pirke Avoth” we find two previous versions of the same saying:
* “The world stands on three things: on Torah, Divine worship, and acts of loving-kindness”; and
* “By three things does the world endure: by truth, justice and peace.” [15]
While fearful minds find it difficult to learn from each other, the Arabic tradition clarifies: “Your friend is he who tells you the truth, not he who agrees with everything you say.” [16] Under the appearance of bravery, hatred is often but an unfortunate disguise of fear. Knowledge and a balanced attitude are better than mere confrontation:
“The ink of the scholar is more holy than the blood of the martyr (Hadith).” [17]
In other words, study and contemplation are preferable to violence. The idea is familiar to those who search for wisdom.  A universal view of life is present in Arab culture,  as one finds in this fragment: “I am the child of Time, my tribe,  mankind,  and now this world is my caravanseri  (Al-Ma’arri,  Rihani)”.[18]
There is no reason to appease terrorist organizations by boycotting Israel. Peace results from justice and good discernment, not from ideological wishful-thinking. When Arab and Jewish wisdom-traditions are seen as branches of the universal knowledge belonging to all mankind, mutual help among nations will be accepted as something that is as natural as breathing.
Envy and hatred lead to renewed suffering, while “contentment is an inexhaustible treasure”.[19]  By innerly improving themselves, citizens pave the way to happiness. No one is really independent who has no self-restraint. Self-control makes it possible to make free decisions. The principle of human responsibility before the Eternal Law belongs to the Jewish philosophy. And the Arab tradition says:
“There are three kinds of slaves: a slave in bondage, a slave of lust, and a slave of greed.” [20]
By the habit of seeking for revenge, one transfers to his adversaries his own power to determine what his course of action will be. Such a foolish inclination is one of the main stinking flowers of ignorance. The folk tradition of the Arabs has this maxim:
“The pleasure of forgiving is followed by praiseworthy consequences, while the satisfaction derived from one’s thirst for revenge is followed by regret and the pain of censure.” [21]
Good sense must be cultivated by individuals and communities alike. “Wisdom is more valuable than weapons of war”, says Ecclesiastes, 9:18 - “but a single error destroys much of value.”
In awakening from the nightmare of mutual hatred, Arabs and Jews must act as well as talk. The correct intention paves the way to mutual respect, to a shared sense of justice, and peace. Besides formal talks and “negotiations”, we need grassroots action for peace in daily life, in the Middle East and around the globe. “Theosophist is, who Theosophy does”, wrote Helena Blavatsky [22].“Judge a person, not by what they say but by what they do”, says the Arab wisdom.[23] It also states: “Mutual help and co-operation are like praying and adoration.”[24]
What one says has great importance, for it helps or hinders action. Words must be chosen with care:
“A wise man’s talk brings him favor”, says Ecclesiastes, 10: 12, “but a fool’s lips are his undoing.” Because of the fact that many an idiot believes he is extremely smart, the Arab tradition says:
“…Don’t be clever, just be good.” [25]
“Much silence and a good disposition, there are no two works better than those. The tongue is a lion which must be chained, and a sharp sword that must be sheathed. A slip of the foot is safer than a slip of the tongue. A false step may break a bone which can be set, but a slip of the tongue cannot be undone. If speech is silver, silence is gold.” [26]
No one should be too afraid of thinking about the best and the highest. A rebirth of Arab wisdom in Israel can help bring about the end of a nightmare.
Dreams are part of reality, and many a fact starts as a dream long before it takes place in outward life. Theodor Herzl dreamed of a Jewish State where Arabs and Jews lived in peace. He wrote like a true theosophist about the actions in the soul that must precede visible external change:
“Dreams also are a fulfillment of the days of our sojourn on Earth. Dreams are not so different from Deeds as some may think. All the Deeds of men are only Dreams at first. And in the end, their Deeds dissolve into Dreams.” [27]
As long as noble dreams guide one’s actions, the seeds of eternal wisdom are present, and justice and equilibrium tend to occur.
[1] These three initial quotations are from “The Book of Arabic Wisdom - Proverbs & Anecdotes”, compiled by Hussain M Al-Amily, NI, New Internationalist Publications, UK, 2003, 200 pp., see p. 25. Hussain M Al-Amily was born in 1927, in Irak.
[2] “The Book of Arabic Wisdom - Proverbs & Anecdotes”,  compiled by Hussain M Al-Amily,  page 24.
[3] “The Book of Arabic Wisdom - Proverbs & Anecdotes”,  compiled by Hussain M Al-Amily,  page 17.
[4] These two sentences are included at page 26 of “The Book of Arabic Wisdom - Proverbs & Anecdotes”.
[5] “The Book of Arabic Wisdom - Proverbs & Anecdotes”, page 17.
[6] “The Book of Arabic Wisdom - Proverbs & Anecdotes”, page 22.
[7] “The Book of Arabic Wisdom - Proverbs & Anecdotes”, same page 22.
[8] “Old New Land”, (“Altneuland”), Theodor Herzl, Markus Wiener Publishers, Princeton, third printing, 2000, book two, chapter two, page 66.
[9] “Old New Land”, Theodor Herzl, Markus Wiener Publishers, 2000, page 67.
[10] “The Mahatma Letters”, published by T. Fisher Unwin Ltd., in London, UK, with 493 pages and Index, see Letter I, p. 3. “The Mahatma Letters” is available in our websites. The number of pages is the same in the TUP edition.
[11] “Old New Land”, Theodor Herzl, Markus Wiener Publishers, 2000, Book One, Part V, page 41.
[12] “Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom - First Series”, edited by C. Jinarajadasa, TPH, India, 1948 edition, see “Additional Letters”, page Letter II to Laura C. Holloway, p. 204. The book is available in our associated websites.
[13] “The Wisdom of the Arabs”, compiled by Suheil Bushrui, Oneworld Publications, Oxford, England, 2002, 254 pp., see p. 221.
[14] “The Wisdom of the Arabs”, compiled by Suheil Bushrui, Oneworld Publications, page 220.
[15] See pages 38 and 106, respectively, in “Ethics from Sinai”, an eclectic, wide-ranging commentary by Irving M. Bunim, volume I, Philipp Feldheim, Inc., New York, 1964, 360 pages. The edition has 3 volumes.
[16] “As the Arabs Say…”, Arabic Quotations Recalled and Interpreted, by Isa Khalil Sabbagh, volume I, 1983, copyright Isa Khalil Sabbagh, produced by Ray Graham Associates, Inc., 84 pages, see p. 35.
[17] “The Wisdom of the Arabs”, compiled by Suheil Bushrui,  Oneworld Publications, 254 pp., see  p. 220.
[18] “The Wisdom of the Arabs”, compiled by Suheil Bushrui,  Oneworld Publications, 254 pp., see  p. 73.
[19] “As the Arabs Say…”, Isa Khalil Sabbagh, volume I, 1983, see pp. 10-11.
[20] “The Wisdom of the Arabs”, compiled by Suheil Bushrui,  Oneworld Publications, 254 pp., see  p. 94.
[21] “The Wisdom of the Arabs”, Oneworld Publications, 254 pp., see p. 184. As to revenge, see also Leviticus, 19: 18, whose tenet must be applied to all fellow humans.
[22] “The Key to Theosophy”, Helena P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Company, Los Angeles, see p. 20.
[23] “The Book of Arabic Wisdom - Proverbs & Anecdotes”,  compiled by Hussain M Al-Amily,  page 30.
[24] “The Book of Arabic Wisdom - Proverbs & Anecdotes”,  compiled by Hussain M Al-Amily,  page 23.
[25] “The Book of Arabic Wisdom - Proverbs & Anecdotes”,  compiled by Hussain M Al-Amily,  page 19.
[26] “The Wisdom of the Arabs”, Oneworld Publications, pp. 95-96.
[27] “Old New Land”, Theodor Herzl, Markus Wiener Publishers, 2000, Epilogue, page 296.
The above text was published on 1 June 2018.  It is also available at our blog in “The Times of Israel”.    
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