Moria Refugee Camp on Lesvos

Moria Refugee Camp on Lesvos
Moria Refugee Camp on Lesvos

Saturday, 20 September 2014

The Lincoln Synagogue

Today was a first for me, visit to the oldest Synagogue in England which is at Jews Court, The Strait, Lincoln.

The service for Sabbath morning was sung in Hebrew by a Rabbi  with a wonderful voice. I was struck by the way it followed a pattern that everyone knew. It was like the way my oldies in Cornwall all knew their prayer book services verbatim. It is there deep in the heartbeat of these warm and welcoming people. The other thing that struck me was how much was sung in a minor key. This reflects the lamentation of so much of the Hebrew Bible.

This is a congregation of Liberal Judaism. The Rabbi spoke about the reading from the Torah from Deuteronomy. He started from the orthodox view that it is the word of God, later it was accepted that it is the word of Moses, later still that it was written in the seventh century BCC in Babylon. Now it is acknowledged that it provides a framework for relating to God in our own time.

What struck me most was that everything was done not because someone in authority decreed it, but because it honours tradition going back into the depths of time.

Do we need the armed forces?

I wrote the following two paragraphs four years ago and only found the draft today. What is odd is that I have recently been thinking on very much the same lines, informed by my research for my book, The Logistics of War and encouraged by the possibility of exploring the subject at a future Lincoln Philosophy Cafe.

'In Friday's Guardian, Simon Jenkins asked this question; it should have made my blood boil, coming, as I do, from an army family. It should also have made my blood boil given the importance I attach to Remembrance. It did the opposite, and I am trying to work out why. When I read about Churchill in the thirties, he stands as my farsighted hero. I understand the desire of Baldwin and Chamberlain for peace, but Churchill was right. But he was right then. The world has moved on to become in many ways a more dangerous place. There is no single bogeyman.

On Sunday I will say in my sermon that the Second World War set the pattern for conflicts to come. It made ethic cleansing accepted, it made atrocities on civilians a normal part of war, it gave permission for the bombing of Baghdad. The difference now is that the threats are more insidious. They need a different response. The armed forces continue the pattern set by WWII, but the way the threats present themselves is radically different. We need a defence policy that addresses this rather than saying that the existing services can take it within their ambit.'

The point I am finding myself drawn to is that war is no longer the solution. War did defeat the Nazis, it didn't defeat any of Korea, Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan. As my father said in a speech in Halifax for Salute the Soldier week, the nation that is prepared to waste the most will win. The Allies had an overwhelming advantage in resources compared to Germany. The problem now is that even small countries or alliances can have access to weapons the equal of the superpowers.