From time to time, I get notifications on social media as to who has decided to follow me.
This week, I was amused to discover a person from what I can only describe as the Corps of Kabbaloonies had opted to follow my various musings. Oy, I thought, someone who thinks Kabbalah as presented by the Berg family to ensnare the wide-eyed and foolish, particularly, for some reason, Hollywood types who don’t just think that the red string is a “look”, but is an entire lifestyle. Oy, Mr New Follower, have you got the wrong woman.
As I hope regular readers will have discerned by now, I cannot abide credulous nonsense, whether in the form of conspiracy theories or ludicrous superstition. Top of this week’s Loony Tunes offerings – well, it’s a bit hard to say which is madder.
First up is the gematria meme floating around in the wake of the stroke suffered by Israel’s ninth president, Shimon Peres. Gematria is a system of numerology, most often used within genuine Kabbalah and not the Bergian version, which assigns numerical values to letters and then offers an interpretation, sometimes mystical.
But what can be made of this? “Something weird. Shimon Peres signed the Oslo Accords on September 13 1993. Shimon Peres had a stroke today – September 13 – and he’s 93 years old. The Accords were agreed on 23 years ago, and his year of birth is 1923”.
Is anyone reading this supposed to shiver uncontrollably and wonder at the forces of darkness that have conspired to bring together this magical arrangement of numbers? Please. Is there the minutest of suggestions that somehow Peres brought this medical misfortune upon himself by his association with the Oslo Accords?
Moving on from this abject nonsense, we find the deputy mayor of Ramat Gan, Adva Pollak, who has felt obliged to issue what surely ranks among the funniest of po-faced statements ever uttered by a municipal official.
Mr Pollak’s problem was to do with the art garden of the city’s national park. In this garden, there are a number of statues, one of which, by the late sculptor and artist Menashe Kadishman, is an abstract metal figure called “Birth”.
Crowds of young, religious women – almost all of whom, it seems to me, could do with a smack round the head and a reality check – have been thronging to the art garden and lying down on the statue, in the belief it will help them have children.
Mr Pollak gravely responded: “We inform the public that this statue has no special powers, and is merely one of many works of art on display in the park. It would be wrong to attribute such powers to the statue. We welcome visitors who wish to enjoy the art, but I call on them to refrain from lying on it.”
Almost the best thing about this story is that Kadishman was aggressively secular and – if there is an afterlife in which he did not believe – is doubtless roaring with laughter at what he has inspired.
Israel, unfortunately, is a magnet for this kind of rhubarb. Those with long memories may recall a supermarket in Israel that had a grungy chair at the entrance, the sort used by the security guard or for over-burdened shoppers to sit down for a minute. And suddenly this grungy chair became an object of worship, as several women who had briefly used it discovered they were pregnant. Queues formed in order to sit in the newly holy grungy chair, the chair that could dispense fertility!
On Israel’s Highway 443, any day of the week, you might see a line of people who have got out of their cars to fill up water bottles with supposedly “holy” water coming out of a pipe in a wall by the road. The pipe is a new addition to channel the water, now referred to as a magic spring. The fact it is probably the overflow from an aqueduct further up the hill does not deter these wanna believers.
And don’t get me started on the utter commercial nonsense which is Amuka, a ‘shrine’ near Tzfat which – with its candles and notes and superstitious pilgrimages – could give Catholics and their miracles a run for their money. If, you are told, you go to Amuka with an open heart, all your wishes will come true.
With the best will in the world, and with, indeed, an open heart, I have one response: it’s all rubbish.