Friday, January 1, 2010

Moonrise Over Machtesh Ramon - New Year's Eve 2010

Secular New Year's Eve 2010, Mitzpeh Ramon, is a quiet affair. As far as I can tell, there is nothing going on even at the hotels, but I shall check later. It is just after sunset, corresponding to the hebrew date of the 15th of Tevet, 5770 -- mid-month. A full moon rises gloriously over the machtesh (crater) marking the end of a long, low, violent, and greedy decade. Let us hope the opening of a new secular decade brings better things than the last.

Everywhere there seems to be a rising tide of anti-semitism in its new form - vilification and deligitimization of the State of Israel. And it's old form still alive, too, in the form of "jokes" like "Kick a Jew Day" or "Kill a Jew Day", most recently in a school in Australia. The Associated Press called the murderers of Rabbi Meir Avshalom Chai, the father of ten who was cut down in his prime by vicious terrorists in a drive-by shooting as he chauffeured his wife and children, "activists". It seems the world has learned nothing in the 90 years since W. B. Yeats wrote, "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."

The Second Coming         

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight; somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born

But let it be known that we have learned, and Never Again means exactly what it says: NEVER AGAIN.

Moonrise over Machtesh Ramon, New Year's Eve 2010

Later this evening, a partial lunar eclipse was visible from here, reaching its peak around 9:30 PM local time. It is exactly astronomical mid-month, the start of a new secular year, the start of a new decade.

Partial lunar eclipse, Dec. 31, 2009; 9:30 PM local time, Mitzpe Ramon

The clouds that gather round the setting sun

Do take a sober colouring from an eye

That hath kept watch o'er man's mortality;

Another race hath been, and other palms are won.

Thanks to the human heart by which we live,

Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,

To me the meanest flower that blows can give

Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

                                                                                     -- William Wordsworth

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