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Meru Foundation eTORUS(tm) Newsletter
Number 23 – 28 July 2004
Copyright 2004 Meru Foundation
Edited by Levanah (Cynthia) Tenen

Stan and I are in Sharon, MA this summer. Our primary focus is working with our editor on "First Hand: The Geometry of Genesis and the Alphabet". This process is slow, but satisfying, and many of Stan's earlier papers are being refined, polished, and expanded as we go along.

We are also reaching out to professionals and students in the New England/New York/New Jersey area who are already interested in Meru's research, but whom we have met, so far, only via e-mail. In late June Stan and I held a briefing in New Jersey, and we hope to hold at least one more briefing in the New York/New Jersey area later this summer. We are looking both for colleagues we can work with, and for people who can help us expand Meru Foundation's base of support (see below). If you are interested in helping us organize a briefing for yourself, your friends and colleagues, please email Levanah at meru@meru.org.

From time to time, I encourage eTORUS readers to let others know about Meru Foundation's research, and to purchase materials. The fact is that Meru Foundation relies on your contributions, and sales of our videos and other materials, to support continued progress in our ongoing research, and to enable us to produce new materials, make plans, and present our findings.

This year, Meru Foundation is holding a formal fundraising campaign to ensure steady support for the Foundation through the spring 2005. Our goal is to raise $60,000 in contributions and pledges, which will be used to fund Meru Foundation through March 2005. One-time gifts, monthly or quarterly pledges -- all of these count, and both substantial and modest contributions make a difference. If 80 of our readers pledged $100 per month, for eight months -- we would reach our goal of $60,000 with room to spare. This is why we are reaching out to all of our readership to join us -- because together, persons of modest means can accomplish substantial goals.

Stan and I are committed to working full-time on completing our book, and to traveling as necessary to work with colleagues and to present Meru's findings. Your contributions and pledges for 2004-5, received now, will allow our research staff to work productively to accomplish these goals, and to make best use of your generosity. Knowing our funding resources in advance allows us to plan effectively for research, writing, and travel, and this in turn enables our travel hosts to make presentations of our material as successful as possible.

To discuss your contribution or to make a pledge to Meru Foundation, please contact me at 1-888-422-MERU (1-888-422-6378), or via email at meru@meru.org. You may contribute via credit card on our secure-server site, www.meetingtent.com, by using the PayPal button at the top of our home page www.meru.org, or by sending a check to:

Meru Foundation
PO Box 503
Sharon, MA 02067

(If you contribute by check, please let me know it's coming, so that I can watch for it in the mail.)

We have created a "Meru Funding Thermometer", and placed it on a private web page. When you make a contribution, or monthly or quarterly pledge to Meru Foundation, I will send you the link and password to our "thermometer," so that you can see our progress.

Stan and I, and the Meru Board, thank you all for your support and your interest in our work. And as always, we welcome your ideas. If you can offer additional fundraising opportunities for Meru Foundation, we want to speak with you. Please email Stan and Levanah at meru@meru.org, or call us at 781-784-8902 (Boston area). Thank you all, very much.

In this issue we present two pieces contributed by colleagues, both focused on the Middle East. The first is a book review by Jennifer Nixon on Middle-east scholar Bernard Lewis' recent work, What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response.  In this book Lewis presents his views, rooted in history, emphasizing one underlying cause of the conflict. This is the past. Following Jennifer's review, we present an essay by Meru Advisor Prof. Mel Alexenberg focusing on present and future, that suggests how the same underlying philosophical approach within Islam that is now contributing to the problems, could instead help to open the future to peace.

Jennifer Nixon called my attention to Bernard Lewis' book, and suggested I read it. Lewis' primary point is that historically, Islam -- seeing itself as the culmination of civilization -- has seen no need to be changed by its encounters with other cultures. I agree with Jennifer that this observation is worth considering, and presents a perspective not often mentioned in the popular press. Here is a quote from the back cover of the hardcover edition:

  "Muslim loss of civilizational leadership and retreat from modernity is at the center of global history over the last five hundred years and remains at this very time a major factor in international conflicts and diplomatic quarrels. What went wrong? Indeed. Muslims often have the feeling that history has somehow betrayed them, and on no comparable issue is the historian's potential contribution more important. . . " --David Landes, Harvard University

Jennifer Nixon is a student of history and language -- currently she is studying Japanese. Her husband is Rob Nixon, who provided the book review of Peter Novak's The Lost Secret of Death in Meru eTORUS #17 (10 October 2003).

Both Jennifer Nixon's review and Mel Alexenberg's essay will be posted to the section of Meru Foundation's website, "Making Peace with Geometry."

BOOK REVIEW: WHAT WENT WRONG: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response,
(c)2001, 2003 by Bernard Lewis. Oxford University Press, ISBN 0195144201.
This book is in print, and available via Amazon and the other usual commercial book sources.

Review by Jennifer Nixon

Bernard Lewis is a well-known historian of the Middle East, and author of several books of Arab and Middle Eastern history. This easily read book follows the history of Islamic civilization from the world's leading civilization to its current low state by describing the attitude of Islam's greatest empire, the Ottoman Empire, towards the West, and its consequences. Sadly, this attitude remains in most Muslim countries, and as Lewis observes, the consequences do as well.

In the beginning, the Ottomans viewed Europeans as infidel barbarians from whom nothing could be learned. As Europe developed culturally, economically and technologically, the Ottomans only grudgingly adapted a few technologies, in an attempt to keep up with the West, while ignoring internal problems. But they didn't adopt the underlying ideas that allowed Europe to overtake the Ottoman Empire.

My favorite of Lewis' examples of this is the clock. The Ottomans didn't use a regular, 24 hour day; as measured by a western clock; Muslim prayer times vary according to the length of the day. Daybreak was an important time measurement; 6 o'clock was not. Prayers were the only events that needed to be on time; other events were much less timely. A time system in which prayers were scheduled via an unvarying "clock time" would undermine the authority of the prayer call. So, when Muslim rulers accepted gifts of clock towers from European powers, the clocks would be reset daily so that the call to prayer came at the same "times" each day. Europeans living in Istanbul at the time called this, "Turkish time". The technology from the West was accepted, but not the idea behind it.

Lewis observes (as do many others) that Islamic countries still view ideas on which Western civilization is based -- such as democracy, capitalism, equal rights for women, and separation of church and state, among others -- as foreign, and are loathe to adopt them. But now instead of simply dismissing the West as irrelevant, as did the Ottomans, Islamic countries blame the influx of Western ideas for their problems. Thus, they continue to ignore deeper causes based within their own societies.

--Jennifer Nixon

Artist's Statement and Exhibit by Prof. Mel Alexenberg

Prof. Mel Alexenberg, a member of Meru Foundation's Advisory Board, is a sculptor, scholar, and artist now living and teaching in Israel (see his bio at the end of his announcement). A few years ago, he began publishing his own "out-of-the-box" ideas on how to break the conceptual deadlock in the Middle East - Meru eTORUS readers may recall an early version titled "A New Islamic Map for Peace."

Prof. Alexenberg will be opening a new exhibit in Prague on August 11, which he is calling CYBERANGELS FOR PEACE. His "Artist's Statement" expands and updates the ideas he first introduced in "A New Islamic Map for Peace", and we present it here in its entirety.

Under the Patronage of the Ambassador of Israel to the Czech Republic.

In collaboration with Academy of Fine Arts, Prague, Center for Jewish Creativity and Culture, Los Angeles, and College of Judea and Samaria, Ariel, Israel

11 August 2004 to 26 September 2004

ARTIST'S STATEMENT by Mel Alexenberg
The lack of peace in the Middle East can be seen as an aesthetic problem that requires an artistic solution. It calls for a shift in perception derived from Islamic art and thought.

In my "Cyberangels of Peace" exhibition, human creativity at its best in both Islamic and European cultures encounter each other. The beautiful patterns of Islamic art meet Rembrandt's angels in an aesthetic peace plan.

Digitized Rembrandt angels* emerging from Islamic geometries are electronic age messengers drawing out the beauty in European and Islamic cultures rather than the ugly anti-Semitism that plagues them. The Holocaust was the attempt to exterminate the Jewish population of Europe. Islamic extremists with the tacit support of most European countries are now using terrorism in its ongoing attempt to annihilate the Jewish State.

My artwork invites a perceptual shift through which Muslims see the State of Israel as a blessing expressing Allah's will and Christians see it as the Divine fulfillment of the biblical promise of the Land of Israel to the Jewish people.

Historian of Islamic art, Elisabeth Siddiqui, writes in the Arabic journal "Al-Madrashah Al-Ula" that art is the mirror of a culture and its worldview. She emphasizes that there is no case to which this statement more directly applies than to the art of the Islamic world. "Not only does its art reflect its cultural values, but even more importantly, the way in which its adherents, the Muslims, view the spiritual realm, the universe, life, and the relationships of the parts to the whole."

The repetitive geometric patterns in Islamic art teach Arabs to see their world as a continuous uninterrupted pattern that extends across North Africa and the Middle East. Unfortunately, they see Israel as a blemish that disrupts the pattern. From this perspective, Israel is viewed as an alien presence that they have continually tried to eliminate through war, terrorism, and political action. Palestinian Authority television labels Israel as a "cancer in the body of the Arab nation." Its emblems, publications, and web sites show the map of Israel labeled Palestine. Israel does not exist. Former Iranian president Rafsanjani expressed his longing for a day when an Islamic nuclear weapon could remove the "extraneous matter" called Israel from the midst of the Islamic world.

The major obstacle to peace between Jews and Arabs is the Islamic world's rejection of Israel as a Jewish state in its midst. The 56-year-old State of Israel still does not exist on maps produced in Islamic countries. All road maps to peace in the Middle East will come to a dead end until the sovereign State of Israel is included in Arab maps.

Fortunately, the perceptual shift needed to lead to genuine peace can be found in Islamic art and thought. In Islamic art, a uniform geometric pattern is purposely disrupted by the introduction of a counter-pattern that demonstrates human creation as less than perfect. Based upon the belief that only Allah creates perfection, rug weavers from Islamic lands intentionally weave a small patch of dissimilar pattern to break the symmetry of their rugs. Sheikh Abdul Hadi Palazzi, Imam of the Italian Muslim community who holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Sciences by decree of the Saudi Grand Mufti, proposes that the idea of underlying the Divine infinitude and the human fallacy by including some voluntary counter-pattern in works of art is common in Islamic art, and extends to tapestry, painting, music, architecture, etc. The Islamic artisan does not want to be perceived as competing with the perfection of Allah.

In "Islamic Textile Art: Anomalies in Kilims," Muhammad Thompson and Nasima Begum write that the weavers of Moroccan kilim rugs, "devout Muslim women, would not be so arrogant as to even attempt a 'perfect kilim' since such perfection belonged only to Allah. Consequently, they would deliberately break the kilim's patterning as a mark of their humility."

Indeed, breaking symmetrical patterns characterizes life itself. All living organisms exhibit the principle expressed by the renowned biologist Paul Weiss as "order in the gross with freedom of excursion in details." Every grape leaf, for example, is a unique variation of a general pattern. No two grape leaves on the same vine are congruent. Although a whole leaf gives the overall appearance of symmetry, a closer look at the details reveals a different venation pattern in each half of the leaf.

Peace can be achieved when the Islamic world recognizes that they need Israel to realize their own religious values. Israel provides the break in the contiguous Islamic world extending from Morocco to Pakistan. Accepting the Jewish State as the necessary counter-pattern demonstrates humility and abrogates arrogance before Allah and honors the diversity evident in all of God's creations. The ingathering of the Jewish people into its historic homeland in the midst of the Islamic world is the fulfillment of Mohammed's prophecy in the Koran (Sura 17:104): "And we said to the Children of Israel, 'scatter and live all over the world...and when the end of the world is near we will gather you again into the Promised Land."

The State of Israel needs to be drawn on Islamic maps as a small break in the continuous pattern running from the Atlantic Ocean to the borders of India. If the contiguous Islamic world were the size of a football field, Israel would be smaller than a football placed in the middle of the field.

Sheikh Palazzi quotes from the Koran, Sura 5:20-21, to support the Arab world's need to switch their viewpoint to recognize the sovereign right of the Jews over the Land of Israel as the will of Allah: "Remember when Moses said to his people: 'O my people, call in remembrance the favor of God unto you, when he produced prophets among you, made you kings, and gave to you what He had not given to any other among the people. O my people, enter the Holy Land which God has assigned unto you, and then turn not back ignominiously, for then will ye be overthrown, to your own ruin.'"

According to the Imam, Islam's holiest book confirms what every Jew and Christian who honors the Bible knows: The Land of Israel was divinely deeded to the Children of Israel. The Jews are the indigenous people of the Land of Israel who have continuously lived there for more three millennia despite the conquests of numerous imperialist empires. Jews are from Judea. Arabs are from Arabia. The Arabs are blessed with 22 other countries.

Professor Khaleed Mohammed, expert in Islamic law, explains: "As a Muslim, when I read 5:21 and 17:104 in the Quran, I can only say that I support that there must be an Israel. The Quran adumbrates the fight against tyranny and oppression, using the Children of Israel as an example, indeed as the prime example." Tashibih Sayyed, Editor-in-Chief of "Muslim World Today" writes: "I consider the creation of the Jewish State as a blessing for the Muslims. Israel has provided us an opportunity to show the world the Jewish state of mind in action, a mind that yearns to be free.... The Jewish traditions and culture of pluralism, debate, acceptance of dissension and difference of opinion have manifest themselves in the shape of the State of Israel to ! present the oppressed Muslim world with a paradigm to emulate."

--- Peace will come from a fresh metaphor in which the Arabs see Israel's existence as Allah's will. A shift in viewpoint where Israel is perceived as a blessing, as the necessary counter-pattern in the overall pattern of the Islamic world, will usher in an era of peace. Peace will come when the Islamic world recognizes Israel as the realization of its own values and draws new maps that include Israel. ---

*The Hebrew language links art and angels in our digital age. The biblical term for "art," "M'LAeKheT MaKhSheVeT", is a feminine term literally meaning "thoughtful craft." Transformed into its masculine form, it becomes "computer angel" "MALAKh MaKhSheV." The spiritual concept "angel" and reshaping the material world "craft" are united in the biblical image in Jacob's dream of angels ascending and descending on a ladder linking heaven and earth.

We can learn from the Hebrew words for "angel" (MALaKh) and "food" (MA'aKhaL) being written with the same four letters that angels are spiritual messages arising from the everyday life. Before partaking of the Sabbath eve meal in their homes, Jewish families sing, "May your coming be for peace, ANGELS OF PEACE, angels of the Exalted One." The song begins with the words "shalom aleikhem" (may peace be with you). "Shalom aleikhem" is the traditional Hebrew greeting when people meet. It is akin to the Arabic greeting "salam aleikum." Indeed, the word "Islam" itself is derived from the same root as "salam" (peace).

--- May the Hebrew "Malakh Shalom" and the Arabic "Malak Salam" be recognized as one and the same Angel of Peace. ---

Mel Alexenberg is Professor of Art and Jewish Thought at the College of Judea and Samaria in Ariel, Israel, and Emunah College in Jerusalem. He is former Professor and Chairman of Fine Arts, Pratt Institute, Dean of Visual Arts, New World School of the Arts, University of Florida's arts college in Miami, Associate Professor of Art and Education at Columbia University and Bar-Ilan University, and Research Fellow at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His artwork is in the collection of museums worldwide.


In our next eTORUS, to follow shortly, Stan will introduce a new approach he is currently developing for examining the Hebrew letter-text of Genesis as information.

Below, are comments Stan originally wrote for a discussion on a Jewish e-list about the origin of the "Streimel" -- a distinctive and unusual large-brimmed fur hat often worn by members of some Hassidic Jewish communities. The usual explanation for this custom is that these were the hats worn by Polish nobles in the places and times when these Hassidic sects originated -- generally in the 18th and 19th centuries CE. Here, Stan offers some additional thoughts on this custom, and on "traditional hats" in general.

by Stan Tenen

Consider the fact that kings, priests, and other people of high standing in general, have often worn various unusual headgear. What sort of headgear is appropriate to a king, a priest, or someone else with learning? In the trivial sense, any old hat will do. But as a statement and _measure_, or indicator, of office, a particular sort of hat might convey a particular meaning.

The sort of turban-like headgear worn by priests is a reflection of what is in the mind of the priest. These woven head coverings reflect the knowledge it takes to make them. They take the form of what is in the person's head, and thus may well be vestiges or aspects of the Temple, or embodiments of the Temple service.

The first word of Torah, B'reshit, can be understood to be based not only on the word "reshit," beginning, but also on the word "reshet", a woven network. Wearing an appropriately woven piece of headgear would symbolize that a person had internalized this weaving. This woven pattern might also embody or model the geometry in Genesis as an aspect of meditation.

Wherever the streimel came from, I think the appropriateness of wearing it goes back to an echo of this idea, that what one puts on one's head provides a view of what's in one's head. I think this may be the Kabbalistic significance of wearing these distinctive large hats, even if the current construction style is only symbolic of this memory.

--Stan Tenen, 2004

FROM LEVANAH TENEN: A note on my name

Most of you who have known me for any length of time, know me as Cynthia Tenen. But I also have a Hebrew name, Levanah. Recently, I have decided to use Levanah as my primary name. There are many reasons for this, but the simplest is that I just feel more comfortable with it. Levanah in Hebrew means "moon" or "white", and thus does have a relationship to Cynthia, which was another name for the Roman goddess of the moon, Diana. But Levanah simply feels more like my name, more appropriate to my current life, and more personal. Levanah is also related to the word for "builder" -- a positive quality, helpful in the world and in the work we do. If you have known me for years as Cynthia, don't worry -- I still answer to the name. <smile> But try thinking of me as Levanah as well.


I hope you enjoy this Meru Foundation eTORUS(tm) Newsletter.

We welcome your comments and suggestions, and would like the opportunity to speak with you personally.

If you have comments or questions, please send an email to Cynthia Tenen at meru@meru.org with your phone number and a good time to call -- or, please call us at 781-784-8902 (Boston area). I would like to brainstorm with you.

Thank you for your interest in the work of the Meru Foundation.

The Meru Foundation eTORUS(tm) Newsletter is copyright 2004 Meru Foundation. All rights reserved.
Past issues of eTORUS(tm) are archived online on the Meru Foundation website at

You may duplicate and pass along this newsletter, in its entirety, as long as you include this copyright notice and the contact information below. Please send comments and questions to <meru@meru.org>.

Meru Foundation research offices:
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  PO Box 503
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