Israel - Without A ‘Hitch’?
A friend of my teenage years – now also living in Israel – was always referred to as “The G***. Some people’s large, engaging personalities simply lend them to being thus referred.
But that’s the least of Christopher – ‘The Hitch’- Hitchens’ links to Jews and Israel.
Among the thousands of words published since the journalist and essayist died late last week, a good number have been devoted to his Jewish background.
But no-one – and nothing - I’ve read has suggested that this gene must account for his outstanding Talmudic talent for argument and debate. Where journalist, Toby Young refers to him as “the Cicero of the saloon bar”, I suggest he may be better dubbed as it’s ‘Rabbi Shammai’. The latter was the scholar who led a 1st Century Talmudic school of strict interpretation and who, like Hitchens, may be described as a ‘contrarian’.
The Hitch insisted he was a devout atheist but I wonder if this was purely self-delusion. After all, he was thrilled when he discovered that he and his brother and fellow journalist, Peter were of Jewish stock.
Indeed he once told interviewer, Lynn Barber of a dream in which he was on the deck of a ship and was asked to make up a minyan (a 10-strong Jewish prayer quorum).
The Hitchens’ brothers - like too many people on the edge of the Jewish community – discovered their heritage relatively late in life. It happened when Peter married a Jewish woman and introduced her to their elderly grandmother, known affectionately as ‘Dodo’.
Recalled Hitchens: “’Dodo said, 'She's Jewish, isn't she?' and then announced: 'Well, I've got something to tell you. So are you.' She said that her real surname was Levin, not Lynn, and that her ancestors were Blumenthals from Poland.'"
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