Last Jewish Prophet: Reviewing Gilad Atzmon's 'The Wandering Who?'

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The Last Jewish Prophet: A review of Gilad Atzmon's new book, The Wandering Who?
by William T. Hathaway
Gilad Atzmon, controversial author and jazz musician, has just published a study of Jewish identity politics. The Wandering Who? chronicles his journey away from his Jewish identity, and by extension away from all exclusive identities, into an inclusive humanness.
 
It's a painful journey, a brutally honest self exploration of these internalized tribal impulses. He emerges from the struggle deracinated but emancipated, freed of a destructive load of cultural baggage.

As the poet Allen Ginsberg said, "If you want to be a prophet, you have to tell your secrets." By being brave enough to expose himself in writing, Atzmon has become a prophet, and his prophecy, as I see it, is a completion of the Mosaic journey, but this time as a mass exodus from Jewishness and all other ethnic bondings that split humanity.
 
After 40 centuries of wandering in the desert of chosenness and separation, Jews and Gentiles alike can finally enter the full humanness of one world family, a secular promised land free of divisive group identities.

Jews have been at the forefront of every progressive movement for the past 160 years, and now it's Atzmon's turn. The atrocities of nationalism, both Jewish and non-Jewish, have forced him to the forefront of a movement to abolish all these tribal groupings, starting with his own.

The Wandering Who? is a threat not only to Zionism, but to all religious, ethnic, national, and even gender identities to which people cling. It's a book of radical liberation and as such dangerous to every orthodoxy and structure of power that separates us into antagonistic camps. Atzmon is a true subversive. Much needed.

Now the survival of our species demands that also Christians, Muslims, Americans, Britons, etc. break out of their group mentalities. We can't suddenly erase these categories, but we can relegate them to the background where they no longer determine our identity. Our sense of self can then be based on qualities that unite humanity rather than divide it.

Thanks for showing the way, Gilad.


William T. Hathaway's latest book, RADICAL PEACE: People Refusing War, presents the experiences of war resisters, deserters, and peace activists from the USA, Europe, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Chapters are posted at www.peacewriter.org.  

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