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Great texts

  • John V. Taylor: The Christlike God (Scm Classics)

    John V. Taylor: The Christlike God (Scm Classics)
    A serious theological book which is the companion to JVT's classic work "The Go-between God". Anyone who is frustrated by (fellow) Christians that choose to define God so tightly that faith seems impossible, or seem to align faith with "happiness" despite the evidence to the contrary should read how faith is really a mix of " wonder and comprehension, illumination and darkness, loss and possession, abasement and bliss". If you want to stop to "think" about God then this is a book to read thoughtfully in the company of one of great Christians of the 20th Century

  • Jean Vanier: Community and Growth: Our Pilgrimage Together Revised Edition

    Jean Vanier: Community and Growth: Our Pilgrimage Together Revised Edition
    A revised collection of the thoughts and ideas of the founder of the L'arche Community - "faith without boundaries". This is a classic book - for everyone seeking faith and to grow in their faith

  • Rowan  Williams: Anglican Identities

    Rowan Williams: Anglican Identities
    As someone who is both a passionate but frustrated Anglican - glimpsing sometimes all that Anglican could be and seeing on a daily basis all that it isn't, this book was a wonderful account of what liberal Anglicanism - tolerant, inclusive, supportive, intelligent and profoundly spiritual, just might be. Of course it is not an easy read - it takes time and effort to grasp what RW is saying but the effort is worthwhile

  • John Drane         : Do Christians Know How to Be Spiritual?

    John Drane : Do Christians Know How to Be Spiritual?
    If you are a committed member of a local Church and wonder why others do not see the point - or wonder whether it might be possible to be more spiritual outside the confines then you could read this book which is a thoughtful introduction to what is meant by a post-christian society.

  • Tom Wright: Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense

    Tom Wright: Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
    This is a detailed read from Tom Wright which makes the case for the Christian faith in contemporary society. Its thoughtful, challenging, and gentle.

  • W.H. Vanstone: Farewell in Christ

    W.H. Vanstone: Farewell in Christ
    Vanstone's final work, which explores the mystery of existence, the mystery of my soul, the mystery of meaning, - and none of this becomes possible without intellectual doubt. Is this what Dawkins et al will never understand?

  • John Pritchard: The Life and Work of a Priest

    John Pritchard: The Life and Work of a Priest
    This book should be compulsory reading for all enquirers, ordinands, and current clergy - perhaps adding in all elders and churchwardens for good measure. It charts in a profoundly hopeful way the joys and pressures of contemporary priesthood, and avoids the pitfalls of theological bias or the bland functional understandings of leadership.

  • Timothy Radcliffe: What Is the Point of Being a Christian?

    Timothy Radcliffe: What Is the Point of Being a Christian?
    A prophetic introduction to the Christian faith for those who struggle to find God amid the complexities of life

  • Robert Dimery: 1001 Albums you must hear before you die

    Robert Dimery: 1001 Albums you must hear before you die
    Just a great read - extensive intelligent reviews which bring back memories, stimulate to seek out, and inspire to add to the wish list.

All time Top Ten albums

  • Bob Dylan -

    Bob Dylan: Blood on the Tracks
    Probably the best single collection of orginal songs - performed by Bob with his inimitable non-music style - the best produced Dylan album into the bargain

  • Miles Davis -

    Miles Davis: Kind of Blue
    I remember the first time I heard this - on a loaned Walkman on a very turbulent flight to Belfast - it has rightly been described as a milestone in 20th century jazz. I remember playing to a group of spell-bound 9/10 year olds in a Primary school music workshop

  • Portishead -

    Portishead: Dummy
    Every once in while I listen to an album whose orginality leaves me instinctively knowing that music will never be the same - that the goalposts of repetoire have been changed for ever. Dummy is just one of those rare treats

  • Prefab Sprout -

    Prefab Sprout: Andromeda Heights
    In 1997 I escaped for the afternoon from the madhouse of an ordination training residential to the comparative sanity of my friend Tony's studio. During a tea break in a session, Tony said these imortal words " I've just found this amazing album" and my love affair with Andromeda Heights began - sanity was restored and I completed the residental and training.

  • Moloko -

    Moloko: Things to make and do
    Brilliant music within the scope of the dance music genre. Crisp instrumentation, meets cool beats, and the voice of Roisin - how I love Moloko

  • Craig Armstrong -

    Craig Armstrong: Piano Works
    If I were not Tom Allen ( artistically and musically speaking) I would be Craig Armstrong - from my discovery of him through Massive Attack I have loved and admired his work - and Piano Works covers his repetoire in stunning style

  • Joe Cocker -

    Joe Cocker: Sheffield Steel
    The greatest album from the greatest rock intrepreter of them all - genius production meets some of the best songs of all time sung by that voice - I've confess that I have sampled the album to oblivion

  • Paul Simon -

    Paul Simon: Graceland
    Had to be a Paul Simon album and it had to be Graceland. A epoch making album which opened African music to the world but seamlessly combined that music with western rock and pop with songs to die for.

  • Cosmic Rough Riders -

    Cosmic Rough Riders: Enjoy the melodic sunshine
    Glasgow's finest produce the ultimate guitar-song album of pure delight and of a quality that puts Athlete et al in the shade - shame it was two years too early and the lead singer left after this debut album

  • Massive Attack -

    Massive Attack: Blue Lines
    OK so Bristol has launched Portishead, Tricky and Roni Size, but it was the staggering impact of this debut which created a genre in trip-hop and a collective approach to song-writing, band membership which has influenced a generation and spawned so many other deriratives. From the low-fi paranoia of "Five Man Army" and the unrepeatable melancholic splendour of "Unfinished Sympathy", this is a 20th century classic.

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29 November 2006


Rob Artisan

Yes it must be the overwhelming power of the Zionists!

I am really sick of hearing such tosh!

Look at the skewered Arab media and its reporting of the situation. Such reporting makes for further misunderstanding.

If you look at the Christain Arabs of Israel and indeed Lebanon they feel pushed out by the fanatics of Hamas and Hizbollah. They feel under threat. Indeed many feel more at ease with Israel.

Put taht on your blog.


Thank you for this post and for the link to MIFTAH in particular which has reminded me that despite all the difficulties some Palestinians are not prepared to give up on a peaceful approach.

What i find frustrating is the lack of a balanced background book to the current situation [or is it whistling in the wind for such a book to ever be written] which would give me some context from which to make a judgement about the competing claims.

Incidently Rob Artisan's comments rather proves your point made in an earlier post about the difficultly of engaging in an intelligent dialogue because of preconceptions and generalisations.

Thanks and God bless


Hi Tom

Interesting post. I've followed your links with interest too.

Just a couple of questions. Your references to Zionism have a whiff of disapproval about them. Why so? There's Zionism of all kinds, but essentially it's about Jews having their own national state on their ancient homeland. Why shouldn't Jews have such national aspirations? Other peoples do, so what's the problem with a Jewish State. After all, it's not as though the State forbids non-Jews to live there. Israeli citizens of non-Jewish origin have equal legal rights, MKs, freedom of speech, access to education etc.

Sure, Israel has its problems with racism and disadvantage, but so do lots of other countries, including the UK. And its protection of the legal position for gays, dissenters and world faiths is a hell of a lot better than other states in the Middle East. Including the Palestinian Authority, which has, for years had the opportunity to implement similar freedoms for its citizens.

You also speak of the problems of holding Israel primarily responsible for the conflict in the Middle East without being accused of anti-semitism. Perhaps part of the problem is the company you keep in holding that position.

Those of us who are aware of the revolting anti-semitism that informs so much of Arab opposition to the very existence of Israel are continually astonished at those who line up alongside people and states who indoctrinate their children to hate Jews and call them "apes, pigs and monkeys" and who raise their children to be murderers in the name of their God, in order to heap blame upon Israel for all the ills of the Middle East.

I think that the reason that you, and other people hold Israel primarily responsible for the situation in the Middle East is because you see the situation solely as being between Israel and the Palestinians. But it isn't.

The situation has grown from the historic refusal of Arab states to accept the presence of a Jewish State in the region, despite the fact that several modern Middle Eastern nations historically date back to the same period. This refusal finds its voice today in the utterances of President Ahmedinajad of Iran, amongst others. He makes no secret of his desire to see Israel annihilated, and he puts his views into action by supporting any organisation who will undermine Israel, such as Hezbollah or Hamas. He is not the only Arab leader to do so.

This is the real context in which Israeli actions should be understood. What a shame that so many people who wish to support Palestinians should refuse to acknowledge this.

Is it really too much to ask the Arab states that they will permit Israel to exist on a tiny (comparatively speaking) piece of land without the fear of their neighbours attempting to drive them into the sea?

Unfortunately it would seem so.


Think you have just brilliantly illustrated the point that Tom Allen is making by your chutzpah - shame on you for suggesting that he aligns himself with those Arabs who deny Israels right to exist - if you haven't the intelligence to see that he is quite different then you simply negatively make the case he has made in his later post.As a Jew can I say we do not need this kind of defence of Israel from people who would that our friends are actually our enemies.

Sarah Callen

From my personal experience in Leeds I would count Tom Allen among the Tzaddikim in his love for everything Jewish and Israel - tragically your response Fran simply illustrates what he writes about in his later post.

I am an non-Zionist Jew - for many contemporary Jews is now an outdated view of a pre-Israel world whose only concerns are now for the consilidation of borders for Greater -Israel which will never be excepted by its allies never mind by its many enemies and will mean that Israel will for ever remain a colony or the 51st state of the USA. Zionism is therefore a hinderance to peace.

I am an Israeli citizen living in Britain (and hope to return to live there when family circumstances permit) but to suggest that it affords equal rights to all its non-Jewish citizens is simply inaccurate (Israel is a Jewish state and Jews have numerous rights which are not accorded to non-Jews) which is why there is all the work being done at the moment on a formal constitution - and the controversy. You might be technically correct to say that it treats all non-Jews equally - but it does not treat them in law as equal to Jews (check out residency arrangements - land rights - marriage rights - post milatery service benefits etc etc etc)

No-one with a balance knowledge of the situation would suggest that it is not better than its neighbours, but your exagerated claims just reveal a lack of understanding which perpetuate the idea that Israel cannot be honest about its own problems.

If you want to be an ally of Israel (and we need them) then please do check you facts before making this kind of emotional and ill-informed comment about some-one you have never met.


Why the personal discourtesy, Joel?

My questions and comments, moderately and politely phrased, require no shame on my part.

And why the slurs on my intelligence? Need you be insulting. Of course, for you have no real cause to be angry except that I raise some points with Tom for which you apparently have no answer.

Chutzpah? Well you'd know, wouldn't you.


I've read several comments on this issue which you've contributed on Ruth's blog over the past months. Of course I may have missed something, but I speak as I see when I say that I haven't picked up any indication that you see any party other than Israel as responsible for the conflict in the Middle East.

Nor have I noticed you showing any real awareness of the existential threats which have been made against Israel from her inception.

I do not intend to suggest that you hold the position you do from anything other than integrity. If my comments have given YOU that impression, then I am sorry.

However, I have not, as yet discerned the balanced view that you clearly feel you demonstrate in your comments and blog.

If you have some representative examples, I'd be delighted to read them.


Your problem is then Fran that you do not know when you writing something which is "moderately and politely phrased" or how to ask questions- but actually is quite shameful in its assumptions about some-one you do not know - the shameful bit is that you use his blog to press your agenda - you say that you want to ask two questions - but then rabbit on with nonsense.
IF you had asked Tom
"What do you think is wrong with Zionism?"
"What do you think is Israel's future given the hostility of its Northern neighbours?"
- you would have got and intelligent informed reply from a great friend of Israel's.

Instead you make completely unfounded assumptions

"Perhaps part of the problem is the company you keep in holding that position." (ie he chooses to ally yourself with the Iranian president - who is not an Arab by the way but an Iranian which frankly bollocks)

"Those of us who are aware of the revolting anti-semitism" (ie not the likes of Tom Allen a guy who has physically protected Jewish youngsters in Leeds from rascist attacks!!)

These are deeply offensive phrases Fran to those of us who know him - he funded most of my year in Israel when through illness my father was unable to afford it.

"I have not discerned the balance view" - try his letters to the Guardian - try his recent recommendation of Philo Berry book - his repeated assertion that he is absolutely committed to a two state solution with secure borders for Israel - try his Jewish-Christian worship for Yom Kippur etc - look beyond what the likes of Irene Lancaster have written about him to what he actually writes and he nearly always responds rather than initiating comments so it is not suprising that he is making a point about Israel - see his post about having to suspend his comments becuase of the abusive Zionist comments and emails he was receiving - go look at his Holy Land categories.

You then offer him a history lesson - do you think he does not know the history of Israel - and in any case its two major neighbours (Eygpt and Jordan)have treaties which fully recognise Israel's existence.

Your comment about equal rights for non-Jews is legally inaccurate - I know first hand about his when I went to live in Israel with my wife. If I had been Jewish then I would have been granted instant citizenship on marriage - as I was not Jewish then I was not.

Please forgive us if we assume you do not know what you are talking about - your comments simply undermine the ministry which Christians like Tom Allen have in pressing for a peaceful two state solution and are as passionate in their love for Israel as they are for a state for Palestine.

Moral of my comment - if you want to appear intelligent then ask questions rather than rant on the basis of false assumptions about the topic and the blog writer its basic blogging rules which we need to abide by if we are to favour Israel's future.





Thank you for your courteous response and your acknowledgement of the equal treatment of Israeli citizens under the law. I'm interested in your comment that Jews have many rights which non-Jews do not. What rights are those - I don't doubt your word, but you produce no examples of what you mean.

Sandy, Thank you for referring me to Tom's letters in the Guardian. I don't read it, but I'll read the book review you suggest.

You have misread my comment. I have not accused Tom of anti-semitism. I do not know him personally. I have only commented upon his views expressed through the contributions that he makes on Ruth's blog. And I repeat that in his posts I have never seen the balanced approach to the conflict which you think that he has.

I have only seen posts in which he seems to me to point out only the faults which he perceives in Israeli actions and never appears to acknowledge the position of Hamas and several of Israel's neighbour States - that of total opposition to the very existence of a Jewish state.

Which is why it seems to me that placing the blame for the plight of the Palestinians totally at the door of Israel is lining up alongside her mortal enemies.

You offer one example of an instance of unequal treatment. Well, it must be possible for non-Jewish spouses to obtain Israeli citizenship, because there are such things. And do you think that such regulations only apply to Israel?

Which other statements in my post are incorrect? The comment about anti-semitic propaganda in Arab countries and in Iran? Ahmedinajad's comments? Even my very basic comment about the recent history of the Levant, which, for some reason, you seem to find so presumptuous?

And once again the personal insults "if you wish to appear intelligent .." The suggestion that I do not know what I am talking about because I do not happen to agree with you. Calling my contribution to Tom's blog a "rant".

Instead you suggest that I ask Tom questions which YOU think are appropriate.

I don't think that's in the spirit of debate which Tom obviously relishes. I think (I hope) that he understands that people can, with integrity, hold very different views upon the same situation, and that a view with which he happens to disagree is not necessarily ignorant or ill informed.


Oh, and by the way, Sandy, I DID invite Tom to say why his references to Zionism have a whiff of disapproval about them.


You seem to be missing the nuances of the debate:
I did NOT acknowledge that you were right when you claimed that all Israeli citizens are treated the same under the law (read what I said again).

Israel being a Jewish state and a democratic state lives with a tension between the two things. All non-Jews citizens are treated equally, but they are NOT equal with Jewish citizens ie Jewish citiziens have different and superior rights and Orthodox jews have superior rights to liberal and reformed Jews. SO NOT EVERYONE IS EQUAL - have I made it clear!

Even where equality is legally stated, because Israel does not have a formal consitution, this is sometimes interpreted politically in discriminatory ways. To give an example Orthodox Jews have an exclusive right to marriage ceremonies - so as a reformed Jew I could not have a relgious marriage ceremony in Israel.

Have a look at the topics which I suggested to you - and of course it is possible for a spouse to obtain citizenship, but it is not the same rights which are extended to a Jewish spouse who is automatically granted citizenship. Former jews are also specifically excluded from these rights.

I think what we are suggesting is that you look at the detail where you will find that the Jewish part of Israeli law tends to over-ride the democratic in the instances where the rights are not full extended. We agree that its better than Israel's neighbours, but it is not as good as you suggest - which is why there are so many Israeli campaigns to change it which in itself is one of the joys of the democracy.

So research residency (including the right to return which is extended to all Jews even those with no connections whatsoever with Israel but not to Arabs who used to live there until 1948, 1967 etc), landrights (look where the development agency status and grants are allocated in Israel - compare Jewish and Arab areas), marriage laws (find out what happens when a Jew wishes to marry a Christian convert from Judaism as suggested above).

I have also been looking at what Tom has written on Ruth Gledhill's blog (I finally worked out what you were talking about!). You say "I've read several comments on this issue which you've contributed on Ruth's blog over the past months. Of course I may have missed something, but I speak as I see when I say that I haven't picked up any indication that you see any party other than Israel as responsible for the conflict in the Middle East." and yet I only had to go back to his last comment in response to specifically to your comment ( yes Fran he was writing purposefully and clearly for your benefit) to find him writing:
"I have made very clear that the Palestine/Israel situation is complex and multi-casual and America, Britain and other European countries, the Palestinian leadership and other Arab States as well as Israel are responsible."
What do you think that means - did you miss it - did you choose to ignore it cos it didn't fit you assumptions - what does he mean if he does not acknowledge that there are multi-reasons for the conflict in the Middle East.

You also suggest that you were not accusing him of anti-semitism - but you suggested that he chose to line up with anti-semitic states (attitudes he hates and has spent most of the last 20 years challengeing) which is clearly anti-semitic and insulting.

If you really want to engage with serious debate then you are going to have to do better than this!!

Fran you also need to learn something about blog etiquette for the sake of Israel's reputation (I would hate to think that Tom's 100s of Christian readers would think your views on Israel representative or of Jewish courtesy). By all means challenge him on Ruth Gledhill's comments that is why he contributes to challenge misconceptions. But this is his blog and please honour the basic courtesies - offer facts or ask questions do not flame the guy without knowing him. That's why Joel thinks you were chutzpah ("insolent" for non-Jewish readers).

I am sure that Tom will respond when he returns from his retreat.




"offer facts or ask questions."

Actually, Sarah, that is exactly what I did.

I did read the comment to which you refer. But what I have not yet read, possibly because I have not yet found them, are any examples of Tom attributing responsibility for any SPECIFIC part of the crisis in the Middle East to Palestinian actions or policies, or to the policies of Israel's neighbour states.

Thank you for the information on obtaining Israeli citizenship. I was very interested by what you said, although it seemed to me that Israel is not the only country which has regulations concerning the obtaining of citizenship for those not residents or nationals of the country. I was also aware of the anger felt over the "right of return" policies for Arab families who were living there prior to 1947/48. This is a difficult issue and one over which we might well disagree.

My point was that where Israeli citizens are concerned, although Israel has problems with racial discrimination - which I'm sure we both know isn't confined to discrimination against Arab Israelis - in theory there are equal rights for citizens, and my understanding is that the Israeli government is attempting to address racism in Israeli society.

I will not thank you for your lecture on blogging protocol.

Tom chooses to have a public weblog, to which he invites people by means of links elsewhere on the internet. Why should I not follow those links? And having followed them why should I not ask difficult questions?

Your disapproval of my comments appears to me to proceed solely from your disagreement with them (which is your right), and your misreading of their intent(which isn't).

I repeat again that I have nowhere accused Tom of anti-semitism, and lest my original post be misunderstood, I immediately apologised for any possible misunderstanding and assured him of my confidence in the integrity of his position.

What is not blogging protocol is that other contributors, rather than engaging with my views, should stoop to insulting me personally - my intelligence and my understanding - and then accuse ME of bad manners.

In fact, some people might call THAT Chutzpah, don't you know?


If you keep backtracking Fran you might finally arrive at something like a credible position.

I can see one (loaded) question and about five facts in your original post - the rest is varies from the contestable to inaccurate - and you repeat them in your latest comment.

For example the problem is of course that most of discrimination is against Arab Israelis - have you look at land rights yet - which is classic example of where both the law and the practice discriminate as many reports including those of the US state department attest.

To suggest that Tom Allen "keeps company" or in anyway associates with the likes of the President of Iran and his obnoxious anti-scemitism is directly accussing him of being the same - you can't then reassure him of the integrity of his position if you think like that.

Its clear that because he has his doubts about the value of Zionism's contribution to the future of a secure and accepted Israel that you assume that he is anti-semitic which is precisely the point he is making in his later post.

Thankfully progressive thinking here in Israel is moving on particularly in the current Cabinet. Once again we may see that it is the conservative politicians who would have been associated with the Zionist vision in the past who will be able to make the political breakthroughs necessary.

Having dealt with views of Zionism can you see the issue about how to contribute to a person's blog.
The problem is that you haven't asked him any "difficult" questions - you have simply flamed his blog; - ie it might be a difficult question to you but it won't be to Tom Allen or most of his readers. If you want to ask some-one like Tom Allen difficult questions then you need to know what you are talking about and not simply repeat quasi-Zionist assumptions.

With regard to what he has written read his stuff on Hamas, on Jordanian ambivalence about Palestinian rights contributing to tensions between Fatah and Hamas, - once again you have assumed he does not know about these things simply because you haven't read it.

I haven't read anyone doubting your intelligence becuase of your views but because of your apparetnt lack of knowledge about the realities in Israel and your apparent inability to read what people have actually written.So its in not credible to say that some-one has not written about something when in the past week he has written about the self-same thing and directly in response to you. That's Chutzpah for you.

How's the other suggested research going?

Freedom of Palestine is talking

The civil war, Lebanon witnessed many of them and now their main concern should not return to the Arab and bloody wars, has vowed the Lebanese people in the 14th of March to remain united in perpetuity, Muslims and Christians chanted that behind Shahid Jubran Twini, Palestine, and is now about to fall into the trap of civil war, which the government has Israel is behind the assassination of children and the elderly.

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