My wife and I were downtown last Thursday to get some supplies from Petco. After shopping, we were cutting across Union Square to get to a subway entrance that’s closer to the L train when we saw a booth set up. My first thought was that it was the beginnings of the Christmas market. I mean, it’s early, but why not? The month ends in a -ber, right? And it seems like stores start selling Christmas stuff earlier and earlier each year. But, when we got closer, I realized it was a booth for Sukkot. I thought the evergreen branches hanging off the roof were Christmas decorations, but nope. That’s part of the temporary structure. The roof is supposed to not be completely covered. The entire construction is supposed to be non-permanent, because it symbolizes the temporary dwellings of the Hebrews in the desert during the Mosaic diaspora period (between Egypt and Canaan / Israel).
The decorations on the outside of the structure were nice. I didn’t realize how extravagant people can get with these things. If you’re wondering, “succah” is the name of the temporary dwelling. It’s just the Hebrew word for it, and during Sukkot Jewish people usually eat in their succah, unless it’s raining. For more info on Sukkot, click here.
Last Saturday my wife and I were in Times Square, heading to Olive Garden to have a nice dinner for our anniversary. We got off the train at 42nd street and walked through Times Square to do a little site seeing first. I was surprised to see what looked like a hate group preaching in the middle of Times Square.
When we were there, I didn’t really pay too much attention to them, other than to stop and take the above photo and note that they were yelling loudly about black people being oppressed. When I got home, I looked them up on Wikipedia and found the following information:
Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge (ISUPK) is a non-profit organization based in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, United States. The group is part of the Hebrew Israelism movement, which regards American blacks as descendants of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled ISUPK an “extremist” and “black supremacist” group.
I zoomed in on the info boards they had set up and saw some things I didn’t expect:
They apparently consider Jesus to be the anti-Christ. I’m no expert on Jewish theology, but I think that’s a harder line than the average Jew would take, fears of antisemitism aside.
Islam wasn’t spared either; not that anyone thinks to spare Islam these days when there’s an opportunity for criticism. The ISUPK has apparently equated the Ka’aba (the square structure in the photo) with an idol. They’ve gone so far as to tag the ‘black stone’ as a “clitoris”. If you’re not aware, Muslims believe that Abraham visited Hagar and his son by her, Ishmael, and helped them construct a home near a spring which came up out of the ground when struck by Ishmael’s feet as a baby. That’s the black square structure. Or, at least, the rebuilt and maintained representation of it. Muslims pray facing this structure, regardless of where they are in the world and perform a pilgrimage, but not because they worship the structure. It’s just a symbol; it’s the focal point that unites all Muslims. Islam as a religion is big on the concept of unity, though you couldn’t guess it considering some of modern day politics.
The black stone which the ISUPK referred to as a “clitoris” is a black stone said to have fallen from Heaven to show Adam and Eve where to build an altar for sacrifice to God. It was, according to tradition, placed in the Ka’ba by the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims attempt to touch it or kiss it on one of their seven circuits around the Ka’aba during the Hajj, or pilgrimage.
Neither the Ka’aba nor the black stone are idols in the sense that they’re worshipped. They’re merely focal points for the religion. I’d put good money on Jesus Christ not being the anti-Christ as well.