Someone has cut the branches off the Holy Thorn, a tree at Glastonbury, England, to leave an unsightly stump. Is this random vandalism, or the work of a secularist making his point? The Holy Tree is part of a legend going back to the earliest Christianity in England. Joseph of Arimathea is mentioned in all four gospels as the man who went to Pontius Pilate and received authority to recover the body of Christ and bury it in his own tomb. He is said then to have come to England with the Holy Grail and a staff that may have belonged to Jesus. Stuck into the ground, this staff became the Holy Thorn, and it did the faithful the favor of flowering at Christmas and Easter, and incidentally (under its proper dendrological classification as Crataegus monogyna) is of Middle Eastern origin. The land where the tree grows belongs to a businessman recently arrested in connection with a company that has collapsed, owing £16 million to creditors, so the sawing of the tree may have a rather prosaic explanation. Thankfully, experts say that grafts have renewed the tree down the centuries, and in ten years will have righted this latest damage.
“Goyim kill goyim, and they blame the Jews,” Menachem Begin famously grumbled during Lebanon’s civil war. You can update that to “Sharks bite tourists, and they blame the Jews.” The Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, has recently been plagued with shark attacks. A German woman was killed and four other tourists mauled. An “expert” interviewed on Egyptian TV claimed that Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, had planted the sharks to destroy Egypt’s tourist economy. With dismal predictability, an Egyptian official offered support to the theory: Mohamed Abdel Fadil Shousha, governor of South Sinai, told a press conference that it was “not out of the question” that Israel had planned the attacks on tourists but that confirmation was needed. In a curious parallel to Jaws, the German woman’s death occurred after the Sharm el-Sheikh beaches had been closed because of earlier shark attacks, then reopened. Wags are suggesting an Egyptian remake of the movie, with a vowel changed in the title.