Mitre joints

Last night Louis Theroux was at his best, achieving the near-impossible of giving a balanced view on ultra-Zionists in Israel. It was particularly interesting, late on in the show, to hear Arabs in Hebron complain about Jews moving into the heart of the city, pushing the Arabs out, for the Jews to respond ‘This is just what you did! This area was Jewish until you expelled us in the 1920s!’

Towards the end of the programme, Louis encountered some soldiers wearing ‘clown’s hat‘ camouflage covers to their helmets. They are supposed to break up the outline of the soldier’s head in an urban context, though I just think they look silly.

What is really interesting though is the connection with another silly piece of headgear, the bishop’s mitre.

When you realise that these two pieces of headgear have the same origin, the turban of the High Priest in the Old Testament tabernacle, then there seem to be multiple levels of irony at work. (The Hebrew ‘mitznefet’ is translated ‘mitre’ in some English versions.)

Not least amongst the ironies is the fact that the purpose of this headgear, according to the Talmud, is to atone for the sin of human pride.

(For another example of Old Testament Hebrew coming into modern politics, it is worth noting that Ezekiel’s throne-chariot lends its name to the Israeli main battle tank.)

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