Two Pillars of Their Communities

Within a week of each other, two pillars of the Jewish and Palestinian communities, passed over, their work on this earth completed.  I look at the work, character and achievements of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and diplomat Saeb Erekat.  I find I can’t write about one this week, without writing about the other.

Jonathan Sacks (1948 – 2020)

“God has spoken to mankind in many languages: through Judaism to Jews, Christianity to Christians, Islam to Muslims…No one creed has a monopoly on spiritual truth; no one civilisation encompasses all the spiritual, ethical and artistic expressions of mankind…In heaven there is truth; on earth there are truths…God is greater than religion.  He is only partially comprehended by any faith.”

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Tributes poured in for Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in the days after his death, from Conservatives (Boris Johnson) and Labour figures (Sadiq Khan) alike:

“His leadership had a profound impact on our whole country and across the world.”

~ Boris Johnson

“He was a towering intellect whose eloquence, insights and kindness reached well beyond the Jewish community.”

~ Sir Keir Starmer

“A man of huge intellectual stature but with the warmest human spirit”.

~ Tony Blair

“I benefitted hugely and learnt a lot from him. May his memory be a blessing.”

~ Sadiq Khan

Birth Chart

With 6 planets in the Fixed signs, strength of will was a hallmark of Jonathan Sacks.  His Sun in Pisces (the sign of spirituality) was square Uranus, so he would always have ploughed his own individual path.  Sun in Pisces exactly sextile his North Node in Taurus meant that spiritual leadership was part of his karmic mission.  Mercury in Aquarius in his chart was closely opposite Mars, showing a mind with a highly developed critical faculty.  Mercury was also exactly trine Uranus, denoting a very original thinker.  Mercury was involved in a T-square as it opposed Mars and squared Chiron, so he had a mind that was always alert to problem-solving.  Venus in Taurus brings solid values into his make up, which trined Jupiter to widen his love of humanity.  He had Jupiter at 26 degs Sagittarius at the Galactic Centre, signifying power, the force of the cosmos.   He will also have felt the weight of the world on his shoulders, with Saturn exactly square the Nodal Axis.  These things served to make him a larger than life character.

Life and Wisdom

Born in Lambeth in 1948, he was educated in Finchley, and gained a first-class degree in Philosophy from Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge. He originally planned to become an accountant (Mercury opposite Mars), but ditched these plans around the age of 19 in favour of training to be a Rabbi.  In this profession, he experienced a meteoric rise, and acted as Chief Rabbi from 1991 to 2013.  He was married with three children, and (fun fact) was a vegetarian.  He regularly imparted his wisdom on BBC Radio 4’s  Thought for the Day, and was a sincere proponent of interfaith dialogue.

He authored 25 books, including commentaries on prayer books.  One of the most widely read of his books was “The Dignity of Difference”, published in 2002.  Reflecting on the tragedy of 9/11, he observed that to attain peace in the world there needed to be respect between religions.  In the book, he also tackles the question of inequality in society.

Here is a quote from “The Dignity of Difference”:

“What morality restores to an increasingly uncertain world is the idea of responsibility – that what we do, severally and collectively, makes a difference, and that the future lies in our hands.”

He was known, among other things as a moral philosopher.  That is especially relevant to me, and to hubby Mike, at the moment, as this term’s syllabus on our philosophy course is morality and ethics.  Mike has been a long-term fan of Rabbi Sacks, and I asked him to write a few sentences for me on what Jonathan Sacks meant to him, so here are some quotes about Sacks from him:

On the Holocaust:

His approach to the Holocaust was, for example, that God was absent in Auschwitz and that evil should be remembered, otherwise it will rise again.

On Politics:

I think if he had been a mainstream politician he would have brought in the best of Left and Right – he would have been inclusive.

On Philosophy:

We should realize that he was a philosopher who just happened to be Chief Rabbi.  There are accounts of his inability to co-operate with the more progressive wings of Judaism but although this is disappointing, I think the plus points outweigh these fallibilities and shortcomings.

The transits at the time of Sack’s death included most notably Neptune on his natal Sun in Pisces, a return to his very spiritual essence.

Saeb Erekat (1955 – 2020)

The second of the two pillars, Saeb Erekat, is possibly lesser known (at least in this country), but Saeb was someone who sincerely tried to achieve the impossible: a peace settlement between the Arabs and Israelis.

Birth Chart

With 5 of his 10 planets in the Cardinal signs, he was a Leader, as such.  His Sun was conjunct Mercury in Taurus.  Taurus was also an important sign for Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, as he had its ruler Venus and the North Node (his karmic mission) in that sign.  Note that Taurus is the sign of the Pillar, or rock of a community!  With the Sun square Chiron in his chart, he tried to be a fixer.  I am always fascinated by the charts of peacemakers, and the Diplomat Archetype, and his chart does not disappoint: he has Venus (diplomacy) square his Nodal Axis (his karmic path), and Venus exactly sextile Chiron – if those two features along do not signify the Peacemaker Archetype, I don’t know what does!  In addition, he has Mars trine Chiron (a willingness to fight for wholeness).  Balanced judgement was also his, in the shape of Jupiter trine Saturn.  And he also possessed the Entrepreneur Archetype (Jupiter exactly conjunct Uranus), so had an inherent instinct for when and how to act and take opportunities for his mission.  Where he may have had an Achilles heel is in his Jupiter square Neptune, which can often bring about confusion around religion.  Saturn trine Uranus conferred a talent for social engineering, while Saturn square Pluto enabled him to confront hard truths (he was known for being a realist, as well as a moderate).

Life and Work

Erekat was the sixth of seven children, born in Abu Dis, a Palestinian village near Jerusalem.  The Israelis occupied the West Bank when he was 12 years old.  He attended college in San Francisco in 1972, where he gained a B.A. in International Relations in 1977, and an M.A. in Political Science in 1979.  This was followed up in 1983 with a PhD from Bradford University in the U.K. on Peace and Conflict Studies.  This shows a consistent and continuous path of the peacemaker and diplomat from an early age.  He concluded that peace could only come through negotiation, and not through a military solution.  After the Oslo accords in 1993 Erekat became a senior official of the Palestinian Authority (the PA) in Ramallah on the West Bank.

The death of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 is often seen as the death knell of the Arab-Israeli peace process, but Saeb Erekat never gave up on his faith in a two-state solution.  He was in fact the chief negotiator in this field from 1995 until 2003.  He participated in the peace talks at Camp David in 2000.  In September 2000 he was one of three top Palestinian politicians to ask Ariel Sharon not to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque, an event which led to the second Intifada.  He was asked to take up the post of … Negotiator in …, which he fulfilled for a short while.

2011 was a tricky year for him.  He temporarily resigned over the leak of documents about negotiations with Israel, entitled the “Palestinian Papers”.  He turned the situation into humour, with the memorable lines: ” If someone sneezes in Tel Aviv, I get the flu in Jericho”.

At the time, his transits were:-

Jupiter on his Venus (the Negotiator) in Aries – a good transit for a quip; Uranus square his Nodal Axis (interestingly the same transit as Dominic Cummings’ current embarrassment of leaving Downing Street with a box); and Pluto trine his natal Sun in Taurus (a crucial and profound moment).

In 2015 he took up the position of secretary-general of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization.  He was in a position to collaborate, during the Trump administration, with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, though he did not approve of the form of Trump’s peace plan.  He was very disturbed by the Abraham Accords of August 2020, which involved the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain normalizing relations with Israel.  He had not been in good health in recent years, and this was a real blow to him, and possibly hastened his end, though it was Covid-19 that took him.  This disappointment is shown in his chart by a transit of Saturn squaring his natal Neptune at the time of the Abraham accords.  In addition, Pluto opposite his Jupiter/Uranus conjunction was a disempowerment.

In his dealings with Israeli politicians, he was commended by Israeli justice minister Tsipi Livni who stated that he was an honest broker in their talks, with mutual respect, although their causes were so far apart.  He was known in the U.S. media as “Mr CNN”, for his frequent appearances on that news channel.

He lived in Jericho with his wife, and had four children.

Health Issues and Death

Saeb Erekat had many health issues, which is probably one reason why the coronavirus was able to have such an effect on him.  In 2012 he had a heart attack (with Saturn square his Uranus).  In 2017 he had a lung transplant (with Uranus opposite his Neptune, and Neptune square his natal Mars).  He also suffered from pulmonary fibrosis.  The positive test of Covid-19 came on 9th October this year, with Pluto still opposite his natal Jupiter.  He underwent a bronchostomy on 21st October, and eventually died on 10th November.  Whereas Rabbi Sacks had Neptune on his Sun at his passing, Erekat had Uranus on his Sun in Taurus, both transformative planetary agents.

Both were pillars of their communities, but they also served the world.  In closing this blog, I have chosen a quotation which befits both men:

“Though war needs physical courage, peace needs moral courage, the courage to break with the past and turn enemies into friends”

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks


At 3.57 a.m. here in the U.K. we experienced a sextile between the Sun and Jupiter, which should see us kindly through most of the day.  It is one of the brightest  aspects of the year.  Focus on what makes you happy, and make more of that.

Then at 5.07 a.m. we experienced a New Moon at 23 degrees Scorpio.  Did you feel it?  It is one of the most potent New Moons of the year.  It is a good time to re-set your intentions about life, and to create a new beginning.  There is talk among Conservatives of re-setting our government, now that Dominic Cummings has exited No. 10 Downing Street with a box (Uranus squaring his natal Nodal Axis).  There may be a certain amount of letting go required, before the fresh start can be established.  You might find yourself being ruthless with your de-cluttering, in accordance with your recent re-evaluation of the past.

The mood may change towards the evening, as at 19.43 Hrs Pluto squares Venus, which is not such a picnic.  This will require some psychological soul-searching, and honest-as-you-can-be interpersonal communication.  The dance-off on Strictly Come Dancing could be a heart-wrenching affair, as no one will want to go, and no one will want to see anyone go.  At the same time, celebrities will be arriving at a cold, haunted castle in Wales for the new series of  “I’m A Celebrity”.  But in our real lives, there may be difficult issues to watch.

Tomorrow (Monday 16th) is a less complex prospect, with just a square between Venus and Jupiter to contend with.  It’s a very social and sociable aspect, but can be gauche, awkward, or inappropriate.  Social non-conformists won’t care, but conformists may lament the lack of sticking to the rules.  Donald Trump will probably still be closeted in the White House, and his supporters will probably still be claiming fake voting.

More rule-breaking on Tuesday (17th) as Uranus opposes Mercury.  It can have the effect of a mini-Mercury retrograde, or a spanner in the technical works.  However, if you connect your lower rational mind directly with your telepathic higher mind, you can receive a flow of information which is workable, harmonious and useful.

Don’t forget, Stargazers, that Tuesday will be the peak of the Leonids meteor shower, if  you are lucky enough to have access to a clear sky.

On Thursday morning (19th) the Sun will be sextile Saturn, which could restore some order.  For those of you who have chafed under the creative chaos of the last few days, you can re-group.  Practical initiatives are supported by this aspect.  It is a good aspect for setting up solid foundations, for instance.  If you initiated a re-set during the day on Sunday, you can ensure you are back on track on Thursday.

Make sure you are the early bird that catches the worm however, because at 11.29 a.m. Venus squares Saturn, which may take the edge off your feelings of progress.  The Sun’s sextile with Saturn can still prevail, but you may be feeling out of your comfort zone in some way.  Perhaps the way the changes are taking shape are not quite to your liking, but it is not too late to change them.  It may be about the way something looks, or the way something makes you feel, but some warmth of heart can make a difference.  The two aspects may refer to different issues, however.

Saturday (20th) is All Change, with two planets changing signs and modes of expression.  First, at lunchtime, Venus enters Scorpio, and the flatness of the previous day could give way to a greater sense of passion, and motivations which come from a deeper level.  Your artwork or musicianship become more profound and eloquent.  There could be a greater sense of intimacy in  your relationships and more profound understanding.

In the evening, the Sun enters Sagittarius, the season of festive preparation.  It is an extraordinary prospect this year, as we in the U.K. are in lockdown (until 2nd December), and in the U.S. there is still a sense of transition and suspense about what happens next.  Christmas preparations will be like no other year.  We will possibly have more opportunity to be thoughtful about what we do prepare.  What comes between the Winter Solstice (21st December) and Christmas itself will be remarkable, though, as on 21st Jupiter and Saturn conjoin at 0 degrees Aquarius, ushering in a new New Age (there have been many run-ups; will this be the real McCoy?).  So at the moment, we do not know if we will see our loved ones at Christmas, and we don’t know what to prepare for;  we don’t know if we will be let loose on December 2nd, and we don’t know if we will want to be let loose; but there could be a sudden rush of celebratory energy between 21st and 25th.

The week in bullet points:

  • Today – Mixed: Some Joy, a New Beginning, Heart-Searching
  • Tomorrow – Social and Sociable, a bit awks
  • Tuesday – Spanner in the Communication Works (see my tip)
  • Thursday – Mixed: Some Stabilization, some deflation
  • Saturday – All Change