Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Milk and stars

Israeli MK Naomi Blumenthal has raised the idea of establishing a breast-milk bank in Israel. It is a nice idea. But it might be worthwhile giving some thought to problems that may arise.

For instance, according to Islamic law, breast milk creates the same kind of bonds as does blood. Thus, a baby boy and girl - not related in any way - who were breast-fed by the same woman, would be forbidden to marry each other. Therefore, great care is taken in keeping track of which child suckled from which woman. Keeping records like that for a milk bank would fairly difficult. And since Israeli hospitals care for one or two (maybe more?) Muslim newborns, perhaps this is worth devoting a couple of minutes thought to.

This, by the way, I learn from an article on breastfeeding and Islam by Prof. Avner Giladi.

Speaking of Islam, I read an article in the new volume of Speculum. It was written by a doctoral student in Melbourne named Marco Zuccato, and deals with the astronomical writings of Gerbert of Aurillac. Not something I know anything about. But his main point is fascinating.

Gerbert is described as using a technique described at length by Dunash ben Tamim, a Jewish scholar from Kairuan. Gerbert studied for a while in Catalonia. A few years earlier, Hisdai ibn Shaprut, right hand man to the caliph of Andalus, had visited there on diplomatic missions.

Since it is well known that, besides being a diplomat and corresponding with the Khazars, Hisdai was also a patron of the arts and sciences, Zuccato suggests that it was Hisdai who introduced these scientific innovations into Christian Catalonia. This theory helps explain the transition of scientific knowledge from Islam to Christianity at a time when there was little or no intellectual contact between the religions.


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