The Legacy of Abraham

He is beloved by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Can this bond stop them from hating one another?

My first real experience of the patriarch Abraham's crossover appeal came on the splendid sun-spangled day in June when I took a crosstown cab to arrange my son's circumcision. Jews have circumcised for thousands of years--ever since God (as the Torah tells it), having made a history-altering pact with Abraham, directed him to "cut my Covenant in your flesh." Some biblical commentators suggest that the circumcision was meant as much as a reminder to the Lord as to the Israelites, a kind of divine Post-it not to extirpate these people. My thought as we rolled eastward across Manhattan was, There must...