WARNING : This site is not for you if you cannot see the otherness of other and sufferings of both sides of the party in the conflict. Security for Israel and Justice for the Palestinians are interdependent, one will not happen without the other. My view focuses on building cohesive societies where no one has to live in apprehension or fear of the other. I hope and pray a sense of justice to prevail. Amen. Website www.IsraelPalestineDialogue.com | Also Check Israel Palestine Confederation a pragmatic solution

Monday, March 2, 2015

Brief History of Jews and nature of Zionism by Zvi Zohar

This is not an official paper, but a response to someone's question. Since this blog www.IsraelPalestineDialogue.com is visited by people of different levels of knowledge, I thought of sharing this here. It sounded good to me as a summary, but you have to find the truth on your own. 

Mike Ghouse

Dr. Zvi Zohar responded to a query on the forum:

It is important for you to understand the Israeli perspective on the situation (which is also the way in which most Jews understand it, but I will not speak for them), and to realize how different it is form your contention that we are "the installation of the European colony in Palestine".
The Israeli/Jewish perspective is, roughly, as follows:
1.     Well before 1000 BCE there existed in the Middle East a group of tribes who regarded themselves as descending from common ancestors: Abraham, his son Isaac, and his grandson Jacob (aka Israel). The language of these tribes was Hebrew.
2.     These tribes regarded themselves as being in a covenant with the One God creator of the universe and all mankind
3.     Under this covenant the area currently known as Israel/Palestine was their homeland
4.     The tribal federation of Benei Israel (= sons of Israel) established a polity (ultimately divided into two monarchies) in the land of Israel.
5.     This federation was threatened by attackers (Hebrew "Pelishtim", from the root P.L.Sh 'to invade', whence the Latin 'Palaestina') who came from the sea. In response to this threat, the tribes joined to establish a monarchy, whose first king was Saul. 
6.     The capitol of the Israelite monarchy was then established by King David (Arabic: Daoud) in Jerusalem, where his son King Solomon (in Arabic: Suleiman) built a Temple devoted to the service of the One God
7.     Soon after, the polity split into a Southern Kingdom (capitol city = Jerusalem) and a Northern Kingdom (capitol city = Samaria). After several hundred years, these monarchies were destroyed by Assyria and Babylonia and the Israelites were exiled.
8.     Most Israelites of the tribe of Judea, together with others of the tribe of Benjamin and Levi who were in the Sothern Kingdom, were exiled to current day Iraq c. 586 BCE. Other Judeans were exiled to Egypt.
9.     Some fifty years later the Persian king Cyrus conquered Iraq and decreed (c. 538 BCE) that those exiles who wished to do so could return to Judea.
10.  Some tens of thousands of refugees indeed returned to Judea and inter alia re-built the Temple (aka the Second Temple)
11.  Many other Judean refugees remained in Iraq (where they and their descendants lived for over 2500 years until 1950), where they were led by a Reish Galuta (= Exilarch) from the lineage of kings David and Solomon. The Judean refugees in Egypt also remained there.
12.  The Judean Israelites (aka Jews) who had returned to Judea ultimate were later able to re-establish an independent monarchy (under the Hasmonean kings of priestly lineage) which was then conquered by the Romans (as was the entire Middle East). The Romans named the area Provincia Judea.
13.  During those times, many persons attracted to Judean beliefs and culture decided to join them and become Jewish. Since the Judeans regarded themselves not as a religion but as a nation of Israelite lineage, the ceremony of becoming a Jew [giyyur] was constructed as symbolic birth into the Israelite lineage (you can read more about this in my book Transforming Identity [2007] co-authored with Avi Sagi)
14.  By the combined result of natural increase and of giyyur, historians estimate that in the first century CE Jews formed 10% of the population of the Roman Empire, of whom half (= 3 million) were living in current Israel and contiguous lands (Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, Northern Arabia), one million in Egypt, and another 2 million in Yemen, Libya, Cyprus, Asia Minor, etc. 
15.  In addition, the Jewish community in Iraq/Persia of some 1 million persons continued to exist outside of Roman rule
16.  All of these Jews considered the land of Israel as their national patrimony, and those outside of the land of Israel regarded themselves a living in Diaspora
17.  The Jews in Judea twice revolted against Roman rule, seeking to re-gain independence. These revolts (in 70 CE and then in 132 CE) were brutally suppressed by the Romans, and the Second Temple was destroyed. The Romans decided to re-name the area from Provincia Judea to Provincia Palaestina (whence the name Palestine for this area)
18.  Until the Islamic conquests, almost all Jews in the world were living in the Middle East
19.  When Islamic rule was established over North Africa and Spain, as well as over areas in Central Asia, quite a few Jews moved to those areas (as did many Arabs).
20.  Around the year 800 CE some Jews moved to France and Germany. Due to persecutions during the Crusades, some of their descendants later (in the 14th century) moved to Eastern Europe. These Jewish communities increased in number over the centuries.
21.  In 1492 the Christian Reconquista of Iberia led to the expulsion of the Jews (who had originally arrived there from the Middle East with the Islamic armies). Many of these Jews returned to the Middle East, inter alia established a major cultural-religious center in Safed during the 16th century. Others settled in other locations in Palestine (such as Jerusalem, Tiberias, Gaza etc), but mainly in Egypt, Syria, Asia Minor and elsewhere in the Ottoman Empire
22.  Demographically, it was only sometime in the 16th or 17th century that Jews in Christian Europe began to outnumber Jews in Islamic lands.
23.  Furthermore, the Jews in Christian Europe (as well as their brethren in Islamic lands) continued to regard themselves as a Diaspora community, whose homeland was in the Middle Eastern land of Israel to which they would ultimately return.
24.  After the French revolution Jews in France were granted citizenship on the condition that they cease to regard themselves as a Jewish nation and regard themselves as merely a religious group, part of the French nation. Such a policy was later followed by some other European countries. This led some Jews in Europe to see themselves as "Frenchmen of the Mosaic Faith" "Germans of the Mosaic Faith" etc.
25.  However, other Jews did not accept this definition (or, came to realize it would not work in practice) and decided to establish a National Liberation Movement that would enable Jews to finally re-establish themselves in their original National Homeland. Since "Zion" was an ancient name of Jerusalem, their original capitol city, they named this movement "Zionism"
26.  This movement was against the policy of European states, which was to see the Jews as a religion and not as a nation.
27.  In light of all the above, it should be understandable that Israelis (and most other Jews) do not at all regard Israel as a "European Colony" "installed in Palestine" in 1948.
28.  Rather, we are a nation originating in the Middle East, that for most of its history was located in the Middle East, and finally returned to our original homeland in the Middle East – either from Muslim lands in the Middle East and North Africa, or from European lands, or from Ethiopia, India etc.
With all due respect
Zvi Zohar
Chauncey Stillman Professor of Sephardic Law and Ethics,
Bar Ilan University; and Senior Scholar, Center for Halakha, Shalom Hartman Institute, Jerusalem

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