The pattern is as old as Jewish history itself. The prototypical mold was cast from our days in Egypt. When our family first came to Egypt times were uncertain and difficult but soon resolved and placed us in positions of power, respect, and acceptance. The initial years, decades even, were years of plenty where we reaped the rewards of our acceptance thus being allowed the fruits of our labors. Things began to change with a new Pharaoh who no longer remembered the times and qualities of our previous service to the people and leaders of Egypt, to the former Pharaoh. Then everything changed bringing upon us years of bitterness, of slavery, of persecutions, and of suffering under evil edicts. All of these were the results from suspicions and false charges of our having loyalties which may have influenced us to revolt and raise our hand against Egypt. The fact that there had been little or no indication of such even being discussed, being suggested, or any evidence that we meant anything but to serve the good of Egypt which had become our home was of absolutely no consequence. But the misgivings arose and we came under suspicions and thus were placed under the yoke of slavery and suffered the bitterness of unfounded jealous hatreds against us. This was the very first epoch of our being separated and exiled from our true homelands and placed in the original Diaspora. This was to be the same sequence that was to become our history for every time we were to suffer the yoke of foreign rule which could be referred to as the “Cycle of Egypt”.
Babylon was an enemy from the very outset. There were times at the start in which the Jewish nation had peaceable and mutually advantageous relations as our nation was of sufficient power that the kings of Babylon feared a war between our nations. It should be noted that when we possessed such strength we chose not to attack or take up arms against those neighboring nations and tribes and simply chose to live on our lands enjoying peace, security and the wealth of our toils and serving the L0rd our G0d. When we turned from the path of righteousness, our strength sapped and our defenses failed, the neighboring Babylonians wasted little time before setting out to conquer our lands. Again we were in exile suffering the bitterness of being forced from our lands. When the Persian conquest defeated the Babylonians many of us returned to our lands and we enjoyed a period of peace and security despite being a part of the Persian Empire and thus under their rule. Initially the Persian rulers allowed us a fair amount of autonomy but that eventually evaporated eventually leading to Haman and the threat of annihilation simply for being what we were, Jews. We faced persecution under the Greek Empire after an initial period where we were granted some autonomy. The final occupation was the current one, which we have the opportunity to bring to an end, which began with the great dispersion inflicted upon us by Rome in an attempt to dissolve and destroy our very existence as a people, removing the Jews from all of history.
After the fall of Rome the Jewish people were no longer a single community as we had been intentionally dispersed to every corner of the empire, intentionally separated into small and insignificant communities intended to die within a generation or two. The saving grace was Torah which kept our identity viable and with time tied our dispersed communities together in a loose confederation which has lasted through to modern times. During this Diaspora we faced the “Cycle of Egypt” continuously with some of our dispersed far-flung communities under persecution even if most of our communities lived lives of serenity and marginal independence. The communities of Jews found themselves in the near two-thousand-year exile repeatedly having to flee from one place to another sometimes even finding necessity to flee entire countries as royal edicts demanded our departing under pain of death. Often we found at the end of such persecution driven resettlements that our new homeland received us willingly and with acceptance. Unfortunately these favorable conditions would always deteriorate until we found ourselves once again fleeing for our lives, often literally. Our lives became a continuous string of desperate times where the fulfillment of the final curses depicted in Leviticus 26:37-8, which reads
“And as for those of you who are left, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; the sound of a shaken leaf shall cause them to flee; they shall flee as though fleeing from a sword, and they shall fall when no one pursues. They shall stumble over one another, as it were before a sword, when no one pursues; and you shall have no power to stand before your enemies. You shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up.”
This brings us to the current times. The Shoah was the latest end result of the “Cycle of Egypt” which began with our fleeing the pogroms and persecutions in Czarist Russia, a state of persecution which carried over to the Communist rule which followed the Czars. Many of the Jewish people fled westward from Russia back into Eastern Europe with large numbers choosing to reside in the first areas where they found an accepting community. This placed a very large population of Jews in Poland and also increases of Jews also residing in Germany. My father’s family was among those who fled Czarist persecution and my great-great-grandfather made a wise decision and continued to flee westward through Poland, Germany, Belgium and France eventually stopping in London. Still, my family lost members to the ravages of World War II as one of my uncles died flying over Europe with the British Air Force. My mother’s family being Sephardic was spared from the curses which befell European Jews but faced their own persecutions which afflicted the Jews of the Middle East, especially in Iraq and Iran during the same time period. Both sides of my family have been extremely reluctant in discussing the particulars even among family members such that I was never a recipient of their experiences or educated as to the hardships they survived.
After World War II the world changed drastically for the Jewish people as Israel was restored making it possible for Jews to once again live in their own homeland under self-rule. With the reestablishing of the country of Israel the Jewish people have a safe haven where they can defend themselves as an independent nation and people. Despite the facts which depict Israel as a nation under continuous siege, Jews still have an advantage in Israel which had been denied them for much of the past two millennia, the option of self-defense. This has caused some uneasiness for those who are more comfortable with the idea of the Jewish people as a small minority living within their states completely defenseless against their persecutors whenever and wherever they arise. The concept of Jews with tanks, fighter jets, naval ships, missiles and all kinds of combat arms securing their lands and fellow Jews from attempted persecution and annihilation is a concept which many appear to prefer to deny the Jewish State which is exemplified by their condemnations of any use of force by Israel in the defense of her people. There are many who oppose allowing the Jewish State to defend itself and wish to deny Israel’s right to exist, yet the same people also wish to expel the Jews from within their countries as well. Where these haters are powerless to dissolve Israel by edict, it is only their hatreds for the Jews residing outside of Israel where they deleterious desires can be actualized and it is these desires that need be addressed.
With the formation of the State of Israel in May 1948, we saw the dispossession of their Jewish populations by numerous Arab and Muslim nations over the next decade. Those Arab and Muslim nations who did not forcibly expel their Jews often did make the lives of their Jews difficult. There were the occasional pogroms, riots, confiscations of property and vandalizing of businesses, homes, synagogues and schools which belonged to or were operated by Jews. Some of these countries went to the radical ends by making being Jewish a crime punishable by death such as in Saudi Arabia. Europe experienced a guilt driven reprieve from its long, consistent history of recurrent, sporadic anti-Semitism after having their conscience assaulted by the revelation of the horrors of the Holocaust. Unfortunately, this suspension of Jew hatred was more of a suppression than an elimination which is now rapidly coming to an end. Once again as the European economies hit difficult times there are some in the masses who are turning to an old hatred on which to place the blame for their difficulties. The destruction and defacement of Jewish cemeteries, synagogues, schools, businesses and other easily identifiable places has become more prevalent with time. There have been actual physical attacks on Jews wearing readily identifiable clothing and items. The demonstrations against Israel have become larger and more hateful. The levels of hatreds and attacks have culminated in the assassination of a Rabbi, his two young sons and the daughter of the administrator at the Ozar Hatorah Yeshiva in Toulouse, France. Adding to the sickening reality of this horrid incident was the fact that anti-Semitic acts greatly increased following this hateful act. Adding to the ever growing problems and hatefulness in Europe has been the fact that the United States also has had an increase in acts against its Jews and those places and buildings which can be identified as Jewish. The acts in the United States may not currently rival those in Europe, but they appear to have a similarity to the situation in Europe of about a decade ago. Should these trends continue to increase and grow then the return to Israel of the world’s Jews may become a reality sooner than any expected when Israel was founded in May of 1948. This may be a sad reason behind forcing the return to Israel of the Jewish people but it may become result in a blessing upon its completion. For all that we can know these realities which may result in driving the Jewish people to return to their homeland and the Promised Land could be the result of a hidden hand forcing history to mold to a greater plan. It is said that there are no consequences and all things will play out as they are intended. Time will tell.
Beyond the Cusp