In these days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement, Jews spend much of their free time, and some of the not so free time, reflecting on their actions and shortcomings of the last year and also their entire lives where less than golden practices became habit. In this time I have too often strayed beyond my shortcomings and looked beyond to the shortcomings of my people and the entirety of the human race. Slavery has to be a practice which was carried on far too long nearly into modern times and even now exists in some measure. We were slaves and know its hardships which we recount every year at our Seders. Passover is one of the singular observances where traditions are pretty much set in stone. The odd thing is there are different stones for Jews of different backgrounds. I should know as my father was as Ashkenazi as one can be and my mother was equally Sephardim. Perhaps this was why we only got a half serving of rice at Passover and never enough for a meal. The Seder service which is said in the home in privacy closes with an important and universal hope of all Jews, “Next year in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). The Seder is far from the only set of prayers which end with this overriding and continual desire amongst all Jews no matter their individual customs, Jerusalem, as the Song of Babylon states, “If I forget thee may my right hand lose its cunning (strength) and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.” That is the seriousness a Jew or any Israelite feels for their eternal Capital City and why the Arabs so demand they control the Old City, the part of which that pleading relates for they know that is the Jewish heart.
Remembering our past no matter where your ancestry originates there were pogroms, purifications, jihad, and just simple hatreds which drove our ancestors from their homes with what they could carry. All too often the older children had to carry the younger while father and mother carried what meager belongings they could, the Shabbat table cloth, candle holders, challah plate and cover were mother’s load in addition to what kitchen utensils she could manage while father carried his Tallits, Tefillin, Prayerbooks, Siddurim, Haggadah, necessities for his trade (which may include leading a cow or two or sewing machine, threads, cloth, butchery knives, or whatever and the Rabbi and sons carried the Torah, as many as possible and a few more as leaving even one behind was unthinkable), and whatever other items mother or children could not continue without (his was the burden of family). These fleeing Jews were often the fortunate ones as behind them were those Jews who joined the too lengthy list of fallen leaves. Every Pogrom, Purification, Jihad, forced conversions, Crusades, conquest for Allah, blame for every calamity, blame for disease in the community, and all too often just because we were Jews the leaves fell. People ask how humans could treat their neighbor so cruelly. Well, look to Europe or the past hundred years in the Arab and Muslim worlds or to Russia and remember Nazi Germany and the reasons abound.
One need understand the enormity of the history of the Israelite people. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob came from the time when agriculture and herding were just coming into their own and the city states were forming. At this point the first Jews were but a family and believe it or not we are largely still that very same family plus those we have married and the few converts over the ages, often these converts also married into the family and converted in order to do so. There are the claims that the Exodus from Egypt we brought numerous non-Jews with us and if one reads Torah they will see we know of this and these people were kept in a separate camp and were partially responsible for the sin of the golden calf. These others were sent on their separate way with many sailing to Greece with even some Jews who found our ways too difficult and desired a more earthy and pleasure seeking existence which was all the rage in those primitive times. Egypt saw us build a city to a Pharaoh who fashioned himself to be a god. The story of our exit from Egypt is chronicled in the best-selling book in history and one of, if not the, first books ever printed by the printing press. Our travels and travails of forty years in the desert are well chronicled and many youth learn of it early in their educations. The reason why is not so well noted. Put simply, we lacked faith in the promise from Hashem that the land would be granted us by His hand. Instead ten of twelve spies told of giants living in cities behind great and unbreakable walls. The illogic of giants needing walled cities never occurred to the Israelites who reacted to these recounting with great timidity and fear. The two who told of peoples in fear of the coming of the chosen of Hashem and a land flowing with goodness went unheeded as the Jewish people who had lived a life under slavery had not the bravery or independent spirit to conquer a land even with Hashem. For forty years we gave birth to a new people free of the yoke of slavery and filled with the miracles of Hashem such as the manna which fed them in the parched desert of the wastelands they traveled through.
Jericho put to rest the fears of the former generation as its great walls were no match for the formulae given by Hashem which brought them down. The following victory of Ai and then of the combined armies of the Kings of Canaan proved Hashem truly would grant us the land. What is often passed over is that the Torah gives the Jews the exact method we are to pursue when coming into our promised land with any tribes of people who reside within and it is a very simple method for selecting how one treats those tribes. We are to make them a simple offer. They have three choices of varying ease for their people. The most easy is to remain within the lands on the lands they hold and simply obey the Seven Laws of Noah, the Noahic Code and we will both live and prosper in peace. They can leave the lands and we will not pursue them and wish them well. The least favorable choice is they can choose to war with us at which time we will endeavor to kill every last inhabitant and member of their tribe and burn their crops, slaughter and leave for the buzzards their cattle and remove any and all record that they ever existed from the story of mankind. That was then and we no longer live in those times. What is not well known is that some of the Canaanites chose the first two options and were granted what was promised.
History passed and we had an expository period under King David and King Solomon who conquered lands until they reached the Euphrates River, the farthest we have ever reached and we desire far less today, only what was promised which is well documented and for the sake of my regular readers we will not go over this again. You’re welcome. The life went well until we had strayed from Torah and had practiced even idolatry and thus lost the guardianship of Hashem so we fell before the Babylonian sword. This was not our best of times but this exile ended when the Persians conquered Babylon and knowing of Hashem from their recounting of history beseeched that we return and rebuild our Temple and worship Hashem as we desired and simply pay our tribute to the Persians and we would be left in peace. Rather nice of them had that continued forward but there came an overachiever named Haman the Agagite and descendant of Agag, the king of the Amalekites and our saving grace in the form of the Persian Queen Esther. We built the Second Temple and in human history soon thereafter came such luminaries as Confucius, Buddha, Tao, and others who all founded various ancient religions of which a few continue into the modern era. The namedropping was more as making note in history when much of what we call a more modern age came into being and where much of Eastern philosophy had its roots. Eventually we once again gained our freedom, but wait, there’s more.
Eventually there was the inevitable family squabble and the Tribes of Israel chose sides with the ten northern tribes taking the name Israel and the southern two tribes being called after the far larger tribe, Judah and the Priestly tribe remained spread amongst the people and largely in Jerusalem under Judah. After the ten northern tribes were carried away as slaves by the Assyrians there were just the priests in Jerusalem and the tribes of Benyamin (a smaller tribe) and Judah the lion, the defenders of the southern borders, remained where most belonged to the tribe of Judah so we became Judeans and eventually simply Jews. The Assyrian Greeks eventually defeated Judah as well and then the Polemic Greeks and one more the Assyrian Greeks followed by the Romans. The Romans got a little put out after the Jews, the name had cemented by them, did which no other people managed, threw off the Roman yoke twice. They dispersed the Jews to the far reaches of their kingdoms and everywhere inbetween such that we would never again challenge Roman rule. That worked rather well and as the Roman Empire slowly crumbled the Jews spread even further but we had a secret weapon through which we remained attached to Jerusalem and our lands always hoping for the Messiah to return us to Eretz Yisroel, and that weapon is Torah. Torah is our history, our rules for life, our traditions, and our defining center which keeps us in touch with Hashem and our covenant and the promises Hashem gave to us. The Torah has kept us a family despite great distances and the stories abound of Jews traveling to a strange place often not by their choosing and upon arrival finding family there, finding Jews who greeted them as only family greets one they have never even known existed. This too was one of the many strands of string that when twined together make the rope which will eventually be spun in Israel, in Jerusalem.
Now, as we gather slowly from the far corners of the globe from America to Europe to Japan and the Philippines and India or Ethiopia as well as South Africa, Australia, even the outback and places even stranger and more remote, the time has come to stop believing we are Jews as we no longer are. Jew was the name we were given in captivity by the Greeks and Romans who shortened Judean to Judian to Juw which became spelled Jew. The actual spellings and pronunciations are not important but what Jew came to mean to the gentiles is important. The Jew was the reason for famine, for plague, for war they were always siding with the enemy on both sides as both sides saw Jews fighting for their enemy but were blind to the Jews fighting with them in their armies. The Jew was accused of every ill and even potential harm and the fact that the Jews lived in their own small area, ghetto, and practiced a different religion, often the parent religion to the one the others practiced, they had to be the reason as they were the other wherever they found themselves. When the time came to clean the lands of the disbeliever, the Jew too was cast out or burned at the stake, hung, crucified or whatever punishment was dealt the disbeliever. Often they were simply driven from the land and forced to travel through place after place before finding one which allowed them to settle and reside for the time being. The Jew always kept a number of suitcases packed and one special suitcase in which all their religious items were kept. They would be removed when required to observe the Sabbat or to do morning prayers or observe a holiday and then carefully and respectfully repacked in case they had to leave with little notice. This suitcase was the first one grabbed by the mobs of the pogrom, Crusade or whatever reason was for killing the Jews as this suitcase must have precious jewels to be so carefully guarded. Imagine the look when all they found were some candlesticks, candles, a special tablecloth and few other religious items and books but no jewels or gold or silver other than the few religious items, often only the Shabbat candlesticks. The main thing is the Jew was a temporary guest to be bullied and thrown away when hatreds overwhelmed the people and a frenzied mob sought a target.
We are now coming home and we are not going to be bullied or thrown from our lands. We may not be granted easy access to all our lands, even our most precious Biblical Lands in Judea and Samaria. Jerusalem will hopefully not allow to be divided and we again forbidden from visiting our Temple Mount which we built during the times of the Second Temple before Christianity and long before Islam came into this world. Allowing the Synagogues we so meticulously restored or even rebuilt to once again be defiled and destroyed would be a sin of great magnitude. Where we need to try and be accommodating and live with our neighbors on this little sphere orbiting an insignificant star in a moderately large galaxy soon to be merged with an even larger galaxy, we also must remain true to ourselves, our history and, most of all, to Hashem which means that Jerusalem’s old city must remain with the Temple Mount as an intricate and vital part of Israel. The Islamics know the importance of these areas which is the sole reason they demand them to be separated from the Jews. This is the same story which was the reason there were so many wars between Christian and Muslim over Jerusalem and only Jerusalem as that was the reason behind the Crusades and the Islamic conquests, they both wanted to hold the City of the Jewish holiest of places as that is the home of Hashem which both claim to worship (the validity of such claims cannot be covered in brief even in this article). But Jerusalem must remain a part of what is Israel and that should not ever be placed in doubt and slowly the Israelis are realizing this fact.
As for the name Jew, that needs change. Those of us residing here in the Holy Lands of Israel are no longer merely Jews even if we are of the seed of Judah, we are Israelites once again. With the airlift of Ethiopians and the Bnei Menashe community from India home to Israel we are once again to be known as the tribes of Israel. There is a group in southwestern India who call themselves the Tribe of Ephraim who were found when a Chabad couple shared a Passover Seder with them. With these tribes of the ten lost tribes of Israel reappearing, the people of Israel are not all but universally of the tribe of Judah, we are once again in transition and should recognize such and refer to ourselves as what we are, Israelites, the Tribes of Israel reuniting in our ancient and holy homelands.
Some may ask what should become of the Arab Palestinians. Well, we can offer them three choices. They can live in their own area under their own leadership in a semiautonomous area within Israel where we promise them security and to live in peace and in return they obey the Noahic Code, or they can leave and settle elsewhere in the world and we will wish them safe travels and the best of luck and promise not to pursue them or do them harm as they leave, or they may choose to treat us with violence and hate and do injury to us as a form of war for which we will do as we can to destroy their existence and to erase the fact that they ever resided amongst us. That is what any other people would do and for those who doubt such we would like to point to items such as Northern Ireland and the British.
Continuing on, other examples abound such as the Spanish and the Tribes of the Basque and Spain and even France, the many different tribes which made up Yugoslavia until they each went their separate ways, the Czech Republic and Slovakia which separated from Czechoslovakia and the numerous nations which were formed by the victorious powers after World War I that make up much of the Arab Islamic world today and which are now breaking even further into tribal regions, and the conquered lands which now live under the fist of their conquerors such as Tibet or those threatened by nations claiming their right to regain control of these areas such as Taiwan and Mainland China (Red China if your old enough to remember that term) and also Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus and the currently challenged Ukraine all of which are currently under direct or indirect challenge from Putin the Invader’s Russian bear. The changing tides of war and the formation and dissolution of nations has not ended as many wished to believe and world wars are no longer unimaginable. The claim that after the fall of the Soviet Union that history had ended and everything was now at peace and in equilibrium leading Francis Fukuyama to write a piece titled, “The End of History?” which has proven as much folly as the claim once made by the Commissioner of the United States Patent Office in 1899 who it is (attributed) claimed to have said, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
With all the turmoil in the world today, it is beyond reasonable but is yet true that the world considers what the Israelis do within the lands granted under international laws and treaties to them for their homeland dating from the early 1920’s and the numerous conferences, treaties and conventions which were signed by all the parties involved including the Arab League and King Farouk granting the lands west of the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea to be the area for the land of Israel to be formed. We, the Israeli people ask for no more than that which all powers, even to include the Arabs and Japan, British, French, German, Ottoman, Russian, and eventually the United States, League of Nations and United Nations all recognized and gave their blessings and agreement and yet to this day this is contested. The facts are not contested, just the realization, and there appears to be an undercurrent which is driven by the concept that by ridding the world of Israel, and with it the Jewish people once and for all, will end their ever considering having a real home anywhere on Earth. This is considered a desirable and possible eventuality by the leaders of the Western World to appease and pacify the Arab World. There is one answer for such people, and it is what we promised, “Never Again!”
Beyond the Cusp