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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Jews That Never Left Israel and Judah

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                   
                                              Old Jerusalem Walls Near Tower of David
"Sephardim Jews are among the descendants of the line of Jews who chose to return and rebuild Israel after the Persian Empire conquered the Babylonian Empire About half a millennium later, the Roman Empire conquered ancient Israel for the second time, massacring most of the nation and taking the bulk of the remainder as slaves to Rome. Once the Roman Empire crumbled, descendants of these captives migrated throughout the European continent. Many settled in  Spain (Sepharadi) and Portugal,  where they thrived until the Spanish Inquisition  and Expulsion of 1492 and the Portuguese Inquisition and Expulsion shortly thereafter.  Others went onto Germany and then on up into Eastern Europe.  Because of their initial contact in Germany and France, they are called the Ashkenazim Jews.  

A misnomer is that Zionism started with Jews living in Europe (Ashkenazi Jews).  The facts are that there were Jews that have always remained in the “Holy Land,” even after 70 CE when Rome destroyed Jerusalem. They were the first to be "Zionists."   Life was not easy for them and in later centuries many came to depend on donations from abroad, but they had remained; remained, prayed and suffered through the centuries waiting for their brothers to return.  .

Those Jews living nearby in Arab countries yearned every day to return to their own land.  When World War I was over in 1918, nearly half of the total Jewish population in Jerusalem were Sephardic Jews–Jews of the Middle East which are often referred to as Mizrachi Jews. Sephardis has become the overall blanket term.

Hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing from Arab persecution also poured into Israel who also had desired to be back in their country.  Arabs had taken over Rome’s position in a conquest of the Holy Land, but had not settled there.  They had their own well developed lands.

Before Islam came into being in 600 CE, the Sabaeans and the Nabataens,  traders with caravans,  came through into area from Arabia.  Greeks came along and pushed them out of the way in the 1st century CE. In 438 CE, the Jews from Galilee were elated when the Empress Eudocia allowed them to pray again at their holy temple site.  They thought this was the end of the exile of their people.

 The Roman Empire (70-395), who had taken Jerusalem in 70 CE were replaced by the Byzantium Empire (395-636) with Constantinople being their capital.  This was Eastern Orthodox Christianity and they spoke Greek.  Then the Sasanid Iranians, another warring empire took the front page in history.  And so it went.  Islam came into being in 600 CE.  It was in 614 CE  that Jews fought along with the Persian invaders of Palestine and overwhelmed the Byzantine garrison in Jerusalem.  They controlled the city for 5 years.  and then the Arabs conquered the land 2 decades later and  the Umayyad Dynasty followed by the Abbasid Empire.  Finally the Ottoman Empire appeared in the 1400's and they owned the property until World War I ended.

The Jews had suffered 3 centuries of Christian intolerance of which violence had been practiced spasmodically during half of that period.  This is when Jews welcomed with lots of hope in their hearts, the Arab conquerors.

Muslim Arabs (636-1072) entering 7th century Jerusalem found a strong Jewish identity.  They found that Jews lived in all parts of the country and on both sides of the Jordan.  They lived in both the towns and the villages as farmers and making many types of handicrafts.  Many lived in Lydda and Ramle-cities Arabs of today think of as Arab towns.  Other larger communities they lived in were Ascalon (Ashkelon today) , Caesarea and Gaza which was their capital when they couldn't get into Jerusalem.  Jericho was home to many Jews.  When Islam was introduced to the world, some Jews became 7th century Jewish refugees escaping from  Khaibar in Arabia.

 Khaibar had been a thriving Jewish community to the north of Mecca and Medina.  They faced death if they did not convert and had to defend their forts and mansions with their heroism as the Prophet Muhammad had "visited upon his beaten enemy inhuman atrocities," by the mass massacre of men, women and children.  What he did was completely exterminate  2 Arabian Jewish tribes.  He did this to Jews who had lived there for centuries living in freedom, peace, labor and trade and now they had been  treated as slaves and  degraded.  They had to see their wives and daughters given out among the Arab men and carried away by these conquerors.  He did this to a people who at  times of famine, would give Arabs who came to them  fruit and water and help them out.  So these Jews that survived struggled back to their Homeland.  When asked later in 1968 at an Arab theologian conference about this detestable act,  a speaker defended it by saying that Mohammad said while dying, "Never do 2 religions exist in Arabia."   He had purified Arabia from Jews.

All this time, it was a struggle for the Jews in the land to survive under these oppressive powers.  The Arabs treated Jews in the Middle East lands as dhimmis or 3rd class people who lived under a lesser quality of life due to the Arab laws.  They also prayed for their return to their homeland.  It was equally desired in both camps; Ashkenazis of Europe and Sephardis of the Middle East.  Both groups had been one in 70 CE when they parted, and both practiced the same religion and did the same things.  There are 2 great compilations of thought on the Five Books of Moses and its Jewish Law.  .  One was the was the Palestinian  or Jerusalem Talmud written before 400 CE..  About 200 years later the Babylonian Talmud  was written before 500 CE  in Iraq with about 2 1/2 million words and more than 3 times as long as the Palestinian Talmud    Each one consists of the Mishnah together with a gemara which is both a commentary on and a supplement to the Mishnah.  Both Talmuds also contain non-legal or aggadic digressions. Ashkenazis were able to study both, though the Babylonian Talmud was much better and longer.

The fact remains that we have had an unceasing strain of “Oriental” or “Palestinian” Jews in “Palestine” for millennia” who hadn’t left.  They were able to stay and hold down the fort in spite of every discouragement.  Jews had not abandoned the land physically, nor did they ever renounce their claim to to their nation.  Their claim to the land is the only continuous claim that exists.  Even though successive conquerors had devastated the Jewish organization structure they once had, the Jews never submitted to assimilation into the various victorious populations even after being devastated.  "Many Jewish scholars living in Roman-controlled Syria Palaestina moved to Persia to escape the harsh decrees against Jews enacted by the emperor Hadrian  after Bar Kokhba's revolt of 132-135.   The remaining scholars who lived in the Galilee area decided to continue their teaching activity in the learning centers that had existed since Mishnaic times".

"Jews arrived in central Europe following the crisis of the 7th century in Byzantine Palestine around the time of Muslim conquest.   Jews probably began settling along the Rhine in Germany, from  Alsace in the south to the Rhineland in the north, during the early Middle Ages."  They were then known as the Ashkenazi Jews.  It's probable that some Jews got to Germany from Rome where they were taken as slaves.  They could have even been sold to Romans going to Germany's Rhineland where the Romans had also conquered.  In their Roman period,  Jewish soldiers were found to be in Roman garrisons there, so slaves had to become soldiers.   In 321 CE, the emperor Constantine issued regulations in Cologne where Jews had settled on the Rhineland.   

It’s like studying the case of twins who have been separated at birth.  The development of Judaism in both camps appear to be exactly alike, and being they were one people originally, this is not surprising at all.  They both had the same education. They were a people separated by a situation facing exile from their homeland.  They had scattered.

The Crusaders ruled from 1099-1291 calling the land the Kingdom of Jerusalem.  Mamluks ruled from 1291 to 1516.  Jews were killed along with Arabs as the Crusaders couldn't tell the difference.  They all looked the same.  Crusaders massacred Jews throughout the Rhineland and nearby areas.  1298 saw many massacres of Jews in Germany and again in 1336 and 1348 when Jews were accused of creating the Black Death.

  In the 1400's many returned to Safed, the city I chose to live in when I made aliyah in 1980.  . Others came later  escaping the Spanish Inquisition.   Safed  was the going capital of Jewish learning and held many Yeshivahs founded by different rabbis where Jews came to study and learn.  Throughout time, Ashkenazis did try and some made it back to the Homeland and were more successful in the late 1880's with the first Aliyah.

Under Turkish rule of the Ottoman Empire (1516-1917)  the Jews in Jerusalem and in Gaza maintained cultural and spiritual unity and Sultan Suleiman I allowed many Jews to return to the Holy Land.  In 1561 Suleiman gave Tiberias, one of the Jewish 4 holy cities, to a "secret Jew," from Portugal, Don Joseph Nasi, who rebuilt the city and the villages around it.  this attracted Jewish people to come and live there from any areas of the Mediterranean.

The post-Roman Christians had turned around and caused physical violence on Jews and pagans alike.  Despite their cruelty, more then 40 Jewish communities survived and could be traced in the 6th century.  They were 12 towns on the coast, in the Negev, and east of the Jordan which was land that was part of the Palestine mandate that Britain held in 1922.  This land had been dubbed "Transjordan then and was declared the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.  He had just taken it and seemed to get away with it.  The Jews were also living in 31 villages in the Galilee and in the Jordan Valley at that time.

On May 14, 1948, we had 650,000 Jews living in Israel and 126,000 Arabs.   Today we have 6 million Jews, the same number we lost in the Holocaust.  In the 24 years since this date, entire Jewish communities from Arab countries have made aliyah to Israel.  Out of Iraq came 121,000 out of the 130,000.  Out of Yemen came 44,000 of their 45,000.  Out of Libya came 30,500 out of their 35,000.    Moroccan, Tunisian, Poland and other countries   had 165,000 Jews return between 1955-1957.  It wasn't until 1994 that the last Syrian Jews were able to get to Israel being they were held like prisoners.  

Resource:From Time Immemorial by Joan Peters
 The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
Text: Middle East Past and Present by Yahya Armajani and Thomas M. Ricks


in search of the truth said...

Are there Jew's in Israel that never left?

Nadene Goldfoot said...

Didn't I answer it in this article? Of course there are Jewish descendants of people who have never left. I've also covered this in other articles as well, maybe in my other blog-Jewish Bubba.