The people of Israel have cultivated a heritage of literacy for thousands of years; it’s one reason they are, as an ethnic group, so comfortable and proficient with the communicative arts. Hebrews have been talking, reading, and writing for a long time. Beginning with Moses, Solomon, and other biblical documentarians, their meticulous oral and written histories constructed a potent cultural tradition that has matured like a fine vintage over time. The Jewish religion has also spun off two other major peoples-of-the-book–Christianity and Islam.
Hey, like it or not, Moshe, it’s what happened. Read ’em an weep. We’re all riders on this bumpy monotheistic bus.
The Torah/Bible documents how that deep heritage manifested as an ancient kingdom. But Israel was, as kingdoms go, relatively short-lived. Right off the bat, after three kings, the country split, and it never regained that golden age magnificence of Solomon’s forty-year flash in the pan. Israel and Judah hobbled along for a few centuries until the Greeks humiliated them and the Romans subjugated them.
In 70 AD the army of the Roman empire dispersed Jewish nationalism to the four winds. For nineteen centuries after that forced diaspora, faithuful Jewish passover observers spoke of celebrating their feasts “next year in Jerusalem.”
Jewish identity went under-canopy, and into a kind of fervently prolific survival mode. Beneath diverse banners of other empires and nations, Jewish culture managed to proliferate and mature in a richly productive way, even without the benefit of native soil and eretz. In spite of the odds stacked against them, Jewish people even managed to prosper beneath the adverse radar of alien hegemonies. There’s a lot to be said, I tell ya, for having a strong tradition of literacy, and a God to inspire it.
Along the way, though, some other peoples got jealous of the inexplicably improbable Jewish well-being. Adolf Hitler and his band of Nazi thugs scapegoated the Jews in a fiercely destructive milatarism; but it backfired on them, and it was the feuhrer’s lying face that was found lieing in the ashes of a formerly noble German heartland in 1945.
Then, lo and behold, miracle of miracles, it came to pass that, in its darkest hour, Jewish culture, in its severally metamorphosed forms–from the Hassidic to the Socialistic–resurfaced as a nation-state.
We know they made a lot of people mad in that nascent process, most notably the Palestininians, but that was an old argument. It wasn’t any walk in the park, you know, when the Jews and Philistines were going at it for the same real estate way back in times of old. Yeah, yeah, aw go on, tell me about it. Some things never change.
But here’s where the contemporary shi’ite hits the fan. That ancient Jewish tradition is based, let’s face it, on religion and racial identity. It dropped back into the modern world like a square peg from a round-hole universe. In today’s terms, it’s politically incorrect. I mean, think about it–is anybody even allowed any more to found a society based on race and religion? Democracy, equality, and multicultural tolerance is the going thing, the world-approved plan, these days.
When extremist Jewish groups insist on forcing their settlements upon a wannabe Palestinian west-bank state, and when an Israeli government slowly but surely corners a whole group of indiginous people into second-class citizenship, the world brands the Israelis as racist, religious bigots. The people of Israel are going to have to decide if they want to remain a cultural entity that has successfully navigated through perilous environs for thousands of years–or are they going to actually take a chance on this nation-state democracy thing?
It’s a very risky proposition, because the Palestinians will most likely, over time, outnumber the Jews in Israel and, given half a democratic chance, vote them out of power. And the Israelis know this. So political correctness is ultimately a losing strategy, and democracy will not fly in east and west Jerusalem. You might as well cast the notions of equality and brotherhood out to Gahenna.
I think they should just go back to the God thing. That’s what their stubborn cousins, the Muslims, are doing. Mosaic Law and Shari’a will promulgate each other to death, until the grace of God doth move upon their holy blood-stained mountain.
Disclosure: My God is a Jewish carpenter.