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Eureka: A letter to Israeli left wing historians
by Jay Gutman
2017-10-22 12:03:39
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First off, I respect left-wing Israeli historians. To the best of my knowledge, they were among the first to contextualize history, to put history within the context of its time. You see a lot of historians simply dig up archives and focus on the kings, the court and the people, providing little of the health, transportation, social, economic, cultural, scientific context of the day.

isr1_400Unfortunately, and perhaps interestingly, left-wing Israeli historians have provided more bread and butter for ant-Semites than reading pleasure for those interested in Israeli studies. The main theories put forward by some Israeli left-wing historians is that there was no real exodus after the destruction of the Second Temple, that Judaism used to be a proselyte religion that converted people outside Israel and that there were Jewish kingdoms in Yemen, North Africa and Eastern Europe. In sum that today's Jews are not really the descendants of the Second Temple era. 

The main idea, one very appealing to those who hate all things Israeli, is that the Jews are allegedly the descendants of the Khazars, and Eastern European people and that present-day Palestinians are indeed the indigenous population of Israel. So Israel should cease to exist and be returned to the Palestinians, or perhaps as some left-wing Israeli historians put it, Israel should be an Israeli state and not a Jewish state, because the notion of the Jew is blurry at best.

Now I know these theories tend to ruffle the feathers of many Israelis, and that objects get thrown during conferences where such theories are put forward. Let me argue calmly, without having to throw things or use profanity.

The first blind spot many left-wing Israeli historians tend to have is that the Hebrew bible existed, and so did the Sanhedrin and many other liturgical texts during the period preceding the destruction of the second temple and the invasion by the Romans. The Hebrew bible is a guidebook to exodus par excellence, so the Jews back then knew what they were doing. And post-temple Judaism was codified in the Talmud to complete the Hebrew bible which largely codified life within a Jewish kingdom. Left-wing historians argue that there were no ships and planes to carry masses of Jewish exiles to their new homelands, but history is full of accounts of the exodus of other peoples, in times of war of natural disasters or for other reasons. Left-wing historians tend to argue that most Jews were likely to have stayed when Titus conquered, but I'm not sure they would have marveled in 70 AD at the idea of becoming Roman slaves.

Each year the Passover, Sukkot and other festivities are the reminder of the exodus from Egypt, so leaving Israel to settle elsewhere would not have been as difficult as, say, for a people who had no idea what exodus even was. So unlike what Israeli historians like to tell us, the diaspora probably spread around after the destruction of the temple. Where did they go? I see two probabilities. One would be that there were kingdoms at the time, or small chiefdoms that were friendly with the Kingdom of Israel and willing to welcome the Israelis. The other hypothesis is that the Jews improvised and trusted instinct and lady luck when it came to settling elsewhere. Some went East, others West and went where their gut feeling told them to go.

Some probably settled in desert lands where they created kingdoms, as in Yemen or North Africa or perhaps Khazaria. Documents dating back to that era are not clear about the existence of such kingdoms, but let's assume they existed. I don't think proselytizing and conquest was the way to found those kingdoms, as Judaism is a ritual-based rather than faith-based religion. Judaism insists on codified rituals as much as faith, when many religions tend to insist on faith, thus the difficulty of converting masses. If there were ever conversions, it was probably slaves (there were slaves everywhere back then) who were adopted and converted to Judaism, then marriage with slaves which might explain the physiological differences between people from the Jewish diaspora.

I insist I am not a historian, not less a rigorous one. I do have the tendency to calmly contradict what in my view is wrong, which I have just done here.

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