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Eureka: Frequently asked questions on Judaism and Israel
by Joseph Gatt
2018-01-02 11:43:21
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This article will be an attempt at answering frequently asked questions on Judaism and Israel.

judai1_400Question: why did Israelis steal Palestinian land? 

Answer: This is a frequently asked question that deserves contextualization. Israel did not steal anyone's land. In the 19th century, few countries had clearly defined borders. Inside the borders is what is today's Israel, apart from Jerusalem which had about 80,000 inhabitants in the 1850s, “Palestine” was a desert where about 1,500 bedouins lived. By the 1900s there were about less than hundred thousand Jews that lived along a few thousand bedouins. Jerusalem also had a Jewish majority by 1850. Most Jews had emigrated to Palestine from Eastern Europe, many of my ancestors among them. Palestine was a desert back then, infested with insects and mosquitoes, with scarce water to grow food. Water desalination techniques were elaborated by the Jews and the ponds that were responsible for malaria had been dried out. When the Jews of Palestine eventually develvoped the area, had established an agriculture and a small industry, Arabs had flocked to Palestine from Egypt and what is known today as Jordan, Syria or Lebanon. Arafat himself is of Egyptian descent. Back then relations between Arabs and Jews were rather cordial and there were no borders set in stone. Jews emigrated from Syria, Arabs emigrated from the region, each with their own land, and the concept of a nation with borders was no ingrained in the minds of the population. Arabs had flocked to Palestine because the Jews had found techniques to grow food in what used to be a dry desert where only a few thousands bedouins lived. So those who draw maps of the evolution of Palestine and start off by saying that Palestine was 100% Arab before it was gradually stolen by the Jews really need to brush up on history. 

Question: Why is coexistence difficult between Jews and Arabs?

First off, many Arabs have Israeli citizenship. Jews with Palestinian citizenship? I think only one Jewish guy has Palestinian citizenship, his name is Ilan Halevi. I can't think of other Jews who have Palestinian citizenship. So where does the problem come from. You can live in my house but I can't live in yours type of situation. Jews tend to be OK with Arabs and Palestinians. The opposite is not always true. Again, one and a half million Arabs, actually 1.7 million Arabs have an Israeli passport. One Jewish guy has a Palestinian passport. You don't see a problem there?

Question: Jews claim that they descend from Biblical times and that their ancestors lived in Palestine. But research has shown that a lot of them are actually the descendents of Khazars, a Slavic people from Eastern Europe. Is that true?

Again, a little bit of context wouldn't hurt. Romans invade Israel in 70 AD, destroy the temple. Jews leave Israel and settle around Europe and North Africa. Over the years, many Jews had settled around Germany. That's why a lot of them have German sounding names. The in the 14th century the plagues started hitting Europe. Now for the story, rivers had flooded in China so badly hundreds of thousands were killed. There was no one to burry the Chinese dead, rats infested the areas and carried fleas, then the bubonic plague hit. As Europe traded with China, the plagues were brought from China and hit Western Europe. The Jews of Western Europe were confronted with three problems. Famines, as farmers died of the plagues and could not grow food. Violence and crime, as famines caused violence and crime. And anti-Semitism, as Jews were accused of causing the plagues. So German Jews fled to Eastern Europe, what is today known as Romania, Hungary, Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania etc. where the plagues did not hit as hard. That's why Eastern European Jews tend to have German names.

Now to the Khazar theory. To exist and be recognized by historians, a state or kingdom needs a lot of archives and/or a lot of correspondence with other kingdoms who keep archives. If Cape Verde exists today and we know of it is because their government corresponds with the rest of the world and maintains archives. Now there was one letter, not two letters, not three letters, found, claiming the existence of a Jewish kingdom in Eastern Europe a kingdom called Khazaria. The letter was sent to the king of Spain sometime in the fourteenth or fifteenth century. Probably the kingdom did exist, was probably set up by Jews fleeing the plagues and settling in Eastern Europe. But more likely, it was probably an imposter, someone desperate to meet the king of Spain. In the Middle Ages, there were many imposters claiming to be the representatives of foreign kingdoms, who wanted to sit with the king either to do business or marry their daughter, or just to enjoy a good meal in royal company. So the whole Khazar theory is really blown out of proportion in my opinion.

Final question: Several passages in the Jewish Bible (the Tanakh) condemn violence. Why are the Jews violent?

Simple answer to a loaded question. Numbers and Deutoronomy clearly state that you should never attack first but that you should defend yourself and that there will be wars. A lot of the Jewish Bible describes wars that were fought. The Bible goes on and on about the fact that Jewish kingdoms will be attacked and that they need to defend themselves with the sword. The whole Bible is almost a succession of wars.

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Kevin Brook2018-01-06 17:06:51
The kingdom of Khazaria was attested in many independent sources and, for example, the Byzantine emperor wrote about the number of solidi he used for his correspondence with the Khazar king. Khazaria really did exist and it really did have a king named Joseph who corresponded with Hasdai ibn Shaprut (not with the Spanish king - you got that part wrong too). That is a separate issue from the theory that modern Jews descend from Khazars, which new genetic data from 2013-2017 showed cannot be true.

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