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Monday, October 26, 2009

"The Invention of the Jewish People" by Shlomo Sand

Forget about everything you may have learned in Hebrew school, this book is a myth buster. It is common knowledge that according to the Bible the Jewish people started with Abrahamin Mesopotamia and then went to Egypt to be slave and then was redeemed. After wandering the desert for forty years under the leadership of Moses they came to Canaan where Joshua the brilliant military commander drove out the Canaanites in a lightning fast victory. King David and his son Solomon would form man empire and build massive building in Jerusalem. Later on still the Babylonians and the Roman would drive the Jews from their land and into exile.

The author, a professor from Tel Aviv University, makes good use of current archeological excavation that show that the bible is far from 100% correct. There is no outside reference In Egyptian in any other annals of the Israelites engaging in a mass escape from Egypt. Moses left with 600 thousand male from Egypt along with their families. This large number would have left some archaeological residue in the Sinai Desert. There is none to be found. Excavation in Jerusalem and the West Bank show no evidence of any of the building built by Solomon. Tere is proof however of the Canaanite buildings and there civilization. The building in the North that are attributed to King Solomon. Have actually been built by later Israelite kings long after the supposed Israelite monarchy split into two kingdoms. Jerusalem was naught more than a small village whose population was in decline when King David was supposed to be in power. The lightning fast victories of Joshua are not real. The cities he conquered had fallen Hundreds if not thousands of years apart. The Israelite started appearing gradually on the scene as an outgrowth off the original Canaanite People. They were not monotheistic and many worshiped the other Canaanite gods. The bible was fully written in the Babylonian Exile by the priests and their scribes. It was in Babylon that the elite who were exiled mad e the religion exclusive and strictly monotheistic. Jewish scholarship has known this for a very long time.

The exile is a MYTH. When the Babylonians andd the Assyrians came and invaded ancient Israel.They only deported the Elite and member of the Army. Most of the peasants and farmers were allowed to stay. The Romans did not have the means of moving a large population out of the country hence in that case too only a small number left. In fact a careful reading of historical sources shows that there is reference to an invasion and that many Judeans were killed but there is no reference to an exile or deportations. It can only be assumed that most of them stayed put. This can be evidenced by the fact that jewish life continued to thrive some two hundred years after the Jewish Revolts against Rome. After all the Talmud was written there, the Jerusalem Talmud that is. The early Zionist historians had to deal with this fact when writing the history of the Jewish people a history that would justify building a country in Palestine. Many like Dinur said that there was a Jewish majority up until the time the Muslim armies invaded the Middle East. But there is no mention of deportation of people leaving the country. What ever happened to all those Jews. The Iraqi Rabbi makes a comment that he is worried about all the Jews in Judea accepting the religion of Islam. The Judean peasant may have choosen Islam for a variety of reasons. One was that those who weere not Muslims had to pay heavy protection taxes. A conversion to Islam would annul the protection tax. Besides many Jews did believve that Muhammad was a prophet that came to redeem them and many Jews did in fact fight on behalf of the Islamic Armies during their conquests. This being stated prior to the arab riot of 1929 many zionist leaders including Ben Gurion and Ben Tzvi believed that the local fellahin arabs in Palestine at the time were descendant from Ancient Judeans. Some villages even had a Sharia al Khalil. Something seperate from the Koran. The Palestinians are the descendants of the Ancient Israelites who were never deported from the country.

If the Judeans were nver expelled en masse from the country theen where did all these Jewish communities come from. The author makes a strong case that most of these communities deescended from converts. The official Jewish line is that they do not accept converts. In fact there are contradictory statement in both the Bible and the Talmud with regards to converts. Some of these comments are positive and some are negative. None the less Jewish history is replete with example of mass conversions into the Jewish religion. During the Hasmonean time is when most of these communities of converts came into being. Hellenism made Judaism more universalistic and many societies broke down many wall and questioned their old pagan ways. The Jews themselves were very Hellenistic even having Greek names. The Hasmoneans forcibly converted the Idumeans in the South and the Itrurians in the North. In Egyp there was a large Jewish community that spoke only greek. Tractate and translations of the bible were written for the express purpose of converting. In Elephantine a Jewish temple was discovered. There documents in Persian but none in Aramaic or Hebrew. In fact these Jewish communities that sprang up spoke their native language not Judean Hebrew. In fact 8-10 citizens in the Roman empire were Jews. This is attested to in the writing of many Roman historians. To say that they all ccame from Judea is impossible. The most that could live in Judea at that time was maybe a little over a million. They could not all have radiated out of that small place.
Many women were inclined to acccept the Jewish religion. In fact there was a planned massacre in Damascus but it was called off , because the men thought that they would be massacred in their sleep by their wives who secretly practiced Judaism. There were also Jewish kingdoms in Several location. The most noteable is thee Khazar kingdom just north of Iran. There was also Adiabene which was Jewish and assisted the Judeans during their revolt against the Roman. There was also Dahiua El Kahina the Jewish Berber queen who fought against the Armies of Islam and eventually lost. Her two sons converted to Islam and joined the other side. There was also the Himyar Kingdom in Yemen that was eventually overthrown by Ethiopia aided by Rome.

For Jewish history most people relied on the Old Testament. The last complete History of the Jewish people in anccient times was composed by Josephus Flavius. This was based on the Old Testament. A history off the Jewish people would not be written until the early 1800's by Protestants. Jewish Historians like Jost wrote a history of the Jews but it was thorugh the perspective off the Jews being a followers of a religion not a race or people. Later Salo Baron would write a History that documented the Jews as a people but that most of their development would occur in Exile . Graetz and other historians would make the religious following into a people that centered on the importance of land.

The last chapter goes on about European racial theories and how Zionism was a product of that time. There was talk of Jewish blood and the need to grow healthy again by working the land in Israel. Genetic testing is touched upon with some of the finding proving to be conclusive and other not so conclusive. It seems that politics has a way of coloring scientific experiments. The author finishes off with a discussion on the state of israelcomparing it to other democracies in the world and a cry to make it a country for all of it's citizens.

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One blond hair blue eyed Calfornian who totally digs the Middle East.
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