Wednesday, June 9, 2010
The Other Zions by Eric Maroney
Jewish history has been viewed by two paradigms. The Jews with in their own land enjoying political independence and Jews living in the Diaspora under the yoke of a gentile government. What has been neglected is Jewish state craft outside the holy land. Jews living in communities outside of Israel have often lived in autonomous communities. They would run their day to day affair while religious authorities governed religious life. The community would pay its taxes and be left to run its affairs. The Jewish courts and religious leadership was run by the Rabbis. Rabbinical Judaism eschewed political power. None the less it provided the Jewish people with a model for self governance.
The ten lost tribes of Israel, their disappearance is mystery where did they go to. There were many legends that stated the Israelite Tribes had powerful Kingdoms somewhere further to the East. The Red Jews where supposedly locked up by Alexander the Great behind some big mountain and would one day reappear to wreak havoc on Christian Europe for all the trouble they caused their Jewish minority. Other stories abound about an Israelite Kingdom just beyond the Sambatyon River that roes with stones and only stops on the Sabbath. They are so powerful that Pester John has built fortifications along the river to stop any military advance. To the non-Jews this evoked fantasies of the Israelites taking vengeance or possibly helping them take the Holy Land from the Muslim. For the Jews who were powerless and dispossessed it was a fantasy to be relished.
Eldad Ha Dani was a dark skinned Jew who showed up in Europe according to him around 4 tribes had held dominion somewhere in Africa. They lived under no gentile yolk in the mountains and people paid them tribute. It is questionable how much of what he says is real.
Never the less there was a sort of Jewish autonomy in Ethiopia. In the hill country of Lake Tana there was a tribal federation of Jews that was independent from the king. The big question is where did these Jews come from? Some thought they were from a Union of Queen Sheba and Solomon, other say they were from the Tribe of Dan still even other say they came from Yemen and Elephantine in Egypt. Ethiopian Christianity and Judaism follow many commandments from the Old Testament. The Ethiopian used a language called Geez and they had no Hebrew document or history of using the tongue. They also hired Christian scribes to write their holy books.
Ethiopian Jews had very little in common with Rabbinic Judaism. They had monastic practices among other differences. They sprung from Ethiopian Christian in defiance to political authority. None the less they immigrated to Israel because a Rabbi said they were from the Tribe of Dan.
The most famous example of Jewish state craft outside of Israel is the kingdom of Khazaria. They were located around the black sea in Russia. There are various legends as to their origin and how they became Jewish. Hasdai Ibn Shaprut wrote to them and was in contact with the King named Joseph. The King and al the Noble were Jewish. King Bulan was the first king to adopt a simple version of Judaism. It is said that he had dream from God and from that Dream he chased out all the Wizard and Shamans. It was King Obadiah who brought the Kingdom up to date with Rabbinical Judaism. There are questions as to how Jews the Kingdom was. Some sources say that the entire kingdom was Jewish but Arab traveler like Ibn Fadlan said that Khazaria had a mix of Christian, Jews and Muslim, along with Pagan. They had a court much like a Sanhedrin which was comprised of members of all faiths. Bulan also staged debates between the three main monotheistic religions in order to determine which one was best for the Kingdom.
Another legend says that a group of Jews fled from Armenia due to oppression by idol worshippers. They had their Torah scrolls hidden in a cave. When the Jews came to Khazaria they melded with the population and their Judaism became watered down. Back then they had warlords who took command when the country was under attack. Once such warlord was Sabriel, a Jew. After being militarily victorious he fond the scrolls and was elected king. From that point on he re Jewifies the country.
The Hazards would later fall to the Russ Vikings.
Other examples of Jewish state craft took place in Arabia. In Northern Arabia the Jews many who fled from Roman oppression adopted to the life style of the Arabs. Some Arabs became Jewish and /or borrowed Jewish customs. In Northern Arabia there were city-states that were founded by Jews. Medina and Khaybar are such examples. These Jews were powerful and wealthy. Muhammad and his introduction to Islam would change all that.
In Medina their were three Jewish Tribes and two non Jewish tribes. Their were alliances and conflicts. Muhammad was known as an astute judge. Some how the table turned and Muhammad turned against the Jews. The first two tribes were made to leave and they went to Khaybar. The last one chose to fight. They were defeated by Muhammad’s forces after putting up stiff resistance. All the men were killed and the women and children were sold into slavery.
Khaybar son would fall as well. Expected help would never arrive and their were induced in to platitude by Muhammad's delay of invading them. Eventually he did attack and the Jews of Khaybar put up stiff resistance. Eventually they surrendered and had to give up half their crop in tribute. This impoverished the Jews. Many chose to convert to Islam to escape the heavy tax burden. Eventually the community melted away. There were rumors of Jewish Tribes wandering around Arabia even up until modern times.
further to South the Himyarite Kingdom came to fruition. This was located in Yemen. They became a powerful kingdom and had an impact of Arabian society in general. King Tuba went to wage war on Medina the Jewish city state. Instead of invading he ended up meeting two Rabbis and became so impressed with their sagacity that he ended converting to Judaism. Eventually the Whole kingdom became Jews. He took on Jewish wife and had several children. Joseph Dhu Nawas either an offspring or grandchild completed thing and brought the kingdom up to speed with Rabbinical Judaism.
However thanks to Wars against Ethiopia and Christianity that kingdom was soon over run. A puppet king ws installed and Ethiopian soldiers took advantage of the Land. eventually there was another Jewish uprising against the rule.
Another example of Jewish State craft was the State of Adiabene located i Northern Mesopotamia i the Parthian Empire which was at odds with the Roman empire. The Roman Empire was oppressing the Jews of Judea. Josephus has a story that two Jews came to a province in Parthia and usurped the area and made it their own. The King of Parthia two busy to do other things reluctantly agreed to it.
Another version has king Monzabus marrying his sister Helena and having a child with her called izates. in a dream it was determined that he was destined for great things. Monzabus began practicing Judaism or a primitive form of monotheism. When he died Izates took the thrown. At first he did not formally convert due to fear of alienating the populace. Helena and Izates would later on be influenced to do a full conversion. They were noted for their scrupulousness in observance of Miztvot.
The final hope for a homeland was in Russia and it was called the Jewish Autonomous republic. On paper it is still there. In reality not many Jews live there. It was designed to be a buffer state between Russia and China. It never really took off due to antisemitism and primitive living condition. Yiddish was to be it's official language. In Europe at the Time there were three trend regarding the Jewish problem. One was assimilation, another autonomy and the other Zionism. We obviously know who won the
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