ANTI-SEMITISM- WHY?

I am not sure when it started, but anti-Semitism has been around for thousands of years. Yup, it did not just start with Christians or nation-states like Germany or Arab countries. It has been around even longer than that. Seems to me it has been around since the first patriarch, Abraham. When his name was Avram, he worked for dad in the idol store. For some unknown reason, he smashed all of the idols, giving rise to the term iconoclast.

His destruction of the idols probably brought about hatred among the locals who saw this as a breach of their religion, which included many gods at that time. Abraham thought that there should be only one god and that was Yahweh, or Adonai, or Elohim. The other patriarchs, Isaac, Jacob and later Joseph continued with the monotheistic view of god.

Somehow, the Egyptians got kind of frightened of the Hebrews. They were multiplying (having started with 12 tribes). The Hebrews were enslaved and made to toil at back breaking work for 400 years. The story of Moses is well chronicled and occurred somewhere between the 16th and 12th century B.C.E.  They were then free to practice their religion, as they traveled forty years in the desert. That generation never got to the land of milk and honey and neither did Moses.

After those times, the Greeks and the Romans took over and participated in destroying the first and second Temple. Somehow, the Hebrews figured out a way to keep their religion going. Yup, Judaism is essentially a religion. When think that there are Chinese Jews, Indian Jews (from India), Swedish Jews, etc. you know that they are not an ethnic group or a race.

We now come to the time of one of the most famous Jews (the word comes from the tribe of Judah and a part of ancient Israel), that being Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus preached exclusively to Jews. His apostles were Jews. His enemies were the establishment, whom he threatened by his new view of Judaism. The stories told in the New Testament conclude with Jesus dying on the cross. Those who mourned him were all Jews. The establishment did not mourn him; neither did the Romans who killed him.

The Catholic Church arose to convert most of Europe to their faith. Their philosophy was to criticize the Jews for killing Christ. It wasn’t until recently that the Catholic Church has reversed its view. As the Dark Ages enveloped Europe, the Jews were pretty much restricted to what they could do to earn their living. They were not allowed to own property in many countries. They were adopted by the church to lend money with interest since it was not permitted by the church for Catholics to do so.

Jews were restricted to ghettoes in many countries and remained there for eons. This made it easier for people like the Cossacks to come in, burn the villages and ghettoes and kill the inhabitants. Many of these slaughters were sanctioned by the state and some by the Church. The Inquisition was one of these church directed campaigns.

When Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses on the church door at Wittenberg, he did not know that he would unleash a torrent of thoughts about Christianity and relations with Jews. Luther was a person of his time and not a friend to Jews. As the new world opened its doors to non-conformists, Jews accompanied the various settlers on their way to open up the new world. Hatred for Jews continued unabated in Europe until the beginning of the 19th century, when Bonaparte and his civil code made Jews free people to worship as they saw fit.

Pogroms and anti-Semitism continued into the 19th century. In some cases, like the establishment of Germany in 1870, the iron Chancellor Bismarck insisted that petty noblemen of all sorts have their daughters marry wealthy Jewish merchants. One of the strange unintentional consequences was that some of Hitler’s generals (maybe even Rommel) had some Jewish blood.

The result of the Holocaust was the establishment of the Jewish state. If you count all of the resolutions of the General Assembly since its inception, you will see that the overwhelming number is condemnation of Israel for a variety of alleged offenses. The Arab states are the champions of that kind of resolution. The negative parts of anti-Semitism are well chronicled.

So what is the reason for this continued hatred of Jews? Is it philosophical, personal, religious, etc.? A priest of the Catholic Church, responsible for Catholic-Jewish relations once told me that Jews represent humanity. What is done to Jews is a symbol of what is worst in humanity. On the other hand, what is positive in humanity is represented by Jews. It is not a coincidence that Jews have lasted for thousands of years, while most other civilizations have perished. Why is that true?

Is it fear, or a need to hate someone or a group of someones, that propels this hatred? This past year, I was in Puerto Vallarta in Mexico. I was standing next to a cigar store. The proprietor of the store asked me where I was from. I told him that I was from Pennsylvania. He said, “You must have a lot of money.” I did not respond. His next remark startled me, “You are a Jew and you have lots of money.” “Yes,” I told him. “I am a Jew and we are coming to get you.” The look on his face was worth the conversation. Maybe he’ll think over his remark next time.

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