I trod on thin ice recently in my reflections about the history and fate of Jews. But despite my reflections getting a couple of thousand hits, I got only one really hostile response -- so I am encouraged to continue the discussion. I am however going to let one of my regular Jewish readers do most of the work initially. I reproduce his email in full below:
A few disagreements or notes on what you wrote about Jews:
What would our numbers be without 6 million murdered..and of the remainder that survived Europe, how many were yet again dysfunctional, would not have children, committed suicide later on? Ok, we'd still be small in number, but not QUITE so small, given the one or two generations that would have survived and possibly thrived.
Religious Jews, the most "stiff-necked" of the bunch in terms of holding onto their Judaism, (and the most politically conservative), are the ones with big families. The problem is that the base is so small, that the overall numbers remain low, but in percentage terms, the one group of Jews growing is the Orthodox.
It is difficult to compare Britain, an island nation, with the stateless-until-a-short-time-ago "nation" of Israel. We were and remain an anomaly in history, a people that were interspersed among the nations. That made us the "stranger", always, and we were often forced into professions that were not looked upon in a god light, e.g. moneylending. We certainly see right now that financiers are heroes when times are flush, but even the honest ones are anathema when times go bad. And we certainly had no nation to hold onto, remained the great scapegoat of the nations. Was that because we were politically stupid?
NO. That's because we were weak and easy targets, and yes, we refused to fit in and go along with the rest of the population. We refused the easy terms of Christianity, so were reviled by Christians. We refused the paganism of Rome and Greece, and suffered accordingly. We refused to go along with the insane Mohammed, and now our no. 1 enemy in the world is Islam. Ok, so yes, we're stiffnecked, but to say it's because we were politically stupid....or should we just given in and lost our identity, should we have become Christians or pagans or Muslims, and just let Judaism go by the wayside of history?
So yes, our numbers are puny. But we outlasted the Third Reich, Stalin's Soviet Union, Torquemada's Inquisition Spain, ancient Rome and Greece, ancient Egypt..and all others who've tried to destroy us.
Now, I would agree that in the current day, and maybe ever since the Enlightenment, when we decided to "reform" and not be SO weird and stiff-necked, when we tried to blend in...we've become more and more leftist, and that HAS resulted in terrible problems for us. We don't even need to worry about Iran as we are fading away on our own, as the less stiff-necked amongst us don't care if their kids leave Judaism and marry others, or cheapen the religion in any number of ways; right now, I would agree that leftism is our dominant "religion" and it drives me crazy, as you know. It has caused us much grief and we are committing, I would also agree, our own suicide. But it is the strange people in the black hats, and the rabid "settlers' on the West Bank, and the families with the 10 kids, and those who worry about the picayune and strange rules of Halakhah, the religous, Orthodox "form" of Judaism, the form that is derived from the Rabbinic Judaism, that has the only real chance of keeping Judaism alive. THAT is not a new phenomenon, and was always thus.
Allies? Who should we have made allies with, without losing who we were? It's a valid question, but the answer is that we had no one to ally with. We had nothing or little to give...no lands, no titles...occasionally money and know-how to make money, for which we became court Jews and influential...but money, as it is wont to do, as often corrupted these Jews, as it does most people. Should we have allied with those who blamed us for killing their Lord, and who blamed us for poisoning the wells of Europe to bring about the Black Plague, which we often missed because of our rules of sanitation? Should we have allied with the Muslims who gave us dhimmi status at best, if not actively persecuting us for our lack of intelligence to convert to Islam?
I WILL be willing to grant we are not always smart as we are given credit for. I know a lot of Jews that irritate the hell out of me, and that I don't find so bright...but what percentage of science Nobels (not the meaningless and political ones like "peace" or "literature") are from Jews? That's another story and I know you know it.
So being alone and defenseless and insular and strange...it is a blessing and a curse. I'm well aware of the curse, but more need to understand the blessing. And what hurdles we've had to face. That we've overcome them is the miracle we'll celebrate, in part, tonight, the first night of Chanukkah. It is the anti-assimilation holiday, totally perverted by the reformed Jews, but the holiday is purely about maintaining our identity, our stiff-necked and crazy and insular persona, even in the face of hate and abuse.
And so it is 65 years since my grandparents were murdered by the animals, the Nazis, in Auschwitz. My 2 kids are religious, my sister's 5 kids and 7 grandchildren (I'm the slow one of the two!) are all religious or being raised religious. We haven't disappeared yet. But Hitler and his henchmen are gone, the Reich is gone. Yes, new enemies have arisen, and anti-Semitism doesn't go out-of-fashion, and yes, we can be total idiots...but we persevere, because we believe in what we are and who we are...not better than anyone, but maintaining who we are and what we do is important, EVEN IF WE DON'T EVEN ALWAYS UNDERSTAND WHY...: we are the group that gave the world the premier book about theodicy, the book of Job. It is who we are. We maintain faith though at times it seems absurd to do so. It is not always or maybe it is NEVER rational. But we've outlasted all the other folks who tried to do us in, and we believe that we'll outlast the Iranis and Hamas and Islam and all the rest of the murderers.
Said with proper passion.
He misses my point a bit, however and I admit that I should have spelled it out more. The thrust of my remarks was not at all that Jews should always have sought allies. I agree that allies would have been rarely available. My point is that Jews should be cultivating their allies NOW -- while such allies (American fundamentalist Christians) are available. Fundamentalist Christians are strong people in the face of the hostility of the world and have therefore remained supportive of Israel despite the scornful attitude that many Jews seem to have towards them -- but changing churches is an American tradition and church doctrines themselves have undergone a lot of changes even in my lifetime. My old Presbyterian church is still an oasis for the old gospel but many other churches are not. So nobody should take fundamentalist Christians for granted. Their support might not always be available. Note that already outside America fundamentalist Christians are often little focused on Israel. So from a British perspective it is stupid of Jews not to value, support and encourage American fundamentalist Christians.
And the reason I mentioned Britain was to point out that even a great and powerful nation has always seen a pressing need for allies. So if the Brits have always thought that they needed allies, might not people who are in a much weaker position also need them?
My comments on the Biblical description of Jews as "stiff-necked" as an explanation for Jewish political folly could probably also be expanded. I did note that I myself probably deserve that description. My point, however, was that obstinacy and defiance has both strengths and weaknesses. And I think that Jews are a good example of that. It gives Jews an independence of mind but also generates hostility towards them. Even The Lord himself did not like it! And I have NO expectation that it will ever change much. If Moses and the Hebrew prophets could not change it, who could?
Again, however, I think the British offer a safer example -- a way of handling others that any target of hostility should find thought-provoking. The Brits are experts at deflecting hostility. They don't succeed entirely at it of course but their historic civility and their ability to find allies shows that they are pretty good at it nonetheless. And their way is what outsiders often condemn as "British hypocrisy". But it is not really hypocrisy. It is just an attempt to respect the sensitivities of others. And the tools for doing that are compromise and the "fudge". You almost have to be British to understand what a fudge is and probably the best way of finding out is to Google "British fudge" and read some examples of it. It it is basically a partial retreat or concession that is disguised as not being a retreat or a concession. So it means something like "an evasive compromise", "handling a dilemma by vagueness" or "concealing what is really going on by vague or misleading words". It might not be too unkind to describe the whole of British politics as one big fudge. I doubt that the word is capable of precise definition but precision is, after all, anathema to it. There are some good examples of it here (Scroll down a little).
And I did make the point that the relatively small population of Jews in the world is essentially the result of persecution. That was really my starting point. I went on to ask WHY Jews have been so persecuted. And given their present demonstrable unwisdom politically, I suspect that they have always lacked political wisdom -- with "stiff-neckedness" being a major fount of that unwisdom. But my British heritage means that I speak as someone who not only respects compromise but also understands the "fudge". Nobody respects the "fudge" -- but they do it rather than perpetuate hostility.
A fudge that modern-day Jews could use would be to declare that Christian fundamentalists are after all just another Jewish sect. It is only partially true but it would warm relationships.
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)