Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Mystery of the Jews -- Part II a better narration

Thanks to my cousin who is a gifted academic of history I was presented with a much more rational analysis for the success of the Jewish people from the Babylonian exile to the Herculean obstacles of exile and near extermination. I thought what he said was an infinitely better analysis than the Youtube presented because he concentrated not on Biblical stories, myths and a few quotes from the famous but the actual history of both the ancient and modern world. I thought it interesting.

I paraphrase him: As with so many ancient histories embellishment too often rules. The most glaring error in the narrative presented in the Youtube was the Jewish population, pegging it at 10 million in 500 BCE (before the common era.) This was just a few decades after the Jewish exile to Babylonia when many perished in their futile attempt to defend their homeland. Then, just thirty years previous to this count, Persia invaded Babylon and the Jews were decimated since many males had been drafted, Jewish women were often raped and many subsequently were killed. I believe that population original figure to be more than quadruple what many scholars would perhaps agree upon.

If one strips away many Biblical myths and other embellishments, Jewish accomplishments were surprisingly predictable.

During the Roman experience Jews were segregated both by their own choice and that of the Romans. Most importantly and perhaps the pivotal rationale for Jewish academic accomplish was that the rabbis of Babylon demanded Jews become literate. They were the only group that a) could read and b) had scrolls that documented, in part, Jewish history. No other group had this advantage, and that, I believe is the root of Jewish academic and other success.

When Christianity arrived in the 4th century, the great majority of Europeans were illiterate, and the Church later decided to enshrine their ignorance into law. In both Matthew and Mark, the verse about being easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle that for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven the church made sure that their alliance with the aristocracy would serve both parties at the expense of the unwashed and ignorant masses.

In the seventh century, with the rise of Islam, the Jews of Arabia and North Africa fared exceptionally well, earning the title of "The People of the Book." This singular skill fostered an immutable spirit of inquiry which, in turn, made the Jewish people the only group of certifiable intellectuals in the otherwise barren landscape of ignorance. Is it any wonder that Jews were sought after by the nobility, beseeching them to become their engineers, architects, tax collectors, accountants, scribes, historians, etc?

The only learning available to the Christian minority was through the clergy, otherwise one was doomed to serfdom (unless of course one had the good fortune to be a noble.)

However, Jewish success helped spread antisemitism, and, within three centuries, European monarchs eyed Jewish wealth with jealous eyes and began their expulsions and confiscations of property owned by Jews. It became easy for the church to mark the Jew as 'the other', making Jews fair game to be maimed, killed and, most importantly, dispossessed.

Europe was hell but North Africa and Spain (the Caliphate) were a Jewish gilded home. While Europe languished in endless wars and so many popes had decimated the population by sending them on six different crusades, the plague and institutional quagmire, Jews flourished, attending the only real universities worthy of the name.

Genghis Khan brought his hordes into Europe and the papacy decided they could no longer afford to pursue crushing the infidels in the Holy Land.

The history of the Renaissance will bring the Jewish people through to modernity and the near annihilation of a people now numbering around 14 million or 0.2% of the world's population. Anti-Semitism will continue into our present time. Part III will be the Jew of the Renaissance to the modern world.