Monday, February 4, 2013

It's Been Hard to be a Jew

Nadene Goldfoot
After being the object of hatred in Christian communities for 1,500 years through writings in the New Testament and thus the people's attitudes with blaming Jews for killing their Christ, along comes Islam in the 600's who also has a hate-on towards Jews because we wouldn't convert.  It took Pope Benedict XVI to exonerate Jews in March 2011.   Mohammed wrote  pretty detestable things  about us for not converting and put it in the Koran.  Then Jews had 2 religious books to live down.  In the Koran are such things as "because of the wrongdoing of the Jews; distorting with their tongues and slandering religion; the most vehement of mankind in hostility are the Jews and the idolators; the greediest of mankind; desire nothing but your ruin; commit evil and become engrossed in sin; Allah hath cursed them for their disbelief; taste ye the punishment of burning."  We were treated as the scourge of the land by both religions yet were forced to live among them.

By 70 CE when Jerusalem fell to the Romans, 10,000 Jews then lived in Damascus, Syria but lived  outside the general community. The Arab Muslims took Syria over in 634 and things actually got better for the Jews there as they were allowed to be Jewish but had to pay the poll tax.  Damascus, Aleppo and Palmyra had large Jewish settlements.  In 1492 Jews came from the Spanish Inquisition and settled.

 Eventually, Jews were treated differently in Muslim lands by not being allowed to carry weapons, nor could they bear witness against Muslims in courts of law nor marry Muslim women.  Jews were subject to special taxation. They couldn't even ride a horse to town.  Jews couldn't wear Muslim clothing.  Usually they were not allowed to build or repair places of worship.  These were humiliating acts but there were more.  Local authorities and the Muslim population in general were oppressive by using extortion and acts of violence on the Jews,  who were called dhimmis.

There was one difference between the acts of Christians and acts of Muslims.  The Christians would drink and get drunk, and in this state would create pogroms against Jews which led to deaths.  Muslims didn't drink, so all their vile acts were in a clear state of mind, just out of plain meanness.  Tunisia's Jews suffered when Muhammad Bey took the throne in 1855 and tried to reform the contemptible dhimmi status which caused an uproar.  A case came up where the people would not take the word of a Jew in defense against a Muslim's charge of blasphemy against Islam.  The Bey didn't dare intervene and the Jew was decapitated.  On the island of Djerba, Arab tribes turned upon the Jewish Quarters which they sacked and destroyed everything.  It was just like a pogrom in Russia.  On Yom Kippur the synagogues were profaned and defiled.  The Scrolls were torn to pieces and burned.  Men were injured and trampled.  All the women and girls were raped.  The governor of the island refused to intervene to reestablish order.  This vandalism did not stop for 5 days and nights.

Jews were kept in ghettos in many lands in Europe, starting with Italy where ghettos first started.  It was also practiced in Muslim lands called by many names; hara, mellah, or simply the Jewish Quarter.  In Egypt, this is typical.  "There are in this country about 5,000 Jews "Yahood", most of whom reside in the metropolis, in a miserable, close and dirty quarter, intersected by lanes, many of which are so narrow as hardly to admit 2 persons passing each other in them.  By 1920 there were a few Jewish families in Cairo who had some financial success which allowed them out of the ghetto and to be held under fairly tolerant rule.  Poor Jews would then move in.  "Our people are crowded and clustered into houses about to collapse, in dark cellars, narrow alleys and crooked lanes choked with mud and stinking refuse, earning their meager living in dark shops and suffocating workshops, toiling back to back, sun-scorched and sleepless.  Their hard struggle for existence both inside and outside the home is rewarded by a few beans and black bread."  Things did not change for them for hundreds of years.

 There were times that Jews had left the Ottoman Empire for Eastern Europe, only to be invited back because of the need of their expertise on money management.  That's how Jews had been invited to live in Eastern Europe.  They had this gift of dealing with finances that the European rulers did not acquire.  It could have come from being traders on the Silk Road so early with lots of practice.

 Jews lived in Lithuania in 1321 and by 1495 the 10,000  were told to leave.  By 1566 when they were back, they had to wear a Jewish badge.  Again during WWI, 100,000 Lithuanian Jews were expelled or immigrated elsewhere.   When WWII started, there were 175,000 Jews there.  After deportations, massacres by the Germans and Lithuanian population, 24,000 remained in 1959 with half gone to Israel by 1989.   4,000 Jews were counted in the 2005 census.

Golda Meier (1898-1978) was Israel's Prime Minister, elected in 1969.  She was born in the city of Kiev which is in the Ukraine that was part of the Pale of Settlement, the only place Jews could live. It was in 1882 to 1890 that 750,000 Jews living in Russia were forced to re-settle in the Pale.  Her name at birth was Golda Maborich, then changed to Golda Meyerson.   Golda came to the United States as a child after a pogrom but  made aliyah to  Palestine in 1921.  Peggy Mann wrote a biography about her called "Golda," and she wrote her autobiography called "My Life." "Meir wrote in her autobiography that her earliest memories were of her father boarding up the front door in response to rumors of an imminent pogrom". The film, "Fiddler on the Roof" depicts a pogrom on a shteitel.

I have to hand it to my ancestors for not breaking down and converting to one of these religions.  It was not an easy task to live in either Eastern or Western Europe or the Middle East for a Jew.  Being a people without a land meant being without a power or a protector, and they were treated most vile anyway for religious reasons.

So it's not surprising that the Muslims cannot accept Jews being they were thought of by them for almost 2,000 years as subservients, dhimmis,  and we see Muslims leaders such as Morsi now calling us descendents from monkeys and pigs.  As for Europe, England in 1290 was the first to expel Jews which lasted for over 350 years.  Jews weren't invited back until 1657!   This also happened in France, Spain, Hungary, Austria, Lithuania, Sicily, Sardinia, Rhodes, Naples, Poland, Russia, Meshed, Cyrus, Persia, Moscow and St. Petersburg.  too.

In 1937, Damascus, Syria became a headquarters of anti-Jewish activities when a Nazi delegation paid a visit.  Anti-Jewish propaganda increased and there were German-Arab youth organizations springing up.  An armed extremist group, the Arab National Youth Organization, declared a boycott against Arab merchants who bought "Zionist goods from Palestine." The 30,000 Jews were not allowed to leave Syria then.  In 1945 the director of a Jewish school was murdered.  A Syrian student mob celebrated a Muslim holiday by desecrating the Great Synagogue of Aleppo.  They beat up Jews who were praying and burned prayer books in the street.

They were people to kick around and use as scapegoats.  How appalled they all must be now to see a vibrant Israel, the tiniest among them but strong.  For the Muslim they feel humiliation where it is not intended.  Israel just is trying their best to stay alive and not be driven out as they had been before they had their own country.  Europe must be feeling that they were the leaders of the world and now they must accommodate Jews who had been at the bottom of the heap.  They've allowed the UN to run amok and continue picking on Israel only.

September 1, 1939 was the beginning of the war with Germany with the invasion of Poland, and when 6 million Jews were slaughtered.  It was over on May 2, 1945 when Germany surrendered.  The greatest day of all was May 14, 1948 when Israel became a state, accepted in the United Nations.  Immediately, this tiny state was attacked by all the surrounding Arab nations.  It took 1,875 years to regain our state and it still fights for its survival in a very intolerant world.

Anti-Semitism had been prevalent in the 1930's and 1940's in the USA, the land of the free and home of the brave.  The New Deal was a Jewish conspiracy, so people thought.  So was the entry of the USA into the 2nd World War, and so was international communism.  Country clubs didn't allow in Jews.  Jews weren't hired in many positions such as the telephone company in New York City.  There were quotas for Jews that wanted to go to certain colleges and universities.  Fraternities and Sororities were anti-Semitic.  Henry Ford of Ford automobiles was an anti-Semite.  He even wrote a series of articles based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which were collected into a book called  " The International Jew."   It took a lawsuit to stop the reprinting of this awful book.  "The Protocols" continues to be a most popular book in Muslim countries today.

Little Israel just told the UN Human Rights group (UNHCR) to stay away, that the people who created human rights in the first place do not need to be policed.  They have enough of their own people who keep watch over this. "Canada and the United States have accused the council of focusing disproportionately on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.   The United States boycotted the Council during the George W. Bush administration, but reversed its position on it during the the Obama administration."

Pale of Settlement: Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine, Belurussia

The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
From Time Immemorial-the origins of the Arab-Jewish conflict over Palestine by Joan Peters
Facts About Israel 1973
Book:  Kike!  by Michael Selzer

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