Monday, October 14, 2013

Damascus, Syria and It's Jewish Citizens:Relating to Prophecy and The Ingathering of Lost Israelis

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                   

Let's see what the Tanakh, the Bible, the "Old Testament" says about Israel.  Can there be anything there that relates to today's trials and tribulations?  
In Jeremiah:  30: 12-31

The warning:  to those harming Israel.  Maybe the UN should take heed.  
 All who devoured you shall themselves be devoured;  
All who oppressed you will all go into captivity
Who trampled you will be trampled
All who despoiled you, I shall deliver to become spoils

For I will make a cure for you,
And I will heal you from your wounds-the word of Hashem (G-d);
For they called you "Discarded!"  Saying, "She is Zion--no one cares about her!"  

What is Zion?  The prophets called Jerusalem "Zion." when they wished to stress it as a spiritual symbol.  In Maccabean times of the 1st century BCE or CE, Mt. Zion was identified with the Temple Mount and the City of David together, in opposition to the hellenistic quarter on Acra hill.  Josephus identified Zion with the Upper City and its identification with the eastern hill.   Zionism is the movement to secure the Jewish return to the Land of Israel. 

In Jeremiah 31:  7-8, the nation of Israel was referred to was Ephraim, because 10 of the 12 tribes had lived in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, which was led originally by Ephraimite kings.  The entire nation is called "G-d's firstborn, and Ephraim had the status of Joseph's firstborn.  Ephraim's parents were Joseph and Asenath.  Assyria attacked and took the 10 tribes in 721 BCE.  

G-d says, "Behold, I will bring them from the land of the North and gather them from the ends of the earth.  Among them will be the blind and the lame, the pregnant and the birthing together;  a great congregation will return here.  With weeping they will come and through supplications I will bring them;  I will guide them on streams of water, on a direct path in which they will not stumble;  for I have been a father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn. "                                    
Israel was the northern kingdom with kings David and son Solomon.  After Solomon died, Jeroboam took over (933-912 BCE).  The last king was Hoshea (730-721 BCE).  Israel's strength was weakened by constant warfare with the kingdom of Damascus (Syria) and both then fell to Assyria.  Samaria was taken by Sargon in 721 BCE which ended the history of the kingdom of Israel until 1948 CE.  Hosea and Amos, biblical prophets, had stayed with the Israelites.  The Prophets Elijah and Elisha tried to check growing idolatry and social injustice that was occurring there, however.  Whenever we acted like other states, we were in trouble.   That is our lesson.  We are to stand apart.

Damascus's Jewish associations go back to the reign of King David in whose realm it was comprised.  It was the capital of Aram-Dammesek which stood out in the period of the Kings as either sometimes a friend or an enemy.  Damascus had a large Jewish population during Herod's day who built there a theater and gymnasium.  Many of its Jews were killed in the riots in the early stages of the Jewish Revolt against Rome starting in about 67 CE..  The community kept on going throughout all the centuries and was untouched from the Arab conquests of 635 CE when the Muslims were out converting people to Islam.  By the 9th and 10th centuries, Damascus became a Karaite center.  By 1170, Benjamin of Tudela found 200 Karaites and 3,000 Rabbanite Jews.  After 1492's Spanish Inquisition more Jews came to live in Damascus.  

The Turks of the Ottoman Empire captured the city in the 16th century which led to an improvement for Jews who had many wealthy merchants.  The Damascus Affair of 1840 caused many Jews to leave Damascus and the city declined. That was a blood libel used to attack Jews when the superior of the Franciscan convent disappeared and his servant led to a search of the Jewish quarter instigated by local Catholics who were supported by the French consul.  They tortured leading Jews.  One died from it to elicit a confession of murder.  A campaign had been started of incitement against Jews.  A public outcry where Sir Moses Montefiore had to go to Alexandria to interview the ruler of Syria, Mehemet Ali,  led to the quashing of the charges and the release of the survivors.  Montefiore visited the sultan in Constantinople and got a firman condemning the Ritual Murder libel and got back Jewish rights, such as they were being 2nd class citizens or dhimmis.

 By 1848, Benjamin II found 4,000 Jews there but all the Karaites had left.  WWI caused an Arab nationalist feeling and many Jews then moved to Palestine,  Lebanon and other distant countries.  Of the 10,000 Jews there in 1940, only 3,000 remained by 1990 and had been treated horribly by Assad's regime, impoverished materially and intellectually , subject to unbelievable restrictions. 1967's war when all the Arab nations attacked Israel and Israel won, Israel had defeated the Syrian army and occupied the Golan Heights from which the Syrians had been bombing Israeli  towns and cities.  Now, holding onto it is very important for Israel's security.

 It was thought that the  last Jews left in a 1994 airlift to Tel Aviv.  Many Syrian Jews live in Brooklyn, New York today.

Tanakh, Stone Edition, ArtScroll Series
The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia

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