Reflections on the 17th of Tammuz
Today marks the Fast of the 17th of the Hebrew month of Tammuz. This marks the breach of the walls of Jerusalem, during the sieges by the Babylonians in 586 BCE and the Romans in 70 CE (AD). This starts the Three Weeks of mourning and introspection which lead up to the 9th of Av, on which we commemorate and mourn the destruction of the Holy Temples in Jerusalem, both of which fell on this date. History will show that many other tragedies befell the Jewish people on both of these dates as well.
I want to take this opportunity to point out some facts about the history of Israel, that most people do not know, or ignore, in the discussions about the current situation there. Note that this is NOT a discussion about the current political government of Israel. For my thoughts there, please see my blog post from last summer at http://www.rabbahrona.us/2018/05/thoughts-on-situation-in-israel.html.
If one reads the book of Genesis, which of course is not historical, one sees that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob lived in the land of Canaan, which would become Israel. Jacob and family go down to Egypt in the face of the famine and the Israelites return under Joshua.
The book of Joshua in the Hebrew Bible describes the wars that lead the Israelites to occupying the Land of Israel, roughly 3500 years ago. This is mandated Divinely according to the Bible. Those who believe the Bible see this as deeding the land to Jews. Those who do not challenge this. There is no way to prove or dis-prove this obviously, since we were not there. But the bottom line is that it happened, and this is Israel’s one and only war of expansion/colonialism/imperialism/whatever you choose to call it. All other wars by Israel are defensive, including the Six Days War (1967 war). While it is true that Israel struck pre-emptively, they were under siege by all the surrounding countries at the time, and had no choice but to act. Israel has never taken on another colonial war of expansion, unlike the Christian and Muslim empires, or the United States.
The occupants of the Land at the time were Canaanites – Mesopotamian people. These are people from lands north and east of Israel. These were NOT Arabs, who come from lands SOUTH of Israel. It is important to note this distinction. There are no longer any Canaanites alive. We can dispute whether this is right or wrong, but it is reality.
This establishment of Israel as a nation 3500 years ago makes Jews the de-facto indigenous people of the Land. In fact there has never been a time since when there were no Jews living in the Land. This is an important note. Arabs did not come into the Land in large number until the Exile at the hands of the Romans in 70 CE. Let’s be clear about this. It is white, European Imperialism that caused the problems in the land in 70, and it is white European Imperialism that has destabilized the entire Middle East since then.
When Jewish pioneers started returning to the Land in the late 19th Century, it was with the ideal of building a secular, socialist Jewish state on our ancestral land. This would come to fruition in 1948 of course, with a number of steps along the way. It is a huge disappointment that the Israel Constitution did not mandate that Israel remain a secular Jewish state. She has become a Theocracy, to her downfall.
Acts leading to Statehood include the Balfour Mandate and the Partition Plan. It is important to note that the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was created in these acts as an Arab homeland in Palestine, in the Trans-Jordan. Yet, to this date, by and large, Jordan does NOT let Israeli Arabs or Palestinians settle in their country.
It is also important to note that with Israeli statehood, the vast majority of Jews living in Muslim lands in the Middle East were ejected from the lands with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. They lost all their property, their status, their wealth, etc., in the process, but this is a fact that is never discussed.
The West Bank of Israel is bordered by Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The Gaza Strip is bordered by Egypt. None of these countries have open borders to the Palestinian territories. Yet the only closed borders ever discussed are the ones to Israel.
Israel has handled the situation very disastrously. I have already discussed that in my previous post. But the fact is that the world is extremely Anti-Semitic and Anti-Zionistic. The modern State of Israel was only established out of a sense of guilt over the Shoah (Holocaust). And even then, it almost never happened. The League of Nations (precursor to the UN) played political brinkmanship all through the process, but the Israelis were better.
I have stated this elsewhere but I will repeat it. To understand the situation in the Middle East requires complex, in-depth graduate level studies. One cannot be an expert on the situation with sound bites from Al-Jazeera or BBC, or from select radicalized undergraduate professors in certain institutions. I urge anyone, but especially Jews who are not fully informed on all of the history, to go get fully educated, before you take any stand.
Social action is required by all Jews, but one must first know what and why one is acting on.
May this period of fasting and introspection bring about change and peace in the world.
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