The October 7th savage attack on Israel by Hamas that caused the brutal murder of 1,200 people and the kidnapping of 240 others, along with the response by Israel, and the responses of much of the rest of the world have put Israel again in the media’s glare. Rather than being able to celebrate Christmas (at Bethlehem and elsewhere) and Chanukah (at Modi’in and elsewhere), to enjoy being with family and friends and festivities, war again invades our news feeds while hatreds born of conspiracy theories ignite our deepest fears.
As a way to try to make some sense of the hostility Jews are facing in much of the world, this month’s newsletter will focus on recent events in the Middle East and their historical background as Martin described it.
I was always waiting for the “final edition” of Martin’s Atlas of the Arab-Israel Conflict. (Can’t we just skip to the end?) Sadly the conflict has outlived him, but the Tenth Edition came out in 2012 shortly before he put away his maps and retired his pens. Eleven years have now passed with some advances toward peace, some setbacks and no overall resolution. And again, war.
It is still too raw to have much perspective on what happened in October in the Middle East and why Jews from London, to Lisbon, to Los Angeles are threatened with the defacement of their institutions, and calls for their extermination. They’re not original, these calls. They go back thousands of years, this hatred. It is Judaism itself that is being threatened, a religion that brought the idea that human life has value, that the weak and vulnerable need to be protected, that to live in the world means to help, not to harm.
It is feels hard to be hopeful right now. Can we gain strength from the survival of generations of Jews who outlasted the Babylonian and Roman exiles, the Inquisition and the Crusades, the pogroms in Czarist Russia and in Persia, the Farhud in Iraq, and the deportation and murder of Tunisian Jews and the Jews of Europe during the Holocaust?
The societies who want to destroy Judaism, who want to replace who they think Jews are, want what they see as power and strength being replaced by their own. Their world view excludes others, and Jews always seem to be on the “other” side. Is it religion that drives them? Is it land, or power or glory? Or two minutes of fame?
What would Martin say? He might quote Churchill, as he did in Churchill and the Jews:
“This wandering tribe, in many respects indistinguishable from numberless nomadic communities, grasped and proclaimed an idea of which all the genius of Greece and the power of Rome were incapable.”
And what is that idea? Churchill again:
“We owe to the Jews in the Christian revelation a system of ethics which, even if it were entirely separated from the supernatural, would be incomparably the most precious possession of mankind, worth in fact the fruits of all other wisdom and learning put together.”
Why do some people feel that “system of ethics” is so threatening?
For more on this, I highly recommend spending 6 minutes with the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks as he unpacks and unpicks the connection between Jew hatred and Israel: Read Here
And another 5 minutes with him on defining Antisemitism: Read Here