Friday, October 28, 2005

Pawn Shops and Jewish people: historic connection

Originally uploaded by Byrdnest.
"Why were Jewish people so often outsiders?" was the terrifically appropriate question posed by student Destine Roberts.

Here's my answer, based on avid reading and discussions:
* Jewish community's traditional self-sufficiency. Too much self-reliance can be distancing.
* Educational achievement has been unusually high in the Jewish community. Look at the lists of highly-regarded attorneys, authors, physicians and scientists for a sense of Jewish success.
* Religious independence: you will find no Jewish missionaries at home or abroad.
* Ghetto dwellers. Was it the Gentile (non-Jew) or the Jew who decided that life would be more comfortable when lived in a separate community?
* Christian distance: early Christian teaching was anti-Jewish in general. Because it was a sin for Christians to loan money for profit (it was called usury), it fell to the Jews to become the earliest money-lenders (and pawn brokers). See the Jewish character Shylock in Merchant of Venice.
* Scapegoating falls to minority groups. Aside from parts of NYC, Los Angeles and Warsaw, Jewish population has been small. Who to blame for general misfortune in the Christian community? Blame someone who's weaker than you and who is accustomed to stinging discrimination.
* Pogroms: historic European violence toward Jewish groups. See the classic play Fiddler on the Roof, about Jews in Russia.

Textbook reading: pp. 437 - 449, World Geography, on Zionism and the Palestinians.

Israel and Egypt as an unbroken block of land, indicating the numerous connections between the heritage of the Pharaohs and the Prophets.

* Memphis: before there was a city of Cairo, there was a capital city called Memphis. See the pyramid built in Memphis, TN, to commemorate the connection.

When TE Lawrence and Prince Feisal of the Arabs met with the British after WWI, the Arabs asked for autonomy (self-rule). After all, they'd defeated the Turks and helped the Brits win WWI. But the British and French decided to make money and extend their power by controlling and dividing the Mid East. The resulting mistrust between Arab and Westerner has been longstanding.

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