Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The wandering Jew: a story of the Jewish disapora

Zionists: the Jews who want to make sure there is a homeland, a Jewish nation, in ancient Palestine. In the late 1800's and early 1900's they bought land in Palestine and made plans to "make the deserts bloom." They argued with the Arabs who had lived upon that land for centuries. Ultimately they fought a small war. When the smoke cleared, the Jews were able to expel many Palestinians (the population of Israel remains 20% Arab).

These refugees have caused never-ending problems for Israel.

The Jews originated in Palestine, parts of which were in ancient times called
a) Judah
b) Canaan
c) Zion and
d) Israel.

Why was it that Jews were returning to re-establish their homeland?

The conquerors of Palestine such as the Romans and the Persians were cruel to the Jews because the Jews were too independent to be fully obedient citizens. These conquerors retaliated against Jewish defiance by burning and otherwise destroying Jewish centers.

Masada: on a mesa in the rocky badlands of Israel were a Jewish group called the Zealots. They defied the Romans from their mountain stronghold, confident that no one could successfully attack them. But the Roman army besieged them. Cut off from food and water, the Zealots (the word zealous means "having great energy to accomplish a task") did not want to fall into the hands of the Romans, though they faced defeat. They instead burned their fortress and committed mass suicide. Some 936 went to their death rather than face torture
or slavery under the Romans.

For centuries the Jewish people were called Wandering Jews. They left Palestine in a great diaspora, or dsipersal. They migrated to many nations in Europe. Large numbers of Jews lived in Russia, Poland, Germany, France and Spain.

Jews typically lived in the least-desirable part of town. The Italian term for the Jewish Quarter was ghetto.

Jews loaned money and were the first bankers and pawn shop operators. In the Medieval era it was a a sin for Christians to loan money at interest. It was called usury. Jews were important to the businessmen of the city even though the Jew was mostly thought of as an alien.

Many Jews were not interested in assimilating into Western/Christian society. They were happy being outsiders.