The Tail Wagging the Dog

Jewish History in the Middle East

The Middle East has been traditionally a buffer zone between more powerful societies, i.e., Egypt from the south, Iran/Iraq in the east, and Greece/Rome in the west. The first diaspora (exile) was the Babylonian captivity that lasted from 605-587 BCE. In order to keep Jewish society together, education was promoted for Jewish males. Culturally Jews developed a strong work ethic and created a sense of community centered around their religion. These aptitudes account for their tenaciousness and helps explain why their culture was able to survive as small minority communities for 2000 years in Eurasia.

The last two times the Jews (the Israelites and Judeans) were expelled from their home land was by the Romans in 70 BCE and AD 130. The first Temple was destroyed in 586 by the Neo-Babylonians; the second Temple was destroyed by the Romans who forbade the Israelites/Jews to return to Jerusalem. The destruction of the second Temple marked a major turning point in Jewish history. The Temple priests ceased to be the religious leaders of Judaism and rabbis (scholars learned in the Scriptures and in the commentaries on religious laws) took their place. The Jews were dissipated throughout the Roman Empire. Some immigrated as far as China and India.

The majority of Jews lived in Christian Europe and was periodically persecuted for their religious beliefs. Because of the lack of security, European Jews tended to concentrate on skills and services such as banking, agriculture and jewelry, as well as intellectual activities such as teaching and science and music; all of which were easily transferable from place to place. In part these persecutions were perpetrated because Jews were economically successful, particularly in banking and agriculture.

Pogroms proved to be an effective way renege on debt or to confiscate land on religious grounds. A pogrom is the expulsion or killing of a particular ethnic group, particularly of Jews in Eastern Europe and Russia. This is not dissimilar to what happened to Native Americans as the US expanded west or to expulsion of Japanese-American citizens from the West Coast of the United States at the beginning of WWII with their forced removal to internment camps.

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