THE INDESTRUCTIBLE JEW

By Rachel Gold

All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality? ["Concerning the Jews" Harpers (1899)]

The history of Jews and Judaism is a unique phenomenon. It is the most long-lived historical continuum in the emergence, development and spread of western civilization. Since its appearance as a differentiated entity in the ancient Near East about four thousand years ago, Jews and Judaism have been active participants in every phase of the development of the civilizations of Egypt, Babylonia, Assyria, and Persia. They are tightly interconnected with the rise and fall of the Hellenistic monarchies and the waxing and waning of Roman hegemony. They gave birth to Christianity and successfully warded off the rivalry of their offspring. They sustained a creative and differentiated identity under the Sassanians despite the challenge of Zoroastrianism.

They played a vital role in the launching of Islam, even as they spawned a variety of novel forms to cope with the creative expansiveness of this world-girdling religion. And most remarkably, this history not only did not remain confined to either Palestine or the Near East, but spread throughout the western world forming viable and significant communities in Africa, Asia Minor, the Balkans, Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, England, the slavic lands, even reaching as far east as India and China. This diaspora history is all the more remarkable, because it represents the bulk of the history of the Jews and Judaism during the past two thousand years and because it demanded adaptive powers that border on the phenomenal. In any given century Jews would be living simultaneously in as many as three or four radically different societies, each of which demanded a distinctive form of Jewish adaptation if survival was to be sustained. Not only was this challenge met, but it was met without annulling a distinctive Jewish identity.

But this variety by no means fully exposes the uniqueness of Jewish history. Not only did it successfully traverse the ancient and medieval worlds, but it preserved itself as a viable strand within the modern world...a strand so viable as to excite the wish to annihilate it, give birth to the modern nation state of Israel, sustain flourishing communities and multiple Jewish identities throughout the western world, and be deemed worthy of upholding the responsibilities for the highest values of western civilization.

This is the empirical record. The facts as stated are not open to refutation. The uniqueness is there for all to verify. It is not a projection of some religious or ethnic wish.



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