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Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Jews

The Jewish race is descended mostly from the tribes of Judah and Simeon, and partially from the tribes of Benjamin and Levi, who had all together formed the ancient Kingdom of Judah.

During Old Testament times it was customary to eat in the late morning then take the main meal before dark. The rich could afford to eat meat such as venison, goose or ox and kosher fish was a favorite. Accompaniments included eggs of wild fowl, cheeses and butter made of sheep's milk. A selection of fruits such as figs and dates were gathered from trees.

Olives were eaten raw or pickled or oiled. Goat was the main meat of the poor and anyway the common people generally only ate meat at the Passover sacrifice or on rare festive occasions.

The most basic food, which was the staple of the poor, was barley bread baked on hot stones covered with cinders accompanied by lentils and beans.

In 586 BC, Judah itself ceased to be an independent kingdom, and its remaining Jews were left stateless. The Babylonian exile ended in 539 BC when the Persians conquered Babylon and Cyrus the Great allowed the exiled Jews to return and rebuild their Temple, which was completed in 515 BC.

Jews arrived in India around 500 BC and unlike many parts of the world they lived there without local manifestations of antisemitism.

In 70AD, Titus, the son of emperor Vespasian, opened a full-scale assault on the Jewish capital Jerusalem. The Jews fought with great heroism but by early autumn all of the city including the temple was almost completely destroyed and most of the Jews who survived were scattered throughout the Roman empire.

In 66 AD a group of Jewish rebels, the Sicarii, overcame the Roman garrison of Masada with the aid of a ruse. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD, additional members of the Sicarii fled Jerusalem and settled on the mountaintop after slaughtering the Roman garrison. Three years later, the Roman governor of Iudaea, Lucius Flavius Silva, headed the Roman legion X Fretensis and laid siege to Masada. On April 16, 73 AD Masada fell to the Romans after several months of siege, ending the Great Jewish Revolt.

Aerial view showing Masada and the Snake Path. By http://www.flickr.com

Since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD, most Jews have lived in diaspora. For the following two thousand years, as an ethnic minority in every country in which they lived, they have frequently experienced persecution. This anti-semitism has resulted in a population that has fluctuated both in numbers and distribution over the centuries.

In 1264, the Polish Prince Boleslaus the Pious issued the "Statute of Kalisz" – The General Charter of Jewish Liberties in Poland, an unprecedented document in medieval history of Europe that allowed Jews personal freedom, legal autonomy and separate tribunal for criminal matters as well as safeguards against forced baptism and blood libel. The Charter was ratified again by subsequent Polish kings.

The puritan Oliver Cromwell, insisted on absolute freedom of religion for all except Roman Catholics. He allowed all Jews to return to England after being banished for 350 years. He believed that if they returned to Britain, a country where his rule was encouraging the purest form of Christianity to exist, the Jews would convert to Christianity and this will bring about the Second Coming of Christ.

The first group of Jews to emigrate to America arrived in Newport, Rhode Island in 1758. 15 families mainly from Portugal and Spain decided to establish a congregation there encouraged by its reputation for freedom of religion.

The Touro Synagogue, in Newport, Rhode Island, the first synagogue in what became the United States was dedicated in 1763.

On September 28, 1791, France became the second country of the world, after Poland 500 years earlier, to emancipate its Jewish population. There were 40,000 Jews living in France at the time. The civic equality the French Jews attained became a model for other European Jews.

The 1791 law proclaiming the Emancipation of the Jews - Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme

12 German Jewish immigrants led by Henry Jones founded B'nai B'rith, the oldest Jewish service organization in the world, on October 13, 1843. in Aaron Sinsheimer's café in New York City's Lower East Side. B'nai B'rith states that it is committed to the security and continuity of the Jewish people and the State of Israel and combating antisemitism and bigotry.

B'nai B'rith membership certificate, 1876

Hermann Göring proposed plans in the late 1930s to make Madagascar the "Jewish homeland", an idea that had first been considered by 19th century journalist Theodor Herzl.

Adolf Hitler declared the imminent extermination of the Jews at a Nazi Party meeting on December 12, 1941 in the Reich Chancellery. Joseph Goebbels wrote in his diary for that day:

"Regarding the Jewish Question, the Führer has decided to make a clean sweep. He prophesied to the Jews that, if they yet again brought about a world war, they would experience their own annihilation. That was not just a phrase. The world war is here, and the annihilation of the Jews must be the necessary consequence."

German police shooting women and children from the Mizocz Ghetto, 14 October 1942

The world Jewish population reached a peak of 16.7 million prior to World War II,  but during the war almost six million Jews were killed by the Nazis, in a genocide that is known as the Holocaust.

During World War II, the Japanese government had a national policy to receive Jewish refugees. Even Prime Minister Hideki Tojo rejected Nazi protests to this policy.

Between 1925 and the late 1940s the Jewish philanthropist Ida Silverman (October 31, 1882 – November 1, 1973)  logged over 600,000 air-miles traveling throughout the world, speaking and fund raising for the creation of a Jewish state.

Ida Silverman in 1957

As of 2014 the worldwide Jewish population was estimated at 13.90 million by the North American Jewish Data Bank, equating to 0.2 percent of the global population. According to this report, about 43% of all Jews reside in Israel (6 million), and 40% in the United States (5.3–6.8 million), with most of the remainder living in Europe (1.41 million) and Canada (0.39 million)

In the Soviet Union there were more than two million Jews, but many of them moved to Israel, the U.S. and other Western countries since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Hebrew is the language of Judaism because it is the language in which the Bible was written. It is still used by Jews for their prayers.

Source Food For Thought by Ed Pearce

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