Quo Vadis, the Jewish People?
It is typical of the Jewish people to always be searching for ways to survive. That is because the fear of being annihilated is real.
In Israel, almost every single extended family has lost at least one member to violence caused by hatred. In my extended family, I count 108 who were murdered in World War II because they were Jews. That was the only reason.
The fear and therefore the constant quest for safety has been embedded in our genes during 2,000 years of discrimination, persecution, and outright extermination. In a Jewish mind, there is always a “What if?”
Will it ever change?
I do not think so.
Anti-Semitism is here to stay.
I suggest that one of the major reasons for anti-Semitism is the pain, fear, and anger that people experience during major changes such as economic, political, or social upheaval. People look for a reason for their pain, and find it convenient to identify a villain, a culprit, as the cause.
As we all know, there is worldwide economic upheaval right now. Furthermore, systems of governance are being challenged too. It isn’t just socialism and Communism that have been discredited. The superiority of capitalism is also being questioned.
With such profound changes comes pain, and with pain, the inevitable search for a villain.
I fear we are about to experience a new wave of anti-Semitism–of historic proportions.
It is painful for me to say this, but I do not believe there is a solution to anti-Semitism. As long as there are crises caused by change, and as long as human beings continue to look for villains to punish (the simple solution), there will be anti-Semitism. To paraphrase Voltaire: If the Jews did not exist, they would have to be invented. The world must have its scapegoats one way or another.
As we have done throughout our history, we must continue searching for ways to survive.
What to do?
One solution was (and for some it still is) assimilation. Assimilation is what the Jews in Germany, prior to the war, believed would neutralize the danger of persecution. Assimilated Jews became enthusiastic and loyal members of the country’s cultural and scientific leadership.
But as we know, assimilation did not work. On the contrary, those who believed assimilation would protect them did not escape in time and were gassed to death.
Zionism has been another survival strategy. Zionists believe that all Jews should return to the country of their ancestors and resettle the land as a Jewish state. If the country maintains a strong army to defend itself––even, if necessary, with nuclear weapons––safety would be ensured.
I am in pain to have come to the realization that neither the Jewish state nor assimilation will be able to save us. I believe that both create a false and possibly fatal sense of security.
Israel is becoming increasingly cut off from the rest of the world, as if it were being prepped for surgical removal. And the Palestinian issue gives anti-Semites a convenient fig leaf to cover their desire to see the Jews disappear from the face of the earth. It legitimizes their hatred.
Consider: If the Zionist dream is realized and all Jews are in one place, and Israel loses one major war, (the Arabs can afford to lose many wars. Israel only one). It will be its last. If it lost the war totally, what do you think will happen? I shudder to even imagine how the radical Moslems will handle their victory. Or consider the Iranian nuclear threat if the Iranians do carry out their threat to wipe Israel off the map…
Is it smart strategy to put “ all eggs in one basket “ in a very dangerous neighborhood??
How about assimilation?
Assimilation won’t work, either. Even in America, anti-Semitism is growing, although it has not reached a dangerous level for our existence. But if another major economic breakdown occurs, as many predict, anti-Semitism in America might grow to be unbearable, too.
What to do?
Historically, the Jews also had a third strategy to guarantee their survival: relocation, from a less secure place to a more secure place. In Roman times, they moved as far from the center of the Empire as possible: to the outskirts––Poland, Russia––where they felt more secure. During the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century, they moved to Turkey and other Muslim countries. To escape the pogroms of Eastern Europe, they immigrated to America and Australia. That is how they got that image of The Wondering Jew.
Sometimes families deliberately spread themselves around the globe––one son to America, another to Australia, perhaps another to South America. That way, no matter where the trouble burst out next, someone would survive.
Rashi, one of the sages of Judaism asked the rhetorical question: why did the Lord spread the Jewish people all over the Diaspora? So that their enemies cannot get them easily, was his answer.
To remain flexible enough to pick up and go at the first warning, Jewish people have traditionally valued and invested in knowledge, in education. Just in case they had to move from one country to another, their assets were stored and carried between their ears. “You can make a living anywhere in the world as a medical doctor,” my mother used to tell me as she begged me to go to a medical school. . (She hardly needed to explain why I might need to emigrate, that throughout history Jews have consistently been ostracized and harmed. That, I already experienced more than once from early age.)
Move to Israel? I do not think Israel has the capability to secure our long-term survival. The Muslim countries are closed to us now. In Australia, like America, anti-Semitism is on the rise.
Quo Vadis, Jews? Where to?
Asia–China, India, Japan–seem the next outpost for the Jewish people where anti-Semitism is unknown. In addition, China and India are booming economically, and in a boom anti-Semitism is low.
As I re-read my own blog above, I pray to God that I am wrong. That Jew hatred will stop. That we will not have to move around the globe in search of shelter. That we will be able to live in peace in Israel. That we will be members of the family of nations like any other nation without this no ending fear of the next Holocaust. Amen.
Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes