Saturday, July 25, 2009

Were Holocaust victims linked genealogically to biblical Israel?

If I was reading a booklet from some “Christian Identity” person like Pete Peters in Colorado or some anti-Semitic person like David Duke I would simply shake my head and say typical. But instead I am reading a new publication by “The Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).”

At least that is what it states on the booklet and it was recommended to me by them at their booth at the Presbyterian Women’s Gathering.

The booklet, a large booklet, is titled, “Steadfast Hope: the Palestinian Quest for a just peace.” I am troubled as I read; the information is slanted, terribly slanted. But although not finished with my reading or research I must write.

The “Identity” groups insist that the Jews of Israel and elsewhere are not Jewish but only people who converted to Judaism, probably Edomites or Khazars. They insist that the white European and British people are the “lost” tribes of Israel. But the Israel/Palestinian Mission Network have a new but old story to tell. It isn’t that the white races are the true Israel it is rather that only those Jewish people who have lived in Palestine for several thousand years belong, by ancestry, to ancient Israel.

So what about all of the other Jewish people who migrated to Palestine both before the Holocaust and after? Oh, they are just converts to Judaism. They supposedly have no link to ancient Israel. That would of course mean that those who died in the Holocaust were not genealogically linked to ancient Israel!

Under the subtitle, “The Genealogical Claim to Israel,” the authors write:

“The founding narrative of the State of Israel links the modern-day Jews’ claim to the land of Israel/Palestine to their direct genealogical descent from the ancient Israelites. Recent anthropological scholarship shows that this widespread belief is very likely a myth, not historical fact. Shlomo Sand, an expert on European history at the university of Tel Aviv, and author of When and How Was the Jewish People Invented? posits that the Jews were never exiled en masse from the Holy Land and that many European Jewish populations converted to the faith centuries later. Thus, he argues, many of today’s Israelis who emigrated from Europe after World War II have little or no genealogical connection to the ancient land of Israel.”

This lie about the Jewish people both inside of contemporary Israel and outside of Israel is undoubtedly the worst affront I have experienced concerning Israel and the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. At least a small group of people in the denomination, my denomination, are truly anti-Semitic- they are capable of using the worst kind of lies to bring about their own political agenda.

Since, evidently, Shlomo uses the Khazars as an example just as the neo-Nazi groups do I will copy part of my paper that dealt with that here:

“In 740 AD a group of people who were Tatars converted to the Jewish religion. This was the kingdom of Khazar, “on the western shore of the Caspian Sea between the Volga and Don rivers.” This kingdom was aggressive and existed until 969, when the Khazars were conquered by Russia. Henceforth, the people became Russian Orthodox under Vladimir. These people who were Jews by conversion, as many people are, are neither the Israelite descendants nor are they the Jews of today as many Identity teachers insist. They are simply a group of people who were converted to Judaism in the early Middle Ages and then converted to Orthodox Christianity.”

And then I should, from the same paper, explain the genealogical linkage of most of the Jewish people of today with ancient Israel.

“While the history of the Jews is complex and travels over many roads and centuries, it is very clear that the ancient Israelites are the Jews of today. Their language, religion and communities connect their centuries in an unbreakable line.

“Both from biblical texts and from historical sources it can be shown that at the time of Jesus, Jewish communities, (those who were Israelites), existed not only in Palestine but also in most of the known world. The Jews of the Diaspora, that is the Jews living outside of Palestine, were diverse but linked by “ethnicity,” “the local community,” “links with Jerusalem and other Diaspora Communities,” “the Torah” and “Jewish practices and beliefs.”7


Scholars consider the Jews in Diaspora to have been a large population. Although they do not know the exact amount they acknowledge, “that the total Jewish population of the Diaspora considerably exceeded the Jewish population in Palestine.”8 The Dictionary of New Testament Background gives information about many of those communities including the acknowledgement that, 'Literary and inscriptional sources indicate that some Jewish communities in the Diaspora continued to flourish until the end of antiquity.'9

The Jews of second century A.D., who existed without a central location, built into their Diaspora communities a means of connectedness that prevented them from being absorbed totally into the cultures where they existed. They held the Hebrew language and the liturgy of their worship in tact. Max Dimont, author of Jews, God and History, explains:

To prevent the Hebrew language from becoming fragmentized into hundreds of dialects, Jewish scholars set about writing the first Hebrew dictionary and grammars. Though modern Hebrew has grown in the number of words, anyone able to speak Hebrew today can read the Hebrew of the ancient Israelites, the Hebrew of the Jews in Islamic civilization, or the Hebrew of the Jews in the Middle Ages, without special guide books.10

The Jewish people and their culture, which connects with ancient Israel, are found in many cultures in many different ages culminating in contemporary Jewish communities and peoples including the state of Israel. By 1960 Israel had a population of two million people, “Jews from Yemen and Germany, Morocco and Russia, Turkey and Poland.”11

These many diverse peoples, who of course, include converts from many other races and people groups, are generally the physical children of Abraham through his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob; they are not Edomites. And they are not Khazars.”

At this point I believe it is time for many in leadership in the Presbyterian Church to rise up out of concern for the awful place we are descending to and confront those who are moving into the murky world of anti-Semitism.

7 For a detailed description of these links see, P.R. Trebilco, “Diaspora Judaism,” Dictionary of New Testament Background: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship, Editors, Craig A. Evans & Stanley E. Porter, (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press 2000), 291-93.
8 Ibid., 285.

9 Ibid., 295.

10 Max I. Dimont, Jews, God and History, (New York: Signet Books 1962) , 121.

11 Ibid., 410.

18 comments:

Adel Thalos said...

Viola,

Why am I not surprised by all of this? I wonder how much Jewishness is not Jewish to these groups...50%, 40%, etc?

I'm all for stopping this nonsense. How do we go about it? Do we bring these people up on charges? What charges? Considering the state of the denomination, I don't believe any discipline could be administered.
If not discipline, then what?

Pastor Bob said...

1. A forgotten piece of history: after Israel proclaimed independence and fought the following war Jews were expelled from all the countries of North Africa and the Middle East. Many if not all had their possessions taken from them when they were expelled. Even if there could be any genetic proof that the Ashkenazi Jews were not true or pure descendants of Abraham, the Sephardic Jews certainly were.

2. There is a curious study done sometime recently on a group in South Africa who claimed to be part of the people of Israel. Genetic tests were performed on their leaders and it was discovered that they were related to the cohens, or descendants of the priest.

3. Anyone who has read the history of the European Church knows that Jews existed in Europe throughout the time since AD 70. While some may have converted to Christianity many did not and would not. They were severely persecuted, not continuously but in waves of persecution. Who were these people who were killed in France, Italy, Germany and were persecuted and then banned from Britain?

Bob Campbell

Viola Larson said...

I have designated today clean the house day-but I just have to be a part of this discussion first.

Adel,
I have to admit it does surprise me. I think it was somewhere around 1:00 PM when I quit reading last night and jumped out of bed to blog. That is how surprised I was. This is an attempt to separate the Jews from their own history. That in itself is a kind of holocaust. That is what the Nazis did to the Jewish people before they committed genocide.

Viola Larson said...

Bob,
Thank you for all of the good information and reminders. I thought last night of bringing the exiled Jews of the Arab countries into my posting. I have a very good movie, a documentary, entitled "The Forgotten Refugees: A film about the mass exodus of Jews from Arab countries and Iran in the 20th century. It is very well done and very interesting. You can see parts of it on u-tube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pe7-ygT_sQ4&feature=player_embedded

Also if I can get back to reading it I am enjoying a book, Last Days in Babylon: The History of a family, the Story of a Nation It is the story of the author's grandmother who was forced to leave Bagdad. She was one of the last of the huge Jewish community who had lived in Iraq since Bible days. The language is rich-it is very good.

Mrs. Reverend Doctor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
will spotts said...

In other PC(USA) literature (resources, items used in 2003 and 2004 resolutions, etc.) there has been a distinction made between "European Jews" and "the ancient people of Biblical Israel."

While this is more blatant, the same argumet was being hinted at and invoked. This is not a new development - just a more in-your-face version.

When considering the antisemitism problem in mainline denominations (and some others in the US), one really has to ask why members consider this tolerable. That is entirely distinct from political opinions on the Middle East - which can and do vary widely. It is the use of reprehensible imagery, the familiar tropes of classical antisemitism, and bias that is not only anti-Israel, but often rather strongly anti-Jewish.

So why exactly is this considered OK?

And should not Christians, given the rather grim history of Christian attacks on the Jewish people, be especially concerned not to do this?

Do people really not make a conection between their antisemitism today and that of the past?

Viola Larson said...

Will, The new Presbyterian Women's Bible study hints at that but it is not clear enough to direct attention to it. This though was blatant and certainly needs to be address.

Debbie said...

Wow, this blindsided me! It's amazingly prejudiced towards the Jewish people for the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to put out this booklet. Just before this I was reading an e-mail by Jewish friend of 50+ years about the cancer of her mother, whose parents were killed in a concentration camp. It makes me sick to think about the claims of this booklet.

Adel Thalos said...

Viola,

The claims that there many of the modern day Jews are not descended from ancient Jews is clearly false, but assuming for a moment that it is true, what is the point?

Clearly the point is that they have no claim or right to "the Land". But there is a fundamental flaw even with this conclusion, if indeed their premise is right (which it is not). For a Jew to be one by conversion/faith, the faith is intimately tied with the promises of God on "the Land" and the restoration/rest that is so closely tied to the Land. Therefore, their argument fails even if their premise is correct (which you have clearly indicated is not).

Adel Thalos
Snellville, GA

Viola Larson said...

Debbie, I was so upset last night as I wrote I was close to crying. And as I said to someone in an e-mail I only cry when I am angry.

Debbie said...

Also, as Adel Thalos said, what is the point of the booklet, anyway? Let's say they're right and the people killed in the concentration camps weren't Jews. So does it not matter that the Nazis thought they were Jews and they were killed because they were thought to be Jews? Does it mean that their deaths are unimportant? Does it mean that we don't need to care about their slaughter?

Presbyman said...

To be blunt, I think the people who spend their time making "arguments" like this for the sake of bashing Israel are ... jerks. Thank you, Viola, for speaking out.

John Erthein
Erie, PA

Viola Larson said...

So John you did it again: )

Viola Larson said...

Debbie, the booklet doesn't even deal, in the area of genealogy, with the holocaust-they did not think out the implications of what they were saying when they tried to say that the Jewish people who immigrated to Israel were not linked by their genealogy to ancient Israel. I added that thought to show the implications of saying that.

Sam said...

I have to agree, what's the point?

I think most Presbyterians, at least in my experience, don't pay a lot of attention to what's going on in the "Mother Church". I know that was true of me up until a couple of years ago and I've been an elder for 15 years.

Viola - I attended the PW Gathering 3 years ago and swore I'd never go to another. Toward the end of the week I sent my pastor an email that said, "I don't think I want to be Presbyterian anymore and I'm not too sure about being a woman". Thank goodness there is a nice pub across from the convention center where we could watch the World Cup Finals. Although, after your experience this year, maybe I'll go with you next time!

I couldn't believe all of the nonsense.

Dave Hackett said...

Keep shining the light, Viola. Thanks for pointing out this. I suggest we learn who, precisely, wrote the booklet and seek clarification from them on why they believe this is in any way appropriate content.

Viola Larson said...

Sam,
Actually there were parts of the PW gathering this time that I very much enjoyed. We sang real hymns even about the cross and much of the readings were biblical texts. There was a play, a musical no less, about the Hebrew midwives who saved the male children against Pharaohs wishes that was full of pro life themes.

It was the Israel, Palestine agenda and other things that bothered me.

Viola Larson said...

Dave,
You are right. Some of the authors are listed for different topics, but I am not sure about this particular section.

Now that I look I see a lot of names as writers at the end of the booklet. And the Editors are Pauline Coffman, Walt Davis, Noushin Framke, Jeff DeYoe, Don Maclay, and Martha Reese.

I will do some e-mailing on Monday.