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Archive for January 10th, 2010

Built On Sand.

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Jonathan Wittenberg has reviewed Shlomo Sand’s recent book and in a very polite way found it wanting:

“The flaws in Sand’s argument are both historical and conceptual. The idea of exile, he suggests, was adopted from the Christian view that the Jews were punished with dispersion for the crime of killing Jesus. But this makes no sense. The paradigm of exile and return is found in the Bible in Deuteronomy and Jeremiah in relation to the destruction of the first temple by the Babylonians in 576BCE. It is thus part of the Jewish narrative centuries before Christianity. Further, contrary to what Sand maintains, serious historians of the period consider that the Romans did indeed kill or sell as slaves very many thousands of Jews. The rest of the population was banned from access to Jerusalem, which was renamed Aelia Capitolina. This would surely engender a sense of exile in any people.

Equally important is what Sand fails to discuss. To vast numbers of Jews, arguments about racial origins are both ugly and, more importantly, irrelevant. Instead, Jewish continuity is premised on religious factors, including observance of the Torah, the study of the Talmud, the creation of communities, the life of the synagogue and the bonds of the liturgy. These are what form the vital links between generations of Jews. To examine Jewish history almost without reference to its religious life and literature is like attempting to discuss Islam without mentioning the Hadith, the Shariya or the role of the Muslim community. Whereas Sand is quite right that Jewish life has always reflected local cultures, his claim “that there had never been a Jewish people’s culture” cannot be taken seriously.

Sand virtually ignores persecution and antisemitism as contributory factors in forming Jewish narratives, just as he omits the role of hostility towards it in fashioning Israeli attitudes later.”

Written by modernityblog

10/01/2010 at 16:26