Feb 04, 2006
As the headlines continue to stream out of the holy land, now restored as the nation of Israel, it is useful to explore the history of that strip of land that approximates the size of the State of New Jersey. It is bordered by Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and a disputed area designated Palestine that includes the Gaza Strip from which Israel recently withdrew.
Rarely a day goes by when the Palestinians do not fire rockets into Israel and, in mid-January, yet another suicide bomber blew himself up, but fortunately did not manage to kill any Israeli citizens. Indeed, in their first step toward self-government, Palestinians elected a terrorist organization called Hamas whose sole purpose is the destruction of Israel. Members of both Fatah and Hamas celebrated by shooting at each other.
From the moment that Israel declared its independence on May 14, 1948, the nation has suffered and has triumphed through five declared wars and at least two “intifadas”, a form of guerrilla warfare. Not even the death of Yassir Arafat has managed to introduce any rationality into the discussions with the self-declared government representing Palestinians. Most certainly, the much-ballyhooed Oslo Accords did nothing to end the threat to Israel.
An interesting book, “Holy Land, Whose Land?” by Dorothy Drummond ($17.95, Fairhurst Press, Terre Haute, Indiana) takes the reader on a trip through history, back to the origins of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and through the many struggles fought for control of Jerusalem, including the exile of the Jews by the Romans, their return from Persia, and their subsequent dispersal throughout the world as the Diaspora. Today, most of the world’s Jews reside either in Israel or in America and number a scant, estimated thirteen million. Intermarriage and birthrates are contributing to their dwindling numbers.
Judaism is believed to have begun as an organized religion approximately 2,000 years before the Common Era. That means, as the first monotheistic religion, it has been around for about 4,000 years. It has been just over 2,000 years since the beginnings of Christianity. Islam began in the seventh century C.E.
The list of tribes and empires that were either conquered or brought down by the original and subsequent Jewish population is a long one. The Old Testament cites the Canaanites and others such as the Philistines, followed later by the Roman Empire whom some historians believe was so weakened by its endless effort to subdue the Israelites that it was a pushover for the Germanic tribes that ultimately conquered it.
Christianity was, in its earliest years, a branch of Judaism, splitting off as the result of Paul’s interpretation of Jesus as the messiah and the attraction Christianity held for those who did not want to submit to the demanding laws of Judaism, i.e., circumcision and dietary rules. Islam is the invention of an Arab merchant named Muhammad who reinterpreted aspects of Judaism and Christianity fusing them to the Arab Bedouin culture, and then declaring himself as the last prophet. Initially, Islam was spread by the sword throughout North Africa and the Middle East. War or jihad is still its preferred method of proselytism.
All three of these religions claim Jerusalem as a holy city integral to their faith. Over the centuries all three have fought bloody battles to control the holy land. Thus, the greatest truism of the area is the way it has been the focus of warfare and, these days, the focus of a fanatical enmity among Muslims against both Jews and Christians. Muslims, whose memories of victories and defeats stretch back to their religion’s beginning, regard the latter as “crusaders”. It should be noted that Islam feels the same enmity toward all other religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism.
Thus, in the dawn of the 21st century, we have a true “clash of civilizations” and the newest version of Armageddon, the potential for a nuclear war unleashed by Iran, the seat of the modern Islamic Revolution. Slowly, even Europe has awakened to this threat. Ultimately, however, only the United States will be able thwart the mad dreams of the mullahs.
The study of history tells us a lot about the present and portends the future if we do not learn its lessons. Thus, one would benefit greatly from reading Dorothy Drummond’s book, published initially in 2000 and revised in 2004, prior to the death of Arafat and the stroke that struck down Ariel Sharon.
“Quo vadis” is the question Christianity asks; wither goest thou? The answer for Israel’s Jews for now seems to be behind large walls and fences to keep their people relatively safe from the Palestinians. However, it is the rest of the world that must answer the question, too.
While Iran, formerly Persia, is not technically part of the holy land, its avowed intention to “wipe it off the face of the map” suggests that, if the nations of the West fail to answer the question correctly, cities like Rome, the seat of Catholic Church, could be reduced to atomic ashes, Israel, and the United States may perish as well.
Alan Caruba writes a weekly commentary, “Warning Signs”, posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center, www.anxietycenter.com.
© Alan Caruba, 2006
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