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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Purim and the World's oldest hatred

Today is Purim here in Jerusalem and in other cities that have been 'surrounded by walls since the time of Joshua the son of Nun' (everyplace else in the world it was yesterday). Jeff Jacoby reminds us that the Purim miracle was necessitated by the World's oldest hatred - a hatred of which Chas Freeman (see next post down) is just the latest manifestation (Hat Tip: NY Nana).
There was Jew-hatred before there was Christianity or Islam, before Nazism or Communism, before Zionism or the Middle East conflict. This week Jews celebrate the festival of Purim, gathering in synagogues to read the biblical book of Esther. Set in ancient Persia, it tells of Haman, a powerful royal adviser who is insulted when the Jewish sage Mordechai refuses to bow down to him. Haman resolves to wipe out the empire's Jews and makes the case for genocide in an appeal to the king:

"There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among ... all the provinces of your kingdom, and their laws are different from those of other peoples, and the king's laws they do not keep, so it is of no benefit for the king to tolerate them. If it please the king, let it be written that they be destroyed." After winning royal assent, Haman makes plans "to annihilate, to kill and destroy all the Jews, the young and the elderly, children and women, in one day . . . and to take their property for plunder."

What drives such bloodlust? Haman's indictment accuses the Jews of lacking national loyalty, of insinuating themselves throughout the empire, of flouting the king's law. But the Jews of Persia had done nothing to justify Haman's murderous anti-Semitism -- just as Jews in later ages did nothing that justified their persecution under the Church or Islam, or their expulsion from so many lands in Europe and the Middle East, or their repression at the hands of Russian czars and Soviet commissars, or their slaughter by Nazi Germany. When the president of Iran today calls for the extirpation of the Jewish state, when a leader of Hamas vows to kill Jewish children around the world, when firebombs are hurled at synagogues in London and Paris and Chicago, it is not because Jews deserve to be victimized.

Some Jews are no saints, but the paranoid frenzy that is anti-Semitism is not explained by what Jews do, but by what they are. The Jewish people are the object of anti-Semitism, not its cause. That is why the haters' rationales can be so wildly inconsistent and their agendas so contradictory. What, after all, do those who vilify Jews as greedy bankers have in common with those who revile them as seditious Bolsheviks? Nothing, save an irrational obsession with Jews.

At one point in the book of Esther, Haman lets the mask slip. He boasts to his friends and family of "the glory of his riches, and the great number of his sons, and everything in which the king had promoted him and elevated him." Still, he seethes with rage and frustration: "Yet all this is worthless to me so long as I see Mordechai the Jew sitting at the king's gate." That is the unforgivable offense: "Mordechai the Jew" refuses to blend in, to abandon his values, to be just like everyone else. He goes on sitting there -- undigested, unassimilated, and for that reason unbearable.

Of course Haman had his ostensible reasons for targeting Jews. So did Hitler and Arafat; so does Ahmadinejad. Sometimes the anti-Semite focuses on the Jew's religion, sometimes on his laws and lifestyle, sometimes on his national identity or his professional achievements. Ultimately, however, it is the Jew's Jewishness, and the call to higher standards that it represents, that the anti-Semite cannot abide.
Read the whole thing. And a Freilichen (Happy) Purim to all.


At 9:25 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Its the Jew in being different - and choosing to remain different - from the surrounding society that incites anti-Semitism. If the Jew disappeared, anti-Semitism would vanish along with him. Since antiquity, people have been resentful of the Jew and his message - especially the message that rejected everything other cultures valued. That's why the world oldest hatred keeps persisting because the Jew will never accept the world on the terms defined by his enemies. Which has been evident from the time of Esther to our own day.

Happy Purim, every one!

At 7:06 PM, Blogger Lois Koenig said...

Chag Purim, Carl, to you, Mrs.Carl and the family!

Thank you for the hat tip. It seems that there are multiple Hamans who yearn to get us....yes, it is the oldest hatred, and somehow it is still acceptable world-wide. There are, relatively speaking, so few of us, but little has changed, and the Jewish homeland, Israel, is the target....so essy to go after, as it shines like a beacon to remind the world that we are still here, and aren't going away.

At 12:32 AM, Blogger José F.Garcia Lloret said...

Happy Purim to every body !

At 3:48 AM, Blogger Findalis said...

I do hope your Purim was fun and enjoyable.

I have been wondering if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is of Haman's bloodline. Or is his hatred of us Jews is just something that is natural in Iranians.

At 12:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Findalis, Hamman may have been a Persian minister but it was his Amalekite roots that gave him the evilness to try to annihilate the Jews.


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