|Man thought to be burning mezuzahs in New York|
In most of the civilized world, Jews recently commemorated the Holocaust in solemn ceremonies that remembered the millions of Jews deliberately murdered during World War II. In New York, at the same time, a Hispanic man went around burning Jewish religious markers that contain the prayer “You should love the Lord thy God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might.”
A few months earlier, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi called on Egyptians to “nurse our children and grandchildren on hatred for Jews …” Simultaneously, according to a separate report, “Anti-Jewish graffiti increasingly has appeared in Paris and Berlin, Madrid and Amsterdam, London and Rome, and synagogues have been vandalized or set ablaze in France, Greece, and Sweden.”
In addition, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland have banned kosher practices, a vital component of Jewish food rituals. In Germany, officials there have identified more than 10,000 violent neo-Nazis, a number that climbed about 5 percent from the previous survey two years earlier.
Anti-Semitism is obviously alive and well.
Whether actor Mel Gibson is ranting about Jews in a drunken tirade or that young man filmed destroying mezuzahs in New York, Jews continue to be targeted.
Worldwide, anti-Semitic attacks jumped 30 percent in 2012 compared with the previous year. That included a murderous school shooting in France and anti-Jewish political rhetoric in countries like Hungary and Greece.
Researchers at Tel Aviv University said the increase can be linked to the surge in right-wing parties in Europe, who also have attacked other minorities.
That’s true in this country, too, where fanatics are happily assaulting gays verbally and physically because they don’t fit into their circumscribed views of “normal.”
Such abuse has been part of Jewish history for 2,000 years.
A Stanford University study in the 1960s demonstrated the concrete link between the rise of Christianity and anti-Semitism. Once a Jewish sect, Christianity broke away around the end of the first century C.E. Fearful of being spied upon, Jewish leaders inserted a prayer that they knew was unacceptable to Jewish-Christians. That forced Christians to move away from the synagogue and create their own houses of worship.
|Modern view of Jesus|
It also guaranteed animosity.
As Christianity developed clout, its leaders faced a problem: although their religion venerated a crucified Jew, members of that faith had rejected the burgeoning belief in him. The solution was either to convert Jews or to ostracize them. Both techniques have been tried with limited success.
Hatred turned out to be the most-enduring method. Anti-Semitism, unknown prior to Christianity, became an integral part of the Roman Catholic Church’s teachings into the 1960s.
It was a weapon of mass destruction. In Spain, for example, Jews were evicted in 1492 when the Spaniards finally captured the rest of the country from Muslims. An estimated one-third of all Spanish Jews died as a result of the expulsion order. When Christopher Columbus sailed off on his voyage of discovery that same year, his three ships were manned by a largely Jewish crew, men trying desperately to find a haven from Spanish hatred.
A study of Spanish history showed how anti-Semitism became ingrained as a result of a fight between two brothers for the crown. One had a Jewish adviser; the other used that fact as a successful weapon to wrest the throne away.
Throughout Europe, Jews were limited to moneylending and tax collecting, two of the most onerous occupations. Naturally, the population detested them. At the same time, they were repeatedly gouged for money by kings and then forced from their homes when the debts grew too high.
The hatred culminated in German concentration camps where Nazis systematically killed people judged less than human. Jews were blamed for the German loss in World War I, for simultaneously creating communism, socialism and democracy.
Ironically, the 20th century was dominated by Jewish thinking: Albert Einstein in science; Sigmund Freund in psychology, and Karl Marx in politics.
People today again are looking for someone to blame for their problems and wind up targeting Jews, who supposedly have some control of world finances. The fact that Jews have suffered through the same downturn doesn’t seem to matter.
As one of the Tel Aviv researchers noted, “… the desire to harm Jews is deeply rooted among extremist Muslims and right-wingers…”
They want to find a convenient target to blame for their country’s problems and to boost their own status. Through anti-Semitism, they attack “outsiders,” people of different beliefs and culture.
That fire continues to burn unabated by logic or facts.
Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history. He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida. You can reach him at www.williamplazarus.net. He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion. His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers. He can also be followed on Twitter.
You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at http://www.udemy.com/comparative-religion-for-dummies/?promote=1