A concise defense
Cherry-picking Torah is a hobby of fundamentalist Christians, but Israel is not America's magical lucky charm. Rather, Israel is a festering injustice that only incubates fanaticism and terrorism. On the assumption that truth will set you free, consider this alternative to the voodoo exegesis that excuses seven decades of brutal colonial occupation in Palestine.
What scant archaeological evidence exists suggests ancient Israelites were just one of many tribes in Canaan. Their particular regional deity was Yahweh. And they were hardly monotheistic -- fertility goddesses were routinely incorporated into their idols and religious practices.
It must have worked. Stories of bloody smiting and conquest are a lot sexier, but Israelites eventually emerged as the dominant tribe through plain old fertility -- assimilation and population growth.
Of course, dominance only lasted as long as they were ignored. Whenever regional superpowers showed up, Jewish kingdoms quickly collapsed. Aristocrats were killed or taken away as hostages. When these exiles returned, they discovered left-behind peasants had "moved on up" -- and that's when Torah's creation myths were discovered in the nick of time to reassert the old pecking order. The aristocracy and hereditary priesthood were back in town, large and in charge. Uppity peasants were shuffled back to their fields of labor.
Funny thing about creation myths. Like Charlton Heston's exodus from Egypt. There's absolutely no archaeological evidence to back any of it up. It could have just as easily happened along the western coasts of Yemen and Arabia.
By the time an itinerant rabbi from Nazareth wandered onto the scene, more Jews were living outside of Palestine than in it. In other words, the infamous Diaspora had already happened. The "Holy" land, and especially Jerusalem, had already faded in importance. Only a few nationalistic zealots clung to the fantasy of an independent Jerusalem.
Apocalyptic preachery popularized the notion that the Roman Empire completely emptied Palestine in 70 A.D., leaving it desolate for the next thousand years. Modern historians revisiting logistical requirements for wholesale ethnic cleansing have concluded that theory is ludicrous. Major cities like Jerusalem were indeed devastated, but rural villages and farmlands were not.
Which means that today's Palestinians are direct descendants of those same Jews and pagans and pilgrims and assorted mystics who lived in Palestine while Jesus was among them. A few clung to their Judaism, but most became Christians and, later, Muslims.
Early Zionist thinkers were well aware of this. Yitzhak Ben Zvi, who became president of Israel, and David Ben Gurion, its first prime minister, both stated (long before 1948) that the peasants of Palestine were descendants of the inhabitants of ancient Judea.
So maybe Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are right after all. And maybe Jeanine Pirro really is a dangerous idiot. Read Gary Burge's book, "Jesus and the Land: The New Testament Challenge to 'Holy Land' Theology." But consider yourselves warned -- the bedrock of your fundamentalism is an illusion. It can turn to quicksand when exposed to truth.
Hot SpringsEditorial on 04/13/2019
Print Headline: Saturday's Letter to the Editor