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An Israeli settler says Obama demands Palestine deal for Iran

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An Israeli settlement in the West Bank. (Photo: Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)

An Israeli settlement in the West Bank. (Photo: Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)

The bus left Jerusalem’s central bus station and made its way east through settlements. As dusk fell, we got deeper and deeper into the West Bank, stopping at hilltops. At one, a motorized security gate had to open, and a guard waved us through to a collection of caravans on loose cinderblock footings. The bus reached the end of the road and turned in a circle. In the back of the bus were eight quiet soldiers carrying M16s, most wearing yarmulkes. They all got out at the next stop, at a base on a mountainside, its walls painted colorfully with heraldic military icons and topped with barbed wire. The location was strategic. It overlooked two roads into Palestinian areas, marked by the large red signs that warn Israelis not to proceed because it is dangerous. I had a glimpse of bustling Palestinian life down one road, but our bus did not serve that community.

Then I felt nervous about getting off in the wrong place. The five chattering girls in the back row were yokels. None spoke English but when I said the settlement I was going to, they said we’d not yet got there. Never before had the colonial aspect of the Zionist project so strongly come across as on these dry precarious fearful hills.

I was visiting a settler I knew in a religious community 20 miles from Jerusalem, to answer the question: Had settlers ever had it so good? A journalist friend had posed the question to me. The peace process was keeping the pressure off, the settlers had power in the government and the army, and the settlements were growing rapidly.

My destination was like a small western town under a big dry sky. A couple of lights in open storefronts showed bleakly down the road, and the circle I’d been dropped in had a wall of wooden advertisements for local business, all in Hebrew, except for a seamstress’s sign in English.

My acquaintance came to get me in an old compact and brought me back to a big house on the mountainside. The interior was a variation of carpenter gothic: exposed rafters and stair stringers in knotty pine, a beige tile floor. The place lacked any tone. There was a newish stainless steel refrigerator but the house was absent the suburban ampleness the settler man could have had for his family if he’d stayed in America. The furniture was old. The children working on the sukkot hut in the back yard wore plain clothes. I didn’t see a TV. The man was a professional who had moved here so his children would have a meaningful Jewish life, in a very Jewish community. I’m not using his name out of respect for his privacy.

He said my journalist friend was wrong, it was an anxious time for settlers. Kerry really wants a deal. Obama wants a deal. Netanyahu was under huge pressure, because of linkage: the U.S. won’t do anything on Iran, which wants to destroy us, unless the Israelis give in on a Palestinian state. So there was a good chance of a handshake on the White House lawn, of settlers forced from their homes. The settler community was organizing against the fear. The national referendum on ceding land could stop a deal. (Ben Caspit at Al Monitor says the same thing about a deal: the settlers believe Obama and Netanyahu have agreed, Iran for Palestine.)

We sat on a balcony as night fell. He was big and schlumpfy and his shirt was open and he kept flopping his knit yarmulke back on top of his head.

He pointed out lights on the horizon and said that even secular Israelis were attached to this land. He has a liberal establishment friend, an official who grew up in a famous kibbutz in the Galilee– he drives into Judea and Samaria every year with his children, to remind them, this is what makes us Jews. The Machpelah in Hebron, Nablus where Abraham built an altar, the Herodion of King Herod, Jericho, the Jordan. This is the terrain of the Bible. We were here 4000 years ago. We have never left.

You say Machpelah with irony, he said to me, excluding me from the community; but, How do you think we got our name? This is Judea!

On the next road over, big dogs barked at one another, staking out territory under a lone streetlight. A kid streaked by on a bicycle. It was like lonely towns out west.

There was already a Palestinian state, the settler said, past that mountain where Moses died, on the Moab. Jordan. Palestinians should have citizenship in that state. Even Palestinians inside Israel should have citizenship in that state. You could not have two Palestinian states on the Jordan River. That was a death warrant for Israel.

Really he did not see why anything should change. Palestinian workers came into the settlements to build houses at better wages than they could get in the villages. Palestinians had moved into this area as the settlers developed it. Let’s build together, he declared. I want them to do well too. The Palestinians had had the opportunity to build a state under Oslo, but they hadn’t. Look at Gaza. Look– if they joined with him to build a common future, everyone would do well.

The only problem was their not having any political rights, he conceded. Of course that was a concern. It got a lot of attention from leftwingers– like yourself. But if you lived out here, what was wrong with the status quo? It had worked for decades. It was better than the alternative: the Arab dictatorships and civil wars. The Palestinians here accepted the status quo, most of them. Yes, they should have greater freedom of movement. But Israelis had to go through checkpoints too. It slowed down their lives too.

It got cool and we went inside and sat on the overstuffed lumpy furniture. His children came in from working the sukkot and had some of the bottled ice tea and paid me no mind. The famous Israeli informality.

What if this settlement ended up being in a Palestinian state? he asked. Well, if the Palestinians let him stay, he would stay. So long as he had equal rights as a minority.
I felt I had caught him out. “Why isn’t that a model for the whole of Israel and Palestine? Everyone has equal rights, minority or not.”

He shook his head confidently. The Jewish people need a state. We have demonstrated that, with out incredible achievements. This is the Jewish state. We have one sliver of land. There are 350 million Arabs around us and we are just 7 million.

His view is what you always get to in Israel: This is Jewish land. All the liberal talk is just a charade, a Mizrahi friend has said to me; to be Israeli is to be rightwing.

The settler spoke of Jewish predestination. Look at all the Nobel Prizes, he said. Mitt Romney was absolutely right when he spoke of Jews’ cultural and economic superiority. This is the most inventive, vital society anywhere. If you have an idea, you can find someone who can execute it. We are the most creative country in the world. We’re the only people to revive an ancient language. Really, it’s incredible.

Obama had tried to acknowledge the Israeli predestination in his way, in his Jerusalem speech last March.

while Jews achieved extraordinary success in many parts of the world, the dream of true freedom finally found its full expression in the Zionist idea — to be a free people in your homeland.

That sounded good, but the settler was unimpressed. Obama had only done it for his donors. The donors had rebelled when Obama took on Netanyahu in 2009. Obama didn’t like Israel and meant to make a show of breaking Netanyahu. But advisers in the White House had said, Are you out of your mind? And when Obama ran for reelection in 2012 he had promised the donors he would visit Israel.

Still, the place seemed bleak to me, absent elegance or joy. I said I thought he was a pioneer, but the settler said that was one of the myths of Israel that had fallen to the wayside after he made aliyah here a long time ago. People were out for themselves here like anywhere else.But yes: there was a lot of meaning in living here, in anchoring the Jewish presence in the Holy Land. In taking on the Iranians and other enemies of the west.

He became animated as he related the plot of an apocalyptic book he read, The Last Israelis. It’s not great literature, he said, but the story will grab you. An Israeli nuclear sub in the Persian Gulf learns of the destruction of Israel. The sub is a microcosm of Israeli society, with liberals, rightwingers and Arabs too. It has ten nukes that it can destroy Iran with, and the crew takes a vote and fires them only at nuclear facilities. Pinpointing them. So in their last act, the Israelis act ethically, targeting military installations. Showing the world this is what Israelis are like. We are moral people. Israelis will do anything for peace. We don’t what to kill anyone.

What a burden all this history and religion and meaning and existentialism is, I said. The settler agreed with me. A daughter of his had just spent three months in India, to “clean out her mind,” as the Hebrew expression goes. He too has to clean out his mind from time to time: he has to leave the country to remember what it is like to live in a place without all these primal issues.

It’s not an easy life here. He admitted his concern: not all Jews are committed as we are. They don’t have the resolve. I used to go to Gaza on business during the Gush Khatif days, he said, and I met Palestinians. They are determined to wait us out. They have resolve. I don’t know if the Jews do. All these Jews who are moving to the United States– His voice trailed off.

I thought of the Arabic word, Sumud, and said, The Palestinians have waited you out from the beginning. It could work.

He nodded, then stood up.

“Alright?” he said.

We shook hands but there was no ceremony. The children smiled goodbye.

I told him I could find my way back to the 11 o’clock bus to Jerusalem and walked back down the bench road along the mountainside. A man in a dark jacket was saying goodbye to his mother and starting a motorcycle. A store with a fluorescent light had a door open, selling soft drinks and chips.

I didn’t wait for the late bus but put out my thumb. The first vehicle that went by stopped and took me into Jerusalem. Three men in an oversized van. None spoke English. Again I had the impression of yokels, and thought, American Jews won’t be able to relate to these Israelis, and that cultural separation was functional: in time it would allow American Jews to witness civil war or uprising here with some indifference, to look on at the end of the Jewish state without feeling a stake in it.

They dropped me in a working class neighborhood at the edge of the city and I got a bus into town.

philweiss
About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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44 Responses

  1. David Doppler
    David Doppler
    September 18, 2013, 11:28 am

    Israeli yokels. Phil adds to our vocabulary – and our perspective – again. When you grow up in a small village in your own land, speaking your own language, something is missing from Phil’s world view. Could it be that the tension or dissonance created by being a minority with a strong, tribal, resilient culture, in an indifferent or hostile majority is the source of great energy? The longing for the Promised Land inherently different from being at home in your own land. Yokel is a condescending pejorative, reminiscent of goyishekopf. Perhaps a more charitable perspective would begin with a deeper respect for each individual. Perhaps being a yokel is another way of saying one is well grounded in the village where one grew up among one’s tribe, if, perhaps, not yet much exposed to different and competing cultures. A naif. You have to be careful what you wish for.

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      September 18, 2013, 12:18 pm

      I would think that the opinions of someone who wants to commit cultural genocide and crimes against humanity against millions of Palestinians by forcing them to become Jordanians, and the implications for those poor people if more of these settler criminals agree, far outweighs whether Phil insulted someone by calling them a yokel.

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      September 18, 2013, 2:39 pm

      yokel |ˈyōkəl|
      noun
      an uneducated and unsophisticated person from the countryside.
      ORIGIN early 19th cent.: perhaps figuratively from dialect yokel ‘green woodpecker.’

      Anybody been watching those reality tv shows about the Amish?

  2. dbroncos
    dbroncos
    September 18, 2013, 2:37 pm

    I thought the road to Jerusalem ran through Baghdad not Tehran. The Israelis keep changing the goal posts always with the idea that it’ll be American soldiers fighting, killing and dying to defend Zionism’s tragic utopia. Sadly enough our law makers seem eager to oblige if not for growing opposition among American voters who are starting to figure out what time it is.

  3. HRK
    HRK
    September 18, 2013, 3:47 pm

    The atmosphere you evoke in this article is very interesting. I’d like to hear more. . . .

  4. just
    just
    September 18, 2013, 3:59 pm

    Phil– You write so very well. It’s almost as if I was there… “He was big and schlumpfy and his shirt was open and he kept flopping his knit yarmulke back on top of his head.”

    and

    “Then I felt nervous about getting off in the wrong place. The five chattering girls in the back row were yokels. None spoke English but when I said the settlement I was going to, they said we’d not yet got there. Never before had the colonial aspect of the Zionist project so strongly come across as on these dry precarious fearful hills.”

    (the imagery is perfect!)

    I found your narrative hugely depressing indeed.

    • jon s
      jon s
      September 19, 2013, 4:53 am

      If I’m not mistaken, Schlumpfy was one of the Seven Dwarves.

      • amigo
        amigo
        September 19, 2013, 6:27 am

        “If I’m not mistaken, Schlumpfy was one of the Seven Dwarves.” jon,s

        It,s the seven “Dwarfs” , Dopey.

      • jon s
        jon s
        September 20, 2013, 12:46 am

        I stand corrected, Grumpy.

      • ziusudra
        ziusudra
        September 20, 2013, 6:37 am

        Greetings amigo,
        jon s is well within the mark.
        English Nouns is f for singular & v for plural
        concerning Middle English of Germanic origin.
        Dwarf: ME, Dweorh AS meaning stunted growth.
        Language is methodical not logical.
        A Gentleman spelled according to his own preogative
        in the 17thC. Phonetic, we not not.
        ziusudra

  5. James Canning
    James Canning
    September 18, 2013, 6:07 pm

    Jews can have a state. And do. Israel within 1967 borders.

  6. gingershot
    gingershot
    September 18, 2013, 8:35 pm

    great article – really conveys the flavor of the Israeli hillpeople

    ‘the settlers believe Obama and Netanyahu have agreed, Iran for Palestine’

    …dumb*** settlers

    Strategery-izing about the central role they play in universe, though it’s actually just the next Prime Minister of Israel’s snakeoil they threw-up

    This is like these Israeli hillbillies’ counterparts on the Cahulawassee River believing that Burt Reynolds is going to come back to do ‘Deliverance II’, and all the hill-billies are practicing their banjo playing and dreaming that this will be their entre to Hollywood and Beverly Hillbilly-level riches

    My my, aren’t they going to be disappointed when they DON’T get Iran and have to move (and get a job), anyway.

    Double Bummer for Israeli Hilltop-billies

  7. seafoid
    seafoid
    September 19, 2013, 12:40 am

    A very well written piece, Phil. Reminded me a bit of Frank Bascombe wandering around New Jersey. There is the potential for so much depth talking to Israelis when you are so familiar with el hasbara. The land is so beautiful as well and they have this “commitment”. But it needs incredible discipline over many decades. And the memes are threadbare.

    “This is the most inventive, vital society anywhere” speaks of isolation and ignorance .

    “That sounded good, but the settler was unimpressed. Obama had only done it for his donors. ”

    Those guys are never happy. It’s like a Jewish mother joke.

    “We were here 4000 years ago. We have never left”. Just popped out for milk and then suddenly 2 millennia had passed

    ” This is the Jewish state. We have one sliver of land. There are 350 million Arabs around us and we are just 7 million.”

    I wonder if this will be the Achilles heel in the end.

  8. seafoid
    seafoid
    September 19, 2013, 12:49 am

    “But yes: there was a lot of meaning in living here, in anchoring the Jewish presence in the Holy Land. In taking on the Iranians and other enemies of the west.”

    There must have been Byzantine tax officials living in the area in the late 6th century with a similar Weltanschauung in terms of the Byzantine empire. Taking on the Persians and other enemies of civilization. And 30 years later the Arabs swept in and it was khalaas. This notion that history is over is very dangerous. I’m sure the people in Constantinople thought they were exceptional and blessed by God etc.

  9. Marco
    Marco
    September 19, 2013, 2:01 am

    This is an outstanding essay Mr. Weiss. Yes, it’s not merely a blog post, but an exceptional piece of literature.

    However, I think it’s worth interrogating your own biases. You describe the settler as a yokel, however, would you report as sympathetically of a white racist yokel from West Virginia or Arkansas? Probably not.

    Is that because they’d be so much more amoral and aliberal, or because you’d have less culturally in common with them?

    This anonymous settler actually expresses a point of view as reactionary – quite literally – as a KKK member or Neo-Nazi. No exaggeration is needed.

  10. peter hindrup
    peter hindrup
    September 19, 2013, 3:03 am

    ‘not all Jews are committed as we are. They don’t have the resolve. I used to go to Gaza on business during the Gush Khatif days, he said, and I met Palestinians. They are determined to wait us out. They have resolve. I don’t know if the Jews do. All these Jews who are moving to the United States–’
    ‘ The Palestinians have waited you out from the beginning. It could work.’

    The Jews had never left —- they just managed to lose ‘their’ language, somewhere along the line —- lose your language? THE most dominant part of of what makes a tribe, a cohesive group, a society —- LOSE your language?

    Either they will be ‘waited out’, or finally tiring of them the Palestinians will drive them out. Deluded as you may be, 7 million opposed by some proportion of 350 million ‘friends’.

    The US is their anchor. when its people tire of supporting Israel with their taxes, when politically the US can no longer provide muscle, whichever is the sooner, Israel must negotiate if it is to have any sort of ‘survival’. On its history in the area, the Palestinians would have to be very forgiving to leave Israelis with anything.

    ‘The Palestinians have waited you out from the beginning. It could work.’

    • seafoid
      seafoid
      September 19, 2013, 5:42 am

      “The Jews had never left”

      But they weren’t there either. I guess they were ‘present absentees’, the same classification Israel uses to deny Palestinian refugees their pre 1948 property….

  11. jon s
    jon s
    September 19, 2013, 6:26 am

    Seafoid, ..”they weren’t there” -what does that mean? The Jews “never left” in the sense that even after Jewish sovereignty ended, the country was never empty of Jews, albeit as a minority.

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      September 19, 2013, 6:47 am

      “The Jews ‘never left’ in the sense that even after Jewish sovereignty ended, the country was never empty of Jews, albeit as a minority.”

      Interesting trivia but meaningless. The fact that some Jews were there does not justify Jews from all over the world descending on Palestine and stealing it from the majority of the people who lived in the land and ethnically cleansing them.

      • just
        just
        September 19, 2013, 7:14 am

        That’s it in a nutshell, Woody. And no amount of sugarcoating will ever change that truth or the may other truths that are constantly being undermined, and twisted by the hasbara brigade.

      • seafoid
        seafoid
        September 19, 2013, 8:24 am

        I reckon most of the descendants of the Jews of AD 70 or whenever are now Palestinian. They would have converted over time after the Arab takeover.

        Just like most of the the people of Turkey are descended from Byzantine Christians. Farmers just got on with things regardless of who was in charge.

        The Ashkenazim have zero genetic connection to Shangri la.

    • talknic
      talknic
      September 19, 2013, 7:21 am

      jon s “The Jews “never left” in the sense that even after Jewish sovereignty ended, the country was never empty of Jews, albeit as a minority”

      Oh … so there were other people there… a majority

    • seafoid
      seafoid
      September 19, 2013, 8:10 am

      Jon

      Jewish life was lived elsewhere. So you had a small rump in Palestine. So what ?
      You might as well say that Pitcairn island was central to England .

      Jewish culture made huge strides over 2 millennia. How many of the major developments happened in Palestine? Where was rabbinical Judaism developed ?
      Where did Hasidism evolve ?

      • jon s
        jon s
        September 19, 2013, 3:36 pm

        Seafoid,
        Your analogy with Pitcairn is totally off-base. The Jewish people continued to feel, and express , their connection to their historic homeland throughout those 2 millennia. That attachment to the Land of Israel was, and is, part of the Jewish faith. The fact that the Jews persisted in that attachment while living as a dispersed minority, is all the more impressive and significant.
        As to your question:
        “How many of the major developments happened in Palestine?”

        Let’s see what comes to mind:
        200 CE – redaction of the Mishna by Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi.
        4th-5th Centuries: the Jerusalem Talmud.
        10th Century: development of Hebrew vowel system that’s still in use today, by Rabbi Aaron ben Moshe ben Asher, in Tiberias.
        16th century: the Shulkhan Arukh, codification of Jewish law, by Rabbi Yossef Karo, in Safed.
        16th Century: foundations of Jewish mysticism: Rabbi Yitzhak Luria, also in Safed.
        17th Century: chief standard-bearer of the Sabbatean messianic movement is Natan Ha’azzati (“the Gazzaite”).
        And since you mentioned Hassidism: 1700: aliyah of Rabbi Yehuda Ha’Hassid and his followers.

        I’m not claiming that Israel was the one and only center of Jewish learning, far from it. But it wasn’t insignificant, either .

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        September 19, 2013, 4:06 pm

        “Your analogy with Pitcairn is totally off-base. The Jewish people continued to feel, and express , their connection to their historic homeland throughout those 2 millennia.”

        Assuming that an “historic homeland” is an actual thing (it’s not. The expression you’re looking for is: “The place my ancestors came from.”), they weren’t, by and large, doing that feeling and expressing from Palestine, as seafoid said.

        “That attachment to the Land of Israel was, and is, part of the Jewish faith. ”

        Great. And so long as it was merely a feeling about the land by those with that feeling, no harm, no foul. The problem was when they used that feeling to justify the ethnic cleansing, theft, murder and slow-motion genocide of the rightful owners of that land. Then that attachment led to a quite evil result.

        “The fact that the Jews persisted in that attachment while living as a dispersed minority, is all the more impressive and significant.”

        Not really. It was a religious tenet, incorporated into the texts of a religion. So long as that religion had adherents, it would be impressive and significant if it were absent.

      • seafoid
        seafoid
        September 20, 2013, 5:04 am

        It comes down to “they prayed for Jerusalem in their synagogues so it belonged to them all that time”

        And that is bilge.
        Judaism was lived elsewhere.

        It’s no wonder so many generations of rabbis were so against the realisation of the fantasy of the return. They understood the real world better than any Zionist does. Judaism was too fragile and look at the state of things now.

      • seafoid
        seafoid
        September 20, 2013, 5:51 am

        Let’s assume that Jerusalem was a real part of life in Jewish Poland in the 17th century.

        So the Hasids went to Jerusalem. How did they spread their new faith in the Sephardic lands? There must have been thousands of sephardi rabbis in Jerusalem at the time, mixing ideas, since Jerusalem was such a real part of Judaism at the time. They weren’t just mumbling some prayer. they were living it. Hasidism was a new departure

        I can’t find anything online about Moroccan Hasidism. What happened?

      • jon s
        jon s
        September 20, 2013, 7:00 am

        Seafoid, There’s a slight mix-up here, partly my fault. I’ll try to clear it up:
        You mentioned Hassidism , and because you mentioned the term, I recalled the aliyah of a rabbi known as R. Yehuda Ha’ Hassid and his followers in 1700.
        The name Ha’Hassid means “the pious”, and should not be confused with the Hassidic movement which was founded by the Baal Shem Tov a few decades later.

      • Obsidian
        Obsidian
        September 20, 2013, 8:40 am

        A number of the Ba’al Shem Tov’s closest friends and disciples in undertook the move between the years 1740-1781. The largest group of these Hasidic immigrants, numbering about three hundred and led by R. Menahem Mendel of Vitebsk arrived in Palestine in 1777.

        Opinions are divided regarding the motivation for the aliya of the disciples of the Ba’al Shem Tov. Some scholars have suggested that perhaps it was the hostility of the Mitnagdim in Lithuania which compelled them to flee; others have claimed that the Hasidim wanted to achieve sanctification and mystical elevation, or to set up a new center for the Hasidic movement in Israel. However, from a contemporary source recently discovered in an archive in St. Petersburg, leads us to conclude that this great Hasidic aliya was endowed with a messianic purpose.

        For a number of reasons, Jewish messianic activity in Palestine declined towards the end of the eighteenth century. The economic restrictions the Ottoman authorities and the local Muslim establishment imposed upon the Jews in Jerusalem, violent persecutions by the local Arab population, and bitter controversies within the Jewish leadership led to a severe deterioration of Jewish life in the land of Israel. A significant number of Jews left Palestine; those who remained suffered harsh poverty.

        So to answer Seafoid’s pointed question, Hasidic aliyah had a messianic purpose. They were not in Eretz Yisroel to proselytize.

      • seafoid
        seafoid
        September 20, 2013, 10:10 am

        I never said they were there to proselytize. They could have exchanged ideas. I just don’t believe that Jewish life was lived in Eretz HaTorture in the 2 millennia that preceded Zionism.

        There are teenagers in India now who spend all day watching American porn . It’s a mental preoccupation perhaps stronger than a weekly prayer.
        Doesn’t give them the right to take over the US.

      • jon s
        jon s
        September 20, 2013, 10:26 am

        After the Hassidic aliyah mentioned by Obsidian, came an aliyah of Mitnagdim, followers of the Vilna Gaon. They were not about to leave the Hassidim alone.

      • jon s
        jon s
        September 20, 2013, 10:37 am

        Seafoid,
        “Eretz HaTorture” – what’s that supposed to mean? I thought we were having a serious discussion, so why throw in a juvenile provocation?

        You “don’t believe that Jewish life…” It’s not a matter of belief, there’s a historical record. If you don’t believe the facts I presented in my comment above (the Mishna, etc…) you can check for yourself in any reliable history book or atlas or website.

    • ziusudra
      ziusudra
      September 20, 2013, 6:55 am

      Re.: jon s,
      ….. the Country was ne’er empty of Jews, albeit as a minority……..
      They were always a minority among others from 1200BC to 1948AD!
      …. Jewish sovreingty…….
      There was ne’er Jewish nor Sovreignty in Canaan/ Falesteena.
      They had a Kingom of Israel under the rule of of Egyptians & Hittites,
      later the Assyrians dusted that Kingdom away!
      They had a Kingdom of Judea under the rule of the Assyrians whom the
      Babylonians dusted away!
      5K return in 456BC ne’er again to form a Tribe or a Kingdom.
      They were so few in 200BC that they dropped Hebrew for Aramaic!
      ziusudra

  12. peter hindrup
    peter hindrup
    September 19, 2013, 9:02 am

    ‘Jewish culture made huge strides over 2 millennia. ‘

    During which they prayed that they might return?

    How is it then that they, their religious scholars ‘lost’ their language?
    The Roman Catholic church over the same period kept their Latin.

    ‘The Ashkenazim have zero genetic connection to Shangri la.’

    That ought to be blind obvious to everybody —- except when you are basing the morality on a land grab on it, of course!

    • ziusudra
      ziusudra
      September 20, 2013, 7:09 am

      Greetings Peter hindrup,
      …. their scholars lost their language……

      Not fair, Peter the language , like latin was kept alive in the liturgy.
      As i pointed out above, they were too few in number to keep Hebrew
      alive in 200BC.
      ….Ashkenazim……

      There are no Ashkenazi People.
      They called themselves Sephardi in Europe.
      It has erroneously come to mean Sephardi that lived
      in Germany in the 10thC. deamed such by the witless Germans.
      What would you call a Polish, Hungarian or Russian Jew?
      They were all oringinally Sephardi named from a biblical
      figure out of the chaptor of Obadaiah.
      Ashkenaz was also a biblical figure.
      They were called Mizrahi in the ME.
      They were called Magreb in Morocco.
      ziusudra
      PS There was a contingency of scottish soldiers in the 19th. C in Mexico,where every morning they would March thro’ singing a ditty where the last line was:
      ‘Where the green flowers Grow, the unwitting Mex’ called them Gringo!

    • Obsidian
      Obsidian
      September 20, 2013, 10:07 am

      Uhh….the Roman Catholic Church was all powerful for centuries and was free to choose any language they saw fit.

      Jews did attempt to return to Eretz Yisroel for centuries. Several mass ‘aliyahs’ were made to coincide with the Jews messianic beliefs.

      Those Jews who succeeded in making aliyah to Eretz Yisroel were met with persecution.

    • jon s
      jon s
      September 20, 2013, 12:03 pm

      peter hindrup, Religious scholars certainly didn’t “lose their language”. What are you talking about?

  13. talknic
    talknic
    September 20, 2013, 8:47 am

    @ peter ‘Jewish culture made huge strides over 2 millennia. ‘

    “During which they prayed that they might return?”

    During the majority of which they COULD HAVE RETURNED, but didn’t.

  14. peter hindrup
    peter hindrup
    September 20, 2013, 6:55 pm

    First off, thanks to Jon & ziusudra.

    ‘Eliezer Ben Yehuda (1858-1922), who was the first to make exclusive use of Hebrew in his home, and encouraged the use of Hebrew among others, as well as its use in schools.’

    I do not have to hand, as it was some time ago that I read that Eliezer Ben Yehuda reconstructed the Hebrew language. If the language exists, why would you reconstruct it?

    Some quick checking indicates that Hebrew was at least in some instances used in religious ceremony, but not as a spoken, ‘everyday ‘ language. That Hebrew was so limited that it required ‘work’ to make it a working language. Hence the ‘Modern Hebrew’, and the questioning as to if it ought be considered a ‘constructed language’.

    You have just added to my overlong reading list!

    • jon s
      jon s
      September 21, 2013, 10:48 am

      Peter,
      Hebrew was in use not only “in some instances”, but continuosly: in prayer, in study, in commentaries and responsa, throughout the Jewish world. It was also a means that enabled contact between disparate Jewish communities. The Mishnah is in Hebrew, the prayer books were in Hebrew, Rashi wrote his works in Hebrew.
      However, among the Ashkenazim, mainly in Eastern Europe, Yiddish evolved as a the language of the masses, for day-to-day needs. Among the Sefardim there was Ladino, and of course the Jews also used the local language, whrever they were.
      The advent of modern Jewish nationalism brought with it an interest in returning to Hebrew. Modern Hebrew literature appeared, and in that context Ben Yehuda made a significant contribution by putting together a new dictionary, and inventing new words and usages to answer modern needs. (for example : a word for “ice cream” or for “bomb” -both unknown in the ancient world.) Hebrew also answered the need for a common denominator among Jews from different communities.

      • eGuard
        eGuard
        September 21, 2013, 1:44 pm

        Hebrew was a dead language. Like latin.

  15. peter hindrup
    peter hindrup
    September 21, 2013, 8:05 pm

    Jon: Used as a liturgy, something meaningless to those chanting it, like Latin across the globe, seems probable. However a language that had to be ‘revived’, seems to be an unlikely language for scholarship — the ‘problem’ with language is that in expanding or creating new ideas, new realities, is finding the necessary words.
    the skill of (some) poets is that they manage to convey what some feel, but cannot verbalise.
    As kids learn without difficulty a song in a foreign language, and sing it happily without understanding what is actually being said — as we did with songs in Maori, though with a smidgin of understanding, and at least one in, I believe Italian, where we had not the faintest idea.
    In my early twenties I had a Swiss friend who spoke seven languages fluently, English not being one of them. He however won a speech contest in Wellington, NZ, in English.
    We used to argue about the meaning of a word, go to the dictionary and his definition would fit the first given, often obsolete.
    When I asked how, he told me that in their ‘village’ of about 5,000 people, t village language was — I no longer recall — but it was effectively Latin.
    This however did not affect the description of Latin as a ‘Dead Language’, as eGuard says.
    I thank you for your input. I will now write to Noam Chomsky and ask if he will be so kind — or ought that be generous — as to enlighten me.

  16. peter hindrup
    peter hindrup
    September 21, 2013, 8:10 pm

    something meaningless to those chanting it

    That is poorly put.

    something that those chanting it do not know what the words mean —- which of course does not make it ‘meaningless’ to those who believe the ritual.

  17. jon s
    jon s
    September 22, 2013, 7:31 am

    I don’t agree that Hebrew was dead. In general, things that are really, totally dead – can’t be revived succesfully.
    As I pointed out Hebrew was used not only in the liturgy, but also for study , in legal documents and in correspondence.
    Good luck in writing to Prof. Chomsky.

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