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Celebrating Eid al-Adha in Gaza

Israel/Palestine
on 25 Comments

Gaza’s people join Muslims worldwide in celebrating one of the most important dates in the Muslim calendar, Eid al-Adha or the Festival of Sacrifice which marks the end of the fifth pillar in Islam, Hajj.

On the morning of the Eid we woke up early to an exhilarating dawn breeze to finish the last moment preparations for the important day. I then went with my family to listen to a touching sermon followed by the special Eid prayer. Throngs of people who had gathered outside to conduct the prayers warmly shared greetings to each other.

An Atmosphere of Peace Prevails

As it is typically known, mutual greetings strengthen ties of brotherhood between people, and this is certainly true in Islam.

Eid is the time for unbounded forgiveness, it is a real opportunity for everyone to express his or her well wishes to their beloved ones, wishes of peace, happiness, and prosperity to one and all, to the world.

The author and a cousin during Eid al-Adha.

The author and a cousin during Eid al-Adha.

I was filled with joy when I accompanied my father for the first time to bring our sacrificial animal, it was a sheep this time.

In Islam, Muslims mark this Eid by sacrificing a goat in an honor to the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son, Ismael in a submission to Allah’s command. His sacrifice was accepted, and all Muslims wish their sacrifices are as well.

After getting it, we turned back home, then, to distribute it. The sacrifice should be distributed into three parts, the first third for the family, the second third of relatives, the third part is donated to the less fortunate people in a way to show our care of each other, and how much everyone is careful to include all people in these great days.

My eight-year old sister, Arwa, was delighted when she delivered some parts to some of our neighbors.  

How We Celebrate

People exchange visits in a very interesting manner, to the extent that you might see your relatives three separate times during the joyous four-day holiday.

We welcomed my maternal, and paternal uncles in our home in the first day of Eid. In the second day, the whole extended family gathered in my uncle’s house where we met to wish to each other a fruitful year ahead with Allah’s blessings.

Talking until late in the night, and meeting new people who came to visit my grandmother have been always been wonderful parts of these lovely occasions.

We seize the chance to hold a feast with everyone around, and it always a great time to make delicious dishes with my aunts and cousins.

I am the eldest granddaughter for my grandma, who now has up to 57 grandsons and granddaughters. For me, Eid is a golden opportunity to meet them all, including the new faces of the newly born ones.

We also make phone calls for distant relatives to wish them Happy Eid. It is an amazing way to extend the circle of celebrations.

People can pay respect to family members who passed away, and wish them heaven above.

A Day for Children

Yazzan and his sister celebrate the Eid with a mascot on a ride during a festival in Gaza. (Photo: Isra Saleh El-Namy)

Yazzan and his sister celebrate the Eid with a mascot on a ride during a festival in Gaza. (Photo: Isra Saleh El-Namy)

Children are the ones who seem to be the most excited with this holiday, as they enjoy a considerable break from school.

Parents in Gaza spare no expense to bring laughter to their kids. They often give their children new clothes which they can wear in front of their peers, even if the families experience financial problems. During the holiday, children can be found scattered in streets playing with each other, enjoying every moment. 

In an attempt to amuse children during Eid, many small festivals are arranged in the open green spaces to let children meet each other and play during the holiday. I visited a nearby festival and met Yazzan, 8, as he was waiting for his turn with his sister to get on a ride. The impeccably dressed boy was over the moon with his friends.

“I wanted to seize every moment to play to have fun with my friends. I want to compensate what I have missed during last year Eid,” Yazan said.

He complained that he was forced to stay home during Eid, fearing Israeli strike last year.

Children’s laughs and screams filled the park when they played hide-and-seek, a very popular game for children in Gaza, as it is with children everywhere.  

An Eid festival in Gaza. (Photo: Isra Saleh El-Namy)

An Eid festival in Gaza. (Photo: Isra Saleh El-Namy)

Gaza’s Peculiarity

What marks Eid celebrations in Gaza, is the visits to the martyrs’, and prisoners’ families.

In my small neighborhood, seven people were killed in the war last summer. Therefore, my dad and some neighbors paid a visit to these families, bringing with them gifts for the young kids, in an attempt to delight young kids in a cheerful atmosphere.

Samira Kondos, 67, is an old woman in my neighborhood whose son has been held prisoner inside Israeli jails for more than 12 years.

“Nothing could please me during these days as much as grabbing few moments to see my son, to touch him, to tell him how much do I miss him during such times,” Samira said while tears were pouring down her cheeks.

Her touching words prove to everyone that happiness in Gaza will not be fully completed without an utter liberation of our prisoners and our land!

According to Samira, Eid will be truly celebrated when we have our beloved ones around us and when we have our holy shrines freed.  Yet, what no one can deny is the fact that people in Gaza seize all possibilities to have fun, and to feel contented with what is accessible for them in the besieged Gaza.

About Isra Saleh El-Namy

Isra Saleh El-Namy is a journalist in Gaza.

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25 Responses

  1. jon s
    jon s
    September 29, 2015, 1:20 pm

    It’s good to see people of all faiths ,especially kids, celebrating their holidays in peace.

    At the same time the Jewish people are celebrating Sukkot:

    http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-holidays/sukkot

    • bryan
      bryan
      September 30, 2015, 3:27 am

      jon s – well said – it is indeed good to see people of all faiths celebrating their holidays in “peace”, or at least during a brief and temporary ceasefire within a century old conflict. Does it not lead you to reflect that since two peoples share so much in terms of festivals, religion, ancient myths, culture and even ethnicity (more than half of Israelis are Arabs) that it would also be wonderful to share the land of ancient Palestine? While we are talking about all faiths would it not also be wonderful if all Israelis (especially your fundamentalist fellow-American recent immigrants) could respect the holy places of Christians and Moslems? And speaking of peace and love would this holiday not be a wonderful occasion to condemn the ideas of madmen like Kahane, Gopstein, Goldstein (blessed be he not) and Ben-Ari and their followers, who are working so assiduously to drive Israeli ideology towards fascism, racism, misogynism, and bigotry, and to destroy any possibility of peace.

      • jon s
        jon s
        October 1, 2015, 6:58 am

        bryan,
        The two peoples indeed share some aspects of their beliefs and culture, but also differ in other significant aspects. As to your statement that over half of Israelis are Arabs: if you’re including the Mizrahi Jews , Jews from Muslim countries- they generally don’t regard themselves as such.
        So , yes, we desperately need to find the way to share the land, which is the homeland of both peoples. At this point in time, the only possible way is through two states, co-existing in peace. Perhaps the two states could evolve into a federation, or confederation, to deal with common issues. But in the present with so much distrust -and hatred- between the two sides, neither side is apt to give up the idea of a nation-state. Throwing the two peoples together into “one state” is not practical and could mean a bloodbath.
        If you’ve read my comments you should know that I oppose racists and fascists like the ones you mention, and of course I condemn any harm or disrespect towards holy places of all faths.
        I’d like to add that it’s a relief to respond to a commenter who writes seriously and thoughtfully and in a civil tone, and mentions “peace” as a goal.

      • eljay
        eljay
        October 1, 2015, 7:18 am

        || jon s: … I’d like to add that it’s a relief to respond to a commenter who writes seriously and thoughtfully and in a civil tone, and mentions “peace” as a goal. ||

        I want peace as a goal. Unlike you, however, I believe in a peace that’s based on and comprises justice, accountability and equality, and not a “peace” that:
        – absolves Israel of its past and on-going (war) crimes;
        – absolves Israel of its obligations under international law;
        – allows Israel keep as much as possible of what it has stolen; and
        – upholds Jewish supremacism in/and a religion-supremacist “Jewish State”.

      • YoniFalic
        YoniFalic
        October 1, 2015, 7:31 am

        jon s just repeats the Zionist lies and propaganda that justify genocide.

        The homeland of my family is the Ukraine. We have no connection to Palestine beyond moronically stupid religious fictions.

        There is no such thing as the Jewish people whatever Zionist racists may believe any more than there is such a thing as the Aryan people whatever German Nazi racists may have believed. (I have the impression that most Germans were smart enough to take German Nazi ideas of the Aryan people cum grano salis.)

        “Mizrahi” as a type of Jew is purely an artifact of Zionism.

        My family and I have no connection ethnically or religiously to “Mizrahi” Jews except that the Israeli state tried to indoctrinate me and some imported Arabs in school with the stupid ideas on which Zionism is based.

        Uri Ram points out in The Globalization of Israel that “Jew” in the meaning of “non-Arab” is purely a creation of the Israeli state.

        https://books.google.com/books?id=BXOMAQAAQBAJ&pg=PT227&lpg=PT227&dq=uri+ram+globalization+israel+jew+arab&source=bl&ots=uBEG5R__gI&sig=gKe7Hg0nc0S4dRETi9Wa1Aoglt4&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CEYQ6AEwB2oVChMI7umQ05KhyAIVA5yACh3uBA6m#v=onepage&q=uri%20ram%20globalization%20israel%20jew%20arab&f=false

        I got the idea of “imported Arab” from Jowan Safdi’s video.

      • eljay
        eljay
        October 1, 2015, 7:38 am

        || jon s: … we desperately need to find the way to share the land, which is the homeland of both peoples. … ||

        The geographic region of (Mandate) Palestine was the homeland of Palestinians. The geographic region of Partition-borders Israel is the homeland of Israelis (including refugees). What remains outside of Partition-borders Israel is the homeland of the people from that geographic region.

        Neither (Mandate) Palestine nor Partition-borders Israel nor what remains outside of Partition borders Israel was or is the (“historic”) homeland of every person in the world who:
        – is Jewish by virtue of being descended from someone who underwent a religious conversion to Judaism; or
        – who becomes Jewish by undergoing a religious conversion to Judaism.

      • talknic
        talknic
        October 1, 2015, 8:17 am

        @ jon s But in the present with so much distrust -and hatred- between the two sides, neither side is apt to give up the idea of a nation-state.”

        Go squawk at Netanyahu. For years the Palestinians have been willing to forgo 78% of their rightful territories for peace with Israel.

        There is no valid moral, ethical or legal reason for Israel to continue the occupation or to be building illegal settlements or to be illegally claiming any territories outside the State of Israel.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        October 1, 2015, 11:07 am

        “So , yes, we desperately need to find the way to share the land, which is the homeland of both peoples.”

        How on earth can the word “share” even ooze out of your mouth. All the Zionists have ever done is take the land!!! And now you are talking about “sharing”?
        You live, breathe and work hypocrisy. But most embarrassing of all, is your base premise that the world owes us something cause we are Jewish. We don’t owe anybody anything, of course, nope, we’ve got all kinds excuses, but they owe us!

    • catalan
      catalan
      October 1, 2015, 11:11 am

      “The homeland of my family is the Ukraine. We have no connection to Palestine beyond moronically stupid religious fictions. – ”
      Why are you so absorbed by the word “homeland”? Are people supposed to stay where they were born? Humans have always moved, travelled. That’s how we grow. What else is civilization but the transmission of knowledge among cultures? The locals never like the strangers. I am pretty sure that the American WASPs are not thrilled about some Eastern European coming here. I know how they feel about it but what of it? Home is where your friends are, the things you love. If you love Ukraine, fine. But you have no control over anyone else’s choices.
      As to religion, it’s likely the only thing that will survive all changes in human affairs. So disparage away.

      • YoniFalic
        YoniFalic
        October 1, 2015, 1:34 pm

        Because evil people that believe Jewish invaders in Palestine should go unpunished for crimes in Palestine use ridiculous concepts of Jewish homeland and Jewish people to justify Zionist atrocities, I directly address the completely false ideas of Jewish homeland and Jewish people.

        These concepts are used to justify subjecting Palestine and Palestinians to a particularly vicious form of 19th century genocidal colonialism, in which racist Europeans destroy or drive out the natives in order to move in European settlers and their lackeys.

        I have read the Zionist literature of the 1880s. After the start of the Zionist movement in that period, European Jews did not come to Palestine simply to live there, they came to steal and to murder.

        Someone that does not condemn such genocidal colonialism categorically is a vile disgusting person.

        There really is only one major difference between genocidal German Nazi ideas and genocidal Zionist ideas. The German Nazis applied their ideas in Europe while Zionists applied their ideas in the Middle East.

        After Auschwitz no one can justify founding a state in genocide. The State of Israel must be dismantled, and I will not return to the area until there is only one State of Palestine.

        As for the historical nonsense that is used to justify Zionist genocide, the people of the Kingdom of Judea never left the region. They converted to first to Christianity and then to Islam. You and I descend from convert populations whose only link to Palestine is purely fictional.

        It requires a serious historical discussion, but Rabbinic Judaism is a religion of Mesopotamia and not a religion of Palestine. Palestinian Judaism was centered around the Jerusalem Temple. That religion completely collapsed in the aftermath of the Bar Kochba Rebellion. Hence, the conversion to Christianity of the population of Judea, and the elimination of the Galilean Patriarchate ~425 CE. There simply were not enough Jews in the area to justify its continued existence.

        I have no doubt that my ancestors were Germanic, Slavic, and Turkic pagans. If you descend from the Spanish Jews of Bulgaria, then you descend from ancient Phoenician pagan converts. The Zionist writer Nahum Slouschz tried to publicize the origin of the Jewish Mediterranean communities at the beginning of the 20th century until he realized that his argument meant Zionists should focus on stealing Lebanon and not on stealing Palestine.

        If you really wish to honor the memory of the Salonikan Jews murdered by the German Nazis as I try to honor relatives murdered by the German Nazis in the Ukraine, you must categorically condemn that State of Israel, which is founded in exactly the same sort of genocide as was committed by the German Nazis. You must demand the dismantlement of the State of Israel as I do.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        October 1, 2015, 3:43 pm

        “Why are you so absorbed by the word “homeland”?”

        “Absorbed”? Catalitter, you aren’t getting near the enormity of the problem. “Obsessed” is more like it! Although why he expects anybody to succumb to his blather I’ll never know!!

  2. talknic
    talknic
    September 29, 2015, 2:39 pm

    @ jon s

    “It’s good to see people of all faiths ,especially kids, celebrating their holidays in peace”

    Uh? While Israel occupies non-Israeli territories war is being waged on Palestine and tomorrow we will likely read of Palestinians having been slaughtered and dispossessed today by Israel

    From the article

    “Nothing could please me during these days as much as grabbing few moments to see my son, to touch him, to tell him how much do I miss him during such times,” Samira said while tears were pouring down her cheeks.

    Her touching words prove to everyone that happiness in Gaza will not be fully completed without an utter liberation of our prisoners and our land!

    According to Samira, Eid will be truly celebrated when we have our beloved ones around us and when we have our holy shrines freed”

    “At the same time the Jewish people are celebrating Sukkot”

    Many of them in illegal settlements in Palestine, not in Israel.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      September 29, 2015, 5:46 pm

      Talknic, if hypocrisy is an oil well, “Jon s” is a gusher. A bottomless supply.

  3. ckg
    ckg
    September 29, 2015, 3:46 pm

    Children are the ones who seem to be the most excited with this holiday, as they enjoy a considerable break from school.

    During lunch break I stopped at Lebanese bakery in Dearborn as I frequently do and was at first puzzled by the presence of so many the children dining with their families. Then I remembered hearing about Eid. The children were all colorfully dressed and began a game of hide-and-seek inside the bakery, even hiding behind me. I lingered before heading back to the office.

  4. jon s
    jon s
    October 1, 2015, 5:15 pm

    YoniFalic,
    I’ll try to respond to both of your obnoxious comments.

    By seeking a peaceful resolution of the conflict, I’m justifying genocide. Really makes sense…

    If you feel that your homeland is Ukraine, fine. Why not go back there? Have a feeling that you may not be too welcome?

    Your assertion that there’s no Jewish people reminds me of people like Golda Meir and other extremists who denied that there’s a Palestinian people. Millions of Jews consider themselves as part of the Jewish people; millions of Palestinians consider themselves as part of the Palestinian people. That’s good enough for me.

    Your comparison to the Nazis is not worthy of a response. They carried out genocide, murdering 6 million of our people (a people who don’t exist according to you…). The Palestinian population is growing nicely.

    All nations and religions are based on legends, myths, and historical memories which may or may not be factually true. Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism , too. The British have King Arthur and Robin Hood. Jews are not unique in developing myths.

    Whether or not we are biologically descended from the Jews of ancient times is a fascinating topic, if you’re interested in notions of “racial purity” and “bloodlines”. In other words: if you’re a racist. For the rest of us: who cares? Throughout history people migrated, intermarried, converted and so on. The essential point is a people’s memory and identity.

    I used the term “Mizrahi ” which is widely used and considered PC. If I had written “Sefardi” you wouldn’t be able to claim that it’s an artifact of Zionism.

    I’m acquainted with Uri Ram, but I haven’t read that book so I won’t comment on it.

    The Zionist literature of the 1880’s: I would like to know where the literature expresses the desire to steal and murder. (The Zionist movement was founded in 1897, but there were precursors).

    The Jewish religion didn’t collapse after the Bar Kokhva revolt. After that revolt the Jews in the land of Israel produced the Mishnah, the Jerusalem Talmud, and more. The Jewish people adapted to the reality of not having a temple and other Jewish centers developed. Pretty admirable and remarkable, considering that “there’s no such thing as the Jewish people”.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      October 1, 2015, 5:39 pm

      Yoni, it might interest you to know that “Jon s” “Never deliberately lies on this blog” He says: “it’s a little promise I made to myself. Not that anybody would know, of course”

      It’s those little ‘accidents’ you have to watch out for.

    • bryan
      bryan
      October 2, 2015, 7:54 am

      @jon s “All nations and religions are based on legends, myths, and historical memories which may or may not be factually true. Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism , too. The British have King Arthur and Robin Hood. Jews are not unique in developing myths.”

      You rather spoil your recognition of the role of myths and legends by the first qualifier (“may or not be factually true”) and your second remark (“Jews are not unique in developing myths”). When the Jews developed their myths then they were merely selecting the facts they assembled, then? We can be as certain as it is possible to be with poorly documented and artefacted ancient events that most of the myths developed by the Jews (e.g. the process of creation(including man created first from dust, women created as an afterthought using spare ribs), the Noah’s Ark story; the tales of the Patriarchs (replete with anachronistic domesticated camels, an advanced spice trade and the presence of Philistines), the Exodus from Egypt, the forty years spent by a huge host in Sinai, the violent and rapid conquest of Canaan, the United Monarchy, the role of Jerusalem under David, the wisdom of Solomon, the enforced Roman exile, etc) are most definitely not factual or true in any sense.

      I have no objection to a little embroidery in aid of the tourist industry (e.g. Nottingham’s exploitation of the Robin Hood legend, Jerusalem’s exploitation of the City of David story). Nor do I object to obvious falsity being used symbolically within the personal observance of religion (e.g. a covenant with God being a metaphor for a relationship, rather than an encapsulation of a conversation where God apparently promised the land of Palestine in return for the sacrifice of men’s foreskins – what wise and rational God could possible demand such stupidity? whereas I could believe that some ancient superstitious people might believe the gods (Yahweh had his Asherah at that time) would favour them if they made some small personal sacrifice in their devotion) What I do object to is when such obvious falsity becomes erecting into the rationale for acts of brutal injustice (e.g. God gave us this land so we must take it from its centuries-long occupants, or we were told by God to slaughter the Amelekites and he also wants us to wipe out their descendants). In such a context your statement “may be factually true” is objectionable.

      I also find it difficult to accept constant references to “the Jewish people”. Certainly there are Jewish people and their are perhaps also Jewish peoples (though many Jews class their peoplehood or nationality as British, American, French, Iranian and their Jewishness is purely religious or cultural. Similarly there is no Christian people, Moslem people or Buddhist people, nor even a Zionist people (although Zionism is a very narrow subset of supposedly “Jewish” values. This constant adulation of “the Jewish people” seems merely an attempt to kidnap, in pursuit of the Zionist dream, very diverse people, often born on different continents, some religious, some not, some observant of ancient customs. others not, some extremely progressive, some extremely authoritarian, some who have made aliyah, some determined never to, some speaking, Persian, some French, some English, some Hebrew, all on the basis of some similarities and huge differences, in history, culture, background, etc. We don’t refer to “the African people” nor to we refer to black Americans as members of “the African people” despite their partially shared history and ancestry and even in some cases sense of group identity.

      Let me do my best to accommodate your concept of “the Jewish people”. My objection to the term may be based on my preconception that “people” is an ethnic descriptor. See “A people is a plurality of persons considered as a whole, as is the case with an ethnic group or nation” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People). OK so there is a sense in which “people” might signify a non-ethnic group, or non-nation – perhaps something as nebulous as an identity, a set of sympathies, or even a gang – perhaps a bit like becoming a hippy, a Green, a Freemason or a philanthropist. And I can find some support for this idea. The BBC has this to say on the subject of converting to Judaism (http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/judaism/beliefs/conversion.shtml) “Becoming a Jew is not just a religious change: the convert not only accepts the Jewish faith, but becomes a member of the Jewish People and embraces Jewish culture and history…. A person who converts to Judaism becomes a Jew in every sense of the word, and is just as Jewish as someone born into Judaism.” OK that makes sense – more than a religion and less than a nationality, requiring the convert to lead an observant Jewish life (whatever that is) and undergo circumcision. Ok its a lifestyle thing, which anyone can do, in any part of the world, providing they can persuade the religious authorities of their worthiness. That makes sense, though it fails to persuade me of the need for a Jewish state, at the expense of the Palestinians.

      • jon s
        jon s
        October 4, 2015, 5:30 pm

        Bryan,
        For the most part I don’t read the Bible for historical accuracy. I read it –and other Jewish texts – for the great stories, for the fantastic cast of characters, for the human insights, for the moral dilemmas, for the quality of the prose and the poetry.

        For example, the story of the Exodus from Egypt, for which there’s no real historical or archaeological evidence. Yet it’s a great story, a nation of slaves emerging from bondage to freedom, an inspiration for oppressed people for centuries. That’s why so many Jews, including non-orthodox, conduct Passover seders and retell the story every year.
        Millions of Jews regard themselves as part of the Jewish people and seek to preserve our unique identity. So that’s another reason for maintaining certain traditions and rituals such as kosher food or Bible and Talmud study or the Passover seder and much more . In many cases it’s a matter of belonging more than believing. All this is done voluntarily , and , speaking for myself, it’s usually enjoyable. Nobody is “kidnapped”.
        You assert that there’s no “Christian people ” or “Muslim people”. Think of this: you can’t be a “Christian atheist ‘ or a “Muslim atheist”. There are no such terms or categories. On the other hand , there are Jewish atheists, plenty of them. That’s because Christianity and Islam are religions and Judaism is not only a religion.
        I also object to using the Bible or other texts to justify present-day brutality and injustice. I prefer to make use of the passages that talk about peace and social justice and equality.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        October 4, 2015, 7:42 pm

        “I also object to using the Bible or other texts to justify present-day brutality and injustice. I prefer to make use of the passages that talk about peace and social justice and equality. – See more at:”

        Yes, “Jon s” that’s very true, you do “prefer to prefer to make use of the passages that talk about peace and social justice and equality” “to justify present-day brutality and injustice.”
        In fact, you probably consider yourself an expert at it.

        And you “never lie deliberately on this blog” “It’s a little promise” you made to yourself. “Not that anybody would ever know”.

        How the hell do you plan to get your credibility back “Jon s”?

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        October 5, 2015, 1:16 am

        “Millions of Jews regard themselves as part of the Jewish people and seek to preserve our unique identity. ”

        And what’s the point of that? Does “preserving unique identity” feed the hungry, or heal the sick? Does it make your cat obedient, or get you a discount at the liquor store, or stop your hair from falling out?

        What good has this “identity” stuff ever done anyone?

      • bryan
        bryan
        October 5, 2015, 8:19 am

        I agree, Jon, that “Christian atheist” is an apparent oxymoron (like “liberal Zionist”) but you would be surprised how many English people would describe themselves as “Church of England”, but do not believe in God, never pray, never enter a church, never read the bible (all hall-marks of Atheism) and the nearest they get to Christianity, apart from self-defining themselves as C of E, is to be given a Christian name (forename) by their parents, and perhaps an inscribed cross on their gravestones by their children. They may perhaps also sing “God Save the Queen” on national occasions without either believing that God saves or that the divinity has chosen the hereditary monarch to rule over society, which of course it hasn’t and she doesn’t.

        So why when they lead completely secular and non-observant lives do they self-identify as Christian? Probably for exactly the same reason as do secular and non-observant Moslems (admittedly a minority generally confined to more prosperous and westernized urban areas,) and as do the larger proportion of secular and non-observant Israeli Jews. They live in states that often self-define themselves as religious, they have been told stories from ancient religious books, they have national flags that include religious symbols, and they have national holidays that coincide with religious festivals. They have Christmas trees and Easter eggs, just like their pagan forefathers. They use everyday language replete with religious metaphors.

        So I am totally unconvinced that Judaism is more than a religion, but Christianity and Islam are not. All three are indisputably also cultures. None of the three are races or nations, since then it would be as oxymoronic as “Christian atheist” to refer to “American Jews”, “British Jews”, “Moroccan Jews”, “Kurdish Jews”, “Iranian Jews” etc., etc., as if they were sub-races, or members of a single race who were purely coincidentally American or British or Kurdish or Iranian.

        I will admit that many Jews are far more vehement in asserting the strength of their Jewish identity than are their equivalents in “Christian” and even “Islamic” societies, but that’s not a matter of DNA but of history and culture. Jewish community leaders and religious leaders (often the same people) have frequently emphasized chosenness, specialness, separateness, and the favour bestowed upon them by a tribal God of Israel, and for this reason, like the Roma and the ethnic Chinese in Southeast Asia have incurred hostility, which has reinforced that separateness and social solidarity. But Christian groups, (e.g. Puritans, Calvinists and especially the settlers in America and South Africa, have also emphasized separateness and chosenness.

        However in large parts of the West, the Enlightenment, science and education have undermined the hold of religion, leaving many indifferent. And with the collapse of Communism and Imperialism, no secular “religion” (apart from football and consumerism) emerged to replace the influence of the church. In contrast, just as Jews were increasingly integrating, adopting purely secular lifestyles and out-marrying, a secular religion (Zionism) emerged to reinforce the identity they were appearing to lose and appeared to receive some sort of vindication from the horrific events of the 1930s and 1940s. But that commitment to Zionism was not something that spontaneously and independently emerged. It had to be, as it still is, (though with declining success among those who are younger, better educated and more internet-savvy) inculcated, propagandized and policed by lobbyists, censors and the punishment of dissent. Hence my reference to “kidnapping”. Hence the absurdity of referring to “the Jewish people” when what we mean is a social, cultural and political identity.

      • YoniFalic
        YoniFalic
        October 5, 2015, 10:41 am

        One must understand Polish history to comprehend the nonsense that @jon s. is spewing.

        Poland had an estate system as did pre-revolutionary France and Czarist Russia. The Polish estate system was more religious than the Czarist estate system. Religious Jews were members of the 2nd estate but without title. Upon conversion to Catholicism a Jew became a noble of the lowest rank and not a peasant or a bourgeois.

        Most Jews belonged to the Yiddish-speaking ethnic group. Some Jews were ethnic Tatars.

        As Jews become secular, they created the fiction of the secular or ethnic Jew to maintain the fiction of elite status superior to ethnic Polish bourgeoisie or peasantry.

        In reality a secular or ethnic Jew was just a secular or ethnic Yiddish-speaker or Tatar and was 90% of the way into assimilating into the ethnic Polish population.

        Because in Poland all Yiddish-speakers were Jewish and practically all Jews were Yiddish speakers, it was easy to confuse ethnicity with religious identity.

        In the Czarist Empire where there were far more non-Yiddish Jews, the concept of a single Jewish people was impossible. Еврей only referred to Yiddish Jews and their descendants.

        Birobidzhan was only meant for Yiddish Jews. Modern Jewish communities belong to many different ethnic groups, none of whom descend from Greco-Roman Judeans, who are the ancestors of modern Palestinians.

  5. jon s
    jon s
    October 5, 2015, 4:59 pm

    bryan,
    ‘So I am totally unconvinced that Judaism is more than a religion…” – With all respect, it’s not your call. I think that people can self-define, can decide whether or not they are a nation. If millions of Jews consider themselves a people, like millions of Palestinians consider themselves a people- it’s good enough for me.

    It’s undeniable that Jews ” emphasized chosenness, specialness, separateness”. Throughout history Jews sought the right to be different. Then you write: “for this reason, like the Roma and the ethnic Chinese in Southeast Asia have incurred hostility” . I agree with you, but we should be careful not to slide into blaming the victims.

    In your last paragraph you mention the Jews ” increasingly integrating, adopting purely secular lifestyles and out-marrying”… That’s indeed what was happening in Western Europe, but one of the results of that process was the emergence of modern Anti-Semitism, based on racist ideology. Zionism was one of the responses to what was seen by some as the failure of Emancipation. If , despite our efforts to integrate, European society still rejects us , then what we need is a national movement and national home in our historic homeland.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      October 5, 2015, 6:23 pm

      “Jon s” nothing in that comment made any sense. None

      “then what we need is a national movement and national home in our historic homeland.”

      You might as well go back to recycling your old comments. That makes “historic homeland No. 30”

      “the Jews ” increasingly integrating, adopting purely secular lifestyles and out-marrying”… That’s indeed what was happening in Western Europe, but one of the results of that process was the emergence of modern Anti-Semitism, based on racist ideology.” (Jon s in italics.)

      Gee, what went wrong in the US? Should be the most anti-semitic of all if that’s what causes it.

    • bryan
      bryan
      October 6, 2015, 5:01 am

      You are so wrong Jon. “If millions of Jews consider themselves a people, like millions of Palestinians consider themselves a people- it’s good enough for me.” Millions of Palestinians consider themselves a nation and since they first voiced those aspirations during the British Mandate they claimed independence and statehood for the entire population of the land irrespective of whether they were Moslem, Christian, Jewish, Armenian, Druze or whatever. If millions of Israelis consider themselves a nation then of course they are a nation, though most progressive people would hope that you might be able to advance beyond the concept of a Jewish Israeli nation, but those Jews who remain outside of Israel belong to many different nations, and your absurd claim that they belong to a Jewish nation is dangerously anti-Semitic (which I suggest makes you a better Zionist than it does a Jew).

      Let’s look at the ridiculous claim advanced by Zionism for the nationhood of Jews including those anywhere in the Diaspora: (1) other people don’t like us – thus the LGTB community is as much a nation?; If people start liking you, as they have done increasingly since WWII, does that stop you being a nation? (2) All religious Jews and some cultural Jews have an emotional attachment to Jerusalem – fine, so do many Christians (especially that very strange breed of American Evangelical pro-Zionist Christians) and very many Levantine Moslems; (3) Ancestors who shared our religion once lived in the land of Palestine – so it is our homeland – no on two points (a) there was a massive Exodus of Jewish people from Palestine long before the Roman Conquest. These peoples made their homes in Yemen, Egypt, Tripoli, Cyprus, Mesopotamia, Turkey, Greece etc. Even in ancient times Jewish people had many many homelands, though they still retained some emotional attachments to Jerusalem and some even made pilgrimages or sent alms back. (b) There was a massive wave of conversion to Judaism in Roman times (and sometimes much later as in Khazaria) that created massive Jewish communities within the lands where their ancestors had always lived – in Spain, North Africa, Italy, Greece, the Balkans, the Causasus – in fact throughout the heartlands of the Roman Empire. (4) we must redeem the land of Israel by deeply settling it – which was done by bringing a hotchpotch of ethnicities to Palestine to replace the natives who had been driven from the land. People came from India, Ethiopia, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Yemen, and even Peru – some with long-standing links to Jewish religion and culture, but many with none. The Russians were notorious for being economic migrants, eager to escape the rigours of life under the Soviet and post-Soviet regimes, and now form the basis of neo-Nazi gangs in Israel desecrating synagogues and grave yards (like Patrol 36 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrol_36). The Peruvians are even stranger: ninety Indians from 15 different families were converted by visiting Rabbis, Hebraized their names, and made aliyah, and shortly after an induction course became Arab-haters. One of them was interviewed and said “I want to defend the country and if there is no choice, I will kill Arabs. But I am sure that Jews kill Arabs only for self-defence and justice, but Arabs do it because they like to kill.” (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/aug/07/israel1)

      So to conclude – it is quite correct to refer to the Jewish identity (a complex mix of religion and culture). It is perfectly acceptable to refer to the Israeli people, even the Israeli nation, and perhaps even the Israeli Jewish people (though that is a terrible slight to the almost a quarter of the population who are non-Jewish, and to those countless others who would prefer to self-identify as Israeli rather than Jews, and deeply undermines the concept of the only democracy in the Middle East). But it is however deeply insulting to other Jews to refer to “the Jewish people” when most non-Israeli Jews consider their religion to be one of universal values not nationality, and consider that they are living in their homelands, and not Jews waiting to make Aliyah or Jews in exile. Your concept of “the Jewish people” is as disreputable as its predecessor, “the Aryan people”.

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