When home life was very different
How extensive was the dispersal of the Jewish people?
It is worth taking a breath and having a glimpse at what a terrible time Jews had during these times and beyond. There are two major factors about the Galut that make it totally unique. Firstly, are the amazing distances to which Jews were dispersed and the contributions they made to the environment where they found themselves. Secondly, is the hatred they found in virtually every community.
To illustrate these facts, let's take a whistle-stop tour through time and place:
Central Asia - Heathen Khazars converted to Judaism in 700.
Isfahan (Persia) - Jews forbidden to build houses as high as Muslim neighbours.
Capua (Italy) - A Jew was the director of the mint 1000.
Bulgaria - Jewish slave trading with Christians in 1096.
Peking (China) - Small Jewish trading community here by 1200.
Exeter (England) - Synod forbids Jews to hold public office 1281.
Toledo (Spain) - 12,000 Jews massacred by a mob 1355.
Strasbourg (France) - No Jew allowed in city between 1388-1767.
Goa (India) - Over 100 Jews burned by inquisition.
Moscow (Russia) - Jewish court physician killed for failing to cure nobleman 1490.
Cracow (Poland) - Jews forced into ghetto 1494.
Heidelberg (Germany) - Jew helped finance Austrian wars against Turkey 1680.
Buenos Aires (Argentina) - Over 4000 Jews living in the city 1754.
Green Bay (USA) - Jew opens trading post with Indians 1794.
Leipzig (Germany) - Jews in Prussian Army against Napoleon 1813.
St Petersburg (Russia) - Burning and banning of Jewish books 1837.
Meshed (Persia) - All Jews forcibly converted to Islam 1838.
Suez (Egypt) - Jew loans money to Britain to buy Suez Canal 1876.
Ekron (Palestine) - Bought by German Jew for South Russian Jews 1884.
Baku (Turkey) - 30,000 'Mountain Jews' with own language 1900.
Recife (Brazil) - 1000 Jews establish a colony 1904.
Good and bad, but mostly bad. The Galut was certainly thorough in its scope and severity. We can see distinct Jewish communities all over the world at different times. Mostly they are on the move, particularly in places - tragically - where their presence had been an offence to the "Christian" church. Expelled from England, France, Spain, Germany and Portugal at various times and always living in a climate of fear and uncertainty, it surely wasn't a life fitting for a kingdom of priests. There will be more about this life in the next few articles.
Then, against all odds, expectations and human reason, it began to reverse itself. Jews, who had been wandering the nations for centuries, began to return home to the Promised Land. What started as a trickle became a torrent, leading to the formation of the Nation of Israel in 1948. There was no historical precedent for this; it was something new. God was doing something amazing, yet Bible believers should not be surprised. He spoke of it enough times well in advance in His Scriptures.
In order to appreciate the effect of the Galut we will concentrate on a microcosm of the whole experience, with a geographical snapshot of the Jewish experience in just one place, London, to see what we can learn.
The crowning of Richard the Lionheart at Westminster was a time of great rejoicing for the people, but not all of them. The Jews of the country had only been around since 1066, when they came over from France with William the Conqueror, as bankers and financial consultants. But they were always under suspicion, an attitude hardly discouraged by the Church and this situation came to a head at the coronation. The Jews arrived at Westminster bearing gifts but were refused entry and pelted by mobs, fuelled by rumours that the King wanted them exterminated. This resulted in riots, resulting in the death of thirty Jews and the burning of many Jewish homes. This act was to be repeated all over the country, in places such as York, where Jews committed suicide rather than being killed by a blood-thirsty mob. Their crime? Just being Jews.
More of this story next week ...
(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book Outcast Nation)
A Lib Dem candidate who was due to stand in the upcoming election...