Tuesday, June 02, 2020

THE RETURN: Our Special Israel: What Makes It As Unique As It Is

Nadene Goldfoot
We're in the Time of Return
This is Joseph and some of his brothers, of the 12 Tribes of Israel
Judah (Jews) are here in Israel, probably some are of Benjamin,
and we know where the other 10 might be-places like
Afghanistan and Pakistan (Pashtuns) , and other places and they've been
entering already.  

Israel is the only Jewish country in the world out of the 195 countries here.  It is the 99th in population and size.  Today the population is 8,655,535 and the land is only 21,640 km sq.  Jews from every corner of the world have already arrived and have been living here, maybe from all 193 at least!    

          Their 2 national holidays are Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  

 It's borders will never be closed to Jews.  Jews happen to make up on 0.01% of the world population!  We have only about 6 million in Israel, 6 million in the USA and 2 million scattered throughout the world-mostly in Europe and S. Africa.  So let's look at Israel and see who lives here.
When I made aliyah in 1980, I took a cab from the airport to Haifa, where I would attend 10 months of classes at an absorption center in Hebrew and prepare to teach English to children who read from right to left. All new immigrants do this, either for a term of 3 months for the general public to 10 months like me, professionally a teacher.  

 In this city one would see the Bahai golden domed Shrine and gardens. 
                              I saw the Bahai Center in Haifa.   

Bahai is a religion that started in Iran in the 1800s.  It was an offshoot of Islam that became its own separate religion as it taught the unity of all religions and the need for world peace.  It's people were persecuted and declared an illegal religion in Iran.  The people were exiled. 
They have their new home in Haifa. Evidently people of this faith are citizens here.   
Haifa reminded me of Portland in that it's a port city, but on the sea.   I walked every day for an hour with my German shepherd and everyone wanted her. I had to get used to not having a car, but bought one later on that came over directly from Italy.  It was a red Fiat.  Such a life caused me to lose a lot of weight, which I needed to do.  Oh, life in Israel was very healthy!  
Here I am with my dog, Blintz
and my our red Fiat.  This is the building we live in
on the bottom floor.  I have a huge patio outside my door
where I can hang clothes.  

Druse live in Israel.  They are a large population who also broke away from Islam in the 900s.  Israel was the 1st state of having an autonomous religious community.  They even have their own religious courts who administer Druze religious law.  
Druze IDF

They felt that since they are full citizens, they should accept the responsibilities of other Jewish citizens as well and they serve willingly in the IDF.  We see many bravery in these soldiers who have fought in Israel's many wars with people who will not accept a different religion;  Judaism  in their midst.  I met a lady who was a Druse who was here as a speaker for Israel and she was wonderful!  She impressed me so much as a gung-ho Israeli and I'm sure she did a wonderful job as a speaker for Israel.  She and her people are the ones who know just how amazing Israel is compared to all the other countries in the Middle East as far as freedom of religion goes.  
In Jerusalem, which sits on a mountain top,  you see the Dome of a Mosque and the cross of a Christian church.  Somewhere down there is the Western Wall  where Jews pray.  This city dates back 3,000 years to King David.  The city had been walled, built about 45 years after Columbus discovered America.  

There are Christians living in Israel.  They are a small minority and are very diverse, most being Eastern Orthodox that belong to churches of Eastern Europe and the Middle East that split with Roman Catholicism in the Middle Ages of the 1100s and 1200s.  This group is joined with other Catholics, Protestants, Copts (from Egypt) and others.  Most are Arabs.  Lots of tourists come each year that are Christians and join them in Jerusalem, visiting shrine in Bethlehem and the tomb in the Church of the HOly Sepulcher.  

Arabs are the largest minority in Israel.  Most are Muslims who also enjoy freedom of religion as well as having control of their holy places, though Jordan does control the Temple Mount, especially the rules about anyone's prayers there.  And that's a long story dating back to Moshe Dayan.  Arabs are not required to serve in the IDF.  Israel does not expect them to fight their brothers.
They serve in the Knesset and have full citizenship; not treated like 2nd class citizens.  


Women serve in IDF
IDF female soldier

Unlike Islam, Israel's law of marriage is that a man can only have one wife at a time.  Child marriages are illegal.  Women have equal rights.  It's like the USA.

It's a Jewish country, making up about 80% of the population, but these Jews are from every corner of the world.  There are a few who are either secular or orthodox and from the West and most likely speak English and are from England, USA, Australia, etc.  Some are descendants of a small segment remaining whose ancestors were from Jerusalem and never left, being children of the Halutzim.  There are Holocaust survivors' descendants and descendants of Arab oppression of the Middle East.  Getting into religion, there are Orthodox Jewish sects that are strong Zionists and those who believe that a Jewish state can only be created by Divine intervention and refuse to recognize the government which is Iran's stand, and possibly still all of Israel's neighbors.  There are 2 off-beat Jewish groups, the Karaites and the Samaritans who separated from the main body of Judaism over a thousand years ago but still practice their own way of Judaism.
Kurds spoke an Aramaic dialect up to modern times.  It's similar
to the language of the Babylonian Talmud and of the Nestorian
Christians in Kurdistan.  in the late 1800s the Jewish community
was estimated to number 12,000 to 18,000 scattered in many villages and townlets and were merchants, peddlers, and craftsmen.  In the 1900s the numbers increased so those living in Persia numbered from 12,000 to 14,000.  

Kurds live in Israel.  Kurdistan was a high mountain region between Turkey, Iran and Iraq and in the times of Ezra some of these Jews wandered into land of Kurdistan.  After 1948, many of the Kurdish Jews from all over emigrated to Israel and settled in or near Jerusalem  

Joining with Israel in these days of returning finally are the Ethiopian Jews. 
They came first when I was living in Safed and saw them move in right across the street from my apartment.  They spent time in the hospital first, getting ready to join our community.  They called themselves the Beta Yisrael (House of Israel).  They became Jews, according to their own tradition, by descending from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.  A group of them put on an art show in our community center.   Pretty soon these shy, slender and beautiful people with their fine features were acting just like the Sabras (born in Israel), pushing their way into lines in the supermarket.  They knew the laws of the Torah literally, but had no knowledge of the Talmud and traditions that followed it as they were isolated from the rest of the world.   All this time, they have believed they were the only Jews left in the world.  Operation Solomon and Operation Moses brought over  Ethiopians.  Others have still been coming.  
Natan Sharansky on Right, the prisoner in Russia
that Sarah, the Hebrew teacher was helping He's
with his wife.  He'is an Israeli politician, human rights activist and author who, as a refusenik in the Soviet Union during the 1970s and 1980s, spent nine years in Soviet prisons.

Russian Jews entered Israel with me in 1980.  My Hebrew teacher had been writing to one who became very famous in Israel, but then he was in prison in Russia.  He was there for trying to learn Hebrew.  So now, teacher Sarah was sending letters that were helping him.  We English speakers in our Hebrew classes were joined by about 40 Russians who were also preparing to teach English !  We were all studying Hebrew so we could exist easily in Israel.  They learned much faster than I did!  Russians were used to studying languages and I was not.  They could not return to Russia and I could return to the USA with dual citizenship, so Israel helped them out financially.  All these years, churches and synagogues were closed in Russia, a land unfriendly to religion.  Communism is a political system that negates religion.  When the Soviet Union collapsed, the doors opened for the Jews.  By 1968 there were 4379 immigrants from the Soviet Union in Israel.   In 1969-following the Six Day War of 67, there were more than 6,000 Russians per month!  By the end of 1993, the number exceeded 470,000.  Most were highly trained professionals looking for freedom--and good job!  Before, most immigrants were impoverished, war refugees, poor and illiterate.  This was a switch!  

People of full or partial ethnic Russian ancestry number around 300,000 of the Israeli population from the immigrants from the Soviet Union and post-Soviet states, and the number of Russian passport holders living in Israel is in the hundreds of thousands.
Most ethnic Russian people in Israel have full Israeli citizenship and are involved in the country's economy on all levels.

I know  a Masai Jew who is the rabbi of his people as well as a lawyer in Israel.  He carries the Cohen gene, discovered in a DNA test.  He was serving in the IDF before he moved permanently to Israel with his family!  That's dedication for a cause.  

These immigrants had to have the shock of a lifetime for there were no jobs for all these people.  Whether they were doctors or opera singers, they had to accept jobs as street sweepers and garbage collectors.  Soon things improved.

  Probably all the men had to serve in the IDF.  I know my husband, a former air forceman in the USA, was turned down for having a rare medical problem, but another friend with a bad heart had to serve in the IDF.  This is a country where women are also expected to serve, too, for lack of enough men.   My husband and I did 3 days of training with M1 rifles for the Guard, and did that every month after we had moved to Tzfat (Safed).  Also, everyone gave blood at least once.  If you want blood, you have to have given blood.  You never know when you'll need it.  
Here in Jerusalem is where our morals stemmed from.  It's where the Knesset resides.  It's why there is freedom and acceptance of man's various religions.
This menorah with image from Jewish history stands outside the Knesset (Parliament) building in Jerusalem.  It's an ancient Jewish symbol, older than the star of David.

A Young Person's HIstory of Israel by David Bamberger
Letters From Israel by Nadene Goldfoot--telling of my 5 plus years in Israel as a teacher at jr high

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