Almost a Century of Conflict Resulting From the Effort to Establish Israel as a Jewish State
Since the Biblical Diaspora some twenty centuries ago, Jews have survived as a small minority repeatedly driven from one host community to the next, isolated from each because of endogenous marriage customs as well as perceived differences in dress, culture, and religious belief. By both choice and necessity, Jews have inhabited urban ghettos, interacting with others in such useful roles as doctors, merchants, jewelers, and moneylenders. Some have attained remarkable wealth and status for their services, most notably such powerful bankers as the Rothschilds since the beginning of the nineteenth century. Most others have endured far more modest circumstances as peddlers and small shopkeepers.
For much of its history, the Jewish community has depended on the gratitude of kings and autocratic governments that were subsidized by Jewish bankers, but now and again this unique reciprocity has aggravated relations with the rest of society, especially during periods of war and extreme poverty. The resulting persecution of Jews has sometimes led to severe repression, even massacres, for example during the 15th century in Spain, during the 17th century in Poland, and during the pogroms preceding World War I. The Holocaust imposed by Hitler during World War II involved the systematic extermination of six million Jews justified by the contradictory arguments that Jews were an inferior race and, on the other hand, that they were greedy and manipulative, having somehow profited from World War I as well as the inflation and two depressions that followed.
Since the turn of the twentieth century, assimilation between Jews and the non-Jewish European population seems to have both aggravated and mitigated the prejudice against Jews. Many gentiles have been grateful for the plenitude of Jewish contributions to modern civilization, but others have felt threatened and were therefore more hostile. There has also been a substantial trend toward secularization among the Jewish population, with Jews excelling in virtually every calling they entered–journalism, education, medicine, law, art, fiction, music, entertainment, etc. Most Jews have accepted modern science and the materialist perspective without abandoning Judaism, but others have taken the hitherto unthinkable step of emancipating themselves from all orthodox belief. In various fields of inquiry such figures as Freud, Einstein, Bohr, Durkheim, Mannheim, Boas, and Popper have made significant theoretical contributions unencumbered by religious conviction.
Here, then, is a brief chronology of what has happened to date in this extraordinary history of the Jewish people.
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