Genesis: Ideological Calendars and the Land of Israel

October 12, 2012 12:56 pm 9 comments

A map of biblical Israel.

Everyone is conditioned culturally to think in specific ways and to adopt specific timelines.

Christians think in terms of Before Christ and After Christ. Never mind how accurate that is or if there ever was such a point in time. The fact is that most of us live in a world where this Gregorian calendar is the common one. We Jews use it alongside our own, but prefer to talk about “the Common Era” (B for before, A for after) and we are now 2012 years after. Islam has its own calendar, the Hijri, going back to and named after Mohammad’s migration from Mecca to Medina. They are 1433 years into that one. Calendars don’t end there. The world has an Armenian, Assyrian, Bengali, Buddhist, Coptic, Hindu, Japanese, Thai, and even a Unix calendar, to mention only a few.

Since our religion is less personality based, our Jewish calendar chose to start with Creation, which at some stage the rabbis worked backwards to decide it happened 5772 years ago on Rosh Hashanah. This calendar emerged during the Talmudic era, some 1800 years ago. No one else agrees with us, either about which calendar to use or when creation actually took place, but agreeing with Jews is very much a minority pursuit, anyway! And we don’t even agree among ourselves, but it doesn’t matter, our calendar is our heritage and science has its own calendar as well.

Each of these calendars etches a mindset into the faithful that influences a lot more than what the date is! Much of Christianity thinks that anything before Christ was primitive and barbarian, and anything after is New and Enlightened. Islam believes that the history that counts started with Mohammad and the Koran. Claims about holy texts existing for a thousand years earlier and that Isaac was Abraham’s favorite son rather than Ishmael are simply wrong. The nasty, deceitful Jews fiddled the texts to suit themselves. This of course leads to the current mindset that there were no Jews or Israelites in the Land of Israel before Islam and therefore they cannot claim any right to their ancestral homeland.

I am bringing this up not in any way to support one political side or the other in the endless painful and explosive dispute over whether Israel should try to make peace with the Palestinians and compromise territorially to give them a state of their own. What happens in the Middle East is in the hands of Heaven, for I cannot see the Palestinians, supported by millions of Muslims, giving up their demands, nor the Jews of Israel upping and moving en masse to the USA. Any more than I can see the UN taking up the cause of Kurdish self-determination.

What interests me is why so few people seem to understand the historical claims of Jews to be in the Land of Israel in the first place. And why the Western mind, including Obama’s, seems to have been taken over, lock stock and barrel, by the absurd notion that Israel is only the product of European guilt over the Holocaust and had Hitler not arisen the Jews would have had no moral or political basis for being there altogether (except as tourists, perhaps). It is as if Balfour lived after World War II.

I can only explain this by turning to mindsets created by history. I do not want to link it to anti-Semitism, because the antis love to argue that Jews raise that issue whenever they are in a tight spot. To the Muslims, Dar El Islam is the territory that belongs to the Muslim religious world and good Muslims must try to repossess every inch of it. It was fixed by conquest. But it is argued that since this conquest took place in the seventh century it obviously trumps the conquest the Israelites made two thousand years before that at the expense of the poor Canaanites. (Does anyone still have any sympathy for them?) So what kind of conquest is more legitimate? Early conquests or late ones? Is last come first served?

It is not just religions that have subjective vision. Marx provided the Holy Text of the Left. History before him was just a turgid mess of class and religious oppression. His new religion of transnational economic and universal egalitarianism would sweep it all away. Jews, religious ones in particular, were the natural enemies of such pure Marxism. They stubbornly stuck to their religion. They symbolized the capitalist classes. They were rootless cosmopolitans always challenging the dogmas and doctrines of orthodox Marxism (hence the antagonism towards Trotsky as well as to Zionism).

The collapse of the old Soviet Union not only dealt a near deathblow to the Left, but it also revived the separatist nationalism the Soviets tried so hard to eradicate. Yugoslavia started to fracture. Europe now encourages separatism; Welsh, Scottish, Basque, Catalan, and ethnic minorities now fight for their right to separatism. And Palestinians are seen as another ethnic minority trying to free itself from an intruding colonial power.

Except that Israel was not colonial. It was there first, if you could free yourself from the artificial mindset of your ideological calendar. And the collapse of communism has meant that the Left has no center or cause to rally around anymore, except attacking capitalism and what it likes to call its running dogs–namely and once again, the Jews, the Israelis.

This is not polemic to justify the status quo. Nor is it intended to gloss over the mistakes and tragedies on both sides. It does explain the absurd alliance between religious fundamentalism and left-wing political correctness. It is not an argument against criticizing Israel. But it is an argument against trying to delegitimize it.

I have always been struck by the explanation of the great commentator, Rashi, writing in Europe a thousand years ago, for why the Torah begins with the Genesis narrative rather than laws. He said that it was so that if ever anyone challenges our right to our land we could argue that since God created the world, He could decide who goes where. It is not an argument that many would agree with perhaps, but it shows the challenge to our rights is a very ancient one.

Our calendar starts with Genesis as the simple physical act of creation, whenever it was. The world continues regardless. But intellectual fashions come and, eventually, go.

9 Comments

  • I WANT TO THANK JEREMY ROSEN AGAIN FOR AN ARTICLE WELL WRITTEN AND BALANCED.
    HE IS A CREDIT TO YOUR NEWSPAPER.
    PIM

  • The fault is beginning with the stage of Jews that are describing the debate as they were from the UN.
    This is the deadly track used by our politicians. If it is a debate then you are expected to be elastic and to pay for the peace more and more. Our stage is that our rights for this country is not any one except the fact that G-D gave us this country and there fore it is holy for us. Our policy should be that our country is from the Prate to the Nile as it is described in the Torah. This will be the only one reason for the Arab to look for peace because otherwise they have what to loose.
    Our leaders are making a great mistake saying that we have Historical rights. These Historical rights are not better than the Historical rights of the German tribes on Ukraine today. All the time we will not have religious leaders that may say this true we will loose. The secular leaders can not say it because they will be blamed to be full of Hypocrisies.

  • SPECIFIC TIMELINES ARE VERY NICE TO ORIENTATE OURSELVES ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED WHERE AND WHEN IN HISTORY.

    HISTORY WRITING BY ITSELF IS PROBLEMATIC,YOU NEED CONFORMATION BY AN OUTSIDE SOURCE WHO HAS NO REAL INTEREST IN YOUR HISTORY WRITING.

    JUDAISM HAS SEVERAL CONFORMATIONS THROUGH ARCHAEOLOGY.

    THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO OUTSIDE PROOF FOR THE EXISTENCE
    OF A JESUS CHRIST(Joshua ben Joseph)AT THAT PART OF THE TIMELINE.
    CHRISTIAN RELIGION HAS DONE THE JEWS ABSOLUTELY NO FAVOUR, NOT IN THE PAST AND NOT TODAY.

    ANCIENT GREEK CIVILIZATION DID US ALL A FEW FAVOURS
    BUT THE VATICAN LIKES TO KEEP THIS BURIED AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.
    PIM.

  • rodney allsworth

    if I may part quote- It does explain the absurd alliance between religious fundamentalism and left-wing political correctness. I find this revealing to those of us who believe the new testament of the bible, the reason is simple, the fundamentalist and left have taken over the bible believers pulpits with a reworked theology, this theology insists that man will finally develop a -4th reich, – 1000yr reign, or a millennium period of never ending peace on earth, the new testament actually tells us that Jesus Christ will return deal with the warring nations and he will reign for a thousand yrs. the 3rd reich was germanys war effort, the the current global UN world unity is an attempt to bring all nations under one law and religious system, all this to be achieved under such as the climate change ppoliticial movement-its global politics, nobody can deny global happenings or so they think./like thats gonna happen, and the humanists and secualists simply dont believe in god and therefore dont want god in the mix and want all humankind to believe that they are their own god, live any lifestyle you want and we will have no reason to fight each other, hmnn, the only other answer is the written biblical understanding that nothing is going to become a rality untill the lord JESES CHRIST RETURNS TO THIS SAD EARTH,sadly though, the author of this article wouldnt believe the biblical new testament even is actually relevant, and so the debate goes on-and on-and,get it.

    rod qld aust

    • Thank you for your comments but alas they are irrelevant to us Jews since for us the Bible is simply what you call the Old Testament. The Old Deal for us is far superior to any New Deal.
      Therefore nothing in the New Testament is any more relevant to us than the Koran or indeed Greek Mythology.
      Now if your Jesus Christ turned out to be Elijah we might have something to talk about.Either way were he here today he’d be wishing you Shabbat Shalom
      Jeremy

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