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May 19, 1989 - Image 2

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-05-19

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PURELY COMMENTARY

The Diaspora And The Galut As Our Degradation

PHILIP SLOMOVITZ

Editor Emeritus

A

front page New York Times
story from Kuwait (March 22),
bylined Allan Cowell, was
headlined: "The Palestinians in
Diaspora: Vision Fades But Won't Die."
Diaspora is not even used in quota-
tion marks here. It appears at the outset
as the kind of Arab possession, not even
as a legacy.
There was resentment in some
Jewish quarters over Arab resort to the
very term Diaspora. One New York
Times reader wrote a protest: others ex-
pressed it.
It is as in the case of the term
Holocaust. It is now applied in many
quarters to anything and everything
calamitous. The sufferers from the very
mention of Holocaust would have it
limited to the Nazi barbarities.
What needs to be understood is that
the lexicon is uncontrollable. Never-
theless, the proper definitions are vital.
In the American Heritage Dic-
tionary we read:
Diaspora — The aggregate of
Jews or Jewish communities
outside of Palestine. The body of
Jews living dispersed among
the gentiles after the Babylo-
nian captivity. In the New Testa-
ment, the body of Christians liv-
ing outside of Palestine. A
dispersion, as of any originally
homegeneous people. (Greek)
"dispersion" (Deuteronomy
28:25) from diaspeirein to
disperse to scatter.
The New Columbia Encyclopedia
gives the following definition:
Diaspora — Term used today
to denote the Jewish com-
munities living outside the Holy
Land. It was originally used to
designate the dispersal of the
Jews at the time of the destruc-
tion of the Temple (586 B.C.) and
the forced exile to Babylonia.

During this period there began
to develop certain ideas and in-
stitutions that were to form the
foundations of Jewish life in ex-
ile after the second dispersion
(A.D. 135) — monotheism, the
synagogue, personal accoun-
tability for a righteous life, the
hope of a return to the Holy
Land, and so on.
The Cowell Kuwait report is a con-
firmation of Arab scheming to
perpetuate their refugees as a weapon
against Israel, always to point to their
existence as proof of their contention
that Israel is their enemy.
There is the marked contrast bet-
ween Israel and the Arab nations. The
latter deny residence to fellow Arabs
they force into the refugee designation.
Israel has a welcome for Jews under all
circumstances. Close to a million Jews
have been forced out of Arab lands and
they found a welcome in Israel. The
Jews forced out of Moslem countries
were robbed of their possessions. Many
of them had ancestors who lived in the
lands out of which they were exiled
much longer than their Arab neighbors.
Another contrast is the Arab aim
now to borrow the term diaspora and to
create it as an instrument in their bat-
tle against Israel. Jews desire to end
that humiliation. For Jews, Diaspora is
galut, exile, and the aim is its rejection.

The Diaspora
Under Scrutiny
Diaspora has reached a serious
testing stage. The mounting challenges
affecting Israel have become equally op-
pressive concerns for the Jewish com-
munities in progressive countries in the
world. The extent of support for Israel
from the latter is studied in the sense
of duty to a beleaguered kehilla of
fellow Jews.
Therefore the emerging interest in
the role of the Diaspora, how to relate
to the numerous elements who make it
a Jewish fellowship, whether the com-
mitment is total in every respect,

religious as well as secular, and
whether a differing of views as well as
commitments is permissible as well as
respectful.
'Ib reach decisions on the many
developing relationships, it is necessary
to admit to a meaning of Diaspora, its
role in history, its multiplicity of
cultural and linguistic components and
their differing ideals.
Perhaps the most impressive and
most revealing Jewish resort to it is the

The Arab aim is to
borrow the term as an
instrument in their battle
against Israel.

common appellation to tragic occur-
rences of the Yiddishism: "Men iz in
Golles." "We are in the Galut."
Whenever there was difficulty con-
fronting anti-Semitism, when prejudice
was difficult to overcome, it was often
"men'z in Golles."
Therefore the understable treat-
ment of it was to escape from it and not
to embrace it.
The escaping from it as a
calamitous designation is apparent in
the Jewish Concepts of Rabbi Philip
Birnbaum. He has definitions for galut
and among them are the following
designations he gives to Diaspora as
galut:

EXILE

71 1

:i

Galut (exile) has the connota-
tion of expulsion, as in the case
of the Babylonian captivity,
which lasted from the destruc-
tion of the First Temple in 586
before the common era to the
reestablishment of the Judean
Commonwealth in 516, the year
of the Temple's rebuilding,
namely: 70 years. The second,
Roman Exile has been the main
cause in the extension of the
Diaspora or dispersion of the

Jewish people in the past nine-
teen centuries.
The name galut also denotes
banishment to a city of refuge
for involuntary manslaughter.
In a case of manslaughter, galut
was both a punishment and a
protection against blood
revenge. By fleeing into one of
the refugee cities, a manslayer,
pursued by a blood avenges was
protected against the ancient
law of life for life. In addition to
the six cities of refuge, the forty-
two Levitical cities served as a
protection of the unintentional
homicide.
Galut has come to mean the
abnormal life of the Jewish
minority in the lands of disper-
sion. In the words of Hayyim
Greenberg: "Where ever Jews
live as a minority . . . is galut."
Moses ibn Ezra, one of the
leading Hebrew poets of the
Spanish period (1060-1138),
describes galut as "a form of im-
prisonment . . . the refugees are
like plants without soil or
water." The conventional con-
notation of galut, as applied to
dispersed Jewish people, is that
of degradation and misery.
Rabbi Samson Raphael
Hirsch writes: "Israel's entire
Galut history is one vast altar,
upon which it sacrificed all that
men desire and love for the sake
of acknowledging God and the
Torah ... I would grieve if Israel
understood itself so little . . .
that it would welcome eman-
cipation as an end of the galut."
In 1906, Solomon Schechter
wrote: "The term galut ex-
presses the despair and
helplessness felt in the presence
of a great tragedy . . . It is a
tragedy to see a great ancient
people, distinguished for its
loyalty to its religion . . . losing
Continued on Page 42

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4

4

Tourism As Commitment In Israel History

E

yen when the Israel oranges,
the Jaffa product grown by the
early Jewish settlers, was the
chief product in the economy of the
Zionist pioneers, tourism was already
a major means of income. The

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
(US PS 275-520) is published every
Friday with additional supplements the
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of August and the second week of
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Southfield, Michigan.

Second class postage paid at
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mailing offices.

Postmaster: Send changes to:
DETROIT JEWISH NEWS, 20300 Civic
Center Drive, Suite 240, Southfield,
Michigan 48076

$26 per year
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Vol. XCV No. 12

2

FRIDAY, MAY 19, 1989

May 19, 1989

pilgrimages were in the main the in-
spiration between the kibutzim and far-
ming communities and the Jews
"michutz la-Aretz" — out the ancient
homeland.
There was a sad interruption in
tourism and now we have a return to
the original years when hundreds of
thousands made trips to Israel as corn-
mitments to fellow Jews who are mak-
ing the Land of Israel the joy of their
lives.
The encouraging factors now are
the family group and mostly the youth
who are pilgrims again. Many among
the latter are mere children. Especial-
ly noteworthy are the hundreds who are
now enjoying the status of scholarship
winners. In this community two
synagogues earn recognition as scholar-
ships sponsors — Temple Beth El and
Congregation Beth Achim, and others
are pursuing such a role.
In Zionist ranks, scholarship

allotments are being assigned more
noticeably every year by the Zionist
organization of America, Detroit
District. Some of its winners have pur-
sued graduate studies in Israel, and a
few have gone there on aliyah. It is a
meritorious accomplishment.
Aliyah will always be the chief fac-
tor in the continuing redemption.
Tourist as pilgrim is vital in the corn-
mitment in world Jewry as peoplehood.
The emphasis is in urging potential set-
tlers, the Russian Jews who acquire
visas, to migrate to Israel, and others
to strive for Halutzinut. On a large
scale tourism is an urgency. That is why
the World Zionist Organization and
associated groups are treating tourist
information most respectfully.
Tourist guides have been published
for many years in various fashions. Now
Zionist concern is being drawn to a
special guide and text as means of en-
couraging the tourists.

Most tourist guides are general in
treatment. The current one, endorsed
by the World Zionist Organization, has
the character of a textbook. It makes an
appeal for daily study of Israel's status
and a call to learning as means of en-
couraging tourism.
That's the point: that just as Israel
provides means for study of history and
the great libertarian cause, so also is
the character of a properly researched
tourist guide.

Therefore this recommendation of
the Israel Travel Guide. It has value for
synagogue and other groups for the
pilgrimages to Israrel. The youth
especially must be encouraged to make
the preparation for it a course of study
of Israel and related Jewish history.
That's how tourism, which is
already a Jewish commitment vis-a-vis
Israel, msut be made a continuation of
the legacy of pilgrimage. ❑



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