The Jews : Story of a People by Howard Fast
Howard Fast was a most brilliant author. I have read his novels that revolve around the history of Ancient Israel: My Glorious Brothers; Moses, Prince of Egypt and Agrippa's Daughter.
In this work , published in 1968, he puts his pen to the service of documenting the history of the Jewish Nation.
The result is compelling and fascinating, in the incredible style of Howard Fast. The first three chapters deal with his theory as to the origin of the Hebrew people, and cannot be said to be really history. It is simply theory - which largely departs from the Biblical narrative- without any real proof or substance. Yet it is an interesting theory nonetheless. He deals comprehensively with Israel at the time of Herod and Hillel, and the life of Yehoshuah Ben Yosef (Jesus) and the birth of Christianity, under the ideas of Saul of Tarsus (Paul). Fast writes at length about how the Church planted the seeds of hatred that lead to the centuries of anti-Semitic terror and bloodshed against the Jewish people in Europe. He documents the Diaspora of the Jews when most of them where forced out of their homeland of Eretz Yisrael (Land of Israel), by the Roman Empire, into the Mediterranean Lands the Balkans, Spain, Greece and Italy, and from there into Germany, France and England and then into Poland, Russia, the Baltic Lands, Belarus and the Ukraine.
The story of the Jews is a long and tragic tale of suffering and bloodshed of a people separated from their homeland for so many centuries and unable to determine their own future... Take this passage about the genocide visited upon the Jews in Mediaeval Germany by the Crusaders: " In Neuss, the Crusaders where drunk, and in the spirit of good fun they flung more than twenty women and a hundred children into the river, seeing how far two men could fling a screaming child. At Mors almost a thousand Jewish bodies where observed floating in the Rhine. At Alternah, the humane Archbishop Egbert attempted to defend the Jews and was beaten half to death. In Regensburg, the Jews where cut down in the streets. A Count Agthar likened it to rabbit hunting. A great pile of Jewish bodies was dragged into the main square, and crusaders amused themselves by beheading the dead. Over four thousand Jews where killed in the Rhine district alone."
But it also the story of their great contribution to all the lands in which they where dispersed, how they gave so much to the advancement of finance, commerce, medicine, navigation, astronomy, science, medicine and ideas.
And we also read in this volume the intriguing story of the Jews in other lands, like China and India, where thriving Jewish communities existed, as well as the large Jewish communities of the Middle East, which lived under the ebb and flow of alternating prosperity and persecution by their Muslim overlords.
There is a chapter of the Jews in America, and their remarkable contribution to that remarkable land.
Fast gives a fascinating account of the journey of Jewish history until the horrors of the most devastating blow of all, Hitler's holocaust.
There are troubling parallels between the systematic vilification of Jews before the Holocaust and the current vilification of the Jewish people and Israel. Suffice it to note the annual flood of anti-Israel resolutions at the UN; or the public opinion polls taken in Europe, which single out Israel as a danger to world peace; or the divestment campaigns being waged in the US against Israel; or the attempts to delegitimize Israel's very existence. The complicity of the Allies in WW II is mirrored by the support the PLO has been receiving from Europe, China and Russia to this very day.
If remembering Auschwitz should teach us anything, it is that we must all support Israel and the Jewish people against the vilification and the complicity we are witnessing, knowing where it inevitably leads.
As with the holocaust, the same kind of Jew-haters will again attempt to appease Arab rage with Jewish blood and land. We must stand up against it. Jews are still dying for only one reason; being a Jew.
Like a Phoenix out of the ashes of the Shoah (as the holocaust is known in Hebrew) the reborn Jewish State of Israel arose. The great hope of the Jewish Nation - the national anthem of Israel is Hatikvah - the Hope.
Fast points out that there was NEVER a time when there where not Jewish communities living in the Land of Israel, from the time of Moses until today: " In 1495 there where over two hundred Jewish families in Jerusalem, and there where functioning synagogues in half a hundred other spots in Palestine. In 1520, in Safed alone, there where two thousand Jewish families...By 1600, we must conclude that somewhere between 100 000 and 200 000 Jews where resident in Palestine."
The State of Israel embodies the hopes and lives on the Jewish Nation, with 5 million Jews today living in Israel. The destruction of Israel would mean another holocaust of Jews.
Hope writes in this book, what should ring out as an answer to Israel's loathsome critics: "The meaning of Israel is clear. The Jew has experienced too much death, and a portion of the Jewish people decided that they would die quietly no more. So it is: and no argument, no clever political talk, no logic and no parading of right and wrong can change this fact. The Jews returned to Israel because it was their ancient land. From 1810 onwards Jews in Palestine have been murdered by Arabs. The pious Jews of Safed , who would raise no hand in their defense , had been robbed and murdered and burned out again and again by Arabs-as the Jews in Jerusalem and Tiberias had been robbed and slain and burned out. Bedouin Arabs passed through Palestine at will-and robbed and killed Jews as a profitable thing. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries , Arab feudal lords in Palestine organized pogroms precisely as the Czar had organized pogroms. Palestine was a blighted and empty land until the Zionist Movement returned it to life..."