Ten thousand ultra-orthodox Jews in New York descended on a stadium to discuss their worries about the internet and how they believe it is damaging their faith and way of life. A whole crowd of other Jews gathered outside to oppose the Ultra-Orthodox Jews inside. Those of us who stop to think about it consider anti-Semitism both today and its history wholly horrific. There are those of course who are so fanatical they don’t stop to think of it, in fact they don’t think at all. Why is it that all religions starting off as a unity will, with the passage of time, become fragmented and in many cases turn decidedly murderous? Catholic versus Protestant – a hundred different Protestant sects agreeing to disagree – Sufi versus Shia and other Muslim sects each with their own agenda, each being the one true faith, all of them at each other’s throats and, as far as I am concerned, all of them totally illusioned. The answer I suppose is that, Christian, Islam, Judaism or any other religious belief, none of it is down to God. From the very beginning it is all down to humans. Well, Christians and Muslims may be at loggerheads with each other but that does not apply to the Jews surely who, have suffered painful discrimination and a history of horror over the millennia. They must surely be united in both their religion and their race? Yes, you would think so, but evidently not. A book has recently been published, “On The Eve: The Jews of Europe before the Second World War” by Bernard Wasserstein. I quote from the Dominic Sandbrook revue in The Sunday Times – “Yet there is nothing rose-tinted about Wasserstein’s book. Unlike many writers, he does not romanticise the rural Jewish village of Eastern Europe, and he has some superb passages on the poverty, filth and sheer claustrophobia of much shtetl life…” but here comes the most interesting section… “And he is excellent on the bitter rivalries between different kinds of Jews. So-called Litvaks from modern Lithuania and Belarus were mocked by other Jews as cold and unemotional whilst the average Galitsyaner from southern Poland and western Ukraine was supposedly sly, crafty, and unreliable. Orthodox Jews had little time for Zionists ‘May the Lord rebuke you, O Satan, who choose Jerusalem!’ wrote one conservative rabbi. Above all western Jews looked down on their eastern brethren.”
“The Frankfurt Jew despises the Berlin Jew, the Berlin Jew despises the Viennese Jew, the Viennese Jew despises the Warsaw Jew,” observed the brilliant writer Joseph Roth. “Then there are Jews from all the way back in Galicia, upon whom, they all look down, and that’s where I come from, the lowest of the Jews.”
All this of course was before the horror of the Holocaust. I wonder how much might have changed since then if at all. Judging by the Ultra-Orthodox in the stadium and the placards wielded by the protesters outside maybe not so much. As they are God’s chosen people God really should take time out to knock their heads together but he’s either looking in the opposite direction or occupied with matters elsewhere and anyway, alas, no amount of head knocking will eradicate those age-old differences. Have you ever heard the expression you are your own worst enemy? It makes one think of Ogden Nash’s verse
How odd of God
To choose the Jews!
Those in the stadium despise those outside while those outside despise those inside. Interesting, fascinating, but sad that human beings have to behave this way.