Because you were strangers in the land of Egypt

For centuries, Jews have watched, helplessly, their synagogues burned to the ground.

Now, with state power, comes this:

In the clearest indication of the growing dangers threatening Al-Aqsa Mosque, in an opinion piece published on Saturday, Haaretz discussed a group of rabbis who met to discuss the scheme for the establishment of the Third Temple on the ruins of the mosque. The newspaper published a photograph of a number of rabbis and engineers studying a map of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

In a piece written by Professor Ronnie Ellenblum entitled “Bells are ringing for the ultra-Orthodox and Secular” [hebrew], the paper discussed the future of Al-Aqsa Mosque which Jews refer to as the Temple Mount.

Although the paper did not identify the rabbis who appeared in the picture, one of them has been identified as Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, president of the Temple Institute, a religious authority that is considered the most enthusiastic about destroying Al-Aqsa Mosque and establishing a temple on its ruins.

The research also involved Rabbi Yehuda Etzion, who was responsible for implementing the Hebron University massacre which left 15 students dead or wounded, and was also responsible for implementing three assassination attempts against elected mayors in the West Bank, one of which injured the then Mayor of Nablus Bassam Shakaa, leaving him permanently disabled.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had pledged to the king of Jordan not to take any steps that would change the status quo at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Miri Regev, MK for the Likud party led by Netanyahu, announced that she will not allow the continuation of the status quo Al-Aqsa, stressing that the next Knesset will issue a number of laws that will promote Jewish sovereignty over it.

Israeli Channel 10 quoted Regev saying on Thursday that the consecration of Jewish sovereignty in Al-Aqsa Mosque is the most important embodiment of the political, religious and cultural sovereignty of “the Jewish people on their land”.

The channel noted that this view is supported by the ministers of economy and housing, Naftali Bennett and Uri Ariel, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee Ze’ev Elkin, the head of the coalition bloc in parliament, Danny Levin.

I don’t suppose, as a corrective, that Cynthia Ozick would be willing to reissue this:

Four hundred years of bondage in Egypt, rendered as metaphoric memory, can be spoken in a moment; in a single sentence. What this sentence is, we know; we have built every idea of moral civilization on it. It is a sentence that conceivably sums up at the start every revelation that came afterward….”The stranger that sojourneth with you shall be unto you as the home-born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”




  1. s. wallerstein December 22, 2014 at 1:39 pm | #

    Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Jews, now that they have power, behave exactly like any other oppressor, including the Pharaohs of old.

  2. J. Otto Pohl December 22, 2014 at 1:53 pm | #

    The analogy doesn’t really work, however, because the Palestinians are not strangers to Palestine. They are the indigenous population and as such they are very different from the concept of immigrant and diaspora communities that have characterized most of Jewish history. This is actually another area where the South African analogy holds up well. Both the Israelis and Afrikaners considered themselves the real indigenous population of the lands they colonized despite the existence of people already there. The indigenity of both Jews in Palestine and Boers in Africa was supposedly granted by God since the Natives were gentiles/heathens undeserving of that status.

    • Corey Robin December 22, 2014 at 2:16 pm | #

      Of course. I think the more general principle is not who’s an immigrant versus who’s indigenous, it’s who’s oppressed versus who is not, who’s in power versus who is not.

      • J. Otto Pohl December 22, 2014 at 2:43 pm | #

        True and both indigenous and immigrant groups can be oppressed. But, the history of for instance the Jewish diaspora and anti-Semitism in Europe and the colonial displacement of indigenous populations have different, but related dynamics driving this oppression. Although in some other cases such as the Volga Germans (immigrant) and Crimean Tatars (indigenous) in the USSR the historical similarities are quite close. I think the important thing here is that oppression and power here are context related. The Afrikaners were oppressed by the British during the Boer War, but were oppressors of the indigenous African population both before and after. Jews were oppressed in Europe, but this did not prevent some of them from oppressing the Palestinians. It is the projection of the victimization of the Jewish diaspora upon the State of Israel that I find frustrating. The Palestinians are not oppressing Jewish Israelis and their armed resistance is in no way comparable to the Holocaust.

    • s. wallerstein December 22, 2014 at 2:46 pm | #

      J. Otto Pohl,

      The words Cory cites come from the book of Exodus and from the Haggadah, the text used in the Seder, the ritual meal celebrating the Jews leaving Egypt.

      I’m fairly ignorant about Jewish ritual, but in my experience, the Seder and the passover are generally seen as an example of Jewish solidarity with oppression, Jews having been victims of oppression and anti-semitism for so many centuries.

      So Corey is, I believe, ironically pointing out how Jews, depicted as the oppressed and as those who solidarize with oppression in their tradition, have become oppressors.

      If you’re unfamiliar with the seder, you might not get the point.

  3. fosforos17 December 22, 2014 at 2:09 pm | #

    Ozick et. al. don’t know their Bible. Moses was in the third generation after Joseph–no 400 years there. And the Israelites (the family of Jacob) were firmly ensconsed in the Egyptian ruling class–it was Joseph (according to Genesis) who was reponsible for making all the Egyptians “slaves of Pharaoh.” The Jews were not strangers in Egypt, we didn’t even exist then as Jews–we descend (in part) from the “mixed multitude” who fled Egypt after the great catastrophe (which Manetho called the “blast of heaven’s displeasure”) and were organized into the twelve “Tribes of Israel” by Moses and Aaron on the other shore of Jam Suf, the “Sea of Passage.”

  4. ebindc December 22, 2014 at 2:27 pm | #

    These people are the most extreme of extremists and the vast majority of Israelis and Jews find their talk of a third Temple abhorrent. Why paint all of us with the same brush? Why don’t you discuss the Israeli and Palestinian peace movements? Even the former head of Mossad says that Palestinians deserve equality.

    • xenon2 December 22, 2014 at 4:39 pm | #

      I’m not sure these Israelis, aren’t the majority of the people, rather than ‘the most extreme of extremists’. I have seen endless videos of crowds
      in the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, of settlers cutting down olive trees, while the IDF just lets them, of the Knesset, of Netanyahu’s whipping-up racial tensions, gone through, day and night, 2 wars, where
      the only objective of Israel, seems to be, annihilation of the Palestinians.

      I’m sure there are people who think like I do in Israel, but, they can be counted in the hundreds.I think they are very brave, and I would like to
      support them, in anyway.Justice, not dignity, is what the Palestinians want.

    • Truth December 22, 2014 at 8:04 pm | #

      Concern troll is deeply concerned.

  5. A45 December 22, 2014 at 5:36 pm | #
  6. gstally December 26, 2014 at 7:59 pm | #

    I am not prone to superstitions, but this:

    “Although the paper did not identify the rabbis who appeared in the picture, one of them has been identified as Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, president of the Temple Institute, a religious authority that is considered the most enthusiastic about destroying Al-Aqsa Mosque and establishing a temple on its ruins.”

    gives me the willies.

    I may not believe in much but I believe in wrath and to believe in wrath is to fear it. Modern Israel is very much an earthly and secular power; I would think orthodox rabbis, of all people, would be far more cautious about invoking the Lord’s name in so vain a manner.

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