Holes in the Land and The Holy Land
Israeli archaeologists and
anthropologists have long regarded any so-called history of Israel
before the time of King Soloman and perhaps his father, David,
as ficticious propaganda (i.e., Finkelstein and Silberman 2001).
Scripture? If you say so... While there is an ancient mention of
“I.si.ri.ar or ysry-r/I (as translated by Sir Flanders Petrie) on a
stele erected by the Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah, ca. 1208 BCE*, the
Hebrews migrated not from some claimed 'captivity' in Egypt, but
rather from the north, in today's Syria. Now, this is not to say
there haven't been holes in the land of Caanan for many thousands of
years, in fact the Holy Land has known more times of war and conflict
than I'd care to count. Yet, at its simplest it's wholly land and
NOT some enchanted and magical place as Jews, Christians, and Muslims
would describe it. Dirt, desert, a big salt-water lake ...and the
gateway for all branches of homonids leaving Africa since Homo erectus, ca. 2 myr BCE (and crossing Eurasia and using an early
maritime ability to reach East Java).
A brief (and quick) history of the Semitic people in the Near East would begin with East Semitic speakers (Akkadians) conquered the aboriginal Sumerians, adopting their writing (cuneiform), and many of their ways. Under Sargon the Great, ca. 2334 BCE, the East Semitic Akkadian language (var. Assyro-Babylonian) became the “official” language of Mesopotamia, before going extinct ca. 555 BCE, several years after the death of Nebuchadnezzar. As the cities of Mari and Ebla were established in eastern Syria, a new language formed we refer to as West Semitic, the ancestral language of several important tongues, most specifically, Hebrew and through the related South Semitic, the Arab language. When Mari and Ebla were destroyed, the West Semitic speakers spread into western Syria, eventually founding the successful trading port of Ugarit (which, while employing cuneiform, used the “wedge-writing” to write an early example of our 'alphabet, in a remarkably similar order. Then, the marauding Sea-Peoples (“bikers with boats) swept down from Hellespont, destroyed Ugarit ca. 1250 – 1190, before taking on Egypt and ruling for a couple of dynasties. With Ugarit (in passim Cross 1973), its surviving people moved south into what became Phoenicia (Lebanon) and the two kingdoms of the Hebrews, Israel to the north and Judea to the south. Okay, that brings us to ca. 1000 – 900 BCE... Oh, and those native Caananites (certainly Western Semitic speaking nomadic “cousins” of the Hebrews)? It's more than likely the Hebrews fought them for their land.
The Philistines, one of the Sea-Peoples mentioned above, took Canaanite Ashkelon about 1150 BCE, established four other cities, though Ashkelon retained its prominence for producing iron swords which were far better than the bronze ones most were using, and also seemed to have a thriving brewing business fermenting wine and brewing beer. No, the Philistines didn't burn babies, though they did worship a golden calf (I saw a small one at the Harvard Semitic Museum a dozen years ago with hoofs, horns, and likely a penis made or painted with gold paint). And, they were constantly fighting the Hebrews well past the Goliath fiction. I've always been bothered that the so-called Arab-ish Palestinians are in fact named after the Philistines (Egyptian plst, prst ca. 1200 BCE; Assyrian Pĕlešeṯ , Philistia and Palastu, Pilistu ca. 9th-8th centuries BCE; biblical Hebrew pelishtim ca. 700 – 450 BCE; The Septuagint or LXX, the 3rd century BCE translation of The Torah into Greek used phylistiim, Hellenized Greek-speaking and writing Christians used Παλαιστίνη or Palestine, and the Romans from Classical times to Late or Medieval Latin used Palestina for the Israel or The Holy Land, thus in English those who inhabit Palestine were referred to as Palestinians, with the Philistines being one of the extinct, somewhat Greek-influenced Sea Peoples who settled in Canaan, and continued to live in Judea/Israel until the First Jewish-Roman War ca. 70 CE. It wasn't until the early 17th century English speakers began to use the term 'Philistine' to mean a foe, debauched, or drunk individual). [Note: Revealing my age, I was in between 4th and 5th grade the first time I ever heard the term “Palestine.” It was in conjunction with the June 6, 1968 assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY), who was running for president at the time, by Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian Arab with Jordanian citizenship.]
Though the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE is most often regarded as both the beginning and the end of the First Jewish-Roman War, the true 'end' occurred with the taking of the mountain fortress of Masada in 73 CE. While it's probable hundreds of thousands of Hebrews went into exile in various lands, enough remained within Judea to challenge the Romans and lose again in the Simon bar Kokhba Revolt during 132–136 CE, is referred to as the Second or Third Jewish-Roman War, depending if one counts the minor Kitos War of 115–117 CE. However one terms the Simon bar Kokhba Revolt, the Romans exiled ALL Hebrews from Judea and renamed the country Syria Palaestina. The priesthood was discontinued, 'rabbis' or teachers began to perform ceremonies in synagogues, and in Babylonia (Iraq), the highly regarded Mishnah was composed ca 200 CE, with the Babylonian Talmud written ca. 300 CE and the so-called Jerusalem Talmud was composed ca. 350 CE. CE. For the record, Hebrews consider the Diaspora (from the ancient Greek term διασπορά (diaspora) hence meant "scattering" beginning between 740-722 BCE from Israel (aka the Northern Kingdom) by the Assyrians and only ended with the 1948 establishment of the modern state of Israel. Yes, the Romans exiled the Hebrews a couple of times, as did the Catholic Monarchs Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon the night before Columbus first set sail (August 3, 1492) and accidentally discovered the Americas. The Venetian Ghetto (Italian ghčto) in 1516 confined all Hebrews in a single neighborhood. And, of course, the Catholic Spanish Inquisition 1478-1834 were ...unkind to those of the Jewish faith. I assume everyone is familiar with Hitler's attempted genocide of the Jewish people called the Holocaust (derived from the Greek ὁλόκαυστος or holókaustos: hólos, "whole" and kaustós, "burnt"), which the Jews refer to as the Shoah (Hebrew: השואה).
After witnessing antisemitism in Paris and Hungry, Theodor Herzel (1860-1904), realized antisemitism would likely never truly be defeated or prevented and therefor began to promote a return of Jews to their homeland, that is to say, Jerusalem and Israel, and his movement was referred to as Zionism (from Zion, originally a mountain outside of Jerusalem, but later used to mean Jerusalem itself (Herzel 1896). He worked hard, published often, met with dignitaries from Europe, the Ottoman Empire, the Near East, Egypt, and even attempted a meeting with His Holiness Pope Pius X, but was dismissed by Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val because the Jews denied the divinity of Christ. No one was willing to accept the truth the Jews were due their ancestral homeland, were bigots and racists at heart, Herzel sadly knew it, but was powerless to realize his dream during his short lifetime.
Though the so-called British Mandate for Palestine calling for the creation of a homeland for the Jews was introduced in 1920, which also had the support of the (impotent) League of Nations, pretty much the rest of the world turned their noses up at the idea and rejected it for various ridiculous and selfish reasons. It wasn't until the recently formed United Nations on November 29, 1947 proposed separate Arab and a Jewish state matters began to move along. On May 14, 1948 the British Mandate was withdrawn and came to an end, and the next day David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973) declared the establishment of the State of Israel (with 'borders' not defined that well), and would become the first Prime Minister of Israel. And, as these things go, neighboring Arab armies invaded the new country the day afterwards. [Note: the persistent enmity between Islam and the Jews stems from the impossible claims set forth in The Koran, Chapter 17, entitled “The Night Journey (Revealed at Mecca). Chap. XVII opens with: “Praise be unto Him who transported his servant by night from the sacred temple of Mecca to the farther temple of Jerusalem...” Then follows the wonderfully imaginary account of the Prophet Mohammad, Blessed be His Name (if you're into that sort of thing), in which one night He buddied up with the archangel Gabriel and flew on a winged horse to Sinai, then to Bethlehem, and then to Jerusalem. Afterwards, He tied up His horse and with Gab climbed a “Ladder of Light,” chatted with Allah (i.e., G*d), climbed back down, got on his winged horse again, revisited Jerusalem, then flew back home to Mecca. Some claim one of His wives said the story of “The Night Journey” was fictitious, though after Mohammad died, in either 685 or 638 CE, the Caliph Omar took Jerusalem and re-discovered the sacred rock on Temple Mount (the site of Herod's Second Temple), and in 691 CE, Caliph Abd el-Malik ordered the building of the Dome of the Rock there, now regarded as Islam's second holiest place after Mecca. Such is the claim by Muslims to Temple Mount, Jerusalem, and their racist hatred of the Jewish people. Whew...]. As the fledgling State of Israel tested its place in the modern world, especially in light of the plethora of atrocities committed during the Second World War, the United Nations passed a resolution regarding the displaced Palestinians (Article 11) which read “(The General Assembly) Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.” Basically, allow peaceful Palestinians the right to return home and write a check for damages done. This offer, in many different forms, has been on the table until this day, but the Israelis refuse to write a check (yet are eager to litigate artwork and such stolen by the Nazis during WWII). Sadly, there's a tad bit of hypocrisy there.
Soon, there were many holes in the land, as The Holy Land fought several minor wars and conflicts with its Muslim neighbors. As far as the United Nation's position on the Palestinians, it still hasn't amounted to much, but has spawned many horrible backlashes... First up, we've got The Palestine Liberation Organization (aka the PLO) formed in 1964 with the freely admitted aim of armed conflict with Israel for the liberation of 'Palestine'. The U.N. wussed in 1974 and granted the PLO “observer status,” with the U.S. and many other nations calling them a terrorist group until 1991. When the PLO compromised and “recognized” Israel's right to exist through U. N. Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, to which Israel officially gave the nod that the PLO was the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Ah, the good lo' days when airplanes were merely hijacked for ransom and not flown into buildings!
And, we must NEVER forget Black September, a Palestinian terrorist group, which murdered eleven Israeli athletes and officials during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. They scored extremely high on the “Bastards” scale.
Next up in importance, as long as my memory holds out, would be the formation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard shortly after the return of the previously exiled Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979. Yeah, there was the American Hostage situation which eventually worked out, though Khomeini didn't handle the war with Iraq well after losing between 320,000 to 720,000 troops on the battlefield. He continued and consistently referred to the U.S. as the “Great Satan” and stoked the fires of antisemitism by classifying Zionism as a political group and Judaism as the religion of Moses. Still, under Khomeini's rule, over 50,000 Jews fled Iran.
The tragic October 2, 1983 Beirut Barracks Bombings when two trucks driven by members of “Islamic Jihad,” believed to have been connected with Iran's Revolutionary Guard, blew up two barracks killing 299 American and French servicemen. It was the great U.S military loss of troops since WWII...
Putting more holes in The Holy Land, Hezbollah, a Lebanese Sh'ia terrorist group was formed in 1985 and trained by? Yup, Iran's Revolutionary Guard. Not long afterwards, the Palestinian terrorist group based in Gaza, Haas, which initially grew out of members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, began attacking and bombing Israel, insisting it would continue until Israel shrinks back to its 1967 borders.
Moving along the list of “Big Bads,” to use a Buffyism, is Osama bin Mohammad bin Awad bin Laden who started the terrorist group, al-Qaeda, in 1988-1989, originally to fight for the mujaheddin forces in Pakistan against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and later, against almost everyone (except the Taliban and the Palestinians) at one point or another, before his death in 2011. Bin Laden's finances came from his rich father, who owned the construction company in Saudi Arabia which won the contract to restore Mecca. Saudi Arabia kicked Bin Laden's butt out of the country in 1992 because they accepted help from the United States. The 1993 World Trade Center bombing, while not as extensive as 9/11, was traced back to al-Qaeda. He became somewhat of a terrorist philanthropist and funded many various terrorist groups who hated both the U.S., Israel, or whoever was on his short-list of non-Muslim infidels at the time. Al-Qaeda continued after the death of Bin Laden, though not quite as deadly, they still tried to do as much (somewhat minor) harm as they could. Which brings us to ISIS, the so-called “Islamic States of Iraq and Syria,” which al-Qaeda distanced itself from because their methods were too brutal. Well, when al-Qaeda thinks you're too nasty, that's certainly worthy of a special place in Hell...
Okay, so there have been many holes in The Holy Land over the years and recent efforts and statements by Israel's current prime minister, Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu. When the guy entered politics in the mid-'90s, he said he modeled himself after U. S. Pres. Bill Clinton. Netanyahu has changed much over the years and many would argue – not for the better. Recently, NSA wiretaps revealed Netanyahu and other Israeli officials acting on his behave, used bribery and blackmail on members of the U.S. Congress (Shirley Republicans) to block Pres. Obama's efforts to sign a treaty with Iran not to try and build a nuclear bomb. Chutzpah or criminality? I'm going to vote for the later (and also predict nothing will be done against those in Congress who answered Netanyahu's call).
And, finally, by putting out fire with gasoline (sorry, Dave), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel “...will not be a bi-national state,” insists on a demilitarized Palestine, but privately holds the one-state solution as his “goal” for peace. Yeah, there's definitely going to be more holes in The Holy Land, and unfortunately they won't be caused by an archaeologist's shovel.
Cross, Frank Moore. 1973. Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. See also: Cross, Frank Moore. 1998. From Epic to Canon: History and Literature in Ancient Israel. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Finkelstein and Silberman. 2001. The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of it's Sacred Texts by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman. New York: The Free Press – Simon and Shuster.
Herzl, Theodor. 1896. Der Judenstaat (“The State of the Jews”): Versuch einer modernen Lösung der Judenfrage. In German. Leipzig & Wien: M. Breitenstein.
Tawil, Hayim. 1977. “A Curse concerning Crop-Consuming Insects in the Sefîre Treaty and in Akkadian: A New Interpretation.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. 225: 59-62.
Peace in the Mid-East will likely take a miracle and hardly anyone believes in miracles anymore,