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Jessica Menton
From the Royal House of David

From the Royal House of David

An engraving on the Arch of Titus, built by Rome to commemorate their military victory over Judea (Photo by Axel Smid on Unsplash).
An engraving on the Arch of Titus, built by Rome to commemorate their military victory over Judea (Photo by Axel Smid on Unsplash).

I am not a colonizer.

There’s a trend on TikTok where creators answer the question: “What’s your Roman Empire?”

Originally meant to poke fun at the masculine obsession with the superpower, it’s become a phrase to share niche fixations in one’s life. Answers range from childhood TV shows to meeting celebrities, but what if I told you mine was also the Roman Empire itself- just not with the admiration some men seem to hold for it?

A common theme within the “Free Palestine” movement surrounds a false narrative that depicts Jews as foreigners in the Levant, specifically as white European colonizers.

This is a dangerous claim that enforces indigenous erasure- the same overarching colonial effort the Romans attempted to instill during their victory over the Shimon Bar-Kokhba revolt in 132 CE.

After Hellenistic attempts to integrate Jews into Roman society, military leader Shimon Bar-Kokhba coordinated a Judean rebellion against Roman emperor Hadrian and his occupiers. The uprising was eventually crushed after a bloody year of fighting.

As a universal consequence, Judaea was obliterated with survivors either exiled or killed. Although previous Hellenistic policies (like constructing a Roman shrine on top of the Jewish Temple or banning circumcision) added to Judean erasure, one colonial action still stains the Jewish people to this very day.

The Romans renamed the land of Judaea to “Philistia,” which evolved into Palestine. This was a detailed jab at the Jewish people as it’s mentioned the name “Philistia” was given in relation to the Philistines- the wandering Aegean-Mediterranean people who consistently fought the Israelites with the imperialistic desire of occupation, similar to the Romans.

It is recorded that the Philistines controlled a coastal strip of Judaea between Tel Aviv and Gaza in the 12th century BCE. In Hebrew, the only surviving Canaanite language, they were referred to as “plishtim” which unironically translates to “invaders.” Meanwhile, “Jew” directly translates to “from [the Kingdom of] Judah.”

As conquests continuously occurred, many Jews were displaced from their homeland. Nonetheless, it was the Babylonian exile in 597 BCE that officially marked the entering of a Diaspora.

As Jews spread across the world’s diverse lands, Judean communities developed alongside different cultures. While unique Jewish customs evolved with the help of these surrounding societies, some also arose from isolation.

I’ll never forget the day my grandfather sat me down to share our family’s Diasporic journey. My grandfather dedicated his entire life to piecing together our lost family. It was a brutal task, especially after catastrophic events like the Spanish Expulsion of 1492, the 1839 Allahdad or the Holocaust. He had an array of books with notes and drawings- valuable information that opened an opportunity for familial discovery.

He first asked me if I still had my Hanukkah gift.

One year for Hanukkah, my grandparents gifted me a framed document titled: “A Princess in the Royal House of David.”

My eyes widened as the dots began connecting: It was our completed ancestral tree.

My grandfather didn’t only trace our heritage back to the first temple period, but to the royal family: King David of the ancient Kingdom of Israel.

“You are a Jew,” he started. “You are a Jew who carries regal blood from the Royal House of David.”

After millennia of persecution, our records have been lost, our stories forgotten and our voices silenced. My grandfather’s work is one step closer to unveiling the buried Judean history that many seem to disregard.

Even though Jews now have different complexions, we still hold and recognize our primary collective identity. Our indigeneity doesn’t expire based on skin color or birthplace, especially as Diaspora Jews continuously practice Canaanite-Israelite tribal customs from over 2,000 years ago. This erasure of a primitive identity based on appearance is quite literally racist, blood quantum colonialism in action.

There is a quote that I like from @genetically_jewish on Instagram: “Jews are as diverse as 2,000 years of colonialism has made us.”

Today, Judean culture is characterized as an ethno-religion: Judaism. According to official Judean law, Jewishness is passed down matrilineally, although genetically Jewishness is inherited like any other ethnicity. Some branches of Judaism are more open to accepting Jewish status from either parent if the child embraces and practices the culture. While outsiders can convert to the religion and join the Nation, it is an extremely long and tedious process. Contrary to sects like Christianity or Islam, Judaism doesn’t seek members- again, because Jews are an indigenous people, not solely a religion. The tribe only has about 100,000 converts out of 15 million people.

Every nation has a different approach towards citizenship. Just as some groups find value in using the colonial construct of blood quantum, others do not. Blood quantum is not legitimized in a Judean lens due to the tribe’s active resistance from destructive colonial efforts. To reemphasize, blood percentages aren’t enough to prove indignity to the Jewish Nation and historic Israelite land.

“Defining citizenship is probably the most sovereign act a native nation can make.” – Megan Hill

There must be a distinguished link to pre-colonized indigenous land and customs or else a native individual would dissolve into the aggressor, becoming an active part of the colonial agenda.

Spreading the lie that Jews are invaders in the Levant does little to support the Palestinian cause and their recognized plight for self-determination in Canaan- it only causes more division. In order to move towards peace, Judean history and indigeneity must be recognized alongside Palestinian aspirations.

The world seems to have turned a blind eye to the Judean civilization which once blossomed over the Levantine region, and that’s how you know colonization succeeded, but it doesn’t have to win. I beg of you, please remember my people and our right to decolonize our home. Please remember our stories of triumph, of perseverance, of existence. And please remember our dear Kingdom of Israel- my kingdom. The kingdom my lineage, my own crowned forefathers, loved and nourished for hundreds of years- Rehoboam, Shlomo and David ha-Melech.

About the Author
The writer is a simple Judean gal dedicated to finding truth while simultaneously understanding multiple experiences can exist at once.
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