Harold Ohayon
A Wandering New Yorker

Jesus the Jew

With unending zeal and fanaticism, Israel’s opponents scour the globe in the hopes of finding something or someone to delegitimize the Jewish State’s right to exist. This trend is most notable when one examines how the Palestinians and their apologists address the issue of Jewish history in the region. Countless Palestinian officials, from President Abbas to the various mouthpieces of Hamas, continue to deny that the Jewish people have any legitimate claim to the land of Israel in general and the city of Jerusalem in particular. Never mind the fact that Jerusalem owes its fame and glory to famous Jews (King David, King Solomon and Jesus), the Palestinians close their eyes at these glaring facts and instead stomp their feet and spout nonsense. While these shenanigans are quite a common place in the Middle East, it is disheartening to see this fictions revisionist narrative spreading into the West. And, if left unchecked, this false narrative will inspire a new generation of ill-informed individuals to hate Israel.

While it is no longer surprising to hear bombastic rhetoric emanating from Representative Ilhan Omar, it was shocking to read that she retweeted a post that declared that Jesus Christ was a Palestinian. Representative Omar was not alone in buying into this nonsensical narrative, as an article appeared in the New York Times that likewise pinned the Palestinian flag on Jesus of Nazareth. While it is easy to ignore such things when they are parroted by random protesters on the street, it is more concerning when politicians and mainstream newspapers spread this false version of history. If one wishes to critique Israeli policy, that is fine and appropriate. If one wants to muse about the recent history of the Middle East, that is fine and dandy. However, going back into the ancient world to erase and rewrite history to justify your stance is grossly offensive and intellectually dishonest.

Picture it, if you will, this highly contentious sliver of land during the rule of the Roman Empire. At this time, the Jewish Temple still stood in Jerusalem. King Herod, a vassal of the Romans, ruled as the King of the Jews. Bethlehem, Jericho and Hebron thrived as Jewish cities. Every inch of this territory was seeped in Jewish history. And, during this time, a Jewish boy was born who would eventually spawn a new religion. His name was Jesus, and he was born and raised as a Jew. He visited the Jewish temple in Jerusalem and debated with Jewish religious leaders. He created a movement to reform the Jewish faith, and all of his followers were also Jews. They entered Jerusalem for the Jewish festival of Passover, where Jesus was eventually tried, tortured and executed. On top of the cross the Romans placed a sign that read ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews’. He was then removed from the cross before the start of the Jewish sabbath, and his dutiful follower Mary Magdalene waited until it’s completion before venturing to the tomb to anoint his body. While what happened after that point is up to religious debate, the aforementioned facts show that Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew. He was very much a Jewish teacher, and his words echoed the Jewish soul of the Torah. He did not go to Jerusalem to meet with Palestinian sheikhs or muftis. He did not enter the holy city for Ramadan. The Romans did not dub him the ‘King of the Palestinians’. The fact of the matter is is that the term ‘Palestine’ came later, and it was created by the Romans in order to erase whatever was left of Jewish identity following the failure of the Jewish Revolt. Why the name ‘Palestine’? Because it harkened back to the Philistines, a Mediterranean people that settled parts of Canaan prior to the arrival of the Israelites. The Romans were simply trying to erase the centuries old Jewish chapter of the region by renaming the land. And it appears that people today are likewise trying to erase Jewish history by superimposing the terms ‘Palestine’ and ‘Palestinian’ on things that are historically Jewish.

If one wants to point to the history of the Palestinian Arabs in the region, one must start at the Arab conquests of the land in the 7th century AD. This is when Arabs first settled the region. From that point on, it can be argued, the Arabs established themselves and their history in the area. I don’t think any sane person can deny the historical significance of the al Aqsa Mosque, or the Dome of the Rock. But instead of focusing on this history, Palestinians and their apologists want to go back further in an attempt to erase Jewish history so that they can further bolster their own claims. Instead of highlighting and celebrating the diverse history of the region, these people want to over simplify and destroy the Jewish legacy of the Holy Land. In an age when Twitter and Facebook can help spread ridiculous nonsense around the world in seconds, we must do our outmost to combat these false narratives whenever we see or hear them. Failure to do so will be disastrous in the long run. The Arab-Israeli conflict is complicated enough, we do not need to bring Jesus into this quagmire.

About the Author
Expat New Yorker living in the Land of the Rising Sun: Trekking to random parts of the globe, debating countless things under the sun, and attempting to learn to cook Korean food.
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