Peter Chester Arnold
Peter Chester Arnold

Jews and money

I’m sure that all Jews are affronted when someone makes a comment, or when they see or read a poster or daubing on a wall, which refers to Jews and money. The immediate response is to cry “Antisemitism!”

One cannot talk to walls or posters. But one can talk to someone who makes such a comment.

My response is something like this:

“Excuse me, but did you say something linking Jews with money? If so, do you have any idea why you said that? There is a reason for it.

“Yes, Jews have been associated with money for some 2,000 years. The reason is simple. When the second Temple was destroyed in 70AD, the High Priest, Joshua Ben Gamla, issued an instruction to all Jewish men: ‘make sure that your children can read’. This was a time when almost no common people could read, nor, as most societies were agrarian, did they have any need to do so.

“Ben Gamla’s followers were already scattered in synagogues throughout the Middle East, in almost all those areas which, seven centuries later, saw the beginnings of an invasion by Islam.

“Learning to read was important to Ben Gamla for more than one reason; a prime one was for boys to be able, at the age of 13, to be one of a group of ten men required for a synagogue service: hence the bar mitzvah.

“What does a farming father do with a boy who can read and ask questions? He sends the boy to the neighbouring village, where the boy becomes the local scribe. He keeps track of exchanges, for example, of sheep for cows etc. A primitive stock market perhaps? If the local area has currency, he becomes the village accountant, noting down prices. It’s a short step to becoming a mini-banker.

“Following the devastation of Europe wrought by the Huns, Visigoths and Vandals, the only people left who could read were the priests (all Catholic at that time) and the Jews. The Catholic priests tried fervently to prevent their flock from reading, especially from reading the Bible, which the priests could, unchallenged, ‘interpret’ in the local language. Meanwhile, almost all Europe’s Jews were devouring and questioning the Torah and the Talmud.

“European Jews have had two major professions, a tradition which exists to this day: (a) money-lending (‘banking’ nowadays) unchallenged until the first Medici Pope permitted his relatives to lend money, followed by rebellious pawn-broking Lombards (whence the £ symbol) and (b) Medicine, learnt from the Arabs.

“Christians and Muslims were not allowed by their religion to lend money at interest, but Jews could. A borrower is grateful to a lender, but often resentful when repayment is due.

“Does the year 1492 ring a bell with you? Yes, Columbus sailed the ocean blue, leaving on August 3. To me, it means the expulsion, four months earlier, on March 31, of all Jews from Spain, and the appropriation by Ferdinand and Isabella of all their assets. Note the dates. So Jewish money paid for his voyage to the New World.

“Where did the money come from for the construction of Notre Dame de Paris between 1163 and 1345, if not from the money-lending Jews of France? And Jewish money has poured in, 17% of all donations (this time voluntarily) for the rebuilding of the burnt-out Cathedral.

About the Author
Retired medical practitioner, Dr Peter Chester Arnold OAM, fled 1960s apartheid South Africa for Australia. He has since graduated in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, and has been a professional editor for more than 30 years on politics, sociology, medicine, history and Holocaust studies.
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