Remembering one hundred generations of Jews in Georgia

For 2,600 years, more than one hundred generations of Jews have been surviving in exile in Georgia. Although a few thousands of years is relatively short in cosmic terms, it is infinitely long for an individual human life. My ancestors survived invasions and serfdom, migrations and uncertainty, and hunger and wars. Their individual dreams and stories will never be told, as they were lost with them. Their bravery was not of the spur-of-the-moment kind, or of a kind to receive recognition. This was a quiet daily struggle to preserve their faith in the foreign land and to honor their predecessors by not assimilating, which would have been easier for their survival than the constant state of otherness and alienation. They were sustained by their beliefs in the Hebrew Books, which have proved to be more powerful than armed invaders and the ravages of time. These Books brought them to the present, to my generation, which finally fulfilled the longing of the preceding hundred generations.

For thousands of years, the Jews have kept their faith. Every Passover for 2,600 years, they expressed the longing for Jerusalem and a promise to never forget it. The realization that our generation had finally fulfilled their dreams is hard to fully internalize, as it is our fortunate fate in the long historical process.

For most of their history, the Jews in Georgia did not have opportunities for education and advancement. However, with the rise of cultural enlightenment in the 20th century, the Georgian Jews, like Jews in other countries, gave to Jewish and world culture their share of artists and writers and poets and composers and scientists and engineers and chess champions. The preceding generations struggled bravely for their survival as Jews, and when the time came in 20th century to finally declare their determination to fulfill the promise of thousands of years, the Georgian Jews spearheaded the Exodus struggle in the Soviet Union, as the 1969 Letter from the Eighteen Jewish Families of Georgia to the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations resonated loudly throughout the world. This Letter was a Declaration of Independence by the Georgian Jews, proclaiming that they did not only survive, but are also ready to fulfill the longing of all the preceding generations. The 1969 Letter was written in one day, but it has been in preparation for thousands of years. They, the voiceless throughout the centuries, would have been proud of the present generation of Jews.

We owe our freedom to our ancestors, who have struggled and endured for generations and brought us to these days. Thus, every time we say shehecheyanu vekiymanu vehigianu lazman hazeh, we must also remember the preceding hundred generations.

About the Author
B. G. Yacobi received his PhD in physics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1975. He held research positions at Imperial College London and Harvard University, as well as teaching positions in universities in the United States and Canada. He is the author/co-author of numerous articles and several books on physics, and of a number of essays on philosophy.
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