The Sephardi eclipse and the Ashkenaz worldview; trendy liberal Richard Gere lectures as expert on Israeli policies

An opinion piece in The Jerusalem Post argues that until modern times “Sephardi culture” was dominant in the Jewish world. While the terms Sephardic and Mizrachi (Eastern) are no more than broad generalizations of the many thousands of Jewish communities which existed outside northern Europe before the rise of European colonialism, Ashkenazic Jews have helped determine how Jewish history is now perceived in the Western world.

Most Jews are now of Ashkenazi origin

The estimated world Jewish population in the first century was some 8 million (out of a total world population of 300 million). By comparison, Israel’s Jewish population is now approaching 7 million.

Today some 75-85% of the world’s Jewish population is of Ashkenazic origin, while in Israel Ashkenazi Jews are about half of the Jewish population. According to geneologists, Ashkenazi Jews are descended from some 350 Jews who lived 6 to 8 centuries ago and ‘everyone is a 30th cousin’.

Modern myth is that Jews left in 70 AD and just returned

Jews who settled in the United States have determined how the world views Jewish history and the return of the Jews to Israel. After all, world history was written by modern Europeans and Americans.

According to this worldview, the Jews were expelled by the Romans in 70 CE and began to return to Israel towards the end of the 19th century. While this may reflect the history of the Ashkenazi Jews, it has nothing to do with thousands of Jewish communities elsewhere or the continuous Jewish presence in Israel over the past 2,000 years.

However, most Western politicians and the vast majority of the public believe that the Jewish people only recently began to return to Israel and that their return is some form of Western colonialism.

Continued Jewish presence during the past 2,000 years

The Mishnah was redacted in Israel at the beginning of the 3rd century and the Jerusalem Talmud was completed at the start of the 5th century. There were an estimated 135,000 Jews living in 43 communities in Israel in the early 7th century, until Visigoth rulers began to forcibly convert and expel Jews from Israel. Muslim invaders conquered Caesarea in the Battle of Yarmouk in 636 CE.

Jews lived in Israel during Muslim period

Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem when the city was reconquered by the Islamic Caliphate in 638 CE. When the Crusaders arrived in Jerusalem in 1099 CE most of the Jewish and Muslim populations were massacred. When Jerusalem was taken by Saladin in 1187 CE Jews were allowed to return.

Jewish communities in Israel throughout Middle Ages

Jewish communities were present in Israel throughout the Middle Ages. The great Jewish scholar Nachmanides made aliyah to Jerusalem in 1267, where he helped re-establish the Jewish community. Jewish settlement has been ongoing for more than 7 centuries, contrary to the liberal Western perception of Zionism as a political movement which only got underway towards the end of the 19th century.

New immigrants arrive in 17th century

An important Jewish community existed in Jerusalem when the self-proclaimed messiah Sabbatai Zevi moved there in 1663. One of his followers was Nathan of Gaza whose parents had emigrated to Israel from Europe. Jewish communities in Tiberias and Safed existed in the early Middle Ages and offered refuge to Marranos (forced converts) fleeing persecution from Spain in the 16th century.

Another branch of the Israeli people, the Samaritans never left Israel.

Hollywood producers do not know their history

Jewish Hollywood producers are unaware of the history of the Jewish people. As modern liberal assimilationists they respect every ethnic tradition with the exception of Judaism. They negate and have no respect for their own origins and are proponents of the universalist worldview which fights for the rights of the “oppressed peoples” of the world.

Does Richard Gere really feel like a Jew?

In Hollywood movies the families of Jewish actors are often not Jewish and the actors invariably marry gentiles. Many Hollywood producers appear to be ashamed of their origin. Jews are sometimes portrayed in movies by the descendants of people who arrived in the American colonies on the Mayflower, such as Richard Gere. It makes as much sense as Paul Newman having the character of an Anglo in a film in which he is playing the role of a black slave, or Woody Allen maintaining his Jewish character while playing a Buddhist monk. Would someone like Marilyn Monroe play a role as an Italian mamma? Why are Hollywood film producers so keen on deculturizing Jews?

Palestinians are oppressed and have no apartheid

Similar to many of his Jewish counterparts, Richard Gere is ignorant of the history of the Jewish people and has been convinced by slogans that Israelis are oppressors. However he is now here to lecture the citizens of Israel that they are dumb and racist. He sincerely believes that the Palestinian Territories and Arab countries which have Jewish populations of 0% are being oppressed by Israel and are enemies of apartheid. Hollywood actors should spend a few years studying the history and languages of the Middle East before lecturing others.

About the Author
Asaf Shimoni is an author, journalist and translator who returned to Israel in 2016 after spending 40 years abroad, most of them in the Netherlands. He grew up near Boston, made aliyah while living on a kibbutz (from 1973 to 1976), and graduated from Syracuse University in 1978. He also lived some 5 years in Sicily. He believes that the media should be as critical and truthful as possible.
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