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Jews don’t fight wars of conquest.

"Of no use are the men who study to do exactly as was done before, who can never understand that to-day is a new day". [1]

This statement of Ralph Waldo Emerson, corresponds, more or less to my thoughts that arose, as I lay on my pillow, about the ghastly sufferings brought upon the Jews in Russia, after the assassination of Czar Alexander II and the accession to the throne of Alexander III in 1881


In the process of writing the story of my family in Russia, in the 19th century, I learnt a bit of Russian history.

I had spent the evening reading about the wars of various Russian heroes who brought about Christian domination of Russia, and other wars where Moslems tried to conquer Russia.

I was puzzled. Why weren't there any Jewish heroes who attempted to conquer Russia?

Millions of Jews lived in the areas that finally formed the Russian empire, from the Balkans to the Black sea. They were a group of people more strongly united by religion than Christians or Muslims. Surely they could arise and conquer as good as the members of the other two religions.

Jews never even considered fighting wars of conquest, despite their ability to do so. Their strength as warriors, every bit as good as other nations had been well proven in Biblical events.

Instead this strong nation meekly submitted to the yoke of persecution forced on them by Christians and Moslems.

My thought ranged over the damnable suffering of the Jews, when they could have been a nation of conquerors, like their persecutors.

The answer, in my opinion, lies in the unique image that Jews had of God as opposed to the image commonly held by Christians and Moslems.

God's function, according to the Jews is clearly laid down in the Old Testament (the Bible of the Jews). It is to bring relief to people and other creatures who are suffering physically.

His enemies aren't the nations that don't believe in Him but people and nations who persecute the poor and the weak. He doesn't seek glory by conquering nations and oppressing unbelievers. He gets His glory from people who He saves from physical suffering and deprivation, they thank Him and glorify His name.

The thought of going to war as a way of glorifying God's name, didn't occur to the Jews. Such a thought was a direct contradiction of their view of God as the one who supports the needy, uplifts the downtrodden and brings healing to the suffering.

When the Old Testament (the Bible of the Jews) speaks of a victorious god it's not referring to a victory where non-believers are subjugated to His will, it's speaking of victory over people who suppress others and cause physical suffering.

When the Bible (of the Jews) speaks of salvation it's not referring to salvation in heaven, or in the afterlife. It is speaking about salvation from suffering in a physical sense, in this life.

The Jew has always held on to his view of God with a tenacity that has puzzled the non-Jews, because they only studied the New Testament and the Koran.

Those books have incorporated many of the ideas of the Jewish Bible, but they chose to interpret the words victory and salvation in a different way. Victory for them has become victory over non-believers and their subjugation to the will of Christ or the will of Allah. Salvation for them has been interpreted as salvation in the afterlife.

These two ideas have become central to Christian and Moslem belief. Conquests of other nations have been justified as fulfillment of these two principles.

Nowhere in the Torah (the Jewish Bible) are we told that man's obligation is to glorify God. His glory grows out of His own deeds of relieving the physical suffering of man. Man's glorification of God is a response to God's mercy in providing sustenance for the benefit of His creatures, human and animal.

Jews never marched in battle against non-believers, waving the banner of glory for God the victorious. Such was the nature of the Christians and the Moslems.

Christ and Mohammed, until now have been glorified in the submission of the Jews.

Times have changed, however; the Jews are no longer in a situation of submission.

Christians and Moslem don't understand that "today is a new day".

Many Christians and Moslems have understood this, but many have not. There are many who want to turn the clock back, by hook or by crook. The result is the fanatic acts of terrorism against Jews. We call this antisemitism.

Attempts by a powerful nation like Iran to wipe out the new Jewish nation fall into this category. They refuse to see that "today is a new day".

The "new day" was hardly beginning to dawn in 1878, when Emerson said these words of warning to the leaders of America. In those dark times, one can almost understand how the czars of Russia could persecute the Jews. But since then the "new day", Emerson spoke of, has dawned and we are living in its brightness. Yet the Arab nations persist in "studying to do exactly as was done before".

The Jews have their own independent state. The old days of oppression are past and gone, never to return. Studying as if those old days were with us and refusing to see that a new day has dawned, can only bring disaster on the world and the Jews.

[1] Speech made by Ralph Waldo Emerson at the Old Southern Church in Boston 1878, entitled Fortune of the Republic. vol. 560. Quoted by Abraham Cahan in an article in the North American Review,

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