Martin M. van Brauman



During the end of the 19th Century and the dawn of the 20th Century, Theodor Herzl held a deterministic view of anti-Semitism as an eternal occurrence:

Perhaps we could completely assimilate into the people surrounding us if they left us alone for at least two generations.  But they won’t leave us alone . . . Only the pressure makes us emotionally cling to our origins, only the hatred of those around us makes us alien again.  Whether we like it or not, we have always been and still remain an historic community sharing a clear affiliation.  We are a people – the enemy forges us as a people against our own will – and thus it has always been in history.  In times of distress, we band together and suddenly display our strength.  And yes, we have the strength to build a state, even an exemplary state.  We have all of the means – human and material – necessary to achieve this.[1]

Herzl believed that anti-Semitism preserved the Jews and its disappearance could bring about the disappearance of Jews, who do not live in a sovereign Jewish community.[2]  During Herzl’s time, anti-Semitic activities in the world strengthen Zionist yearnings.  Today, identification with Jewish suffering in the world raises the level of internal Jewish solidarity in Israel.[3]  For Herzl and others around him, the Zionist movement and vision was more a result of the Jewish failure to integrate in the world rather than the 2,000 year old dream of the ingathering of the exiles to the Land of Israel.

The late 19th and early 20th century Zionists thought that once Jews possessed a land of their own they would become a normal nation like all other nations and anti-Semitism would fade away.[4]  However, Balaam’s prophecy foretold of the Jewish people as an eternally abnormal nation.[5]  The world cannot tolerate an eternally abnormal nation.  Former Prime Minister Golda Meir remarked when attending a United Nations session that “We have no family there . . . Israel is entirely alone there . . . But why should that be?”[6]  Is it because as Balaam, the prophet of Moab, foretold that “. . . it is a nation that will dwell in solitude and not be reckoned among the nations?” Numbers 23:9.  Balaam was paid by King Balak of Moab to curse the Israelites, but Balaam could not curse those blessed by God. Numbers 24:9.

Dr. Yaacov Herzog in A People That Dwells Alone wrote about this inseparable destiny of nation and faith in 1975:

The theory of classic Zionism was national normalization. What was wrong with the theory? It was the belief that the idea of a ‘people that dwells alone’ is an abnormal concept, when actually a ‘people that dwells alone’ is the natural concept of the Jewish people.  That is why this one phrase still describes the totality of the extraordinary phenomenon of Israel’s revival.  If one asks how the ingathering of the exiles, which no one could have imagined in his wildest dreams, came about, or how the State of Israel could endure such severe security challenges, or how it has built up such a flourishing economy, or how the unity of the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora has been preserved, one must come back to the primary idea that this is ‘a people that dwells alone.’  More than that, one must invoke this phrase not only to understand how the Jews have existed for so long; one must invoke it as a testimony to the Jewish right to exist at all in the land of their rebirth.[7]

Herzog has called the State of Israel a paradox, in which all the normalities have been proven baseless.  It is a nation that lives by faith, in which it lives in the present, but its rights go back to the past and everything is integrated and intertwined in a process of redemption that lies ahead into a new era of Jewish history, the ingathering of the exiles.[8]

During the end of the 20th Century and the beginning of the 21st Century, the trend was that the world began accepting the Jews and moving away from anti-Semitism and the wide gate of assimilation was open.[9]  Essentially, those who remained Jews did so since they remained part of a Jewish community in the Diaspora or lived in Israel.  Today, the cycle of anti-Semitism has returned to the radical levels of the 1930s in Hitler’s Europe and the world against the right of Israel to exist driven by Islamic radicalism.  Islamic radicalism denies the Holocaust and the Jewish history in Israel and Jerusalem.  The torch of anti-Semitism has been passed from Hitler’s Reich to the Islamic communities around the world.

Hatred toward the Jews is as old as the Jewish people with the first signs indicated in the Talmud at the time of the Revelation at Sinai.[10]  When God revealed himself at Sinai and entered into a covenant with them as His people, a midrash, or oral interpretation of the Bible, says that He gave the non-Jewish world Sin’at Yisrael, hatred of Israel.[11]  Elie Wiesel in Evil and Exile has stated that hatred of the Jews was born with the Torah before Christianity.[12]  The hostility to Jews in the Hellenistic pagan world was connected with Jewish monotheism and the fact that Judaism demanded a distinct separation of Jews from the general population.[13]

Before Christianity, pagan hostility to Judaism existed with Judaism’s rejection of the pagan gods and the pagan way of life.[14]  Jewish hatred was expressed as irritation, primarily as cultural anti-Semitism, resulting from Jewish separateness, rather than the distinct hatred that later characterized Christian theological anti-Semitism.[15]

Judaism has been the basis of the universality of anti-Semitism over thousands of years from Hellenistic and Roman times to today and into the future as foretold in Deuteronomy 28:37, 64-68 below.[16]

You will be a source of astonishment, a parable, and a conversation piece, among all the peoples where the Lord will lead you.  [“Astonishment” means that all who see you will see bewilderment over you.  “A parable” means they will say of a similar suffering befalling a person.  A “conversation” means they will retell of you.][17]

The Lord will scatter you among all the peoples, from the end of the earth to the end of the earth, and there you will work for gods of others, whom you did not know – you or your forefathers – of wood and of stone. And among those nations you will not be tranquil, there will be no rest for the sole of your foot; there the Lord will give you a trembling heart, longing of eyes, and suffering of soul.  Your life will hang in the balance, and you will be frightened night and day, and you will not be sure of your livelihood. In the morning you will say, “Who can give back last night!” And in the evening you will say, “Who can give back this morning!” – for the fright of your heart that you will fear and the sight of your eyes that you will see.  The Lord will return you to Egypt in ships, on the road of which I said to you, “You shall never again see it!” And there you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as slaves and maidservants – but there will be no buyer!

[T]here will be no buyer” for the world in the 1930s and 40s did not want the impoverished Jews, stripped of their properties, possessions and citizenships trying to escape Nazi-controlled Europe, or whenever they were driven out from any country in the past or the present, Christian or Muslim.  Today, Israel is now that refuge for the Jewish people after 2,000 years of exile, when no other country will accept them.

With the rise of anti-Semitism today in Europe and elsewhere in the world, immigration to Israel is increasing with Jews wanting a safe place to exist, while Europe once again is no longer a safe place.  That is why immigration to Israel is not like immigration to any other country, but is known as Aliyah (“going up”), a reference to going up to read from God’s Word.  Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem with the ancient reframe “Next year in Jerusalem” always have been the spiritual destination that enabled the existence of the Diaspora.  Today, the State of Israel is the spiritual center that enables the continued existence of the Diaspora and a refuge against anti-Semitism.  For the UN and many world leaders, the new code word for anti-Semitism is anti-Zionism, but no one can be an enemy of Zionism and be a friend of the Jewish people.[18]




[1] Yossi Beilin, His Brother’s Keeper: Israel and Diaspora Jewry in the Twenty-First Century, (1st ed. 2000), p. 18.

[2] Ibid., p. xv.

[3] Ibid., p. 12.

[4] Yehuda Avner, The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership, (1st ed. 2010), pp. 397-398.

[5] Ibid., p. 397.

[6] Ibid., p. 396.

[7] Ibid., p. 399; Yaacov Herzog, A People That Dwells Alone, (1st Amer. Ed. 1975), p. 52.

[8] Herzog, p. 59.

[9] Beilin, p. xv.

[10] Elie Wiesel, And the Sea Is Never Full: Memoirs, 1969 –, (1st ed. 1995), p. 48.

[11] Jocelyn Hellig, The Holocaust and Antisemitism, (1st ed. 2003), p. 90.

[12] Elie Wiesel, Evil and Exile, (1st ed. 1990), p. 38.

[13] Hellig, p. 105.  The Hellenistic period was inaugurated by the conquests of Alexander the Great (365-323 B.C.E.). Ibid., p. 113.

[14] Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin, Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism, (2nd ed. 2003), p. 72.

[15] Hellig, p. 138.

[16] Prager and Telushkin, p. 72.

[17] Rashi’s Commentary.

[18] Franklin H. Littell, The Crucifixion of the Jews: The Failure of Christians to Understand the Jewish Experience, (1st ed. 1975), p. 97.

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