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Who are the authentic Jews?
on February 16, 2010
Who are the authentic Jews?
By Rami Yelda
Professor Sand's book is a scholarly tribute to Judaism but as one with
European ancestry and schooling, he has ignored the Middle Eastern Jews
and the contributions of the old Middle Eastern religions such as
Zoroastrianism, (the old religion of Persia) and the Mesopotamian epics
that had helped form Judaism.
Jews used to live in the vast Persian and Assyrian Empires long before being
exiled to Babylon. After their liberation by Cyrus (a confessed Zoroastrian), some returned to Judea but many stayed behind. After centuries of contact with Zoroastrians, Sumerians, and Babylonians, Jews adopted many
of their hosts' religious beliefs and practices that became the foundations of Judaism that later influenced Christianity and Islam. Zoroaster (Zarathustra), an Aryan-Persian priest, assumed to having lived from 1200-600 BC in Eastern Eurasia (southern Russia) was the first to mention in his holy book, the Avesta, an invisible, powerful and single holy spirit called Ahura Mazda. According to Zoroaster, Ahura Mazda, " created the world, mankind and all the good things in it." Modern scholars call Zoroastrianism "the mother of all Middle Eastern, monotheist faiths."
Later, Ahura Mazda morphed as: Alohim, Yahweh, El and Allah. According
to those who have studied Zoroastrianism and Judaism (like Jewish
rabbinical scholars, Schorr, Kohut and the Christian theologian Stave) the
influences of Zoroastrianism on Judaism are indisputable. For example,
female hygiene customs and mikvah, (the ritual bath), bar mitzvah, (coming
of age), mitzvah, (good deeds), daily prayer schedules are still
practiced by the dwindling Zoroastrian communities in Iran and India.
When Abraham led his people out of Ur (today's southern Iraq) and
migrated to Canaan, along with their belongings and herds, his
followers carried some of the well-known local narratives that were
chiseled in cuneiform script on clay tablets. These were the Hammurrabi
Laws, Gilgamesh (the narrative of the flood) Enuma Elish, (the story of
creation), and Atrahasis (more about the flood.) Later, these epics and some of the laws were entered into Genesis, at times verbatim.
The author, while wondering who "invented" the Jewish People has gone to
great lengths searching the ethnic background of various later converts into
Judaism such as Ashkenazics, Sephardics, Ethiopian Beta Israel (Falashas)
and Yemenite Jews. The author, except citing the Palestinians as true Jews, has failed to mention other Eastern Jews such as Persians, Iraqis and the still Aramaic--speaking Kurdish Jews in Israel (the Yahudat Kurdistan). These Jews, although much reduced in numbers following the formation of the State of
Israel in 1948 and the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979, are the true children of Zion who during millennia of abuse and discrimination by their neighbors and rulers had kept the faith. They are the authentic and mostly forgotten Jews who were never "invented."