Demythologizing the myth of “Jewish diaspora” from its false universality
Demythologizing the myth of “Jewish diaspora” from its false universality

Demythologizing the myth of “Jewish diaspora” from its false universality

Maram Al-Qeeq
Prof. Ra’ad
ENGL 333
15 Dec 2015

Demythologizing the myth of “Jewish diaspora” from its false universality

In discussion of the phenomena of “diaspora”, one controversial issue has been the
myth of the Jewish “diaspora” in the 70 CE. Jews are said to have expelled from
Jerusalem after the destruction of the “second temple” by the Romans in the 70 CE.
This myth is very common and ingrained not only in the minds of Israelis but
also in the Westerners’ minds. It is also one of the fundamental claims Israeli
colonizers depend on to prove their rights in the land of Palestine. In their national
anthem, Israelis declare their hope to return to Palestine after, as they claim, two
thousand years of longing and wandering. Many scholars deal with this “diaspora” as
paradigmatic and unique one. However, a close examination of the term “diaspora”
and its historical indications for Jews, the lack of historical books to prove this
“diaspora”, and the recent archeological surveys discoveries refute the Jews’ claims
of being uprooted from Jerusalem by the Romans and confirm that this “diaspora” is
just a myth invented by Christians and absorbed by Jews for various purposes.
To begin with, The term “diaspora” finds its roots in the Greek language which
means “to scatter about”, from dia “about, across”and speirein “to scatter”. It is now a
common term that is used to refer to a large ethnic group of people who are expelled
from their homeland and spread to places all over the world. Merriam Webster defines
it as “The movement, migration, or scattering of a people away from an established or
ancestral homeland”. Jews appropriate this concept to be exclusive only for
them by capitalizing it to refer to their “unique” experiences. The first exile in
the Bible is related to the expulsion of Adam and Eve from heaven followed by
Abraham migration to Canaan, Jacob descent into Egypt, and the Exodus of Moses
and the Israelites from Egypt.
The first time the term “diaspora” enters the Jewish Bible is in the Greek
translation of the Hebrew Bible, but without “any explicit historical
reference”(Ehrlich 34). For Mark Ehrlich, the ideas in the Bible about “diaspora” are
related to two familiar patterns of exile and return. The first one is related to the
Israelites when they are warned to follow the commandments of God. It is mentioned
in the Deuteronomy 28:25 that “the lord will give them up…and there will be a
‘diaspora’ in all the kingdoms on the earth”. The second one is related to the
Babylonian “diaspora” and the destruction of the “first temple”. He says “the
Babylonian capture of their[Jews] land and the deportations left them
Moreover, Chaim Milikowsky maintains that the term exile or galut in Hebrew
refers to a political subjugation rather than deportation. He finds in rabbinical sources
that galut is used only to refer to the Babylonian exile which is regarded as ongoing
even after the destruction of the “second temple”(265-269). In addition, Israel J.
Yuval confirms that the dispersal of the Jews did not begin with the destruction of
the second temple because they were already scattered in different places. He quotes
from The Book of Esther that describes the Jews as “a certain people scattered abroad
and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy [the Persian emperor’s]
kingdom.”(3:8). He also went further. He shows that the myth of the wandering Jew
arose later on due to the rise of Christian mythology about the exile of the Jews as a
punishment for their rejection and crucifixion of Christ. Yuval explains in more
details the intention of Christians to invent this myth. He says that it is a “punishment
for the crucifixion of Jesus. Second, it reduced the Jews to the level of servants
subordinated to the church.Third, it marked the end of the era of the Torah of
Moses—the era of the Old Testament, which was connected to the Temple and the
beginning of the era of the New Testament. Fourth, it confirmed the Jewish
nation’s loss of right to the Holy Land and established a new, alternative Christian
claim to ownership”(22
As ). Most importantly, the main purpose of the Christians to
invent this myth was the restoration of the Jews in Palestine and convert them to
Christianity in anticipation and preparation of Christ’s second coming. As well,
Shlomo Sand mentions that “the myth of uprooting and exile was fostered by the
Christian tradition, from which it flowed into Jewish tradition and grew to be the truth
engraved in history, both the general and national”(130). Robin Cohen also points out
that “The image of the ‘wandering Jew’ became part of a continuing Christian
For some Jews, exile has a spiritual religious meaning. It is the longed for
an anticipated salvation that could come at the end of days. Thus, exile is not related
to a place outside the homeland, but it is a condition that is not salvation. The
salvation would come when the anticipated messiah comes and they return in mass
numbers to Jerusalem. It is mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud that “Israel must not
seek to rise up over the wall; that the holy one blessed be he adjured Israel not to rise
up against the nations of the world; that holy one blessed be he adjured the idolaters
not to enslave Israel overmuch”(qtd. in Sand 136). Sand explains this by saying that
” rise up over the wall” means a mass return to the “holy land” which is forbidden for
the Jews to hasten the end and rebel against God’s commands. So, exile is seen as a
“divine ordinance not to be broken”(136). This is evident after the Babylonian exile,
Jews went all over the world except to Jerusalem. However, some Jews were
“denounced as false messiahs” for their coming in mass numbers to live as a Jewish
community in Palestine. For political purposes, Zionists convince the Jews all over
the world to come and live in mass numbers in Palestine because, as they claim, it’s is
their “ancestral land” they were forced to leave long ago. They depend on the myth
of being expelled from it by the Romans in the 70CE. In fact, many European
communities cling to this myth just to get rid of the Jews from Europe.
Second, there is no single historical book, Roman or other, confirms that the Jews
were uprooted by the Romans. Sand emphasizes that “I started looking for research
studies about the exile from the land, but to my astonishment I discovered it has no
literature”(qtd. in Atzmon). The reason behind the absence of any historical book is
that this exile never occurred. The Romans never expelled people from their land.
They need the people to serve them and plant the land. Cohen says “the degree of
discrimination against the Jews in the Roman world was quite modest”(24). The
Romans, indeed, killed, exiled, or imprisoned the rebellious, but they did not force
entire population to leave, as they claim. Sand points out that “the Romans never
deported entire peoples… Roman rulers could be utterly ruthless in suppressing
rebellious subject population: they executed fighters, took captives, and sold them
into slavery, and sometimes exiled kings and princes. But they definitely did not
deport whole populations in the countries they conquered in the east, nor did they
have the means to do so–none of the trucks, trains or great ships available in the
modern world”(130).
Hence, since the Romans did not expel Jews, what happened to them in
Palestine?. There are many claims, mostly Zionist, that most of the Palestinians are
all descendants of Jews. For example, in an article published online with a title of
“Israeli Historian: Palestinians Are Biological Descendants of Bible’s Jews”, it is
mentioned that Yitzhak Ben Zvi, later president of Israel, and David Ben Gurion, its
first prime minister, state that “the peasants of Palestine were the descendants of the
inhabitants of ancient Judea”(n.p). Thus, this explains what happened to the Jews in
Palestine since nowadays Palestinian peasants, as Zionists claim, are descendents of
Jews. They did not leave it because they still here as descendants Palestinians. They
either converted to Christianity or to Islam. Most of the Jews converted to Islam more
than Christianity because Judaism is closer to Islam than to Christianity. In addition,
if the Jews were expelled, it is logical to be thrown out of Jerusalem to other parts of
Palestine, not all over the world. That is why their language-Hebrew or aromatic- did
not spread over the world. However, some scholars tend to depend on the myth of
“diaspora” to explain the spread of Judaism in the world. But, there is no proved
relation between the two. Judaism spread naturally by migration of people from their
land, marriage from other religion, conversion, and by merchants. Sand emphasizes
this by saying “”the people did not spread, but the Jewish religion spread”. Their
religion spread because also they were already scattered all over the world since the
Babylonian expulsion. There were Jewish people in Egypt and Bagdad. Thus, most of
the Jews in the world are natives of the places they were born in.
Besides, The common assumption which is still taught in Israeli schools is that the
Arch of Titus in Rome resembles the Jewish holding of the temple candelabra.
However, this story that is told to deceive people, mainly lay people because
historians know that all the story of exile is just a myth, is demythologized by many
scholars. For example, Yuval comments on this by saying that when the Jewish
tourists come to Rome, they think of that is the Arch of Titus and the figures bearing
the Temple vessels are “exiled Judean Jews”, but “in fact they are soldiers of the
Roman legion marching in a triumphal parade”(4). Some historians try to connect the
fable of the Jewish exile from Palestine with the destruction of the “second temple”.
However, other historians explain what happens at the time of its destruction with no
mention of any deportation of people. For example, in his book A Social and
Religious History, the New York historian Salo Baron does not connect the
destruction with the expulsion of the Jews. He rejected any association of the Jewish
community after the destruction of Jerusalem as a religious group. He focuses also on
the two uprisings in Jerusalem against the Romans and refers to them as political
uprisings rather than religious ones.
Furthermore, there is no clear number of the population of Jerusalem under the
Roman empire. Many historians tend to exaggerate the number of the Jews who were
killed or lived in Jerusalem. For example, Flavious Josephus’s Wars of The Jews, a
work used by many Zionists to support their estimating of the number of Jews in
Jerusalem, is a not a reliable book. Josephus says that there are three million
inhabitants in the Galilee, 1.1 million died in the siege of Jerusalem, and 97.1000
were taken captives. Many scholars assure that all the demographic figures taken in
antiquity are overestimated. In Daily Life in Ancient Rome, Carcopino points out that
the number of the population of Rome in its height time “have approached the size of
a medium modern conurbation”(18). Thus, it is impossible of Judea to contain
population more than Rome with its metropolis. Thus, Josephus’s account is not
credible. As well, Sand maintains that “a cautions estimate suggests that Jerusalem at
that time could have had a population of sixty thousand to seventy thousand
inhabitants”(131). Indeed, the Jews were living in Jerusalem, but other people lived
with them. They were not the majority of it. If they were so, after the so-called
“diaspora”, Palestine will be left empty. After that, in Bar Jokhba revolt in 132 CE,
Cassius Dio wrote that nearly half a million of people were killed and nine hundred
and eighty five villages were razed to the ground(qtd. in Sand 133). Since there is no
mention of any exile in the above mentioned historian writings, it is impossible of the
population of Judea to be nearly four million and a half-three million as Josephus said
and one and a half as Dio said. Recent archeology surveys such as the one by Magen
Broshi shows that the inhabitants of Palestine were no more than one million in the 6th
century(qtd. in Sand. It is impossible for four million to be later on without
deportation or exile just one million. Indeed, there could be wars, famines or plagues,
but there is no mention of such things in the history of Jerusalem that reduce the
number of its population. Many countries are said to have recovered after the revolts.
To this extent, in spite of all the evidence that decompose the myth of the
“Jewish diaspora”, it is impossible for Israelis to diminish it from their minds,
especially fundamentalists, because it is the base that “the State of Israel” depends
on. The right of the Israelis to stay in Palestine and the Jews to return is no longer
valid. They have no right to uproot the Palestinians from their own ancestral land just
to make alive their own legend. As for those scholars who conceive of the “Jewish
diaspora” as unique such as William Safran who labeled characteristics of “diaspora”
and appropriated them only for the Jews and said that none of the diasporic
communities “fully conforms to the ideal type of the Jewish diaspora”(84), I respond
to him by saying that I agree that the “Jewish diaspora” is “unique”, but it is unique
in term of being the only “diaspora” that is invented. The “diaspora” of the
Palestinian, Syrian, Armenian, Chinese, Greek, Indian, Kurdish , Parsi,and Sikh
actually occurred. But, the “Jewish diaspora” is the only one that it never occurred
and at the same time it has a huge negative impact on other people-Palestinians. The
real “diasporas” that occurred in other communities never caused damage as this
invented diaspora still doing. It is the only diaspora that creates a “home” which and
makes it vacant for those who have no right in it at the expense of the dispossession of
the scapegoats Palestinians of their own land. Thus, the Palestinians Diaspora that
began in 1948 and continues in 1967 is the only one that should be labeled as a
paradigmatic one because it occurred as a result of false universal Christian – Jewish
made myth. Hence, for all Palestinians in
their Diaspora, they should say Next
Year In Palestine.




Works Cited
Atzmon, Gilad. The Wandering Who?: A Study of Jewish Identity Politics. John Hunt
Publishing, 2011. 12 Oct 2015.
Baron, Salo Wittmayer. A social and religious history of the Jews: Laws, Homilies,
and the Bible. Vol. 6. New York: Columbia University Press, 1958. Web. 12 Dec
Broshi, Magen, “The Population in Eretz Israel in The Roman-Byzantine Period”,
Eretz Israel from the Destruction of the Second Temple to the Muslim Conquest.
Jerusalem: Yad Izhak ben Zvi, 1982.
Carcopino, Jerome, and Henry T. Rowell. Daily life in ancient Rome: the people and
the city at the height of the empire. New York: Yale University Press, 2003. Web.
1 Dec 2015.
Cohen, Robin. Global diasporas: An introduction. London: Routledge, 2008. Web. 12

Oct 2015.

Ehrlich, Mark Avrum. Encyclopedia of the Jewish diaspora: origins, experiences, and
culture. Vol. 1. Santa Barbara: ABC Clio, 2009. Web. 15 Nov 2015.
Safran, William. “The Jewish diaspora in a comparative and theoretical perspective.”
Israel studies 10.1 (2005): 36-60.
Sand, Shlomo, and Yael Lotan. The invention of the Jewish people. London: Verso,

2010. Print.
Yuval, Israel Jacob. “The myth of the Jewish exile from the land of Israel: a
demonstration of irenic scholarship.” Common Knowledge 12.1 (2006): 16-33.

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