In an unprecedented call to national and faith unity and solidarity, Ukraine's Chief Rabbi Azriel Khaikin asked the Jewish community of the country to join the celebrations marking the 75th memorial day of the Holodomor, Ukrainian for man-made famine that caused the death of millions inhabitants of the Ukraine in 1932-33. The movement was launched by the the Supreme Communist Soviet of the former USSR in order to ruin the Ukrainian economy and resourceful industries. I already wrote a blog about the problem that hardly can be approached by the media in the West as also in Israel (Between plenty and famine, 11/30/06).
We are in a year that includes a lot of anniversaries and 75 years ago was a terrible period of uncertainty all through Europe. The Soviet Union was on its way to be stabilized. Germany voted for Hitler and, after the Great Depression of 1929, Thanksgiving was definitely instituted in the United States as a national holiday. The Middle-Eastern Christians had been betrayed by most superpowers of the time: the dying out Assyrian Chaldean and Nestorian faithful of Aramaic tongue (Jesus spoke Aramaic and prayed in Hebrew) were promised a free republic by the British, but British Petroleum and Royal Dutch and other oil companies prevented the creation of the new state. The French were involved in Lebanon. Today, the traditional Assyrian prime minister of Iraq is absolutely no more a Christian and the Lebanese president is missing right now, leaving the Maronite and the other Christian Churches in a messy and unprecented situation. The Iranian president strongly suggests that his country should nuke Israel, provided that the well-cultured and educated European countries would give asylum to the future fleeing Jews and ever-wandering Displaced Persons.
Since 1976 and even before, Lebanon has progressively lost its prestige as a free multicultural, interfaith, Middle-Eastern Switzerland or Monaco-like paradise for business, contracts and cultural developments. In the present, the only country where the Christians can feel safe in the Middle-Eastern Arab world seems to be Jordan, with a large Eastern Orthodox community, some Catholics, among which there are some of the Assyrian-Chaldean faith that fled from Iran when Khomeini came to power in 1978, with the assistance of the French president V. Giscard d'Estaing. Qatar and some Arab Emirates do encourage the spiritual assistance to their foreign Christian workers.
A recent colloquium at the Sorbonne (Paris), organized by the cream of the crops of the French intelligentsia brainstorming thinkers, was held with a typical alerting capacity to ring the bells of ends of times for the Christian communities in the Near and Middle-East. The French FM Bernard Kouchner introduced the various lectures delivered by highly competent specialists in the development of the Christian communities in the region.
The colloquium was firstly intelligent and full of insights. Over the past two centuries, the French have developed a specific capacity to analyzing the process of changes with precision and perceptiveness in the region. The reflections are exact, witty but, at this point, they do not pave the way to any betterment or adjustment. As a colonial superpower, France has played a huge historic and cultural role. As most European countries that are still involved in the area, the attitude strictly remains colonial though the colonies have been lost or are on the verge to get overtaken. Many European countries are indeed of Christian background (Ireland, Poland, Italy, France, Spain and Portugal). They are basically and historically catholic and face the powerful pressure of foreign newcomers that are widely orthodox (Ukrainians, Romanians and Serbs in Spain/Catalonia, Italy, Germany, France, Scandinavia). This development is new, has been appealing as a cultural feature but remains alien to the spiritual understanding of the local authorities and Church staff. The Ukrainian emigration to the Middle-East via Turkey, constitutes a line that slopes from Armenia down to Israel-Palestine, Cyprus and Egypt-Ethiopia or vice versa. It covers the Mediterranean area on the way to the West. This concerns thousands of thousands of workers and new faithful which explains, that Rome, Paris and London are today Ethiopian, Assyrian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Romanian major cities. A Russian church has been opened in Iceland, Syrian-Orthodox are sheltered in Scandinavia. There is a real take-over of the Oriental Christians in the Western world, from the Former Soviet Union to the United States, Canada and South America. Buenos Aires was a Yiddish and Ladino pan-Jewish capital as also an old Russian Orthodox and a West Bank Palestinian Arab Christian city.
This situation progressively erases the major presence and substantial importance of the Christian faithful in the Middle-East that defies and drives away from the traditional European patterns and usual solutions. Throughout history, Judaism and Islam have often discussed with much productivity. The Christian Churches have often forgotten that Jewish scholars saved the Greek and Latin heritage by the time of the Barbarians. In the present, the problem resides in the apparent lack of goodwill from the Jewish and Israeli part to accept any solution proposed by the “Christian” nations. This position is problematic but realistic and relies upon the terrible experience of the Jewish people, as stated by D. Ben-Gurion himself: “They all betrayed us”. This statement is simply real. It has to be taken into consideration in order to eventually repair a state of mutual relationships and pave the way to authentic confidence.
It is certainly not healthy for the region that the ancient Christian Churches that have been present in the area over 2,000 years keep too much on a line of silence and back-laid attitude inside Israeli society. Interestingly, it isolates the Jews, widening the rift of mutual ignorance and lack of stability. We go through times of suspicion, too much suspicion without using our brains. And thus societies are driven by moves aiming at combating hunger and impoverishment.
If we look at a map, the Christians are at ease in Jordan (mainly Eastern-Orthodox) and widely present and active in Egypt (the Copts; ca. 7 million faithful). Israeli Christians do not feel likely to show as believers in their daily activities, in particular at work, social involvements, world of the media, industry. Indeed, there are a few renowned exceptions that always had to struggle with most of the concerned parties.
Who will take the responsibility of the eradication of the most ancient Christian communities of Aramaic tradition in Iraq? Wiped out by new Christian believers unaware of any historic background! They spread with Jewish merchants from Persia till the Himalayan heights up to the 14th century to Tibet, China, Manchuria (Syriac alphabet) and Japan. Lhassa was an Assyrian Christian city and the Jews lived in Kaifeng (China). This way to the East seems definitely on hold for the Churches. Israel emerges with too many identity problems and it will take a lot of time before “structured Israeli society and individuals” may be capable to freely encounter and understand the Christian reality.
There is more and this seems to be rather ignored abroad and unconsciously active in the country. As time passes, the Yiddishkayt - Jewishness has its own way to describe, explain and analyze the Christian heritage that is discovered via archaeology, monuments, scriptural documents (Qumran – Dead Sea Scrolls). The younger generation can get confused more easily because of the lack of real roots. As a worldwide wave or web crash, the Da Vinci Code as well as Professor Tolkien’s renewed linguistic and mythological systems or Harry Potter convey parallel spiritual topics that delete the credibility of what was and often remains the profound search for more spirituality.
The experience of the Ukraine (and somehow also Belarus) turned to be a hideous tragedy interwoven with hatred and passion, common spiritual insights invisibly shared in the secret of some souls. Man is at times capable to cause a famine because alienation and difference are unbearable to his mind. The Holodomor (causing death through hunger) that happened 75 years ago is unique and has to be added to the multi-faceted dramas that affected a lot of ethnicities. Many Israelis have shared this tragedy that preceded the Shoah. At this point, tragedies are not ethnically limited. As Israel will celebrate the first steps of its existence on November 29th (UN partition vote), it should be retained that the law guarantees the full liberty of speech and conscience/creed as stated in the Independence Declaration.
Curiously, the problem might be that, in this Eretz, creeds function like a set of Russian dolls: instead of spreading and splitting again and again, they have the callous and shrewd task to re-entering each other backwards till they will feel free to meeting with the others and go ahead in a way that was seemingly unforeseeable.
1. I went through the blogs. Some are brilliant as this one in some way.The author would rather be with the columnists. Mixer? these blogs make sense. Thanks.
Leah (and a group of Israelis), Israel, Nov 26 5:11PM