Judaism from A to Z—”Diaspora”
Diaspora identifies any place outside of the land of Israel where Jews live. The term derived from the Greek διασπείρω diaspeiro (“scatter”). The first diaspora began with the biblical exile to Babylon in the sixth century BCE. Even so the exile was followed by the return, under Ezra and Nehemiah, many Jews remained in Persia and Babylonia and a Jewish colony was soon established at Elephantine in Egypt, too. By the time of the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, Jews could already to be found throughout the Roman and Parthian empires. Despite deportations there was no general exile of “Palestinian Jews“ in 70, though Christian propagandists alleged one as “evidence” that Israel had been rejected by God.
By definition many Jews live in the ‘Diaspora’ today. Some refer to this still as ‘Exile’ (‘Galut’) but, if the possibility exists to go to Israel, and one does not take it, staying voluntarily in another country, one cannot really claim to be in exile any more. There are still unfortunately some Jews whose circumstances do not allow them to move freely, and these are still ‘captives’ to some extent. There are also many Israelis who have left the country to seek their living and luck elsewhere.
Those who emigrate to Israel are described as ‘making Aliyah’ — ‘going up to Israel’ — in the same way as one ‘goes up’ to the capital city of a country — and are ‘Olim’; those who leave long-term or permanently to live elsewhere are therefore sometimes described as ‘making Yeridah’ and are ‘Yordim’ — ‘those who go down’.
When the State of Israel was established in 1948, many Israelis expected Jewish communities in the Diaspora to relocate en-masse to their homeland in Israel. When they didn’t this posed a challenge to the Israeli-Diaspora relationship, but not all Jews are Zionists (and not all Zionists — those who believe that Israel is the homeland for all Jews — are Jewish. Some Christians share these values, often for theological reasons of their own! )
In his book, State of Israel, Diaspora, and Jewish Continuity: Essays on the “Ever-Dying People”, philosopher Simon Rawidowicz creates a wonderful bridge for both Jewish communities to support another: “Two that are One,” however, must not be understood as a one-sided obligation; each must mutually recognise the other. The Diaspora of Israel must build the State of Israel with all its strength, even more than it has in the past seventy years, and the State must recognize the Diaspora as of equal value, and an equally responsible co-builder and co-creator of all Jewish life.
Rabbi Adrian M Schell
(Source: Rabbi Walter Rothschild, Norman Solomon, Rabbi Josh Weinberg)