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Why the Jewish people survived 2,000 years as a dispersed minority

Their religion held them together. Its historical offshoots became the religions of about half of humanity.

Posted 5 September 2021

Today I gave my 64th "Thought for the Week" on BBC Radio Manchester.

I was struggling to make my planned topic work within the space allowed. Then on Friday reading my new issue of The Jewish Chronicle reminded me about Rosh Hashanah and the content fell into place almost immediately.

Thought for the week

Hear my "Thought"

Due to the pandemic, I always pre-record the "Thought for the Week" and send it to the BBC in advance. Accordingly you can hear my recording below.

Read my "Thought"

New Year is always a time for reflection. For looking forward, and for looking back.

Monday evening starts Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The year will be 5,782 since the Jewish calendar runs from the creation of the world, calculated from the Jewish Bible, also called the Old Testament.

The Israelites were just one of many small kingdoms in the Middle East. Regularly conquered by the empires around them. Eventually they were dispersed, when the Romans destroyed their Temple and expelled all Jews from Jerusalem.

The other small racial groups are long gone, part of history, absorbed by their conquerors. Why did the Jews not disappear as well? The answer is their religion.

Those other groups worshipped gods of wood, stone and metal. We know their gods’ names, like Baal and Ishtar, as historical curiosities.

The Jews worshipped a god who could not be seen. Their prophets wrote books whose words can still move us today, 2,500 years later. Their religion held the Jews together as one people, while they lived for 2,000 years in lands ruled by others.

Today their religion, and its historical offshoots of Christianity and Islam, are the religions of about half of humanity. They are the fabric of how we see the world and the stories we grow up with.

Regardless of your religious beliefs, the survival of the Jewish people is something to marvel.

So, to all my Jewish friends in Greater Manchester and around the world, let me say Shanah Tovah, or in English, Happy New Year.


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