The Seventh Transformation

Median Judaism in the Middle East has undergone a number of major transformations throughout the ages since the exile of the Israelites from the northern kingdom of Israel 27 centuries ago. 1) The first phase was the Assyrian phase when the deported Israelites for the first time went off the radar of documented history into religious secrecy under foreign rule. 2) The second phase was the Median phase when the deported Israelite kohanim became the priestly caste of the Median state and the Median people while the Israelite Levites integrated into the priestly tribe of the Medes. The Israelites subsequently freely married with the Medes as they became one people. 3) The third phase is the Zoroastrian phase during which the Median Kohanim became the priestly caste of Zoroastrianism as well. During this period did the Maggid (“Magi”) Kohanim travel the world in trade and converted numerous peoples to Median Judaism by inserting themselves as their religious hereditary leaders. 4) The fourth phase is the Hellenistic phase during which Median Judaism reinvented itself as what is now known to historical posterity as “mystery religion”. The Hellenistic era saw some persecution against both the Southern Jurisdiction in the land of Israel and the Northern Jurisdiction in Persia and perhaps elsewhere. 5) The fifth phase is the Christian phase during which Median Judaism reinvented itself as Gnosticism, with the pre-Israelite, yet Crypto-Jewish Mandaeans being the only surviving example of Gnosticism. Median Judaism shrank dramatically during the Christian period and became almost extinct in Europe due to intense persecution by the Christian church. 6) The sixth phase is the Islamic phase which saw further persecution against Median Judaism which reinvented itself as so called “Ghulat” (an Arabic adjective meaning “extremists”) at the very margins of Islamic civilization and taking upon themselves a veneer of pseudo-Islamic vocabulary. 7) The seventh phase is that of returning to the Israelite roots of Median Judaism that have been so rather well hidden throughout the ages.

What will this entail? While Orthodox Jews might expect this to involve adoption of Orthodox Rabbinic Judaism, a more realistic path is that of gradually re-Judaizing the ceremonies and practices of the various denominations of Median Judaism and leaving behind influences derived from religious imperialism whether Islamic or otherwise. Since Median Judaism in the Middle East has undergone six previous historical transformations since the Assyrian deportations 27 centuries ago is a seventh transformation, certainly not an impossible or unrealistic feat to achieve. One idea would be for this to begin in Europe where there is full religious freedom and then it could gradually spread to Turkey, liberal-democratic Northern Cyprus, Iraqi Kurdistan, liberal-democratic Israel and Lebanon. This will obviously take years but it is something that is worthwhile and is an essential part of the eventual Aliyah process. It is important that Alevism and other denominations of Median Judaism in the Middle East shed their Islamic veneer prior to their Aliyah (Hebrew for ascent, immigration) to Israel so as to remove any preposterous Jewish and Israeli “doubts” that they are somehow actually “Muslims”.

The future of the State of Israel clearly lies in embracing religious pluralism in Judaism since Israel will need to make itself attractive for Aliyah so as to attract what will be the non-Orthodox, heavily assimilated and extensively intermarried remnants of Western Jewry of Europe and the Western hemisphere once Israel is wealthy enough to attract Jewish and partially Jewish immigrants from those countries, something which may realistically happen in the coming decades as Israel’s economy continues to grow by about 5% a year. Median Judaism is part of this religious pluralism since it is entirely unrealistic that most Median Jews will reject their own 27 centuries old heritage in favor of Orthodox Rabbinic Judaism.

Published by Daniella Bartfeld

Daniella Bartfeld is the founding director of the Aliyah Organization

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