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    Life in the Diaspora – Va’era

    The Egyptian episode is the first chapter in the ages-long history of life in the Diaspora.

    The rabbis say that whatever happened to our ancestors in Egypt they never forgot they were Jewish; they never abandoned their language, customs and clothing.

    It is possible that Jewish identity was easier to keep up because the antagonism towards them reinforced their Jewishness, and later chapters of life in the Diaspora have shown the same tendency.

    But since the Emancipation much of Jewish life has been in a friendly environment and the question is not about Jewishness in spite of persecution but in spite of freedom.

    Friendly democratic countries allow every segment of society to flourish so long as the microcosm plays a full role in the macrocosm at the same time, but it is not easy to live in two worlds at once.

    A second answer is that there is no guarantee that a well-disposed friendly society will not turn on the Jews almost without warning, so we have to be on our guard.

    The question has changed, however, since the establishment of Israel. There seem to be three views: a Jew can only be a full Jew in Israel; a Jew can be a Jew anywhere; and Jews in the Diaspora lose some of their loneliness because they are connected by Israel.

    All three options need ongoing debate, especially in the light of some nations’ adverse attitude to Israel.

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