The Divergence of Judaism and Islam. Interdependence, Modernity, and Political Turmoil

(Joyce) #1

238 · Rachel Maissy-Noy

in Arabic. Even the commentaries of the Bible and the Talmud, the
writings about questions and answers as well as the discussions
among the various sects and religions, are the product of their life
in Egyptian society.^21

The Question of the National Aspirations of the Jewish Nation

The suppression of the Bar Kochba revolt is considered by Aḥmad ̔Us-
man, ̔Ali Isma ̔il al-Sayyid, and many others not only as the end of the
past but also as the end of the Jewish future. They claim that from that
event onward, the national aspirations of the Jewish nation ceased to ex-
ist, and that during all the years in the Diaspora, guided by their rabbis,
they concentrated only on preserving their religion. Others thought that
the end of the Jewish nation had come even earlier. Ḥasan Ẓaẓ, for in-
stance, claims that the end of the Jewish nation in the sense of nationhood
had come following the destruction of the First Temple.^22
Zubayda ̔Aṭa is also preoccupied with that subject. In her opinion,
medieval Jews had no national aspirations, as she described it, using
the medieval term ̔Asabiyya (tribal fanaticism). She claims that they had
never thought of leading a revolution or of establishing an independent
state. On the contrary, on the basis of Jewish historians such as Ashtor,
Goitein, and Mark Cohen, she says that the Jews have always wanted
to integrate into their environment, support the government, and even
serve it in the state administration. That was how they behaved during
the Fatimid regime in the Maghreb and in Egypt, as well as during the
Muslim reign in Andalusia. One of the proofs she quotes from the Geniza
documents is that even when they had been far from home for business
or studies, in their letters they expressed their longing for their homeland
and not for the Land of Israel.^23
Zubayda ̔Aṭa also points out the similarity in the relations of medi-
eval Jews to the Holy Land and the relations of the Reform Jews in Eu-
rope in the nineteenth century to Zionism. She thinks that medieval Jews
endeavored to integrate into Muslim society out of the same principle
that hundreds of years later guided the members of the Reform Move-
ment. In both cases, she claims, the supporters of integration with the
environment considered that the solution for the Jewish problem was
in obtaining equal rights and complete absorption into the local society
rather than by establishing an independent Jewish state. This opinion of

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