From Exodus to Today: The Enduring Struggle Against Antisemitism

December 23, 2021

Antisemitism has been around since biblical times, and it continues to rear its ugly head today. The earliest recorded instance of such hatred can be found in the first chapter of the Book of Exodus. In the biblical narrative, Pharaoh becomes increasingly alarmed that the Children of Israel, transitioning from a clan to a nation, would pose a potential threat to Egypt. As a result, he devises a devious plan to subjugate and undermine them.

The Ramban, also known as Rabbi Moses ben Nachman, explained that Pharaoh and his advisors didn’t opt for outright military aggression against the Hebrews, but instead resorted to cunning tactics, because they resided in Egypt at Pharaoh’s request. This initial act of antisemitism set a historical precedent, illustrating that hatred against Jews often manifests itself in sinister ways rather than straightforward confrontations.

Another Torah commentator, the Seforno, pointed out that despite living among the Egyptians for centuries, the Hebrews maintained their distinct identity through practices like circumcision. They steadfastly held onto their language, clothing style, and Hebrew names, refusing to assimilate. This determination to preserve their identity sometimes fueled the flames of antisemitism throughout the ages, since Jews were targeted for being “different.” But the Holocaust proved that antisemitism is much more than hatred of those who are different, as Hitler did not distinguish between Jews who had maintained their faith and those who were thoroughly assimilated.

As history unfolded, the Jews faced various forms of hatred, but the modern era saw antisemitism take on a particularly sinister dimension. This deep-seated animosity persisted, reaching its darkest point in the Holocaust. Shockingly, the Nazis found an unlikely ally in Palestinian nationalism during World War II. Haj Amin al-Husseini, the founder of Palestinian nationalism, openly aligned with the Nazis, even visiting death camps. Palestinians also served in the Nazi Army, forging a connection that continues to this day, despite denials by some foreign supporters of a Palestinian state.

As God fulfilled His promise to gather the Jews from exile, Jew-hatred took on a new form.

The brutal attack by Hamas terrorists on October 7th, 2023, in which they killed over 1400 Israelis in one day and took over 200 hostages, proves beyond a shadow of a doubt the enduring nature of this hatred. The barbaric attack by Hamas highlights that the age-old battle against antisemitism is far from over. But now, as Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, warned, antisemitism is not limited to Jews alone.

“The hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews,” he wrote. “It wasn’t Jews alone who suffered under Hitler. It wasn’t Jews alone who suffered under Stalin. It isn’t Jews alone who suffer under ISIS or Al Qaeda or Islamic Jihad. We make a great mistake if we think antisemitism is a threat only to Jews. It is a threat, first and foremost, to Europe and to the freedoms it took centuries to achieve.”

“Antisemitism is not about Jews. It is about anti-Semites. It is about people who cannot accept responsibility for their own failures and have instead to blame someone else. Historically, if you were a Christian at the time of the Crusades, or a German after the First World War, and saw that the world hadn’t turned out the way you believed it would, you blamed the Jews. That is what is happening today. And I cannot begin to say how dangerous it is. Not just to Jews but to everyone who values freedom, compassion and humanity.”

In today’s day and age, the hatred of Jews has come to include anyone of any faith who believes in the Bible, the God of Israel and Judeo-Christian ethics.

“The appearance of antisemitism in a culture is the first symptom of a disease, the early warning sign of collective breakdown,” Rabbi Sacks wrote. 

He notes a disturbing new narrative that attempts to justify cold-blooded murder like that which took place on October 7th.

“The ultimate weapon of the new antisemitism is dazzling in its simplicity. It goes like this. The Holocaust must never happen again,” Rabbi Sacks wrote. “But Israelis are the new Nazis; the Palestinians are the new Jews; all Jews are Zionists. Therefore the real anti-Semites of our time are none other than the Jews themselves.”

The conflict in the Middle East has clear implications for the end of days, in which the Christians, as the sons of Esau, will play a key role. In Jewish literature, the question is whether Esau will align with Jacob or with Ishmael. It is up to you to decide.

Eliyahu Berkowitz

Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz is a senior reporter for Israel365News. He made Aliyah in 1991 and served in the IDF as a combat medic. Berkowitz studied Jewish law and received rabbinical ordination in Israel. He has worked as a freelance writer and his books, The Hope Merchant and Dolphins on the Moon, are available on Amazon.

Eliyahu Berkowitz

Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz is a senior reporter for Israel365News. He made Aliyah in 1991 and served in the IDF as a combat medic. Berkowitz studied Jewish law and received rabbinical ordination in Israel. He has worked as a freelance writer and his books, The Hope Merchant and Dolphins on the Moon, are available on Amazon.

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