The Roots Of Judaism And Christianity Essay — страница 5

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anti-Semitism as an instrument was a major factor in the rise to power of Adolf Hitler in 1933, whereupon the German Jews were immediately disfranchised, robbed of possessions, deprived of employment, barred from the schools, and subjected to physical violence and constant humiliation. Once World War II occupied the attention of the democracies, Hitler and his supporters attempted “the final solution,” the complete extermination of the Jews. About 6 million Jews –almost a third of their total number–were massacred, starved, or systematically gassed in concentration camps. In addition to destroying so many individual lives, the Holocaust eradicated the communities of Central and Eastern Europe, which had been the chief centers of learning and piety for nearly a thousand

years. The Western democracies all but closed their doors to refugees. Britain meanwhile had gradually abandoned the Balfour Declaration, reducing the number of Jews admitted to Palestine in order to placate the Arabs. After repeated outbreaks of violence, investigations, and abortive British plans, Britain announced that it was giving up the mandate, and the United Nations adopted a resolution calling for the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab areas. On May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was proclaimed. Since then Israel has fought five wars against Arab coalitions to establish and preserve its independence. A peace treaty (Mar. 26, 1979) between Israel and Egypt was not accepted by the other Arab states. Although the USSR voted for the UN partition resolution in 1947,

it later became markedly anti-Israel in its policies. A resurgence of Jewish self- consciousness, however, occurred within Soviet Jewry despite deprivation of religious education and other discriminations. Over the years a number of Soviet Jews emigrated to Israel and the United States, although official restrictions caused a decline in emigration in the 1980s until 1987, when new legislation provided a liberal emigration policy. Since World War II the Jews of the United States have achieved a degree of acceptance without parallel in Jewish history, and Jews play a significant role in intellectual and cultural life. The elimination of social barriers has led to a high rate of mixed marriage. During the same period there has been a growth in synagogue affiliation and support for

Israel. Recent estimates put the total number of Jews at about 17.5 million, of whom almost 7 million reside in the United States, more than 2 million in the republics of the former USSR, and over 4.3 million in Israel. France, Great Britain, and Argentina also have significant Jewish populations. The once- substantial communities in North Africa and the Middle East have been reduced to small fragments. Most of these Oriental Jews have settled in Israel. Thousands of Ethiopian Jews, for example, were airlifted to Israel in 1984-85 and 1991. Israel’s Jewish population increased significantly in the early 1990s, when it received hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the disintegrating Soviet Union. (ii) Christianity: Christianity is the religion of about a billion people whose

belief system centers on the person and teachings of Jesus Christ. To Christians, Jesus of Nazareth was and is the Messiah or Christ promised by God in the prophecies of the Old Testament; by his life, death, and resurrection he freed those who believe in him from their sinful state and made them recipients of God’s saving grace. Many also await the second coming of christ, which they believe will complete God’s plan of salvation. The Christian Bible, or Holy Scripture, includes the Old Testament and also the New Testament, a collection of early Christian writings proclaiming Jesus as lord and savior. Arising in the Jewish milieu of 1st-century Palestine, Christianity quickly spread through the Mediterranean world and in the 4th century became the official religion of the

Roman Empire. Christians have tended to separate into rival groups, but the main body of the Christian church was united under the Roman emperors. During the Middle Ages, when all of Europe became Christianized, this main church was divided into a Latin (Western European) and a Greek (Byzantine or Orthodox) branch. The Western church was in turn divided by the Reformation of the 16th century into the Roman Catholic church and a large number of smaller Protestant churches: Lutheran, Reformed (Calvinist), Anglican, and sectarian. These divisions have continued and multiplied, but in the 20th century many Christians joined in the ecumenical movement to work for church unity. This resulted in the formation of the world council of churches. Christianity, a strongly proselytizing