The Jews of the Middle East
A cluster of 13 Jewish Groups in 2 Middle Eastern Countries.
Until 1948, Jews formed the largest non-Muslim minority in Iraq and Iran. The Jewish communities fared well over the centuries until Islam was declared the official religion. Since that time, they have been isolated and have experienced much discrimination and persecution. Sometimes they were forced to "convert" to Islam. With the formation of the Israeli nation in 1948 and the Iranian Revolution in 1979, large numbers of Jews have left Iraq and Iran. The few who remain continue to suffer from an anti-Semitic atmosphere.
When considering the Jewish lifestyle, many see Israel as the sparkling jewel on the ring of nations in the Middle East. Having been a minority for almost 2,000 years, the present population of Israel is now 82% Jewish. The stream of immigrants into Israel began in the 1880's with the national and cultural revival known as "Zionism." The "trickle" of immigrants became a flood when the nation of Israel was established in 1948. Since its formation, Israel has received over 2.5 million Jews. In the next decade it will probably overtake the USA as the world's largest Jewish community.
What are their lives like?
Almost 90% of the Israeli Jews live in cities. Attempts to start new towns and populate rural areas have been difficult. In fact, such attempts have often become scenes of ethnic unrest between Jews and Palestinians. Most of the Jews who live in rural areas are part of the well-known kibbutzim (collective farms or settlements in Israel).
Israeli leaders wanted to see all immigrants "fuse" into one Jewish people. However, the different immigrant groups of the past have now become the ethnic groups of today. Along with the ethnicity, a class society has developed. One's ethnic background may shape one's occupation and standard of living. The "Oriental Jews," those of African-Asian descent, are concentrated in the lower strata of society.
Unlike many Jewish communities outside Israel, extended families do not play an important part in the lives of the Israeli Jews. Rather, the nuclear family is the most important unit. Because education is highly valued in Israeli society, schools are free and compulsory through the tenth grade. Most Jews view mandatory service in the Israeli army as a crucial part of the transition into adulthood.
The decline in Judaic studies in school seems to be a result of the crisis in Israel's Jewish identity. Many religious laws written into social law are no longer being enforced, such as businesses observing the Sabbath or the prohibitions against selling pork. Although all of the holidays on the Jewish religious calendar are celebrated, they have a greater social than religious value to most Israelis. On the other hand, there has been a cultural renaissance of Hebrew and Jewish studies and arts, particularly in dance, literature, music, and theater.
What are their beliefs?
What are their needs?
Throughout their history, the Jews have been discriminated against and persecuted. They need to experience emotional healing and forgiveness. Pray that as the Gospel is shared with them, it will not be viewed as anti-Semitic, but rather as the fulfillment of what God promised humanity through Abraham centuries ago. Also pray for a spiritual hunger among the Jews who view their "Jewishness" as an ethnic identity and have no religious affiliation.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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