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"Secrets from a historian's kitchen"

Dr. Yachiam Sorek answers all those who accuse him of post-modernism or post-Zionism and explains that the truth, even if it hurts, is better than blind faith in myths

The writer of these lines carries, sometimes with pride and genius, the "dubious", somewhat sarcastic, title of a serial mythbuster, to the point that occasionally it seems as if things are done with an evil, "sadistic" deliberate intention? After this due diligence, it will be easier for me to present my list.
Well, a historian-researcher, apart from information, access to sources, intelligence, motivation, creativity and imagination, should also be characterized by a degree of "insolence", of daring, when he is going to "give justice" to the academy, society and first and foremost to himself. In my humble opinion, historical research is equivalent to conducting a trial, from the initial investigation (or alternatively: the reading of the indictment) to the decision and sentencing. A case is brought before the judge, where both sides, the defense and the prosecution, want to present it from their point of view. The judge cannot penetrate between the brains of the person suspected of a crime, photograph his soul and question it reliably and precisely. However, he is expected to enforce a law, any law, even if another judge (and there is a high probability of this) would have reached a different ruling and decree, and certainly the case would not have been escalated to a higher instance. However, we will not, of course, abolish the prerogative of the judiciary, but we will expect it to arrive at a judgment of justice and morality, when the truth (or at least the one that appears before the eyes of the judge) is a candle to his feet, even if his judgment deviates from the accepted consensus.
The work of a historian-researcher is similar to that of the judicial administrator, when he is immersed in sifting through sources (and sometimes few and far between), and his job is to distinguish between what is important to treat, between reliable and biased, between emotional and rational, between types of sources and more, and finally he must make a judgment, one that also has From courage and intellectual integrity. The work of the judge and the historian is easy, when the case is not problematic, and difficult, on the other hand, when various difficulties arise, say textual or circumstantial, and especially when the subject under discussion is sensitive and complex due to its transformation, for various reasons, into a popular, national myth. In this case, it behooves the historian to be endowed with no small amount of courage in order to present a position that may raise problems in various directions.
I, in all modesty, not only am not afraid to express non-consensual research positions, but also encourage students to characterize themselves with academic-intellectual courage.
In quite a few cases, in academic settings, when a student turns to me during the preparation of a seminar paper, or a student consults about some kind of academic-research writing, I guide them, with the exception of a coherent formulation of the title of the topic, and with the exception of a coherent formulation of the research question, to ask themselves simply and honestly: What do they want to prove, to show? Such a directive immediately and naturally evokes a regressive, somewhat withdrawn approach, along the lines of: "Me?! What am I, the little Alfie in Menasha, able to prove or innovate?!" And I myself explain, support and encourage: "See, the sources that were laid before the eyes of this or that researcher, are exposed before you. 'All you have to do is run wild', believe in yourself, and try to present another side, new, renewed, different... than the one presented in the research literature. And by the way, presenting a correct question, although there is no guarantee of obtaining any answer, is an interesting novelty for examining the subject." The mantra is not only "dare to know", but "dare to doubt" and hence - "dare to investigate". As a "chilling" example, I bring one of the events in the Bible, and begin with the "Confessions": "Even if there is no certainty that such or such an event ever took place, since most of the episodes in the Bible have no archaeological and cross-documentary basis, we will try to enter the head of the author/editor/ the filter/seal and understand why he specifically chose to present the particular occurrence". This is an approach that bridges the gap between denying the credibility of the events and the certainty that there was someone who found it necessary to bring some story to the attention of the readers.
This approach, although it represents one aspect of many, in dealing with problematic sources, is well connected to the world of myths in history and the complexity of dealing with them. What is a myth? A myth is a story, a plot, a poem, a poem, a ritual expression and sometimes a statement, the dimensions of which are based on a factual, "dry historical" base, microscopic and at least shaky. However, the myth is accepted (in a way that depends on one or another public) as a solid and certain truth, which should not be disputed or immersed in unnecessary reflections about it, and it suffices to mention the status of Mount Sinai, which is perceived in the eyes of a large religious public as a historical status for everything, and the strictness in which it is confidently asserted that every nation Israel, from then until today (and even in the future), has experienced this status. In this mythological context, there is a real danger in trying to doubt at all the historical credibility of the class in question. A myth may/might be perceived as real and reliable, when it is mobilized for different needs - religious-faith, personal, political-national, and the like on the one hand, and when it is repeated countless times on the other hand, and ha ha ha talia. The most prominent example of an exploited myth is the blaming of the Jews for the crucifixion-death of Jesus. This myth is known to have been used by ecclesiastical and other parties, even as a reliable source for justifying the victory of the Christian faith, and not to mention the handsome financial profits that the church produced in the Middle Ages for the purpose of building churches and a multitude of donations from the faithful, such that they filled every occasional Christian "charity" coffers to overflowing .
Two sides must be distinguished in the context of a myth: the first - its very creation and embedding in some historical document; The second - the use made over time on the one hand and after an extended period of time on the other hand. And it is clear that cracking the myth and dismantling it, as presented in this article, concerns more its initial aspect and less its incarnation during history. An honest and decent historian can certainly question the historiosophical or historiographical reliability of the mythological text, while ignoring its historical incarnation and the use made of it. Examining this incarnation is the interest of another historian, who examines, say, anthropological, ethnic, and similar aspects. The text of the myth may be reliable, that is, it was written at the time by an author of the time, although its content may be exaggerated, false, either intentionally or in good faith. Let us take as an example the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey" attributed to Homer. These are interwoven with great legend and a tangle of extreme beliefs, and in some, such as the romantic reason for the Trojan War, distort reality as it can be assumed to have been. However, these works are of great value from the historiosophical and historiographical aspect. Greater complexity is the lot of a myth, which took form and simplified form over time, and which was mobilized, as mentioned above, for individual or collective purposes.
In any case, the task of the historian, and at least one of them, is folded into cutting deep into the intricacies of the myth, in order to reach the historical kernel, examine it for its approval, with the disciplinary and research tools, to reach a conclusion (even if partially qualified and conditional) and present it without falsity and idleness for all to see. A historian who defines his dominant task as searching for myths purely for the purposes of shattering commits a great sin to the profession and the discipline in general. On the other hand, a historian who is afraid of touching, and certainly of analyzing, mythological, problematic, controversial texts, is not fundamentally different from the one who longs to destroy them.
How does the idea, the principle, of cracking myths connect with the core of the historical discipline? Different and diverse myths are embedded in the fabric of historical existence, and their natural explosiveness belongs mainly to the ancient era. There is nothing to talk about trying to understand the events of ancient times without dealing with those myths. Well, since the sources of the ancient times, and especially the dealing with written texts, are problematic (problematics in terms of reliability, lack of documentary continuity, a world of concepts that is tame and inexhaustible), there is definitely a place not to approach the text from a simplistic, natural, direct, self-evident approach, but there is Attack it from all possible angles, and present a hypothetical array consisting of a variety of research, theoretical, but logical, under the circumstances (time, place, contextuality, etc.). How does the whole myth thing connect to this approach? Well, various stories have been sanctified over time, and have become, almost, the iron sheep assets of a given society (through education, rituals, worship, indoctrinations and simply practices that pass from generation to generation), in other words - components with immanent power in shaping the image of the people and forming the image of the society . These characteristics amplify, as it were, characters from the nation's history with superlatives, deliberate filtering and artificial distortion, so that the foundations of that given nation are solid and just. As a result, a mythological assemblage was created, layers upon layers of heroes, brave, wise, moral, sacrificial, loyal... clearly supermen. These characteristics intensify the sanctification of the myth and the transformation it goes through, from just its flimsy actions to the historical turbine of the machine of society and the nation. This phenomenon piles up immeasurable difficulties for anyone who wishes, out of academic, research curiosity, to examine the roots of things, to be puzzled and ask: Is it true? The scream?
Try to present the dark, somewhat despicable deeds of the kings of Judah and Israel, and start with Saul and David. The public will immediately denounce you, and the squeamish academy battery will slap you with the "terrible" label of postmodernism. I will present to you some examples from the history of the people of Israel in the ancient era, under the mythological title of "a rebellious and hard-backed people who rise up against their foreign, tormenting and tormenting rulers". Such a myth served the Zionist movement well from the beginning of its foundation, from its activities abroad and throughout its activities in Israel. This myth was supposed to inject fuel to drive the Zionist machine in the face of all the hardships of the multitudes, and to say in essence: 'Since then and never have we reconciled ourselves to the difficulties that plagued us. We did not fold or break. We fought and won.' I will present here, very concisely, a number of rebellions, three in number, of the people against their foreign rulers. I will bring the accepted assumptions, and offer a different angle of view through which one can observe the same events of the past. I will emphasize that some of the hypotheses see the light of day here for the first time.
Let's start with the rebellion of Matthias and Judah the Maccabee (166/167 BC onwards), engraved in the tradition of the people as a rebellion against the Greek government and its culture, in the confrontation of the few against the many and in the establishment of Jewish sovereignty, which is not Greek, in the land. Well, in light of examining the totality of the sources, the miracle of the revolt was indeed raised against the Syrian-Hellenistic (the "Greek") government and its decrees and the Greekization moves that preceded the revolt. However, it will be difficult for us to ignore the Hasmonean tendency to bring about an unprecedented internal revolution in the priestly leadership of the temple (and in fact in controlling the temple, which is a kind of kingship and producing material profits) - raising the status of the Yehoyrib family in the temple and its continued existence over time (* This theory sees light here for the first time, and I am a future to open it at one of the scientific conferences this year). The revolt was formulated mainly as a protest against the Greekization and Hellenistic influences in Judea. The deepening of the influence was particularly noticeable in the eight years preceding the outbreak of the rebellion, when the High Priest's brother was carrying out a Hellenistic reform and was eager to upgrade Jerusalem's status as a Hellenistic polis. He wins the crown of the High Priesthood, which upsets the circles of opponents, how the foreign ruling authority interferes in the very essential affairs of Jerusalem and the Temple. And behold, only about twenty-five years have passed since this move, and in the midst of the Hasmonean rebellion, one of the sons of Mattathias, the brother of Judah the Maccabee and his successor, Jonathan, is awarded the crown of the great priesthood at the hands of ... the Hellenistic ruler in his own right. Moreover, this conduct became a tradition in Judah. So things that you see from there, you don't see from here, and the creature is purified in Ken Tamim. The confrontation of the few against the many is also a baseless mantra, a myth whose legend is already accepted in modern historiosophical research. And this is to know that those Hasmonean rulers became, after years, a kind of Hellenistic kings to all intents and purposes (the reverse of the fanatical principles of Mattathias and Judah). The Hasmoneans are portrayed as cruel, calculated, sometimes blunt rulers and persecutors of authority. Here you have the historical situation compared to the myth that has been sanctified over the generations.
Let's move on to the second issue - the great rebellion against the Romans (73-66 CE). This uprising was depicted in popular tradition as a war against an approachable and cruel ruler, which failed due to "gratuitous hatred". And what do the sources tell us? The background of the rebellion is economic and social, which fueled the rise of fanatical groups, some of them delusional and sleepwalking, who sought to take advantage of the terrible distress in order to "bring down the kingdom of God from heaven" - to increase support for them and turn the wrong and heinous move into a confrontation with a well-oiled war machine , like the Roman one, for an apocalyptic struggle of the "bad" against the "good", of the "followers of God" against the "wicked on earth". The rebellion did not fail because of gratuitous hatred. It broke out due to this terrible syndrome, and was conducted during a severe civil war in Jerusalem. Even if all the fighting forces were united among themselves, consolidated and "motivationally poisoned" (kind of anti-hate-free), even then there was no chance in the world to stand against the Roman military, organizational and numerical strength. The motif of "gratuitous hatred" later became a kind of tactic to "get out of all kinds of embarrassing situations" for those who initiated the rebellion, who supported it and who sanctified it over time. And in the mythological-educational effect, the mantra "hatred of nothing" (and sometimes it continues to star even in our days) became the national warning finger in the form of "no-no-no". "If you are divided, it will be the end of you", and go explain to that Zhdanovist from a rhinoceros, a state, that the basis of the mantra is distorted, and precisely a democratic-liberal society is supposed to preserve and cultivate pluralism.
The third issue - the revolt of Ben Khosba (as he was named in the deeds and certificates) - Bar Kochba - has been sanctified in Jewish mythology as a brave, determined and heroic act of rebellion by a hero-warrior who challenged Rome, the kingdom of conviction, for all its corrupt decrees and actions. And in general, as the words of that well-known children's song say: "He was a hero." He called the sparrow. All the people loved him. Bar Kochba Gavor". From the various and varied sources, a jealous, rough and blunt leader, authoritarian, aspiring to rule, cruel and vengeful is revealed before our eyes. The rebellion he initiated, when there are those who are not ashamed to call it a national movement (oh for anachronism and backward projection), was unnecessary, hopeless and dangerous regardless of its expected results. The very outburst and his actions were not on the mind of the leaders of the Sanhedrin, and in the absence of their open support (Rabbi Akiva's support for the revolt and rebellion is also problematic from a documentary point of view), and some of us know that in light of one of the testimonies of the Sages, Ben Khosva was executed by the sages after he was accused of false Christianity . Moreover, it must be assumed (*this is also a theory that has not yet been published in an orderly, systematic and reasoned way) that he imprisoned the presidential family as hostages in one of the centers of the rebellion (Beit Ter), and perhaps even used it as a rubber stamp for his actions. He declares himself president, even though he was not a scion of the incumbent, official, quasi-state presidency, and this can be seen as confirmation of his rebellious-anarchist moves. He wishes, probably in principle, to renew the ritual activity in the temple, which until then was perceived as sacrilege, and for this purpose crowns a man named Eleazar (whose origin is disputed) as a priestly authority and more. And now, let us put before our eyes all the "virtues" and "virtues" of Ben Khosva and ask ourselves whether he deserves to become a myth. The question is not relevant, because Hella did become sanctified over time and became a symbol of conquering power. However and despite all this, every historian and researcher must break free from the shackles of mythical magic and ask himself without hesitation: What is my primary and main task? If the search for the truth of the facts is a candle to his feet, science has benefited and also the public, whose right/duty to know. If satisfying state trends and even a Dinkota version are a candle to his feet, science has lost and along with it the public.

The damage is therefore twofold: myths were taken from the history of the people of Israel, distorted and filtered for different needs, considering "we cannot allow the facts to confuse us", and as a result they were sanctified, became believers in the soul of the people and formed/are the basis for dangerous concepts that perpetuate the same distortions in their content and God forbid. In addition, they created an almost impenetrable barrier in front of those who wish to test their credibility with unbiased research tools, thus threatening to shut their mouths.

Dr. Yehiam Sorek, historian

2 תגובות

  1. Roni - it is not true that you are the first responder. The site moved about two years ago to a new platform and all the comments that were in the articles before the move, did not move.

  2. Note that I'm the first to respond and I'll write a short one. You may have studied history, but I wouldn't call you a historian. Everyone doesn't respond because you're just writing nonsense - busting myths so that the morons will adopt your myths. It's a shame that you're trying to unilaterally destroy your origin in the name of the post-something.

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