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The ten commandments originated in Judaism.
A synagogue in Ploiesti, Romania
According to the Tanakh/Old Testament, God gave Abraham a loyalty test: sacrifice your only son. An angel stops it at the last second.

Judaism is the twelfth-largest organized religion. While originating in polytheism, it is one of the first recorded monotheistic faiths and one of the oldest religious traditions still practiced today. It gradually grew out of the Canaanite religion and culture between 1000-5000 BCE, while adopting ideas from surrounding religious such as Egyptian mythology and Zoroastrianism. [1]

The Jewish faith is centered around the worship of their god, Yahweh, as described in the Jewish Bible. The primary holy text is the Tanakh, refer to as the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament by Christians, of which the first five books making up the Pentateuch or Torah. Jews generally believe that God has chosen the Jewish people as a chosen people and have an eternal covenant.

Jews are largely divided into denominations based on how strongly they follow traditional Jewish law, rather than on theological differences. The main denominations are Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform, in decreasing order of traditionalism.


Beliefs and practices

For more information, see the Wikipedia article:
For more information, see the Wikipedia article:


  • Worship of God who created everything and is eternal
  • Ten commandments
  • Circumcision
  • Resurrection of the dead
  • The Jews are a chosen people that have an eternal covenant with God.
  • God is free from physical matter. A Messiah is human but not a God.
  • Moses is the most important prophet
  • God rewards obedience and punishes transgression
  • A Messiah will come, since they believe Jesus was not the Messiah.
  • There is a wide range of views within Judaism as to what the afterlife is like. Historically, some Jews (the Sadducees) even denied the existence of an afterlife.
  • According to observant Jews, the name of God, the Tetragrammaton, should only be written but not spoken.
For more information, see the Wikipedia article:
For more information, see the Wikipedia article:
For more information, see the Wikipedia article:
For more information, see the Wikipedia article:
For more information, see the Wikipedia article:

Practices include:

  • Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy
    • The Sabbath is considered a day of prayer. Jews worship at buildings called synagogues.
    • Orthodox Jews refrain from any creative activity (loosely translated as "work") on the Sabbath. This law is superseded if there is a threat to human life.
    • Orthodox Jews are not allowed to push or carry anything in public on the Sabbath. These restrictions are sometimes circumvented by establishing an eruv, which is a boundary around a neighbourhood that is marked by suspended wires. [2] Some electrical devices have a "sabbath mode", which allows limited use of a device without an operator having to "ignite a fire" or "building" an electrical circuit.
    • Devices that operate continually for long periods of time just to circumvent a religious law is a waste of resources. Leaving cooking devices running for long periods is also a fire hazard.
  • Only eating ritually slaughtered kosher food.

Promised land?

For more information, see the Skeptic's Annotated Bible article:

The Bible says that God promised the land around Jerusalem to the Israelite Jews. Genesis 12:7 Bible-icon.png Genesis 28:13-15 Bible-icon.png The Bible says that existing tribes that already occupied the lands were to be driven out. Deuteronomy 20:17 Bible-icon.png [3]

"The Bible is very clear that the "children of Israel", the Jews, were the divinely appointed inhabitants of the Land. [4]"

"Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are - northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see, I give to you and your seed for ever."

Genesis 13:14-15 Bible-icon.png

"Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates"

Genesis 15:18 Bible-icon.png

This claim encompasses north east Egypt, Sinai, modern Israel, modern Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, western Iraq and northern Saudi Arabia (see also Exodus 23:31 Bible-icon.png).

After Joshua captured Canaan, he divided the territory into parcels Numbers 34:1-12 Bible-icon.png. This is now regarded as "the holy land" by Jews but the overall area is different and contradictory to that specified in Genesis 15:18 Bible-icon.png. It comprises modern Israel, modern Palestine and Lebanon. Apologists claim that these prophecies will eventually be fulfilled or have some other explanation. [5] Ezekiel contains the prophecy of the territory occupied in the end times, which is broadly similar to that specified in Numbers Ezekiel 47:13-20 Bible-icon.png.

Zionists, those who support the existence of a Jewish homeland in that area, point out that religious claims are not the only justification their claim of the territory. [6]

Christianity as an offshoot religion

Jesus was a Jew and considered himself to be a reformer of Judaism, although Jesus is considered a heretic by mainstream Jews. Inspired by Jesus, Christianity is an offshoot of Judaism that originated in the first century CE.

Jews expect a Messiah to come, but the Jewish concept of the Messiah differs from Christianity and Jesus is not considered the Messiah by Jews.


Some Jews in fringe sects are taught some very strange things:

"Before I learned anything else, I learned the Holocaust had happened because Jews were bad and that the way we lived was different from the rest of the world because if we didn’t, the Holocaust would happen to us again. [...] I grew up believing we were genetically inferior. They didn’t see that as a bad thing – they’d sit me down and explain: “We’re special to God. Our souls are special, but our genes are inferior, just like they said about us.” How do you even begin to unstitch that? [7]"


The Jewish people have been subjected to discrimination for millennia. This is probably due to their history of being displaced from the Levant region and then being a minority group in diaspora around the world. Minority groups are often a target for discrimination.

Anti-Zionism vs. Anti-Semitism

For more information, see the Wikipedia article:

Some Jewish leaders called Judaism and Zionism inseparable. Therefore, to criticise one is to criticise the other.

"The likes of Ken Livingstone and Malia Boattia claim that Zionism is separate from Judaism as a faith; that it is purely political; that it is expansionist, colonialist and imperialist. [...] Their claims are a fiction. They are a wilful distortion of a noble and integral part of Judaism. Zionism is a belief in the right to Jewish self-determination in a land that has been at the centre of the Jewish world for more than 3,000 years. [...] Open a Jewish daily prayer book used in any part of the world and Zionism will leap out at you. [...] But to those people who have nevertheless sought to redefine Zionism, who vilify and delegitimize it, I say: Be under no illusions – you are deeply insulting"

In contrast, the commonly understood meaning of the words are:

  • Anti-Zionism is the opposition of the policies or existence of the state of Israel. It is a political position and held by some Jews and non-Jews. "Zionism refers to the movement to create a Jewish state in the Middle East, corresponding to the historic land of Israel - anti-Zionism opposes that." [8]
  • Anti-Semitism is hated of Jews and is generally a racist position. i.e. "hostility and prejudice directed against Jewish people" [8]
"It's also obviously true that being a Zionist and being Jewish are not the same thing. [...] But it's been widely argued that the term "Zionist" has, in some circles, become a code word for "Jew" and that bigotry against Jewish people has been expressed using the language of anti-Zionism. [8]"

While there is little doubt that anti-Semitism can result in anti-Zionist views, the reverse association does not automatically apply (which would be affirming the consequent).

Some Jews (and some non-Jews) are anti-Zionists and presumably they are not all anti-Semites. Therefore people who equate the two are making a hasty generalization.

"Mirvis attacks as “antisemitic” those who separate Judaism from Zionism. Yet most Jews who perished in the Holocaust were indifferent to Zionism and many opposed it. [...] Is Rabbi Mirvis recasting [anti-Zionist] victims of the Holocaust posthumously as enemies of Judaism and therefore as antisemites?[9]"

The confusion between these terms may be useful for those wishing to shield Israel from criticism on the grounds of freedom from persecution.

"Well, it’s a trick. We always use it. When from Europe somebody’s criticising Israel then we bring up the Holocaust. When in this country [America] someone is criticising Israel then they are antisemitic [10]"
"True that there should be no place for antisemitism. It's also true that the antisemitism card is often played in an attempt to shut down any criticism of Israel. [11]"

See also


  1. Jason M Silverman, Iranian influence on Judaism, October 2011
  2. [1]
  3. [2]
  4. [3]
  5. [4]
  6. [5]
  7. [6]
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 [7]
  9. [8]
  10. [9]
  11. Comment by 1Essex on 26 Aug 2015 8:18

External Links

v · d Judaism
Jewish beliefs   Yahweh · Abraham · Moses · Afterlife
Tenants and dogma   Shabbat · Circumcision · Kosher food laws · Bar Mitzphah
Holy texts   Torah · Tankah · Pentateuch
Holidays   Rosh Hashanah · Sukkot · Yom Kippur · Purim · Passover
Jewish denominations   Haredi Judaism · Modern Orthodoxy · Conservative Judaism · Reform Judaism · Humanistic Judaism
History of Judaism   Israelites · Modern Judaism
Jewish politics   Sanhedrin · Mosaic Law
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