Page 20 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 22

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14
J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
the Exiles” from the oriental countries too had a tremendous
impact. I t inspired studies of the early exotic communities of
the East and the resultant contribution of the late President
Yitzhak Ben-Zvi and members of his Institute. The new presi­
dent, Zalman Shazar, is devoted to the Shabbati Zevi studies.
The discovery of the Scrolls also whetted a desire for basic
interpretations of the sources of religious thought; it evoked
the interest even of the person on the street. The zeal for new
archaeological diggings and probings likewise furthered new
studies; every Israeli seemed to become an amateur archaeologist,
resulting in extensive freedom in research of the past. At times
this zeal for independence, with its exceptional chauvinism,
influenced Israeli scholarship to a point where new concepts were
colored to suit the Israeli frame of mind. In the tracing of events
to antiquity, features formerly recognized as of Hellenistic origin
were now re-evaluated as specifically Judaic. The Nazi holocaust
had aroused an academic suspicion and an inward hostility to
that which was not native or Hebraic. Even objective scholars
sought in their Israeli tomes to emphasize that Judaism could
not be destroyed and that it was not indebted to any other
civilization. Many writings aimed to prove that Israel of the
past did not draw from other ethnic groups or contemporary
civilizations, and that throughout the centuries it built up its
own values, as evidenced by the events and teachings of the
Second Temple era.
Research on the Second Commonweal th
Most interesting in this historical research was the recognition
of similarities between the ancient Second Commonwealth
(Judea) and the modern Th ird Commonwealth (Israel). Many
monographs, essays and even extensive histories emphasized the
parallelism. In order to understand present Israel, the back­
ground of the past Hasmonean State was especially studied. It
was felt that much could be learned from that ancient inde­
pendent Judean State; also that exact knowledge of that era
would strengthen loyalty, the continuity of nationhood, and the
understanding of the norms of Judaism in the Mishnah and
cognate writings. Thus the Israeli productivity in this specialized
field of history became most absorbing because of its direction
and goal.
The past few years have also encouraged studies on the
“interplay” between Greek and Jew. Re-evaluation of the Hel­
lenistic literature and culture in the Jewish perspective became
popular, as in the intensive works of Gedaliahu Alon and Joha-
nan Levi. The fact that the scientific knowledge of the Apocrypha
and of Josephus had once belonged to Christians and was not