chapter  5
41 Pages

The Jewish People as the Classic Diaspora: A Political Analysis

WithDaniel J. Elazar

There is little doubt that the Jewish people represent the classic diaspora phenomenon of all time. Indeed, it seems that the term diaspora itself originated to describe the Jewish condition.1 The Jewish diaspora has existed for at least 2,600 years and, if certain local traditions are accurate, perhaps even longer. It has existed alongside a functioning Jewish state and, for almost precisely 2,000 years, without any state recognized as politically independent. Moreover, for 1,500 years the Jewish people existed without an effective political center in their national territory, that is to say, exclusively as a diaspora community, so much so that the institutions of the Jewish community in Eretz Israel were themselves modeled after those of the diaspora and the Jews functioned as a diaspora community within their own land.2 Nevertheless, the Jewish people not only preserved their integrity as an ethno-religious community, but continued to function as a polity throughout their long history through the various conditions of state and diaspora.