By Ilan Halévi
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Additional info for A history of the Jews: Ancient and Modern
The legend is significant in so far as it brings together the two elements of the rabbinical accusation against the Karaites: that they mixed with non-Jews and that they disturbed public order. This was substantially the accusation once made against Jesus. For the social order of the community as for the stability of imperial protection, the ethno-tribal cohesion of the Jews was indispensable. The missionary and universalist vocation of Karaism was perceived as a mortal threat: it amounted to the abandonment of loyalty to the group at the same time as it threatened the institutional and cosmic order that separated the Jews from others.
No more Temple; no more Shekhina, divine presence, in the world. The era of prophecy was closed. Since the fall, says the Talmud, the gift of prophecy had been reserved for children and mad men. Now the time for piety, study and expectation had come. From Palestine, when Byzantium became Christian and protection ended, the whole debate, like the community, was moved elsewhere: to Mesopotamia, which eight centuries earlier had fallen under Persian rule. And, when Persia became Muslim, the era of the compilation of the Talmud was to be considered finally ended, the second Babylonian compilation terminated and a whole new stage in the understanding of the Law begun.
A Political History from the Bar-Khokhba War to the Arab Conquest (Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1971). 59 The Domain Yemen, had poured over the fertile valleys of the north-the Nile, the Jordan, the Tigris and the Euphrates - numerous waves of migration that had been absorbed one after the other by cities and empires. The most recent of these waves was Nabataean, but the ancient settlement of the Israelite tribes in the land of Canaan itself can be considered as one of those demographic alluvia deposited by the desert on the valleys of the Fertile Crescent!
A history of the Jews: Ancient and Modern by Ilan Halévi