The Irish-Jewish Connection: Today, When We Remember the Feast of St. Patrick, We Remember More Than Just the Coming of Christianity to Ireland – St. Patrick’s Day Is a Big Deal

At first glance, the Irish and Jewish peoples seem radically different. But scratch the surface and they begin to look like twins separated at birth. The stories of these two wandering tribes share many extraordinary parallels.

The Irish writer Brendan Behan once remarked, “Others have a nationality. The Irish and the Jews have a psychosis.” That may be putting matters a little harshly, but he was on to something: These two ancient peoples were destined to wander the world as outsiders, knowing suspicion and derision wherever they went. Through it all, both maintained tight and close bonds with their own kin, even in the farthest corners of the earth.

Both have homelands that are small, sacred and contested. And very ancient: Ireland and Israel both boast monuments far older than the pyramids of Egypt. Some even dare to speculate that the Irish may be connected to one of the “lost tribes” of Israel. Certainly, stone burial chambers called dolmens are found in both Ireland and Israel. These date from about 4,000 BCE. Yet any such mysterious common origins are now lost in time.

IN MORE recent centuries, the Irish and the Jews have inordinately swollen the ranks of genius. A disproportionate number of Nobel laureates have Jewish or Irish origins. Nor is it an accident that the central character in James Joyce’s Ulysses is an Irish Jew, notes Prof. Thomas Casey of the Gregorian University in Rome: “Surely Joyce was struck by parallels between the Jewish and Irish experience: persecution, a lost homeland, exile and a global diaspora.”

Both peoples suffered death and cruelty at the hands of oppressors. While many now live in the small, beautiful and intense homelands of Ireland and Israel, the greater portion of both tribes remain scattered to the four corners of the earth.

Both peoples most particularly found a home in the United States. From humble beginnings in America, these two ethnic groups rose to prominence by the middle of the 20th century. By the time of president John F. Kennedy’s election in 1960, Irish and Jewish Americans were two wealthiest and most successful ethnic groups in the US.

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SOURCE: Jerusalem Post