Rotorua - North Island, New Zealand

posted 20 Dec 2017, 11:44 by Lodzer Shabbat-Bulletin

Where in the world is Rabbi Eli

Rotorua - North Island, New Zealand

Rotorua is one of the biggest cultural centres of the Māori people in the country.

Technically, Māori can be described as the "indigenous" population of NZ, though they only got here about 750 years ago, just a few centuries before Europeans did.

Curiously, the Māori have a special relationship with Jews and Jewish culture. Yep, Jews and Jewish culture, it wasn't a typo.

Historically, various missionaries in the early 19th c. were the ones to start the comparison of tribal practices, suggesting Māori were of Semitic origin, and descendants of the lost Israelite tribes.

This pseudo-scientific theory acquired quite a following. Most of the alleged similarities, however far-fetched and superficial, were enhanced by the general dislike its authors held for both peoples.

Anglican and evangelical priests pointed out such "common" practices and "striking similarities" as trading prowess, the custom of decapitating the opposing chief in battle "as David did to Goliath", burial practices, menstruation cycle-related taboos, and even cannibalism(!) based on the New Testament(!) verse of Jesus saying to the Jews: "he that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood dwelleth in me" etc.

In our days, it's hard to read those claptrap hypotheses straight-faced, yet thousands clung to that belief even as recently as 100 years ago. The conjecture apparently catered to the Western need to place Māori in a more familiar context. In the late 19th c., self-proclaimed anthropologists and dedicated phrenologists indulge in pointing out "profound facial similarities" between Jews and Māori - e.g. both feature big noses.

As my bubbe would say, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

This belligerent ignorance had a positive side effect; the Māori embraced the comparison, and maintain warm relationship with Jewish communities throughout New Zealand.

Can you tell on which side of the entrance the mezuza is?

If you'd like to learn more, here are a couple links to articles on Jews and Māori interacting:

Kia ora from Kiwiland,

Rabbi Eli