While the scale of flight from Lebanon may be unprecedented in Canadian memory, massive displacements of people, whether by evacuation or exile, have been a constant throughout history, reported the Toronto Star July 23. The first mass exile for which we have evidence, says Maynard Maidman, a professor of ancient Middle Eastern history at York, was very likely that of the Israelites from the northern kingdom of Israel in 721 BC at the hands of the Assyrians. But the term "evacuation", in the sense of an official rescue of the kind that occurred in Lebanon last week, is a recent construct, experts say. "To my knowledge there aren't any evacuations before modern times," said Maidman.
"It [exile] happens to the Jews with depressing regularity," added Maidman, mentioning as well the exile of Jews from Spain in 1492 and from various European countries before and after the Crusades. "It has only been in modern times that in many countries Jews were allowed to resettle." What has this meant for the collective memory of Jews? It has meant action to prevent a repeat, Maidman argued, in the form of Zionism. "From the time of the Babylonian exile to the creation of the modern state of Israel, there has always been a religious and ideological impulse to go back home," he said.