EXPLAINING THE JEWISH CLAIM TO THE LAND OF ISRAEL
For Zion's sake I will not keep silent
And for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest Until her vindication Goes forth as brightness And her salvation as a burning torch ….
For as a young man marries a virgin So shall your sons marry you And as the bridegroom rejoices over his bride So shall your God rejoice over you
Upon your walls, O Jerusalem I have set watchmen All day and all night They shall never be silent
Isaiah 62 .
Not for a long time has the claim of the Jews to their ancient homeland been so manipulated and perverted as at this moment in history. Arab animosity and an increasing wave of anti-Semitism have penetrated the world media and influenced many governments to deny or distort the real story of the Jews and their land. During the last few months it has become increasingly clear that it is no longer the West Bank which is at the center of this conflict. It is the very existence of the Jewish State which is being challenged. Clear evidence exists that the Palestinian leadership and many Arab states would like to see its total destruction.
At the same time, the world has never been less aware of the claims of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, and even many Jews feel uneasy at being unable to articulate our nation's rights.
It is for this reason that I present herewith a strong and honest defense of the claim of the Jews to the land of Israel. I have written this defense in the form of a lecture which I believe could be given by Israeli ambassadors, leaders and laymen. It is conducive to a Jewish or gentile audience.
The arguments used in this lecture are as old as the people of Israel. I have gathered much information from other sources, too many to mention. I have not done anything else but revise them in the language of our times.
My main purpose is to provide the general public with strong arguments which every Jew should know about. It should furnish him or her with enough knowledge to argue on any occasion in favor of the Jewish State. At the same time it should provide every gentile who has a warm heart for the Jewish people and the State of Israel with much information about the Jew's unique relationship with his ancient land.
Hopefully this information will become well known to members of governments and influential organizations.
While this pamphlet deals with the religious, historical and cultural aspects of the Jewish claim to the land, I hope to write another essay/lecture explaining the current situation and Israel's stand on this matter.
In this most difficult hour for the people of Israel, it is most astonishing and embarrassing that so few spokesmen for the State of Israel know the art of explaining the Jewish claim to the land in proper and adequate terms. I hope that this pamphlet will help to turn this tide and that it will lead to better understanding and more peaceful times.
Nathan Lopes Cardozo Jerusalem. Menachem Av 5761 August, 2001 .Dear friends,
Shalom! Peace be with you!
As you know, our country finds itself in a major conflict with the Palestinians. Throughout the world community there is much misunderstanding and animosity about Israel's stand in this matter and even Israelis are confused and unsure. For this reason I speak to you.
"Love your neighbor as yourself"
First of all, let it be clear that as Jews we feel most embarrassed by this conflict. We are the people of the Bible. Throughout thousands of years, we have carried the message of our prophets, which was a message of peace and of respect for all human beings. Our golden rule was and is the one mentioned in the book of Leviticus: "Love your neighbor as you love yourself."
It is this biblical message which has become the foundation stone of all civilized societies. When democracies protest today against war, discrimination, and violence, it is because our forefathers, the ancient Israelites, brought this biblical commandment to the attention of all human beings.
It is for this reason that we are embarrassed. We feel caught up in a contradiction. We wonder how it is that we find ourselves in a major conflict with other human beings while our whole reason for existence is to preach shalom, peace and tranquillity for all mankind.
Indeed, this question haunts us day and night. For us Jews to be forced to take arms into our hands is an insufferable nightmare. In fact our antipathy towards war is so great that when our former Prime Minister Golda Meir was once asked if she would ever forgive the Egyptians for having killed our soldiers she responded that perhaps one day the people of Israel would do so, but that they would never forgive them for having forced our sons to take the lives of others even when that had to be done in self defense. As no other nation we know how much harm can be done to men, women and children when armed men raise their weapons. Four thousand years of endless suffering has taught us this lesson.
Why the conflict?
So why this conflict?
Well, it is a long story and the problem is that most people do not even remember it. Even worse, the real story has been so badly manipulated that it has become unrecognizable. A perversion of the truth has become official for millions.
Let me explain:
We Jews are one of the oldest nations in the world, if not the oldest, having been around nearly 4000 years.
For thousands of years, since the days of Abraham, our forefathers have believed that God granted them the land of Israel as their inheritance. Not only have Jews believed this, but millions of Christians and Moslems. All this is carefully recorded in the Bible, by far the greatest spiritual and historical document of mankind.
Israel did not just become our homeland, it became our soul. When God appeared to our forefathers, He made it clear that we were not just to dwell there but to employ the land to transform ourselves and, subsequently all of mankind. We had to become His representatives and transmit to all men, via the Bible, His great ethical demands.
The moral duty to live in the land
We believe that we do not just have a right to live in this country but, that it is our religious and moral duty, something we owe the world. Our claim to this land is based on a covenant, which is a "treaty" to inspire mankind with the word of God. The central theme of this covenant is the promise of the land to Abraham as the center from where we will be able to fulfil our mission. Indeed, we Jews live by covenants, and we cannot betray our pledge or discard our promise.
One should never forget that without this land and its nation the Bible would not have been heard of. There would not have been knowledge of the Ten Commandments, and neither would the world have been blessed with monotheism or the teachings of Jesus, his apostles, and Mohammed.
It was in this country that our prophets spoke, and their words have entered the pages of holy books. It is in the city of Jerusalem that our King David wrote his Psalms, and it is on the hills of this city that you can still hear their great message.
When the land of Israel became the home of the Jews, it also precipitated a major struggle to hold on to it. Throughout biblical times, Jews, as today, had to fight for this land, and, several times suffered the pain of exile and the joy of homecoming. With the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70 CE, Jews were exiled for nearly two thousand years. They wandered from one country to another, constantly encountering anti-Semitism, hate and discrimination. This ultimately led, in our own days, to the Holocaust in which six million of our fellow Jews were slaughtered in a most brutal way.
The Jews never left this country
Our forefathers never left this country. It was taken by violence. They were forced out against their will, the last time by Titus, the Roman emperor, after which their longest exile of nearly two thousand years started, only ending in 1948 with the establishment of the State of Israel.
Jews never abandoned the land, and they never gave up on regaining it. Throughout all the ages they said, "No" to all conquerors. They said "No," before God and man emphatically and daily. They objected to all occupations and rejected all claims. The Jewish people never ceased to assert its right, its title to the land.
If an object is taken by violence, but the owner does not abandon his hope of regaining it, nobody ever has any claim to the object except the original owner.
True, our protest was not heard in the public squares of the large cities. No Jew was, after all, allowed to speak beyond the walls of the ghettos, and, furthermore, nobody was prepared to listen to his voice. But in our homes, in our synagogues, in our books and in our prayers, we raised our voices and uttered proclamation after proclamation that this land was ours and that one day we would return, however long it would take.
Man does not live where his body resides but where his soul dwells
Indeed, how many times did we, the Jews, not ask ourselves: Where do we live? Where is our home? Where is our country? We realized that we never lived in Poland, Spain or Russia. We may have stayed, but we never settled in those lands. Man does not live where his body resides but where his soul is dwelling, and the soul of the Jew never left the land of his forefathers.
In fact, we started the restoration of this land the day we were exiled by Titus. The land was rebuilt in time and spirit long before it was restored in space. Our prayers give evidence to this in ways unprecedented in the annals of man's history.
The heart of our prayers
For thousands of years millions of Jews prayed (and still pray) three times a day for the restoration of Jerusalem: "Take pity, O God, our Lord, on Israel, Your nation, on Jerusalem, Your city, and on Mount Zion, the habitation of Your glory." "May You build Jerusalem, the Holy City speedily, in our days." In fact our prayer books echo and re-echo with the land of Israel. Almost every page mentions the land and its holy city.
To abandon this land would therefore make a mockery of all our prayers; it would amount to treading on the Bible. We married this land. And three thousand years of loyal commitment to this land cannot be erased.
As we will see, Jews have been rebuilding this land long before they were actually able to resettle it, and resettled it as soon as they had the chance. But even when we were driven out and no longer able to dwell in our land, the land continued to dwell in us. It was our forefathers who gave voice to this in the Psalms when they said:
"By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our lyres"
"If I forget you, O Jerusalem. Let my right hand wither. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy."
All Jews are born in Israel
It was the famous Israeli author Shai Agnon who made the world aware of this most unusual relationship between the Jewish people and the land of Israel. When he received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1966, the King of Sweden, Gustav V1 asked where he was born. This deeply religious man responded in a unparalleled way when he said: " I was born in Buczacks, but that was only in a dream, in reality I was born in Jerusalem and exiled by Titus!" Indeed this most powerful answer captures all of Jewish history. All Jews were born in Jerusalem and exiled by Titus! It is due to a historical "aberration" that any Jew was ever born outside the land.
Let us continue:
*When a Jewish boy is circumcised - when he is only eight days old, we wish him "that he may go up to Jerusalem for the three major festivals." (Sephardi prayer book) This means that for the last two millennia we have made millions of children into lovers of Zion when they were still lying in their crib. Which other nation ever did anything like that?
*During the last two thousand years, the first songs Jews taught their children were not the songs of the street but the songs which King David sang about Jerusalem and the Temple.
*When our children get married and stand under the marriage canopy, a most peculiar scene takes place, which will raise some eyebrows among the uninitiated. In the middle of the ceremony, the bridegroom breaks a glass. This is done so as to express the ongoing pain caused by the destruction of the Temple. Even at his highest joy the Jew cannot forget his loss. How many million of glasses have been broken in Jewish history?
*And what about Jewish homes throughout all the centuries? During the last two thousand years, in millions of Jewish homes, within and outside Israel. a part of the wall remains un-plastered, revealing the raw stones, because Jews refuse to live in beautiful homes without constantly being reminded that Jerusalem and the Temple are not yet rebuilt. Visit any religious home today, anywhere in the world, and one will see this with one's own eyes.
*And when the Jew celebrates a special occasion and holds a feast, the table may be lavishly decorated, but one candle will not be burning as a reminder to the loss of the Temple.
I ask you once more. Is there any nation, including our Arab neighbors, which has ever done anything similar for Jerusalem? You would probably mock us and say that we are obsessed with Jerusalem, and you would be right!
All Jews are buried in the land of Israel
Perhaps the most impressive statement the Jew ever makes concerning his love for this land is when he dies and his remains need to be buried. Where will his bones come to rest? Where else but in Israel? Indeed all Jews are buried in the land of Israel. For all those thousands of years. And if you ask me how that is possible, reminding me that thousand of Jewish cemeteries are found around the world, I will respond that even though the Jew's tombstone may be standing in foreign countries, his bones will indeed be buried in the land. Why? Because Jewish custom has it that before we close the coffin we sprinkle a little bit of earth from the land of Israel on all our dead. Regardless of whether his tombstone stands in Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, Madrid or New York. If we cannot bring our dead to Israel, we bring Israel to our dead.
And when we comfort our mourners we say to them: "May you be comforted with all those who mourn Zion and Jerusalem."
No national home for any other nation
The ancient Jewish State was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70, the State of Israel was born in the year 1948. In the long interval, the Holy Land never became a national home for any other nation, was never regarded as a political entity, and never became an independent state. This is also true as far as the Palestinians Arabs are concerned, as testified by many historians.(1)
It was conquered and re-conquered no less than fourteen times. Each conqueror saw it as occupied territory to be ruled from without. And each one left it with a legacy full of fallen soldiers, slaves and their descendants. There was no shared ethnic or cultural identity with the inhabitants of the land. It was a hodge-podge of nations coming and going.
Except for the Jews, no one else, over these thousands of years, regarded this land as a homeland, as a national political unit worthy of independence and nationhood. To the Turks and the British, it was simply a remote province of the Ottoman Empire and the British Empire. To the Arabs, it was a small segment of a vast dominion to be annexed as part of expansionism. And even the Palestinian Arabs of the larger Arab world, did not think of an independent state till after the State of Israel was established.
For the Jews and, for them alone, this was the one and only homeland. This was the only conceivable place where they could find liberation and independence. It is this land towards which their minds and hearts had been uplifted for many centuries and where their roots had clung in spite of all adversity.
For Jews this is not just a land where historically they had once dwelt, but the country where they became a full nation. In many ways, it is their birthplace and the land where their spiritual character has been molded and preserved. Whatever greatness came about in this land - in song, in story, in human personalities, in ideas or inspiration - all of it is the result of Jews living in the land.
It is here that the Bible saw its light, and where many great religious texts were written throughout the centuries. No other people has created original literary works of decisive significance in the land of Israel. It was in this land that a man of Israel, the son of an Israelite carpenter proclaimed a gospel of love to the pagan world and cleared the way for the days of the Messiah.
Even the Koran, the holy book of the Moslem world, makes it absolutely clear that God wanted this land to belong to the Jews. This statement is found in a section called, The Night Journey, 17:104.
The great Arab contributions to literature and religion came from Mecca, Cairo, Damascus, and Baghdad -- not from Jerusalem. To the Arab nations, the land of Israel is two percent of a vast territory they inhabit; to the Jewish people, Israel is home and the only place they can call their own.