the Jewish claim
to the land of Israel
The David Cardozo Academy
Machon Ohr Aaron
7 Cassuto Street
Tel: 02 6414077
Fax: 02 6426076
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
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
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
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.
information will become well known to members of governments and influential organizations.
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.
Menachem Av 5761
Shalom! Peace be
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.
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.
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.
So why this
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
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
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.
Jews never left this country
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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:
waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. On the willows
there we hung up our lyres"
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
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:
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
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
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!
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."
national home for any other nation
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
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.
does Jerusalem belong?
Let us speak of
Jerusalem. To whom does Jerusalem belong? To the descendants of Rome? To the
Christian church? To the Arab world? Through
thousands of years all educated men, whatever their religious or national
affiliation, called it the City of David. Never was it called the city of Titus, the city of Godfrey of
Boullion, or the city of Saladin. Jerusalem appears 600 times in the Bible and not
once in the Koran. Jerusalem may have become the third holy city in Islam
but for Jews it is not only the first but also the "only" city.
important is the following:
Who mourned for
Jerusalem for two thousand years?
Did the Romans
declare a yearly fast for Jerusalem after it was destroyed two thousand years
ago? Did the descendants of Titus
or Godfrey, Mohammed or Saladin? Do they fast on the ninth of Av, the day
of the destruction of both Temples without missing a year as the Jews did and
continue to do? Would any other
nation ever cry for the destruction of its capital after even two hundred years?
Even if we
agreed with those who believe that the Palestinian people founded their homeland
in Palestine, did they ever fast for its well-being or for Jerusalem's
destruction year in and year out? They did not do so, not even for one year! And
did, or do, their Arab brothers around the world sit on the floor and weep like
we Jews do, year in year out, in every corner of the globe when we think of the
destruction of this holy city?
Let us continue
and speak for a moment about the famous "Wailing Wall" at the site of
the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. No doubt you have all heard about it, and many
of you may have visited this holy place.
To us, the Jews,
this is the center of the world. It is the last remnant of the Temple and, as
such, it is by far the holiest place we have on earth. While the Arabs have
Mecca and its shrine and the Catholics Rome with the Vatican, we have Jerusalem
and its Wall.
For centuries we
would tear our garments whenever its ruins came into view. For thousands of
years, in millions of Jewish homes, a painting of the Wall has hung in the front
room, and it is in the direction of the Wall in Jerusalem, and only in that
direction, that every Jew still prays. Since the destruction of the Temple and
until this very day, tens of thousands of synagogues from the north to the south
of our planet have been erected in such a way that they point toward the Wall
and its city.
This is indeed
an exclusively Jewish practice.
Auschwitz, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen and Treblinka, our parents and grandparents
continued to pray in the direction of this Wall. While finding themselves in the
gas chambers and taking their last breaths many would die with Jerusalem on
Indeed, Jews end
their festive meals, their speeches and celebrations, with a wish that they can
not hold back: "Next year in Jerusalem!"
For these last
two thousand years we Jews have been a people of orphans. We were without the
Wall and this embittered our lives beyond description. We could not breathe nor
smile. All our history was waiting at this wall. No real joy was possible
without her, and not for a moment was she out of our consciousness.
And even now
that God has granted us the State of Israel and allowed us to come to His Wall
whenever we please, we still tear our garments and sit on the floor right
in front of her when we remember the destruction of the Temple on the ninth of
the Hebrew month Av.
The Temple Mount
behind the Wall is, indeed, so holy to us that till this very day Jewish Law
does not allow us to enter its space at any time.
Indeed we are
not worthy to touch its sacred ground.
In contrast, the
Arab nations, including the Palestinians turn their backs to this site, when
they pray even when they find themselves in Jerusalem. Instead they turn their
faces to Mecca. Is there anything more revealing than exactly this custom?
It is not only
the religious Jew who feels uplifted whenever he enters the Wall's courtyards.
It is also the secular Jew who suddenly feels that he enters a different world.
It is as though he meets all his forefathers who, I know for sure, stood at its
gates when entering the Temple to serve God. He feels the presence of Jews of
all generations. It is here that the High Priest stood when he asked
forgiveness for his people and for all of mankind on the Day of Atonement. It is
at this very place where our prophets stood when they felt the need for
inspiration. Here the greatest of
Jewish saints used to come to speak to their Lord.
Here the Jew
feels the presence of our great teacher Rabbi Akiva and his famous colleagues
who lived in the second century. A few meters away stands Maimonides our
greatest philosopher and codifier, together with his students. In front of him
he sees women and children throughout all the generations, looking up to the
Wall as if they see the angels passing by. A little further down there is the
Jewish soldier entreating God to help him fight the Romans and the Greeks when
they invaded our land thousands of years ago.
The Jew feels
the hundreds of thousands of prayers that have arrived here from every corner of
the world to plead with God for shalom, peace and tranquillity for all mankind.
Prayers accumulated over thousands of years have become solidified in
Once you have
lived a moment at the Wall, you never go away. It becomes a part of every Jew.
Our bones are filled with its spiritual air. It is our oxygen.
of centuries, many of our forefathers would rise at midnight, every night,
except on Shabbath, and put on clothes of mourning, cover their heads with
ashes, sit on the floor and recite prayers expressing grief over the destruction
of the Temple and the suffering of all Jews stranded in exile without their
sanctuary and city.
take delight in your dust"
The Wall is more
than a place or a memorial to the glories of the past. It is a prelude, a herald
of days to come. It was one of our finest poets, Yehudah Halevi, who expressed
these feelings in one of his greatest poems:
that I had wings, that I could wend my way to Thee, O Jerusalem, from afar.
I will make
my own broken heart find its way amidst your broken ruins;
I will fall
upon my face to the ground, for I take my delight in your stones and show favor
to your very dust.
The air of
your land is the very life of our soul."
Indeed it is
also the Wall of our hope. It is the symbol of our future. Whatever is to happen
to us is already enshrined in the Wall. It is the symbol that God has not
forgotten us. It is His promise that one day things will get better. The Wall is
with us for thousands of years, and it has seen so many peoples and armies
coming and going. The Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Kurds, Mongols, Mamelukes,
Tartars, Turks and British. Many have tried to destroy the Wall, so as to deny
the Jewish claim to the land. But the Wall was indestructible; it stood as if it
was made from eternity, untouchable by hammers, swords and even bombs. It
refused to stop giving evidence for the Jewish claim to the land on which it
Indeed, we Jews
look forward to the day it will no longer be called the Wailing Wall but the
"Wall of rejoicing."
We were and we
are in love with this Wall. To us it is our banner of all that we were, are, and
will be. In fact, some of us have the custom of kissing it, others are too
scared to touch it. And how often have we heard that secular Jews broke down
when standing at this site? They were carried away, unable to contain their own
Shall we then
give up on this Wall, its city and its land?
always dwelled in the land
reading the history of the Jews since the biblical days of Joshua till this very
day, we discover that in all these 3200 years Jews have been living in Israel in
an unbroken time sequence.
Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in the year 586 B.C.E., and the Romans once more
destroyed the Jewish commonwealth in the year 70 C.E., Jews continued to live in
majority of Jews were forced out, a sizeable community of Jews always remained
in the land. Sometimes its members increased and at other times they diminished,
but the continuity was never broken. Whatever the circumstances and however
miserable life was while residing in the land, the Jews never, ever abandoned
the land. Neither did they
assimilate or merge with other non-Jewish religious groups. They remained a
distinctive group with its own religious culture and customs, a most impressive
religious community which considered itself temporarily living under foreign
rule and waiting for the moment that the Jewish State would, once more, be
restored. Never was there a moment in which Jews actually abandoned this belief.
Never did they resign themselves to the idea that the establishment of a Jewish
State was no longer a possibility. Even when they actually lived in the land
they felt as if they were living in a kind of exile as long as the land had no
independence. It was like living in a social and religious contradiction.
nations who were forced out of their lands in antiquity, Jews did not become
resigned to their exile, neither did they consider the countries in which they
had to live as their new motherlands. Even after a large percentage of Jews
assimilated in the last two centuries and consequently started to see their host
countries as permanent places to stay, the Jewish people as such
continued to dream of its ancestral land as the only place where Jews could
actually be at home.
In the days of
the Babylonian captivity, Jewish noblemen and high officials in the Persian
service headed the returning exiles. Later on, the Roman Empire had to deal with
an uninterrupted series of revolts against its provincial governors. The last
revolt, known as the Judaean war, was one of unprecedented fierceness that took
the Romans by total surprise. Fifty years later Jews, again, rose up against the
Romans, until their political independence was finally crushed. And when even
that did not really get them to leave the country, the Romans started to use the
policy of extermination and expropriation until the bulk of the Jews were killed
or driven out of the land.
centuries later, the Crusaders entered the land, they still found Jewish
populations in Galilee as well as important Jewish communities in Jerusalem,
Acre, Haifa, Jaffa, Ashkelon, Ramlah and Gaza.
In fact, in those days, there existed a movement of "Mourners for
Zion". These people would neither eat bread nor drink wine. They dressed in
black garments and lived in caves. They fasted all their lives and prayed
incessantly for the return of the Jewish people to the land.
In the year 1492
Jews were expelled from Spain and many turned back to the land of Israel,
although the journey was perilous and life in the land nearly unbearable. Many
settled in the land and created a great center of Rabbinic and Kabbalistic
tradition, especially in the city of Safed in Galilee.
courage Jews managed to survive in the land. In fact, in the town of Pekiin in
Galilee, a flawless line of descent can be traced from the days of the ancient
Israelites till the present day.
In the meantime,
Jews, throughout all these 1900 years, did anything in their power to reach the
land. Others moved there in their old age, and when that was unattainable, they
arranged to be buried there. Many decided to walk to the land despite lacking any kind of
transportation. Many died on the way while others were forced to return. Again
others arrived under the most difficult circumstances. Whoever left his hometown
for the land of Israel was accompanied by the whole community till the outer
borders of the town. Hardly anybody earned more respect than those who would
"go up to the land". Many
people would leave their families and friends behind and wander from country to
country in an attempt to reach the land. Often they were persecuted and were
easy prey to robbers and murderers. But nothing would change their minds. When
finally they made it, they were completely penniless and on the brink of death.
Still the joy of having reached this holy goal outweighed all suffering. When
they arrived, they would literally kiss the ground, a custom which is continued
till this very day by many religious Jews. Many would literally roll themselves
in the dust of the land so as to fulfill the words of the Psalmist "For
Your servants take pleasure in her stones and delight in her dust."
ancient Jewish settlements
Over nearly two
thousand years, since the destruction of the Second Temple, Jews who were living
in foreign countries sought to strengthen the Jewish settlements in Israel. This
was seen as a privilege and a sacred duty. All sorts of financial organizations
were brought into existence so as to ensure that there would be ongoing support
for those who lived in the land.
One of the
better known activities was that of the "shelichim", messengers from
the Holy Land who frequently visited their brothers in the diaspora. This
institution seems to have continued, without interruption, for over nineteen
In addition to
the need to collect money for the strengthening of the settlements in the land,
the messenger had still another and, perhaps, even more important task: to
cultivate spiritual attachment to the land.
In this way he was not only the receiver but also the one who contributed
to Jewish life in exile. He brought gifts of inspiration, moral guidance and
to those who were forced to continue to dwell in foreign countries.
messengers were some outstanding scholars and pious people. Even famous mystics
took it upon themselves to travel the world and visit Jewish communities
wherever they may have been. (This was far from an easy undertaking, sometimes
it involved real hardship in which they were away from their families for many
carried special authority, since it was believed that those who dwelt in the
land possessed higher wisdom. Some
even settled disputes, gave legal advice, dispensed religious rulings, and
taught classes on the Bible and inspired their fellow Jews with awesome sermons.
They were seen as the personification of the land and to have such a
guest staying in one's home was considered a great privilege.
was seen as a representative of the holiness of the land and as such he had to
be equipped with outstanding qualities and human dignity. In this way he was
able to bring comfort to his brothers, lead them to repent and create an intense
craving for the redemption and the return of all Jews to the land of Israel.
He was often a
treasure house of legends about the land and its people. He spoke about the
great tzaddikim, righteous people, living there, about the numerous miracles
which happened in Jerusalem. He spoke about the ten lost tribes, about the
Western Wall and its inner beauty. He would bring songs and melodies from the
land so that his audience imagined itself to be in the land for just a few
minutes. Nothing was more exalting than that.
would bring away samples of the soil. To receive some of it was seen to be a
great privilege and often it was carefully placed in a silver box. At other
times it was used to bury people when they were unable to be laid to rest in the
holy land itself.
Because of this
there was no need for the messengers to plead for contributions. Every Jew
considered it his duty to share in the Jewish living in the land. It was a
privilege of the highest order. In fact it was seen as a way in which one was
able to be represented in the land. After all, every Jew was obligated to live
in the Holy Land and when this was impossible, one should at least help the land
to be built.
the land while in exile
countries there were several organizations which looked after specific parts of
the land. There were even agreements outlining the location of each territory
and stating who was responsible for its maintenance. In this way Jews in exile
became "physical" settlers in the land and looked after their portion
in almost exactly the same way as the farmer takes care of his land.
There were even
cases where Jewish communities taxed their members so as to ensure that enough
money would reach the land.
nearly every home had a special box for donations toward the maintenance of the
Holy Land. Before a Jewish woman lit the candles for Shabbath on Friday
afternoon, she would drop some money in the box as a token of her commitment to
This, my dear
friends, was the custom of Jews for nearly two thousand years. Where else does
one find such love for a native country?
after the destruction of the Temple, thousands of Jewish pilgrims would arrive
at the Temple Mount on the Jewish holidays. People used to come from Babylon,
Egypt and Europe to be close to the walls of the Temple and the city.
I am coming to
the end of my first lecture on Israel. I have shown beyond the shadow of a doubt
that the relationship between the Jewish people and the land of Israel is not
just a strong closeness or one built on a unique kind of national nostalgia, but
that this relationship is one which defies all normal dimensions of affinity.
Just as ardent love between human beings can be real and powerful even when they
do not dwell together in one location, space or even time, the love of the
Jewish people for the land is an ongoing powerful link, an embrace that never
tires, a hope that never ceases.
We believe that
no nation has ever shown such a love for its country. No people has done so much
to prove its commitment and willingness to sacrifice lives so that it could
dwell, stay or to return to its country. As
I will convincingly show in my next lecture series our Palestinian neighbors
have no such connection with this land. Although we definitely acknowledge that
some of their forefathers lived in the country, the Jewish claim to this land
far outweighs the Palestinian argument.
non-Jewish world was deeply affected by the Zionist sentiment. Puritan
theologians convinced the British government to allow the Jews to return to
England, since they believed this was a necessary preliminary to the restoration
of the Jewish State. When the notorious false Messiah, Shabbatai
Zvi, appeared in the sixteenth century, bets were taken at Lloyds as to the date
when he would enter Jerusalem with his followers. Appeals by famous gentiles to
help the Jews return to their homeland became common. King William 111 from
England, Louis X1V of France and other European monarchs received elaborate
schemes of how to help the Jews settle their homeland.
Many years later
Napoleon Bonaparte send a proclamation sent a proclamation to all Jews, in the
name of France, to return to the land with "this nation's warranty and
support and to maintain it against all comers."
Long before the
world heard about a Palestinian claim to the land, many famous gentiles called
for the restoration of the Jewish State.
Earl of Shafstbury called for the return of the Jews to their homeland "
since everything seems ripe for their return." In the times of August
26,1840, he wrote that " it would be a crowning point in the
glory of England to bring about such an event."
poet, Lord Byron, wrote his "Hebrew Melodies" stating that "the
white dove hath her nest, the fox his cave, mankind their country, Israel but
author of the Zionist novel "Daniel Deronda" influenced early Zionist
thinkers and called for the return of the Jews.
Site Admin.ander Dumas,
the younger, in" La Femme Claude", together with so many others, laid
the foundation for christian Zionism with the goal of bringing the Jews home in
anticipation of the coming of the Messiah.
This does not
mean that we are not prepared to offer the Palestinian Arabs a land and to help
them start a vibrant Palestinian State. But we can only do so once their
leadership understands that our claim is legitimate and that peaceful
negotiations will have to take place within mutual respect. Above all, we must
be convinced that this Palestinian State will not turn into a terrorist State,
but rather into a civilized country. We
cannot be at all sure of this at this moment. In fact, we believe that a
Palestinian State may not become a threat just to the Jewish State but to many
European countries as well, with serious, far reaching consequences.
The purpose of
politics is to serve the ordered progress of society along the lines of the
greatest moral usefulness. The present situation in the Middle East represents a
supreme example of political perversion.
We must ask the
Palestinian Arabs and many other Arab countries, to stop their antagonism and
unprecedented hatred for the Israeli State. It is unacceptable when Palestinian
schoolbooks systematically teach their students to hate Jews.
A whole generation has been indoctrinated to see Jews as their worst
enemies. Under such circumstances, no dialogue can ever take place.
Arabs and others have perpetrated a great lie on the world by portraying Israel
as a kind of colonial phenomenon. No state in the world expresses the concepts
of nationhood more intensely than Israel. It is the only state which bears the
same name, speaks the same language, upholds the same faith, and inhabits the
same land as it did 3000 years ago.
Take Israel and
all that has emanated from Israel out of Middle East history - and you empty
that history of its central experiences. Arab political and intellectual leaders
have never made a serious effort to understand, even in a reluctant mood, the
tenacity, depth and authenticity of Israel as a national reality with deep roots
in the Middle East.
the former Prime Minister of Israel offered Yasser Arafat more than 93% of the
West Bank and Gaza, taking enormous risks for the survival of the State of
Israel. The offer was totally rejected by the Palestinian Authority. It has,
therefore, become abundantly clear that the Palestinian leadership is not
satisfied with anything less than the complete destruction of the Jewish State.
The Bible states
in clear terms that we need to love our neighbor as ourselves and we Jews are
fully committed to this. But it does not say "Love your neighbor and kill
The Middle East
has excellent prospects for an intellectual revival, comparable to the time when
the famous seats of learning in Site Admin.andria, Beiruth and Antioch flourished
beside the Jewish academies of Palestine, or when six hundreds years later
Jewish, Christian and Moslem scholars could engage in Baghdad in free dialogue.
The Holy Book of Islam, the Koran, contains a huge mass of material which can be
traced to Jewish sources, not only biblical, but also elements from Jewish
liturgy and later law.
Arabs welcome Jews home…
therefore, remind you of what the Pasha of Jerusalem wrote in 1864:
know and the Arabs are also aware, that God said to Abraham: Unto thy seed I
will give this land, and repeated the promise several times to him and to Isaac
and to Jacob. So fully the Mohammedans believe this.
Now on 8 July
1861 the day on which the news of the death of Abdul Megid and the accession of
Abdul-Azis arrived in Jerusalem, the Jews waited with all formalities on the
Governor, Surraya Pasha, and requested him to restore the keys of Jerusalem
according to a right on the death of
one sultan and the accession of another. At the same time, they brought
forward such proofs of the justice of their demand that the Pasha did not refuse
it but referred to his ordinary council consisting of the Mufti, or Chief
Officer of religion, the Cadi or Chief Judge and other persons of distinction,
natives of the country. Their decision was in favor of the Israelites, the
whole council being aware that they were the ancient owners of the country(2)
The ceremony was accordingly performed in the following manner. Sa'id Pasha, the
general of the forces, accompanied by officers of his staff and some members of
the Council, and followed by a crowd of sightseers, went to the Jewish quarter
where he was met by a deputation of that nation and conducted to the House of
the Chief Rabbi who received the Pasha at the door and there was publicly
the keys." (3)
It was Emir
Feisal, one of the great leaders of the Arab peoples at the Peace Conference
following World War I, who wrote on March 3, 1919:
Arabs…. look with the deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement. Our deputation
here in Paris is fully acquainted with the proposals submitted yesterday by the
Zionist organization to the Peace Conference and we regard them as moderate and
proper. We will do our best in so far as we are concerned to help them through. We
will wish the Jews a most hearty welcome home…(4)
look forward, and my people with me look forward, to a future in which we
will help you and you will help
us, so that the countries in which we are mutually interested may once again
take their places in the community of civilized peoples of the world." (5)
This my dear
friends, speaks for itself.
The Arab world is
five hundred times the size of the Jewish State
Few people, even
those who clearly wish Israel well, are aware of the fact that the Arab world is
five hundred times the size of the Jewish State. They do not realize that the
Israel they are incessantly hearing about and seeing every day on the television
screens is all of forty miles wide (including the West Bank) and if it were to
give up the West Bank, it would be nine miles wide. Indeed most people have
difficulty conceiving of a small country having such a large a history.
Neither do they
know that at the famous Versailles Conference (1919-1922) which "determined
the outcome of World War 1" and which was attended by all major
governments, it was decided that the Jewish State was to be five times the size
of the present day State of Israel which included what is presently called
Jordan. Above all, millions of people have forgotten that the very purpose of
creating the State of Jordan was to function
as a Palestinian State. It was the Arab countries who deliberately convinced the
Palestinians not to accept this offer. For the purpose of politically pressuring
Israel and making it a bad name in world opinion, many of the Arab countries
refused to absorb the Palestinians and deliberately caused ongoing
suffering on their own brothers.
difficulty I could add argument after argument. I shall not do so. There is no
need for it. All that we can hope for is that the communities of the world shall
understand our justified claim. Indeed there is no need for this conflict.
Neither do we have any interest in this conflict. We would like to see the
Palestinian Arabs living a happy life without animosity for our tiny Jewish
State. But it should be clear that there is no way in which the Palestinians can
contend with the Jews as far as a claim to the land is concerned. Three thousand
years of history have spoken. Let all of us hear its voice.
May God bless
you all, shalom from Jerusalem.
upcoming second essay/lecture, soon to be published.
Pierotti, Customs and Traditions of Palestine, Cambridge, 1864,
pp 75 ff
Benjamin Natanyahu, A place among the nations, Bantam Books, NY, 1993,
pp 406 ff
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