The Jewish connection to the Land of Israel is as old as the Jewish people itself. This is evidenced throughout the Torah, including in the portion for this Shabbat, Parashat Vayishlach: “Jacob arrived…at the city of Shechem…He bought the parcel of land…for one hundred kesitahs.” (Genesis 33:18-19).
With Joshua, the Jewish people returned to Shechem: “Joseph’s bones, which the Children of Israel had brought up from Egypt, they buried in Shechem, in the portion of the field that Jacob acquired…for a hundred kesitahs”(Joshua 24:32).
Shechem was the place where King Solomon’s son Rechoboam chose to be enthroned (I Kings 12:1).
With the subsequent division of the kingdom, Jeroboam established Shechem as capital in the northern kingdom. (I Kings 12:25).
David Ben-Gurion, first prime minister of the modern State of Israel, said, “Three cities hold a great and unique place in the ancient history of our people: Shechem, Hebron, and Jerusalem…”
The roots of the Jewish people are found throughout Samaria, the region where Shechem is located, and throughout the region of Judea. Together, these areas constitute the Jewish Biblical heartland where the Jewish people always lived, where the history of the Jewish nation took place, where the prophets of Israel delivered their message.
In Judea, we find Hebron, first capital of Israel, burial place of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. We also find Bethlehem, where the Matriarch Rachel is buried, where Ruth gave birth to the line of the Davidic monarchy. Shiloh, the city of Priests, housed the holy Tabernacle before it was brought to Jerusalem. We read of Joshua in Jericho, Amos in Tekoa, Jeremiah in Anatot. These regions of Shomron (Samaria) and Yehuda (Judea) constitute the spiritual heartland of the Jewish People, steeped in Jewish history dating back to Biblical times.
There are those who regularly attempt to re-write Jewish history in the Land of Israel, attempt to advance false narratives and rename places in Israel to obscure its Jewish history. There are those who denigrate the modern State of Israel and try to criminalize the Jewish presence in the Jewish homeland.
In fact, in a complete affront to Jewish rights, Jewish history, and international law, the armies of Egypt, Lebanon, Transjordan (as Jordan was called), Syria, and Iraq attacked Israel in 1948. Jordan then occupied Judea and Samaria, expelled the Jewish communities from this cradle of Jewish civilization, barred Jewish access to these areas – the Tomb of Joseph in Schechem, the Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron, and other holy sites – and attempted to rename the region the “West Bank.”
This generic, geographic label conveniently obscured all of the Jewish history that took place there: it is much more difficult to claim that Judea does not belong to the Jews, than it is to claim that a parcel of land with a vapid, geographic name like the “West Bank” does not.
At the same time, the Arab Legion also conquered the Old City of Jerusalem and expelled the Jews from there. During the subsequent 19 years of Jordanian occupation, no Jews were allowed in the Old City of Jerusalem, where Jews had been the majority since the previous century. Synagogues were destroyed, and Jews were barred from the Kotel, the Western Wall adjacent to the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site.
The duplicity in this attempt to erase the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria is magnified by the deceitful claim that Jews are “occupiers” in this land. Given the fact that the Land of Israel was never the sovereign country of any nation but the Jewish one, Jews cannot be deemed “occupiers” in their own land, a fact affirmed by international law.
Despite the attempts of many conquerors, throughout the millennia, to absorb Israel within their empires, the land of Israel remained the country of our people, and Jerusalem has served as the capital of only one nation – that of our Jewish nation.
The rights of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, long-recognized, despite the misinformation that is currently being circulated, were codified in international law at the San Remo Conference of 1920, a meeting to decide the future of the former territories of the Ottoman Empire. At this conference, a binding international agreement was reached “to reconstitute the ancient Jewish State within its historic borders.” The desire to restore the Jewish people to their native land was then ratified by a unanimous vote of The League of Nations.
Recognizing the historical, continuous, and spiritual connection between the nation of Israel and the land of Israel, the San Remo Resolution included Jerusalem, as well as Samaria and Judea, within the area designated for reestablishing the Jewish National Homeland.
By any criteria, by the Biblical Mandate, the historical connection, or through international law, this land, which has borne the name and history of the Jewish people for four millennia, is unequivocally ours, despite the never-ending pressure to relinquish it.
Our connection to the Land of Israel is as old as our people itself. Although there are those who keep trying to deny and politicize this connection, the Land of Israel will never be a political issue for us. On the contrary, Israel – the land which bears our name – and Jerusalem, our eternal capital and the spiritual center of Jewish history – are the very soul of the Jewish People.
Also published in The Jewish Advocate