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A Land and a People: The Eternal Bond By Jonina Pritzker

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

The Matzah of Judea By Jonina Pritzker

(To be read during the Passover Seder, after the account of the ancient Seder of the sages gathered in Benei Berak)

As we read about this ancient Seder that took place in Benei Berak, we think of our rabbinic sages observing Pesach in Judea, in ancient Israel, what is now called the modern State of Israel.

 

We put the Matzah of Judea on our Seder tables as we think of the continuous presence of the Jewish people in Judea, in Israel, from ancient times until today.

 

Like Pharaoh in Egypt, the ancient Romans, during the time of these sages, were great oppressors of the Jews. The Romans destroyed the holy Temple in Jerusalem and erected a pagan temple on its ruins; they murdered over one million Jews, including our beloved Rabbi Akiva of whom we read in our Hagaddah. The Romans made the practice of Jewish life a crime punishable by death; they exiled the vast majority of Jews from the land; they changed the name of Jerusalem to a Roman name, changed the name of Schechem, where Joseph is buried, and changed the name of the Jewish homeland itself, nearly two thousand years after the first Jews began to live in Judea, in Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel. These oppressors of our people did all of this in an attempt to rob us of our homeland, our history, and our heritage.

 

The Jewish people worshipped for over 400 years at the Temple that King Solomon built in Jerusalem; they lived, at that time, as a free and sovereign nation in the Land of Israel for 700 years, from the time Joshua re-entered the land with the Israelites, until the Babylonians destroyed the Temple in 586 BCE.  Seventy years later, the Jews rebuilt the holy Temple, which then stood for centuries until the Romans destroyed that Temple in the year 70 CE. The Temple Mount in the holy city of Jerusalem has remained the holiest place within Judaism, and unto this day, every Jew turns towards the Temple Mount to pray.

 

Many conquerors tried to incorporate the Land of Israel into their own empires: the Babylonian empire, Persian and Greco-Assyrian, Roman, Byzantine, Arab Caliphates, Turkish, Crusader, Ayyubid, Mameluke, and Ottoman.

 

But despite these attempts, the Land of Israel, this ancient land of Judea which bears our name, remained the country of the Jewish people, and Jerusalem has served as the capital of only the Jewish nation.

 

Through every banishment and forced exile, the Jewish people continually looked to their ancient homeland and prayed to return, included the mention of Israel and Jerusalem in daily prayers, and imbued each life-cycle celebration and festival gathering with the yearning for Shivat Tzion, for a return to the land of their ancestors.

 

For centuries, Jews living in exile joined their prayers together with the prayers of She’arit Yisrael, the remnant of the Jewish people who remained in the Land of Israel, from ancient times until today, to express the enduring yearning for their ancient homeland.  Nearly two thousand years after the Romans destroyed the holy Temple and tried to destroy our people, our Jewish way of life, and our connection to the Land of Israel, we are still here; and our prayers and yearnings have been answered in the founding of the modern State of Israel, which signifies Reisheit Tzmichat Geulateinu, “the beginning of the dawn of our Redemption.”

 

As we behold the Matzah of Judea, we devote ourselves to ensuring that the history and heritage of our people is remembered and protected. The war that numerous empires waged against us continues, even in our day.  The tactics employed by the ancient Romans are being used again, as historical places are renamed, as artifacts are removed and desecrated, as Jewish rights within the Land of Israel are regularly subverted and the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel is repeatedly obscured and dismissed, as adversaries conspire once again to wrest the Jewish homeland away from the Jewish people.

We stand firm against our adversaries; they will not defeat us, just as the Pharaoh did not defeat us in days of old.

At one time, we added the Matzah of Unity to our Seder table as we prayed for the freedom of Jews from the former Soviet Union.  Today, many of these Refusniks are living in the Land of Israel.  At one time, we added the Matzah of Hope to our Seder table as we prayed for the freedom and survival of Ethiopian Jews.  Many of these Jews of Beta Israel are now living in the Land of Israel. Today, we hold up this Matzah of Judea, and we look with hopeful eyes towards the day when our Jewish people can live in our ancestral, historic homeland, in freedom, in safety, and in peace.

 

Labels, Lies, and Libel: Words and Weapons By Jonina Pritzker

I used to wonder why Chazal (Chachamim Zichronam L’Vracha), the wise sages of Jewish tradition, would spend so much time emphasizing the evils of, Lashon HaRah, a transgression that includes such things as gossip, slander, and a variety of other misuses of speech. It always seemed that relatively speaking, there were so many more terrible ills in the world, horrific tragedies and heinous crimes. Why was it that Lashon HaRah so thoroughly captured the attention of these ancient sages? Why is it that the misuse of language comprises nearly half of the misdeeds that Jews annually confess on the High Holy Days?

The sages undoubtedly took their cue from the great displeasure that G-d showed Miriam for speaking badly about her brother Moses (Numbers 12:1-15). She was punished with the dreaded disease of Tzara’at, often likened to leprosy.

The childhood axiom about sticks and stones comes to mind with its reassurances that the cruel things people say could cause no harm. And, yet, there was Chazal, our “Sages of Blessed Memory,” emphasizing that “the misuse of speech kills three: the speaker, the listener, and the one about whom the slander is being spread.”

The degree of good versus evil in any generation is determined by what good people will tolerate. And these wise sages recognized that it is the language we use that shapes people’s perception of reality; this, in turn, determines what people will allow.

The classic baseball quip illustrates the point.

The first umpire says: “Some are balls and some are strikes, and I call them as they are.”

The second umpire says: “Some are balls and some are strikes, and I call them as I see ’em.”

The third umpire says:”Some are balls and some are strikes, but they ain’t nothin’ ˜til I call ’em.”

Language shapes reality. Names, labels, and words have a tremendous influence on outcome and environment.

Unfortunately, there is a whole language that has been fabricated that engulfs discussions of the State of Israel. There is an entire array of duplicitous terms that regularly encases the portrayal of the Jewish state.

And so successfully has been this fabrication and subsequent conditioning, that there is often what amounts to a Pavlovian response to any reference to the State of Israel.

Pavlov’s dogs remind us of the power of classical conditioning, as we see the step-by-step process by which dogs are trained to recognize that food is on the way. By the end of this conditioning, the dogs no longer need to even see the food. All they need is to hear the bell ring, and they begin to salivate for their meal.

Similarly, the language and slander about the Jewish State evoke an automatic, manipulated response to Israel; this, in turn, obscures any honest portrayal or understanding of the country.

There are widely orchestrated efforts to malign the State of Israel, such as that facilitated by those who have manufactured “Israel Apartheid Week,” an abomination which is carried out yearly on various college campuses across the country. “Apartheid” is one of those words that is regularly misappropriated by those who want to criminalize the Jewish State. The only thing criminal here, besides the slander itself, is that these self-proclaimed human rights activists do not raise their voices to take their accusations to where they rightly belong – against the actual perpetrators of apartheid and suffering in the Middle East.

The Reverand Dr. Kenneth Meshoe, a member of the South African Parliament, wrote the following in The San Francisco Examiner.

“On my recent trip to San Francisco, I was deeply disturbed to learn about the posters in The City accusing Israel of apartheid… Those who make the accusation expose their ignorance of what apartheid really is…I am shocked by the claim that the free, diverse, democratic state of Israel practices apartheid. This ridiculous accusation trivializes the word apartheid, minimizing and belittling the magnitude of the racism and suffering endured by South Africans of color…The misapplication of the term apartheid makes a mockery of a grievous injustice and threatens to undermine the true meaning of the term. In my view, Israel is a model of democracy, inclusion and pluralism that can be emulated by many nations, particularly in the Middle East.”

So a man who is intimately aware of the evils of apartheid points out that not only is the label of “apartheid,” which is being peddled regularly to our impressionable college youth every year, an absolute lie, but Israel is a country that is to be emulated. In fact, Israel is the country that best protects and promotes the rights of minorities in the entire region.

While the horrific persecution of Christians has become rampant in the Middle East, and the Christian population is dwindling, Israel is a safe haven. As the Vicar of St George’s Church in Baghdad Canon Andrew White says of Israel, it is “the only place in the Middle East [where] Christians are really safe.” In fact, the Christian community in Israel is growing.

In a recent demonstration outside of the European Union embassy in Tel Aviv, protestors rallied against the EU’s silence regarding “the ethnic cleansing of Christians throughout the Middle East.”

Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox priest from Nazareth, called for an end to these attacks, and thanked “the State of Israel for providing a warm home to Christians.”

During the rally, the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum, posted on its Facebook page “there is no place but Israel that is safe for Christians in the Middle East!”

Shadi Khalloul, Spokesman for the Israeli Christian Forum, stated, “We constantly receive reports from our Christian brethren throughout the Middle East imploring that they be helped, envious of our status as Israeli citizens.”

The Israeli Christian Lobby sent a letter to the head of the EU Delegation to Israel, citing the ethnic cleansing of Christians throughout the Arab world, as well as, the hypocrisy and inaction of the EU.

“We, the members of the Christian Lobby in Israel… that represent different Christian factions inside the Israeli cities and villages, found it appropriate to turn to you and cry out about the human and citizens’ rights condition of our Christian brothers across the Middle East…The lack of taking real steps by the European and Western countries and the continuation of the horrifying condition pales, opposed to the double standards and the hypocrisy of Europe and the West towards the State of Israel, the Jewish and democratic country that provides freedom of religion, human rights and defense to every religious and ethnic minority. There is no doubt that the safest and most free place for Christians, as well as other minorities in the Middle East, is the State of Israel… the double standards and hypocrisy displayed towards Israel, as opposed to the lack of steps taken for the Christians in the Arab countries, in the Middle East, bring into question the sincerity of the declarations and intentions of the European and Western countries regarding human rights and humanism. It seems that the treatment towards Israel is a cover up for the failure of the west in the Middle East, failures that allow the continuing of the crimes and atrocities against Christians… From here, from the State of Israel…we the members of the Israeli Christian lobby are calling out “NO MORE”, we will no longer be silent. No more to the abandonment of Christians in the Middle East. No more to the double standards and hypocrisy. And yes to taking action for the persecuted Christian minority.”

Contrast that reality with the labels, lies, and libel that people regularly hear about the State of Israel.

Since the founding of the modern State of Israel, Israel has built a thriving country that protects the rights of its citizens, protects freedom of religion and ensures that all religions have access to their religious sites – something that was not allowed when Israel was not governing Jerusalem. Israel protects a free press, minority rights, and women’s rights in a part of the world where such rights and protections are alien. Minorities participate in all areas of civic life, serving as professionals in all fields, as justices, and as diplomats.

Last spring, Dr. Mais Ali Saleh, a 27-year-old Muslim-Arab woman from a village in the Galilee near Nazareth, graduated valedictorian of her medical school class at the Technion, “Israel’s MIT,” and oldest university.

The protection and help that Israel extends to others does not stop at Israel’s borders.

MASHAV(Center for International Cooperation), an organization which operates under the auspices of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for decades has been exporting Israeli innovations and sharing with developing countries knowledge of the technologies that helped in Israel’s own development.

Israel regularly brings children and medical personnel from developing countries as part of their Save a Child’s Heart (SACHS) mission. Thousands of youngsters have received emergency heart care from volunteer doctors in Israel. Cardiac surgery and care is provided in Israeli hospitals, while the medical professionals from the visiting countries are trained so that they can bring this knowledge home.

In 2010, Israel was among those who immediately sent relief and rescue units to Haiti after the earthquake.

In response to the typhoon in the Philippines in 2013, Israel dispatched a 150-member delegation, as well as, 100 tons of humanitarian and medical supplies in aid. The Israeli field hospital became the central medical facility in the area, treating on average over 300 patients a day.

Whether in the Ziv Medical Center in Tzfat, the Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya, Poriya Hospital in Tiberias, Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, or the field hospital in the Golan Heights, to date, Israel has given medical care to hundreds of Syrians who have been wounded in the war in Syria.

This is the reality of modern Israel: a nation that has rebuilt her ancestral homeland and which continually reaches out a hand to contribute compassionately the world over.

“Occupation” and “Illegal Jewish Settlement”- these, too, are words that are deceitfully applied with regularity to Israel. People see these words in various newspapers, many of which, when it comes to Israel, seem to relinquish any sense of responsibility for checking the accuracy of their statements. People hear this slander from international leaders who, at best, unthinkingly parrot the tired mantras about Israel, and, at worst, are actively aiding in the effort to wrest the Jewish homeland away from the Jewish people by verbally rewriting history and denigrating the Jewish State.

In the Land of Israel, the regions of Samaria and Judea represent the spiritual center of Jewish history. The roots of the Jewish people are found throughout Judea and Samaria, with each city and holy site therein reflecting the history of the people of Israel in the land of Israel. There has been a continuous Jewish presence in the Land of Israel from ancient times until today. This Jewish presence began in Judea and Samaria, the birthplace of the Jewish nation.

In a complete affront to Jewish rights and Jewish history, the Arab armies of Egypt, Lebanon, Transjordan (as Jordan was initially called), Syria, and Iraq attacked Israel after Israel declared her independence in 1948. Jordan then illegally occupied Judea and Samaria, expelled all of the Jewish communities from these regions, barred any further Jewish access to these areas and holy sites, and attempted at that time to rename the region the “West Bank,” a generic, geographic label that conveniently obscures all of the Jewish history that took place there.

Under the nineteen years of Jordan’s illegal occupation, the city of Jerusalem was divided in two for the first time in history. The Jews, who had been living as a majority in Jerusalem since the middle of the previous century, were expelled by the Jordanians and barred from those areas that were within the walls of the Old City, where the holiest Jewish sites are found.

In 1967, besieged by hostile Arab armies, Israel liberated and recovered the regions of Samaria and Judea and reunited the city of Jerusalem.

Despite the Jewish roots that go back four millennia, to the very beginning of Jewish history, Jewish towns within Judea and Samaria, this cradle of Jewish civilization, are regularly mischaracterized as “illegal.” Many are trying to ban Jews from these regions, labeling them “occupied.” Many apply these labels, as well, to Judaism’s most sacred city of Jerusalem, to precisely those areas in which the holiest Jewish sites are found.

“Occupation” refers to the holding and control of an area by a foreign force. Given that the Land of Israel was never the sovereign country of any nation but the Jewish one, and that Jerusalem has served as the capital of only the Jewish nation, Jews cannot be deemed “occupiers” in their own land, a fact affirmed by international law.

The historical and religious rights of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel were affirmed and codified in international law at the San Remo Conference of 1920, a meeting of the Allied Powers of WWI, to decide the future of the former territories of the Ottoman Empire. At this conference, where international agreement was also reached regarding the establishment of other countries in the region, a binding agreement was enacted between these world powers “to reconstitute the ancient Jewish State within its historic borders.”

Recognizing the ancient and continuous historical and spiritual connection between the nation of Israel and the Land of Israel, the San Remo Resolution included the regions of Samaria and Judea as part of the area designated for reestablishing the Jewish National Homeland, along with all the land that is between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, all the land that currently comprises the country of Jordan, as well as, the Golan Heights and Gaza.

This mandate, which was then ratified by a unanimous vote of The League of Nations, affirmed the Jewish right to settle anywhere between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, which is where these regions of Samaria and Judea are found. This right is enshrined to this day in international law.

Arab national entities were designated for other areas of the former Ottoman Empire. The San Remo Conference, along with various treaties following World War I and World War II, succeeded in establishing independent countries sought by the Arab nationalists; Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan were all established out of what had been provinces of the Ottoman Empire.

Yet, when it came to similarly recognizing the rights of the Jewish nation to the Jewish homeland, there were those who consistently sought to prevent Jewish self-determination and sovereignty in the Jewish ancestral homeland of Israel. This was despite the fact that the world clearly recognized, by international law and treaty, the right of the Jewish nation to reestablish the Jewish National Homeland.

This is the same rejection and subversion of Jewish rights to the Land of Israel that we are seeing today. And a primary tactic of Israel’s detractors is the misuse of language.

Language is powerful. Much of the harm that is being perpetrated against the State of Israel and the Jewish people today is predicated on carefully crafted lies which engulf discussions of Israel, denigrate the Jewish State, and convey a picture of Israel that is at odds with reality.

To so many who suffer at the hands of the true oppressors in the region, Israel is a symbol and place of freedom and a society to emulate. Yet, the current language that surrounds many discussions of the State of Israel deceitfully peddles an alternate, inverse reality wherein Israel is demonized and criminalized, despite all evidence to the contrary.

As rockets rain down upon southern Israel causing a generation of children to grow up playing in underground playgrounds and running for their lives for the 15 seconds after a red alert sounds; as boycotts and sanctions are regularly threatened and implemented in order to isolate, denigrate, and criminalize the Jewish state; as relentless pressure is brought to bear on the Jewish people to forfeit their heartland and homeland where Jews have lived for thousands of years, forfeit the one Jewish state among 21 Arab states; as Israel is repeatedly threatened with annihilation by her neighbors; the prophetic wisdom of those ancient sages, who recognized the mortal danger of libel, is clear.

 

HOME IS WHERE THE HEARTLAND IS By Jonina Pritzker

There is a famous story in Jewish tradition about two women who are fighting over a baby, each claiming that the baby belongs to her. They appear before King Solomon, whose wisdom was legendary, to have the king decide between them as to which woman was the real mother. King Solomon’s solution was to cut the baby in half, awarding half the child to each woman. At that point, the true mother stepped forward, heartbroken at the thought of taking a knife to the child, and begged the king not to harm her son. By this act, King Solomon recognized that this was the real mother, and he entrusted the infant back to his mother’s loving care.

This story comes to mind as I watch with outrage the current deliberations over the Land of Israel, as strong voices urge Israel to relinquish land that has borne the name and history of the Jewish people for four millennia

Perennial adversaries of the Jewish people, and even traditional allies, have all aligned themselves with the chopping block, ready to slice up the Jewish homeland. Every excuse is given; every threat of dire circumstances, that will be the result if Israel does not agree to cut out its own heart, is articulated.

All the while, self-professed “friends” of the Jewish people have the indecency to say that this is “for Israel’s own good.”

Hearing besieged Israelis and beleaguered Jews around the world being forced under this attack to defend the importance and centrality of different pieces of the Land of Israel is much like watching a person trying to explain why both his legs and his heart are indispensible.

Pieces of the Jewish homeland have become the fodder for international debate, the heart and limbs callously severed and bandied about by those who clearly do not understand the significance that Yehuda V’Shomron, Judea and Samaria, have for the Jewish people, the significance that the Jewish soul – which we call Jerusalem – has for the Jewish people. The deepest roots a Jew can have are found in these places.

There has been a continuous Jewish presence in the Land of Israel from ancient times until today, and this Jewish presence began in Judea and Samaria; this is the birthplace of the Jewish nation.

In the days of the Patriarchs, we read of our Biblical families in Shechem which is in Samaria. “Abram passed into the land as far as the site of Shechem, until the Plain of Moreh…G-d appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.’ ”(Genesis 12:6-7).

In the third generation, the Patriarch Jacob purchases land in Shechem, at the site where his son Joseph would ultimately be buried. “Jacob arrived…at the city of Shechem…He bought the parcel of land…for one hundred kesitahs.” (Genesis 33:18-19).

During the time of Joshua, the nation of Israel gathered at Shechem to renew their covenant with G-d. “Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem…Joshua made a covenant with the people that day…in Shechem.” (Joshua 24:1-25).

Shechem was the place where King Solomon’s son Rechoboam chose to be enthroned. ”Rechoboam went to Shechem, for all of Israel had come to Shechem to make him king (I Kings 12:1). With the subsequent division of the kingdom, Jeroboam established Shechem as his capital in the northern kingdom. “Jeroboam built (up) Shechem in the Mountain of Ephraim and dwelled in it…” (I Kings 12:25).

The roots of the Jewish people are found throughout Judea and Samaria, each city and holy site reflecting the history of the people of Israel in the land of Israel.

The Matriarch Rachel was buried in Bethlehem, a city in Judea. “Thus Rachel died and was buried on the road to Ephrat, which is Bethlehem. Jacob set up a monument over her grave; it is the monument of Rachel’s grave until this day.” (Genesis 35:19-20).

Centuries later, Boaz would meet Ruth in Bethlehem; she would later give birth to the line of the Davidic monarchy. King David was their great grandson. G-d instructed the prophet Samuel, “Fill your horn with oil and go forth – I shall send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have seen a king for Myself among his sons.”(I Samuel 16:1).

Jews have prayed in Bethlehem at the holy site of Kever Rachel, Rachel’s Tomb, through the centuries. Rachel is seen as a source of comfort and solace; shedding tears on behalf of her children: ”Rachel weeps for her children; she refuses to be consoled…”(Jeremiah 31:14).

In 1830 the Turks issued a royal decree recognizing Jewish rights at this Jewish holy site. The governor of Damascus instructed the Mufti of Jerusalem that “the tomb of esteemed Rachel…they (the Jews) are accustomed to visit it from ancient days; and no one is permitted to prevent them or oppose them (from doing) this.”

This decree was a necessary response to the harassment that Jews had endured in trying to visit Rachel’s Tomb. At times, they were physically attacked; they often had to pay extortion money to the local Arabs to ensure free passage and to protect the holy site from vandalism.

In 1841, Sir Moses Montefiore was granted permission to build a room onto Rachel’s Tomb; this was to protect both the grave and those visiting it.

Bethel, another city within these regions of Judea and Samaria, was called by the Patriarch Jacob “the gate of heaven.” It was here that Jacob dreamt of a ladder reaching to heaven. It was in Bethel that G-d gave Jacob a second name and made to Jacob the covenantal promise of the land of Israel and the people of Israel. “Then G-d said to him, ‘Your name shall not always be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name…a nation…shall descend from you, and kings shall issue from your lions. The land that I gave to Abraham and to Isaac, I will give to you; and to your offspring after you, I will give the land.’” (Genesis 35:10-12).

During the time of the Judges, Deborah would sit pronouncing judgments near Bethel on Mount Ephraim.

After the Israelites re-entered the Land of Israel under the leadership of Joshua, they lived according to tribe. If anyone has ever ridden on a bus in Tel Aviv, the Dan bus line is a reminder that the tribe of Dan was situated in the area of modern-day Tel Aviv, along the coast of the Mediterranean.

The tribes of Israel lived throughout the land of Israel, and they lived on both sides of the Jordan River. On the eastern bank of the Jordan River lived the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasheh.

All of the tribes of Israel would gather in Shiloh located in Samaria. Shiloh was the city of Priests where the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was kept before it was brought to Jerusalem. Shiloh was the spiritual center of Israel for centuries. “The entire assembly of the Children of Israel gathered at Shiloh and erected the Tent of Meeting there…”(Joshua 18:1).

It was in Shiloh that Hannah prayed for a son and was answered, later giving birth to the prophet Samuel.

 

And then there is Hebron in Judea. It would be difficult to find another place with more Jewish history than that which we find in the city of Hebron. Hebron was the very first place acquired by the first Jew, the Patriarch Abraham. He purchased Ma’arat HaMachpela, the cave of Machpela, in order to bury his wife Sarah. “And Abraham weighed out to Ephron…400 silver shekels…And afterwards Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah facing Mamre, which is in Hebron…” (Genesis 23:16-19).

The Cave of Machpelah in Hebron is the burial place for all of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs except for Rachel.

Hebron was the first capital of the kingdom of David, where David ruled for seven and a half years before then establishing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Hebron was an important city for King Hezekiah, when the Assyrians were the world’s aggressors. Hebron was also a critical military area, both at the time of the Maccabees, and during the time of Bar Kochba.

 

David Ben-Gurion, the 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…Hebron is worthy to be Jerusalem’s sister.”

In a complete affront to its millennia-long roots in Hebron, the Jewish community of Hebron was forcibly removed from there, after the massacre of 1929 and the subsequent Arab riots. In August of 1929, the Jews of Hebron, men, women, and children, were brutally massacred. The slaughter was bloody and frenzied; parents were murdered in front of their children; neither the old nor the young were spared. The Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini had been inciting the Arabs, using the pretext that Muslim holy places were under attack. Then, employing another tactic that was used then as it is today, he challenged the Jewish connection to the Kotel, the Western Wall that sits adjacent to the holy Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism.

Despite the fact that The Supreme Muslim Council itself issued a guide to the Temple Mount in 1925 which clearly states, “Its identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute,” there has been an ongoing attempt to obscure and deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem. We are still seeing this ploy today, as those who want to destroy all evidence of Israel’s connection to the land bulldoze the archaeological remains of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, this most sacred Jewish site.  These uprooted and destroyed pieces of history are regularly discarded into the valley next to the sacred Temple Mount, from which dedicated groups and individuals work to salvage these desecrated remains.

What was the British response to the horrific massacre of 1929, as well as, to the subsequent Arab riots of 1936-39, the British, who, at the unanimous direction of the League of Nations, were tasked at that time with reconstituting the Jewish people in their historic homeland? The British reaction was not to defend the remaining Jews. Their reaction was not to affirm the ancient, historical connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, the connection which was recognized and ratified by all the nations of the world only a few years earlier in the Mandate that the League of Nations had entrusted to Great Britain to facilitate. On the contrary, the British response was to evacuate this ancient Jewish community and tear the Jews from their roots because England refused to stand up for the truth and confront the Arab aggression.

We see this same rejection and subversion of Jewish rights in Judea and Samaria today. In fact, despite the Jewish roots that go back to the very beginning of Jewish history, these are the regions that are consistently put on the chopping block in any current discussion about Israel.

Furthermore, those Jews who live in Judea and Samaria, who simply refuse to abandon the Jewish home, history, and heritage, are regularly vilified and are the victims of verbal, economic, and even mortal assaults.

Talia and Yitzchak Ames, Avishai Schindler, and Kochava Even-Haim were massacred by Arab terrorists near Hebron in 2010. Talia and Yitchak’s six children were left as orphans, as their pregnant mother and their father were murdered for the “crime” of being Jews. These Jews were vilified for refusing to leave their home and for wanting to live near the ancient Jewish city of Hebron where a Jew purchased property nearly 4000 years ago. Avishai Schindler was a yeshiva student who had just been married. Kochava Even-Haim was a teacher who left behind an eight-year-old daughter.

We see violence perpetrated against the Jews of Samaria, as well. When Jews want to visit Joseph’s Tomb in the city of Shechem, they go under the cover of night and watchful eyes of the Israel Defense Forces, since attacks on Jews visiting the site are common.

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; and it became a heritage for the children of Joseph.”(Joshua 24:32).

After all of the assurances that the Arab authorities supervising the area would respect this holy site, in October of 2000, the tomb of Joseph was, nonetheless, desecrated, along with the Yeshiva Od Yosef Chai, the Jewish house of study, which stood next to the tomb. The holy site was ransacked and burned. Rabbi Hillel Lieberman, one of the founders of the Yeshiva, was slain as he attempted to save the sacred site and its holy items from destruction.

In 2011, 24-year-old father of four Ben Yoseph Livnat was shot and killed as he and other Breslav Hasidim attempted to visit the tomb.

Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem has been subjected to unceasing acts of vandalism, desecration, and arson. Jews trying to visit and pray at this sacred place are repeatedly met with violence.

In Samaria, near the city of Shechem, the towns of Elon Moreh, Har Bracha, Yitzhar, and Itamar were founded. These modern communities are nestled in the hill country, with Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal towering above, “And all Israel and its elders and officers and its judges stood on this side and that of the Ark opposite the Kohanim, the Levites, bearers of the Ark of the Covenant…half of them on the slope of Mount Gerizim and half of them on the slope of Mount Ebal.”(Joshua 8:33).

The town of Itamar was named for Itamar HaKohen (Priest), son of Aaron the Priest. “The labor of the Levites was under the authority of Itamar, son of Aaron the Kohen.” (Exodus 38:21).

In March of 2011, on a Sabbath evening, Udi Fogel, 36, his wife Ruth, 35, and three of their children, Yoav, 11, Eldad, 4, and Hadas, 3 months, were brutally murdered in their home in Itamar by Arab terrorists from a neighboring town.

They were killed for the “crime” of being Jews who would not leave their home, Jews who wanted to live in the birthplace of the Jewish people.

The rejection and subversion of Jewish rights in Judea and Samaria, and the violence perpetrated against the Jews in these regions, are unrelenting.

The ongoing attempt to obscure the Jewish Biblical, spiritual, historical, and legal rights to Judea and Samaria is extended further 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.

 

The historical and religious rights of the Jewish people to the land of Israel were affirmed and codified in international law at the San Remo Conference of 1920, a meeting of the Principal Allied Powers of WWI to determine the future of the former territories of the Ottoman Empire. At this conference, where international agreement was also reached regarding the establishment of other countries in the region, such as Syria, and Iraq, a binding agreement was reached between these world powers “to reconstitute the ancient Jewish State within its historic borders.”

Recognizing the ancient and continuous, historical and spiritual connection between the nation of Israel and the land of Israel, the San Remo Resolution specifically included this spiritual heartland of Samaria and Judea as part of the area designated for reestablishing the Jewish National Homeland, along with all the land that is between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, all the land that currently comprises the country of Jordan, as well as, the Golan Heights and Gaza.

 

This mandate, which was then ratified by a unanimous vote of The League of Nations, affirmed the Jewish right to settle anywhere between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, which is where these regions of Samaria and Judea are found. This right is enshrined to this day in international law.

The San Remo Conference, along with various treaties following World War I, succeeded in establishing independent countries sought by the Arab nationalists; Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan were all established out of what had been provinces of the Ottoman Empire.

Yet, when it came to similarly recognizing the rights of the Jewish nation to the Jewish homeland, there were those who consistently sought to prevent Jewish self-determination and sovereignty in the Jewish homeland of Israel. This was despite the fact that the world clearly recognized, by international law and treaty, the right of the Jewish nation to reestablish the Jewish National Homeland.

We continue to see this same rejection of Jewish rights to the land of Israel today. We continue to hear the persistent demand that Jews give up their homeland. And we hear the unremitting vilification of those Jews who are unwilling to do so.

Names: The Fight for History by Yonina Pritzker

My Russian History professor in college shared the following joke:
A survey was being conducted, and a man was asked the following questions:
First question: Where were you born?
Answer: St. Petersburg.
Second Question: Where did you go to school?
Answer: Petrograd.
Third Question: Where do you live now?
Answer: Leningrad.
Final Question: Where would you like to live?
Answer: St. Petersburg.
The joke, of course, is that these are all names of the same city at different points in time. Each name reflected the new sensibility, the new reality that was being imposed on the city at various junctures. While physically in the same location, nonetheless, the man does not want to live in Petrograd or Leningrad; he wants to live in the city as it was characterized by the name St. Petersburg.
In 1991(well after my professor told us this joke), the name of the city did, in fact, become St. Petersburg once again. This decision was predicated on lengthy, emotional discussions among the city’s residents who were cognizant of the fact that the name chosen would both highlight certain aspects of the city’s history, and would shape the feeling, focus, and identity of the city going forward.
Language shapes reality. Names and labels have a tremendous influence on outcome.
In school – teachers are instructed to “describe the behavior, not the child.” We learn to separate the student from the unwanted behavior, and take great pains not to negatively label a student, since psychology teaches us that students often live up to -or down to, in this case- the labels we give them.
In linguistics we learn that the existence of open-ended language allowed for human progress because people were able to say things that had never been said before, and in doing so, were then able to move forward toward and create that new reality, solve that new problem, discover a new cure, invent that new technology.
We see the same careful attention to language in the law. When a legal document is drafted, the language is chosen with great specificity, as all the parties know that these words will determine the terms and obligations by which all will need to abide.
In a business setting, companies will offer sensitivity training, teaching workers to give great consideration to what they say and how they say it so as not offend anyone, and so as to ensure that nothing will be misconstrued.
In our social, community interactions, there is a demand for certain terminology that promotes specific values, such as the push to adopt gender-neutral language, for one example.
There has been a recent, national controversy over the name of the football team from Washington D.C., the “Redskins.” People have argued that this name, which has been in use since 1933, should now be changed. Proponents of the change say that this name is offensive and derogatory.
And many a celebrity on their Twitter accounts have had to issue apologies for remarks or labels they used that were in any way construed as being racist.
This joke, then, that my professor shared years ago, is essentially intuitive to us today, given our heightened sensitivity to language. We well recognize that labels and words are essential in shaping our environment. Words matter; they are critical in both dismantling old attitudes and bringing forth new realities.
So why is it that the same people who would demand an accurate legal contract, a gender-neutral news article, a validating, tolerant social vocabulary, and egalitarian workplace terminology, why is it that when it comes to the Land of Israel, there is a complete dismissal, and even suppression, of the accurate language and historical record?
There are terms that are misused on a daily basis regarding the State of Israel, and yet, anyone who tries to raise the issue and restore the accurate history and terminology is immediately painted as extreme, as too sensitive, as a fanatic.
Among the most egregious misuses of language regarding Israel is seen in the attempted renaming of many places in Israel, cities and regions, including the Jewish spiritual heartland of Samaria and Judea.
In the Land of Israel, the regions of Samaria and Judea represent the spiritual center of Jewish history.
This is the area where the Jewish people always lived, where the history of the Jewish nation took place, and where the prophets of Israel delivered their message.

In these regions, we find Hebron which was the first capital of Israel, burial place of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs of Israel. Here we also find Bethlehem, the city where the Matriarch Rachel is buried, where Ruth gave birth to the line of the Davidic monarchy. Shechem was the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. It is the city where Joseph is buried. 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, and Jacob in Beit El. These regions of Shomron (Samaria) and Yehuda (Judea) constitute the Jewish spiritual heartland which is steeped in Jewish history dating back to Biblical times.

In a complete affront to Jewish rights and Jewish history, the Arab armies of Egypt, Lebanon, Transjordan (as Jordan was initially called), Syria, and Iraq attacked Israel after Israel declared her independence in 1948. Jordan then occupied Judea and Samaria, expelled all of the Jewish communities of these regions, barred any further Jewish access to these areas and holy sites, and attempted at that time to rename the region the “West Bank.”
This generic, geographic label conveniently obscures all of the Jewish history that took place there: It is much more difficult to try 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 does not.
The duplicity in this attempt to erase the history of, and Jewish connection to, Judea and Samaria was then extended further by the deceitful claim that Jews are “occupiers” in this land.
“Occupation” refers to the holding and control of an area by a foreign force. 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.
The historical and religious rights of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel were affirmed and codified in international law at the San Remo Conference of 1920, a meeting of the Allied Powers of WWI, to decide the future of the former territories of the Ottoman Empire. At this conference, where international agreement was also reached regarding the establishment of other countries in the region, such as Syria, and Iraq, a binding agreement was enacted between these world powers “to reconstitute the ancient Jewish State within its historic borders.”
Recognizing the ancient and continuous historical and spiritual connection between the nation of Israel and the Land of Israel, the San Remo Resolution included the regions of Samaria and Judea as part of the area designated for reestablishing the Jewish National Homeland, along with all the land that is between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, all the land that currently comprises the country of Jordan, as well as, the Golan Heights and Gaza.
This mandate, which was then ratified by a unanimous vote of The League of Nations, affirmed the Jewish right to settle anywhere between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, which is where these regions of Samaria and Judea are found. This right is enshrined to this day in international law.

Arab national entities were designated for other areas of the former Ottoman Empire. The San Remo Conference, along with various treaties following World War I, succeeded in establishing independent countries sought by the Arab nationalists; Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan were all established out of what had been provinces of the Ottoman Empire.
Yet, when it came to similarly recognizing the rights of the Jewish nation to the Jewish homeland, there were those who consistently sought to prevent Jewish self-determination and sovereignty in the Jewish ancestral homeland of Israel. This was despite the fact that the world clearly recognized, by international law and treaty, the right of the Jewish nation to reestablish the Jewish National Homeland.
This is the same rejection and subversion of Jewish rights to the Land of Israel that we are seeing today.
The attempts to rewrite – and rename – history and, thereby, deny the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel, are reflected, as well, in the fraudulent language regarding the holy city of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem, the city which holds the very soul of the Jewish people, has always been central in Jewish life.
On Passover Jews say L’shana ha’bah b’Yerushalayim, “Next year in Jerusalem.”  On Tisha B’Av each year, Jews sit in mourning and weep lamentations over the destruction of the holy city and Temple.  When building a home, Jews leave an unfinished corner to remember the destruction of Jerusalem, and at every Jewish wedding, the groom breaks the glass, showing that he places Jerusalem above his highest joy.  The ancient sages taught that ten measures of beauty were given to the world; of these, Jerusalem was given nine.
Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for over three thousand years, and
The Temple Mount, the site of Solomon’s Temple remains Judaism’s most sacred site. Unto this day, every Jew turns towards the Temple Mount to pray.
During the nineteen years of Jordan’s illegal occupation of Judea and Samaria, beginning with the 1948 War of Independence, the city of Jerusalem was divided in two for the first time in history. The Jews who had been living as a majority in Jerusalem since the middle of the previous century were expelled by the Jordanians and barred from those areas that were within the walls of the Old City, where the holiest Jewish sites are found.
In 1967, besieged by hostile Arab armies, Israel liberated and recovered the regions of Samaria and Judea and reunited the city of Jerusalem.
Today, however, references are often made to an “East” Jerusalem in an attempt to perpetuate the myth that there are two distinct parts to the city. And the duplicitous corollary, once again, is that Jews are “occupiers” in “East” Jerusalem; this, despite the fact that Judaism’s holiest sites are found in precisely that area.
In the United Kingdom, an agency that monitors the accuracy of advertisements upheld a complaint about an ad for trips to Israel.  The ad displayed the various places that could be seen on a brief visit to Israel. This agency rejected the ad for use within the United Kingdom, saying that it was misleading because it showed a picture of the Western Wall, the Jewish holy site that sits adjacent to the Temple Mount.  According to this agency, it is debatable as to whether the Western Wall, (the Kotel), is in Israel, debatable as to whether the holiest place in the world to Jews, belongs to Israel, as this is part of the area that many regularly try to label as “occupied;” this is the precise area from which many are again trying to ban Jews.
Changing the name of Jerusalem to “East Jerusalem” is a ploy often used by those who want to erase history and wrest the Jewish homeland away from the Jewish people.
It is outrageous to rename the Jewish homeland, obscure its history, and then accuse Jews of being occupiers there. But that is precisely what is happening today. And the international community, whether through lack of information or lack of good will, is allowing, and at times aiding with, this ongoing injustice.
If something so clear, so straightforward, so indisputable as the Jewish connection to Samaria and Judea, if something as unmistakable and irrefutable as the Jewish connection to Jerusalem can be so rewritten, so misrepresented, and Biblical, spiritual, historical, and legal rights so resoundingly dismissed, if those around the world can literally invert history and accuse Jews of being occupiers in the very cradle of Jewish history and civilization, then the level of deceit knows no bounds, and the absolute necessity to stand up and fight against this attempt to subvert the truth and rob Jews of their history, heritage, and homeland has never been more clear.
The ancient Sages who devised the Passover Seder were wise. Citing the Torah, they emphasized “v’higadita l’vincha bayom hahu leimor” “And you shall tell it to your children on that day, saying…” (Exodus 13:8)  The message is clear: we must keep telling and retelling our history, so that the truth is honored and not obliterated.
The fight for language is the fight for history. It is one in the same.

The Ever-Elusive Peace by Yonina Pritzker By Jonina Pritzker

As pressure to reach a peace agreement mounts, strong voices urge Israel to relinquish land that has borne the name and history of the Jewish people for four millennia. The sources of conflict between Israel and her Arab neighbors are obscured by fabricated terms such as “occupation” and “apartheid,” and even by valid considerations such as “strategic depth” and “secure borders.” Security is indeed critical to Israel, as it is for any nation, but it does not begin to convey the deep connection the Jewish people have to the Land of Israel, where they have lived continuously since ancient times, nor does it adequately represent the undeniable rights the Jewish people have to that land.

Chaim Weizman, the first President of Israel, was once asked, “Why don’t you just accept the offer to establish a Jewish State in Uganda?” He answered, “That’s like me asking why you drove 50 miles to see your mother when there are so many other nice old ladies so much closer to your home.”

The Land of Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish people. By any criteria, whether by the Biblical Mandate, the historical connection, or through international law, the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people, and it is unjust to demand that the Jewish people relinquish their homeland.

The Jewish nation lived and worshipped as a free and sovereign nation in the Land of Israel, from the time Joshua re-entered the land with the Israelites, until the Babylonians destroyed the holy Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BCE.  Seventy years later, the Jews rebuilt this Temple, which then stood for centuries until the Romans destroyed it in the year 70 CE.The Temple Mount in the holy city of Jerusalem remains the holiest place within Judaism, and unto this day, every Jew turns towards the Temple Mount to pray.

Throughout the centuries, many conquerors tried to incorporate the Land of Israel into their own empires: the Babylonian empire, Persian and Greco-Assyrian, Roman, Byzantine, Arab Caliphates, Turkish, Crusader, Ayyubid, Mameluke, and Ottoman.

But despite these attempts, Israel remained the country of the Jewish people, and Jerusalem has served as the capital of only one nation: the Jewish nation.

Through every banishment and forced exile, the Jewish people continually looked to their ancient homeland, prayed to return to their land, included the mention of Israel and Jerusalem in daily prayers, and imbued each life-cycle gathering and festival celebration with the yearning for Shivat Tzion, for a return to the land of their ancestors.

Wherever a Jew was, his heart was always in Jerusalem. When he sat by the waters of Babylon, he wept as he remembered Zion. If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its cunning. May my tongue cleave to its palate… if I put not Jerusalem above my highest joy (Psalm 137). From Spain in the 12th century, Yehuda HaLevi cried “Libi B’Mizrach, Va’Ani b’sof ha’Ma’arav;” “My heart is in the east, though I am at the ends of the west.”

In the modern era, in the aftermath of World War I, the Principal Allied Powers, who were invested with the international authority to supervise the breakup of the former Ottoman Empire, met in San Remo, Italy, to discuss the borders of the new countries to be formed in the region, from the many peoples that had been part of the Ottoman Empire.

The San Remo Conference produced a series of mandates. Jan Christiaan Smuts introduced the Mandates System whereby a developed country would tutor and guide a not-yet-developed country down the path to statehood. Great Britain was tasked with supervising the Mandate for Palestine and the Mandate for Mesopotamia, while France was responsible for the Mandate for Syria. Ultimately, not only Israel, but Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan were all established out of what had been provinces of the Ottoman Empire.

There in San Remo, Italy, in April of 1920, this international forum passed the San Remo Resolution, and thereby, acknowledged the ancient and historic connection between the Land of Israel and the Jewish people, and declared their goal to “reconstitute the ancient Jewish state within its historic borders.”

For the Jewish homeland, they allocated all the land that is between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, as well as, the land that currently comprises the country of Jordan, along with the Golan Heights, and Gaza. They allocated these regions of the former Ottoman Empire for the Jewish homeland in recognition of the fact that these were the areas where the Jewish people lived, where the history of the Jewish nation took place, and where the prophets of Israel delivered their message.

Hebron was the first capital of Israel, burial place of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs of Israel; Bethlehem is the city where the Matriarch Rachel is buried, where Ruth gave birth to the line of the Davidic monarchy; Shechem was the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel; 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, and Jacob in Beit El. These regions of Shomron (Samaria) and Yehuda (Judea) constitute the Jewish spiritual heartland which is steeped in Jewish history dating back to Biblical times.

The San Remo Resolution and the Mandate for Palestine, as well as the Franco-British Boundary Convention of 1920, established international law which affirmed the Jewish right to settle the entire area that was designated as the Mandate for Palestine, just as San Remo and the Mandates System, which was enshrined in the Covenant of the League of Nations, affirmed the Arabs of their right to settle their respective countries. In fact, the Mandate for Palestine was synonymous with a Jewish National Home, as this was the land that was identified specifically for the Jewish people to reestablish an independent, sovereign state.

This exact linkage between the Jewish National Home and the newly developed Mandate for Palestine was further highlighted by the Arab rejection of the notion of “Palestine,” as Arab leader Abd al-Mahdi said in 1937 before the Peel Commission:

“There is no such land. Palestine is a term invented by the Zionists.”

These sentiments are echoed by P.L.O. founder Ahmed Shukari, in 1956, who, as the Arab League’s ambassador at the UN said, “such a creature as Palestine does not exist at all.”

This rejection continued in the 1977 interview with PLO executive committee member Zahir Muhsein, recorded in the Dutch newspaper Trouw. There he said,

“The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity…Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct ‘Palestinian people’ to oppose Zionism for tactical reasons.”

Hafez al-Assa of Syria concurred when, in 1987, he said, “A country named ‘Palestine’ has never existed.”

The word “mandate” means trust. As stated in Article 6 of the Mandate, the British were tasked with assuring the “close settlement of the Jews on the land.” This was in keeping with a unanimous vote of the League of Nations which wanted to restore the Jewish people to their native land, thereby correcting the historical injustice of forced exile. The British, charged with this responsibility to serve as steward and trustee to bring forth a Jewish National Homeland, affirmed the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel, stating unequivocally that the Jewish nation was in this land “as of right and not on sufferance. That is the reason why it is necessary that the existence of a Jewish National Home in Palestine should be internationally guaranteed, and that it should be formally recognized to rest upon ancient historic connection.”

The British, nonetheless, went on to violate their obligations under these binding acts of international law by giving 77% of the lands allocated exclusively for the Jewish homeland, to create the Arab country of Jordan, or Transjordan, as it was initially called. The British gave away these areas that were steeped in Jewish history, areas where the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Menasheh had made their homes, thereby leaving only the land that was between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River for the Jewish National Homeland. The Jewish right to settle anywhere between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea remains enshrined in international law to this day.

Additional attempts to wrest the Jewish homeland away from the Jewish people have continued throughout the decades since San Remo. And we are seeing the current rendition today, as once again, pressure is being brought to bear on the Jewish nation to forfeit its legacy in order to appease those who reject her right to exist.

The Peel Commission advanced another such attempt. In 1937, it proposed a partition of the 23% of remaining Mandate land, after the British withheld 77% of the Mandate to create Transjordan. The Arabs rejected the proposal of the Peel Commission, just as they would reject every proposal that included a Jewish state within any borders. Instead, the Arab Bludan Conference, in September of 1937, proposed a boycott of “all Jewish goods and activities,” a tactic often used to criminalize the Jewish presence in the region. It is a tactic that is being utilized against the State of Israel again today.

The Partition Plan was yet another attempt to wrest away from the Jewish people additional portions of the Jewish homeland. Ironically, this November 29, 1947, vote of the General Assembly of the United Nations on Resolution 181 which, similar to the Peel Commission, tried to partition the remaining 23% of the land allocated for the Jewish homeland, has often, erroneously been viewed as the legal basis for the modern State of Israel. In fact, this Partition Resolution, which reserved for the Jewish State only 17% of the original Mandate, in illegal abrogation of Jewish rights to this land, was true to its name: it was yet one more attempt to subdivide the Land of Israel in order to appease those who have repeatedly rejected the right to sovereignty and self-determination for the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland.

The San Remo Conference along with various treaties following World War I succeeded in establishing independent countries sought by the Arab nationalists: the country of Iraq gained full independence in 1932, the country of Lebanon was established in 1943, and the country of Syria attained their independence in 1946. Nonetheless, when the modern State of Israel similarly exercised its sovereign right and formally declared statehood in 1948, the Arab armies of Egypt, Lebanon, Transjordan, Syria, and Iraq immediately attacked the nascent state. Azzam Pasha, Secretary-General of the Arab League announced: “It will be a war of annihilation. It will be a momentous massacre in history…”

Then, in 1949, when the Armistice Demarcation Lines were drawn, this line, which is commonly called “The Green Line,” and which many today attempt to reinvent and claim as borders – namely, so called “’67 borders” – was rejected vehemently by Syria, Jordan, and Egypt as delineating any type of border. The Armistice agreement with Egypt stated,

“The Armistice Demarcation Line is not to be construed in any sense as a political or territorial boundary…”

The Armistice agreement with Jordan included the following statement:

“The provisions of this article shall not be interpreted as prejudicing, in any sense, an ultimate political settlement between the Parties to this Agreement. The Armistice Demarcation Lines defined in Articles v and vi of this Agreement are agreed upon by the Parties without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto.”

And Syria was adamant that there be no misunderstanding, stating,

“It is emphasized that the following arrangements for the Armistice Demarcation Line between the Israeli and Syrian armed forces and for the Demilitarized Zone are not to be interpreted as having any relation whatsoever to ultimate territorial arrangements affecting the two Parties to this Agreement.”

These agreements were emphatic in ensuring that the Armistice line would not be considered a formal boundary, once again, rejecting a Jewish state within any borders.

Whether by further subdivision of the land, or through boycotts to criminalize the Jewish State, these tactics stem from the ongoing and absolute rejection of the Jewish people’s right to sovereignty and self-determination in their ancestral homeland. And while much attention is focused on the years of 1948 and 1967 as the lynchpins for strife in the region, in fact, attempts to rid the land of the Jewish people, as well as, violent attacks on Jews, were as clear before these dates as they were after these dates.

There was the Hebron massacre of 1929, when Arabs slaughtered their Jewish neighbors who had resided in Hebron for, literally, thousands of years. There was no “Green Line” at this time; there was no modern State of Israel at this time.

In 1938, in Tiberius, terrorists went from house to house killing parents and children. Again, there was no “Green Line,” no Jewish State.

In 1954, in Scorpion’s Pass (Maale Akrabim), 11 men and women were murdered as their omnibus travelling from Eilat to Beersheba was attacked. This was long before the 6 Day War of 1967.

In 1956, in Shafrir, terrorists fired on a synagogue full of children and teenagers.

In 1972, Israeli Olympic athletes were killed in Munich, Germany.

In 1974, schoolchildren on a field trip from Tzfat were executed in Ma’alot in northern Israel:

(Israeli General) Gur said later that he could see the girl students being shot one by one. Israeli officers said that they found ten girls dead, each with a bullet in the neck. Time’s David Halevy was among the first to enter. “Gray smoke enveloped the school,” he reported…I raced up to the second floor. A group of dead kids were lying in a corner. Their bodies were clustered in grotesque positions — as if they had died trying to protect one another. One girl was lying on her back, her eyes wide open, staring at the ceiling. Her body was cut in half at the waist. Most of the injured seemed to be girls. That was the shocking thing. They were beautiful girls with ugly wounds on their faces. Their clothes had been shredded, and there were open wounds on their breasts and legs. The movement of stretchers seemed endless.” The carnage, once the shooting ended, included 17 teen-agers dead and 70 wounded. (Time Magazine; Monday, May. 27, 1974).

Year after year, there have been terrorist incidents, too numerous to mention here.

The message has been consistent: it is the absolute rejection of the right of the Jewish people

to security, to self-determination, and to peace.

The right of the Jewish people to live in their historic homeland of Israel was rejected before 1948, and after the reestablishment of the modern State of Israel in 1948; before 1967, and after 1967, when, besieged by hostile Arab armies, Israel recovered those lands that had been internationally mandated and guaranteed to the Jewish people at San Remo; and this basic right is still being denied today.

In fact, after the war in 1967, Israel attempted to make peace with her neighbors. But, similar to every previous rejection of a Jewish state within any borders, the Arabs rejected Israel’s desire to negotiate peace, and instead, issued the “The Three No’s” of Khartoum, namely, no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israelandno negotiations with Israel. This resolution prompted Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban to declare, “This is the first war in history which has ended with the victors suing for peace and the vanquished calling for unconditional surrender.”

Had the neighboring countries and peoples ever offered Israel any kind of reciprocity, any acknowledgement of the rights of the Jewish nation to a sovereign state in her ancestral homeland; any recognition that the Jews, like the Arabs, were entitled to self–determination in their own homeland carved out of the vanquished Ottoman Empire; had they welcomed, or at least, tolerated, the Jewish people’s right to their sliver of the Middle East, the right to one Jewish state amidst 21 Arab states – there would be peace.

It is unjust that the same international law that upholds the rights of Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq was abrogated regarding the Jewish National Homeland, and is repeatedly violated in each new attempt to separate the Jewish people from the Land of Israel. It is unjust that Jews do not have free access to the lands allocated and guaranteed to the Jewish people, lands where our tribes lived on the eastern banks of the Jordan River. It is unjust to demand that the Jewish people relinquish any more of their homeland. It is the legacy of our ancestors and the heritage of our children.

Legally, spiritually, and historically, the Jewish people have always had the sovereign right to the Land of Israel, despite the dogmatic march that tries to conceal that fact and demand that they relinquish it. It is unconscionable that good and fair-minded people would bring such pressure to bear on a sovereign nation whose only desire is to live in her ancestral homeland in peace.

A TU B’SHAVAT TRIBUTE TO ISRAEL BY YONINA PRIZKER

In celebration of Tu B’Shvat, Ashkenazi Jews in Europe would sing Psalms and eat different kinds of fruit from the trees of Israel. During the sixteenth century, the Kabbalists and mystics of Tzfat in Israel developed a Tu B’Shvat Seder, patterned after our Passover Seder. Amidst the drinking of four cups of wine, a multitude of fruit would be eaten

We are taught in the Torah, For the L-rd your G-d is bringing you to a good land: … A land of wheat, barley, grapes, figs and pomegranates; a land of oil-yielding olives and honey. Deuteronomy 8:8

These are the seven species which are associated with the Land of Israel and which we traditionally eat on Tu B’Shvat.

Fifteen times, the Torah refers to the Land of Israel as a “land flowing with milk and honey.” The commentary Rashi explains that “milk” refers to goat’s milk, while “honey” refers to “any sweet juice of a fruit.”

In Midarkai Hailanos we are taught that the Ramban, or Nachmanides, understands “‘a land flowing with milk and honey’ as the highest of praise:  It is a good land, its air is good and pleasant for people, and every good thing can be found in it…Its fruit are so plump and sweet that the land runs with their honey.” While Rabbenu Bachyei “insists that ‘all the praises of the Land allude to the Torah itself…’ Even the air of Eretz Yisrael, say our Chachamim, has the capacity to make one wiser. In Rabbenu Bachyei’s opinion this is the ‘milk and honey’ of Eretz Yisrael.”

Our love of and connection to the Land of Israel is as old as our people itself. Israel and Jerusalem hold the deepest religious significance for Jews.  Although there are those who keep trying to deny this connection, as well as, politicize Jerusalem, this land and city, which are the objects of our eternal love, will never be a political issue.  On the contrary, Israel, the land which bears our name, and Jerusalem, our eternal capital, are the very soul of the Jewish People.

Israel is the religious and spiritual center of the Jewish world. There has been a continuous Jewish presence in the Land of Israel from ancient times until today. The centrality of the Land of Israel to the Jewish people cannot be overstated. Over the millennia, many conquerors tried to absorb Israel within their empires; but in all of these attempts, 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.

These facts, long-recognized, despite the misinformation that is currently being circulated, were codified in international law at the San Remo Conference of 1920, a meeting of the Allied Powers of WWI, to decide the future of the former territories of the Ottoman Empire. At this conference, where international agreement was also reached regarding the establishment of other countries in the region, such as Syria, and Iraq, a binding agreement was reached between these world powers “to reconstitute the ancient Jewish State within its historic borders.” The desire to restore the Jewish people to their native land was ratified by a unanimous vote of The League of Nations, which then entrusted Great Britain with facilitating Jewish immigration and encouraging “close settlement by Jews on the Land.” This mandate affirmed the Jewish right to settle anywhere between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, a right enshrined to this day in international law.

Many attempts have been made to re-write history, attempts to deny the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel. There has been an ongoing effort, by those who want to destroy all evidence of Israel’s connection to the land, to bulldoze the archaeological remains of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, our most sacred Jewish site.  These uprooted and destroyed pieces of history are regularly discarded into the valley next to our sacred Temple Mount. There are dedicated groups and individuals who work to salvage these desecrated remains.

There are also those who regularly attempt to advance false narratives about the Land of Israel, to denigrate the modern State of Israel and criminalize the Jewish presence in the Land of Israel. They regularly advance false accusations of Israel being occupiers of Arab land, and attempt to criminalize the State of Israel by demanding a boycott of the country.

“Occupation” refers to the holding and control of an area by a foreign force. 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, once again, affirmed by international law.

Since the founding of the modern State of Israel, Israel has built a thriving country that protects the rights of its citizens, protects freedom of religion and ensures that all religions have access to their religious sites – something that was not allowed when Israel was not governing Jerusalem. Israel protects a free press, minority rights, and women’s rights in a part of the world where such rights and protections are alien. Minorities participate in all areas of civic life, serving as professionals in all fields, as justices, and as diplomats. While the horrificpersecution of Christians has become rampant in the Middle East, and the Christian population is dwindling, Israel is a safe haven for such minorities. As the Vicar of St George’s Church in Baghdad Canon Andrew White says of Israel, it is “the only place in the Middle East [where] Christians are really safe.” In fact, the Christian community in Israel is growing.

During the 20th century, when the vast majority of the 850,000 Jews who were living in Arab countries and Iran had to flee for their lives – leaving behind billions of dollars in property in their hundred, or even, thousand-year-old communities – Israel provided a safe haven for approximately 600,000 of these Jewish refugees. Israel continued to provide a homeland for persecuted Jews, such as Jews from the former Soviet Union, Europe, as well as, Jews from Ethiopia who were saved and brought to Israel through such missions as Operation Moses and Operation Solomon. Israel continues to provide a welcoming country for Jews who are fleeing the often violent anti-Semitism that they encounter today around the world.

Israel is a vibrant country of tremendous innovation. Israel is not only the “Start-Up Nation” in the field of technology, producing, among many other inventions, our text messaging, voice mail, and computer technology, but Israel is also among the leaders in medical and environmental innovations.

An imaging system to diagnose malaria, the Pillcam which aids in medical procedures, an electromagnetic brain device for autism and schizophrenia, ReWalk robotic exoskeleton enabling paraplegics to walk and climb stairs without assistance, non-invasive ultrasound surgery that destroys tumors inside the body, Copaxone – the world’s top-selling treatment for multiple sclerosis, this is to name just a few of the countless medical innovations Israel has made.

In a survey conducted of 61 experts from 20 countries, the Haifa-based Technion, Israel’s oldest university, was ranked sixth in the world for entrepreneurship and innovation. The report placed Israel, as a country, in third place for entrepreneurship and innovation, after the US and the UK. Among the Technion’s achievements is the invention of the memory stick, drip irrigation, the Parkinson’s drug Rasagiline, the Iron Dome air defense system and Instant Messaging.

MASHAV, an organization which operates under the auspices of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for decades has been exporting Israeli innovations and sharing with developing countries knowledge of the technologies that helped in Israel’s own development.

Israel regularly brings children and medical personnel from developing countries as part of their Save a Child’s Heart(SACHS) mission. Thousands of youngsters have received emergency heart care from volunteer doctors in Israel. Cardiac surgery and care is provided in Israeli hospitals, while the medical professionals from the visiting countries are trained so that they can bring this knowledge home.

Israel’s desire to contribute is also demonstrated by acting as first responders in times of crisis the world over.

Israel provided aid to Southeast Asia after the tsunami of 2004. In 2010, Israel was among the first nations to send relief and rescue units to Haiti after the earthquake. A mother of a baby delivered at the field hospital Israel had set up named the baby “Israel” in gratitude.

In 2011, Israel sentaid to Turkey after a massive earthquake hit the country’s eastern region.

Israel sent an aid team to Japan at the time of the earthquake and tsunami of 2011.

In Boston, in the wake of the horrific Marathon Day bombings, doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital credited Israel with training the hospital’s first-response team and readying it to treat mass-casualty incidents.

And in response to the typhoon in the Philippines, a 150-member delegation, as well as, 100 tons of humanitarian and medical supplies were dispatched in aid. The Israeli field hospital became the central medical facility in the area, treating on average over 300 patients a day.

This is the reality of modern Israel: a nation that has rebuilt her ancestral homeland, and, in a span of only 65 years, has become a leader in innovation and in life-saving programs and technologies, a nation which continually reaches out a hand to contribute productively and compassionately the world over.

On Tu B’Shvat, as we celebrate our cherished Jewish homeland, we think of our beloved State of Israel, with love, pride, and gratitude.

 

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