Yesterday I got a frantic call from a friend in a panic. She had been leading a group of American tourists all over Israel and took them to a restaurant for their farewell dinner before heading to the airport and back to the States. The restaurant that they were eating in was in an area that the world calls “the West Bank.” This is the area that the Bible calls Judaea and Samaria. Many in the world claim that Israel is occupying the “West Bank” and hence the tourists in the group were upset that they were eating in an area that is “occupied” by Israel. I live in this very area so my friend needed a response immediately, hence the reason for the phone call to me.
To fully understand the situation properly, we need to understand a little bit of history, the Bible and to use some plain old common sense. The news will feed you with sound bites never fully explicating what the truth really is and thereby creating this myth of “Israeli occupation” and aggression. If you continue reading to the end, I believe you will find a very different reality than what is portrayed in the media and the real truth is actually quite compelling. Imagine that.
For those who believe in the Bible this is actually quite simple. The land was promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as an eternal inheritance. Eternal, just in case it needs clarification, means forever. Not a thousand or two thousand years but forever. Considering that God does not lie, forever means that even today the promise God made is just as valid. End of story. If you would like to claim that God didn’t mean it or you have some other fancy reading of the Bible then the burden of proof is upon you to prove that the Biblical promise is not exactly what it says it is. Good luck with that.
But what about the people who do not believe in the Bible? The promises made in the Bible hold no validity to them, hence how can Israel possibly be justified in “occupying” the West Bank? How can this be explained to them?
One critical sentence can explain it, but without sitting tight for the explanation it is like smelling chocolate without tasting it! Here goes: The Jewish people NEVER willingly relinquished their rights to their homeland. Please read that sentence again. Here comes the explanation.
Picture the following scenario. You are sitting in the home that you own free and clear eating breakfast when suddenly there is a knock on the door. You open the front door and you see a policemen standing there with a total stranger. The policemen is holding a document which he shows you is a court order demanding that you leave your home in 48 hours because the man standing next to him is the true owner of the house. You cannot believe it so you take a good look at the document and that is exactly what it says. You are in shock because you know you bought the house and spent the last twenty five years paying off the mortgage!
Your next move is to hire a lawyer because clearly a fraud has been perpetrated. The stranger has created an elaborate fraud of documents that needs untangling. It will cost you an enormous amount of money and years of court battles. Nevertheless you decide it is worth fighting for your home and the battles begin. Your lawyer does this and his responds. His lawyer files motions and yours responds. This goes on for years and years. Slowly you come to the realization that this is not going to end in your lifetime.
What is your next move? You have two choices. Either you give up and concede the house to him or you instruct your children to keep fighting what is rightfully yours. Simple question. When is the house no longer your house? After five years? Ten? A hundred? Five hundred? The answer is none of the above. It is when you stop fighting for it. As long as you keep fighting for what is unquestionably yours you retain the rights to what was stolen from you.
Let me give you an example. My wife’s grandparents survived the Holocaust though most of their family did not having been murdered by the Nazi’s. The family owned a home in Wodiszlaw, Poland on the main road of the town. In fact, it was a very nice home. Today there is a Polish family occupying their home. Are they entitled to go back and claim that home that is being occupied? To me the answer is clear. No. At some point the family gave up on the home. They restarted their life in Ohio and they never planned or wanted to go back to Poland. In Jewish law this is called yeush which essentially means “giving up.” Had the family continuously fought for the home and never gave up on returning then they would be entitled to the home and in fact, many Jewish families are doing just that and trying to reclaim lost real estate.
Fact: The Jewish people were living in the land of Israel from approximately the year 1200 BCE (3200 years ago) continuously until the year 70 CE when the second Temple was destroyed by the Romans and the long exile of the Jewish people from Israel began. This is indisputable. It was during those years that Kings Saul, David and Solomon reigned amongst many others, the prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah prophesied amongst others. It was when the two thirds of the Bible was written. All of that came to a screeching halt when the Jews were FORCIBLY exiled and began a journey that took them through every country of Europe, many African countries---there is practically not a country in the world today where Jews are not found.
Did the Jews every give up on returning to their home which was forcibly taken? A resounding no. Immediately after the exile began in the year 70 CE laws and customs were enacted so that the Jewish people would not forget our homeland in general and Jerusalem in particular. Every year at the conclusion of Passover and Yom Kippur Jews declare “Next year in Jerusalem!” Each year on the Hebrew date of the ninth of Av, Jews have mourned for Jerusalem, the destroyed Temple and the homeland. We never gave up!!
I repeat my original sentence: The Jewish people never willingly relinquished our rights to the homeland. We were forced out of our home and for the last 2000 years have remembered it and fought to return to it. I apologize to those who have lived in our house over the last 2000 years, but we have come home to redeem what is rightfully ours. We are not occupiers, we are redeemers.
With all of that said we are ready and prepared to share our home. Come and visit Judaea and Samaria and you will see no shortage of space just a shortage of tolerance. The Arabs cannot tolerate a single Jew living in their midst. Again, just take a look at what has happened to the Jewish populations in Arab countries in the last 100 years. Just a few short years ago we (the Israeli government) removed every single Jew from Gaza, all 8000 of them. It is Jew free and yet we still did not get peace. We got rocket fire in exchange. We are ready to live in peace and extend a hand to anyone who will take it. Way before we returned to Judaea and Samaria the Arabs did not want peace. There wasn’t a single Jew in the “West Bank” before 1967 yet there was no peace. There was even no Jewish State before 1948 yet there was a massacre of 167 Jews by the Arabs. The issue is not the “West Bank”, it is not about occupation—it is much simpler yet more sinister. It is about the right of the Jews to have any homeland at all and to exist as a Jewish nation.
The world was silent while six million Jews were being slaughtered. It is high time that the world gets their moral house in order and learn a little history before making absurd claims about Jewish occupation and Palestinian rights. We are home and if you want to live under our roof, this time around it will be done on our terms which means living in peace and civility.