Allow us to revisit some of the items we have had in articles and draw them together here in one article. This will not be a rehashing of the legal matters, treaties, conventions and other documents and agreements. This is about the Jewish People and the Land of Eretz Yisroel and there are effects which can be observed often only through experiencing and seeing the changes and other effects between the Jewish people and Israel, the land itself. The first thing is that Israel in modern times attracts Jew for any number of reasons. There are two main groups which sometimes cross over and merge for some Jews. There are Jews who feel this strange pull that can only be fulfilled by making Aliyah and return there to their ancestral home which is exactly how many Jews explain there coming to Israel. For some it is the commandment to settle the land which commands the Jewish people to sojourn and commit their only expansive conquest taking the lands promised to Abraham, Izsak and Yaakov in Genesis in the Bible, the Old Testament, the Jewish Bible. Some come to Israel to escape anti-Semitism as Israel is the sole nation which promises to take whatever necessary actions to protect Jews from persecution.
Despite the actions of the world to tie Israel’s hands by court threats, protests world-wide, coordinated violence from the Arabs both within Israel and from the areas of Judea and Samaria which have been granted autonomy where their government rewards families whose members attack and murder Jews with higher rewards for more Israelis murdered or mutilated for life. This is what drives the suicide bombers as they know their family will receive a greater salary for life called a pension for a martyr of the cause of freedom, which means literally that they died in the attack, often due to being a walking human bomb, making their family honored and given a pension which is often higher than most Arabs make even those working for their government. This pension, blood money, is an incentive for Arabs who find they are poor and have little hope of providing for the family, often a wife and more than four children that the only way an Arab may decide that a suicide assault on the Jews is their only hope for their family. There have been Arabs from the autonomous region, who have charged at IDF soldiers at a checkpoint with a knife in their hand hoping to be caught and not shot so they can be sent to an Israeli prison as, and some have confessed this, their life would drastically improve where he would have better food and general conditions. Some attacks are carried out by the younger males in a family who know that they will receive next to nothing as an inheritance and for a farming family that is close to a condemnation to poverty and helplessness and they believe their only hope is to kill Israelis so their family will receive a pension should they be martyred and a salary should they be caught and imprisoned.
Jews native born to Israel, Sabras (Hebrew: צבר), is the name of a cactus Opuntia cactus (pictured below, known in Israel as “tsabar” (צבר) and as the fruit of the Sabra cactus has a hard and thorns outside and its fruit is sweet, soft, juicy and did I mention sweet. That description is really fitting in describing many original Israel born native Jews, some of which are my family. A few native families have resided in Israel since the early and mid-1800s while others have their family’s tree going back beyond and to before the 135CE and earlier 70CE Roman destruction of the Holy Temple and dispersal of the Jews from their land. This was executed in the hope that would destroy the Jewish people as they would no longer be attached to the land. This had worked just as they had done to the remnants of Carthage and possibly numerous other civilizations which we never knew as they did disappear from the face of the Earth. Some have family records which show their families having returned to Eretz Yisroel from the Babylonian Exile when Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered the Babylonian Empire on his way to establishing the Persian Empire, one of the largest and most storied in all history. Cyrus the Great gave the Jews his blessings to return and rebuild the Holy Temple and serve Hashem as directed by Torah. Some Israeli families arrived from Europe after the calamities of the Shoah and World War II. An equal or potentially greater number were expunged and forced from the Arab and Muslim nations of MENA (Middle East and North Africa) as well as Iran through edict, pogroms or legal restrictions making life next to or actually impossible. In most cases all property and wealth was confiscated and in the worst instances, forced out with one suitcase per person and those were inspected and anything of worth was removed.
When they claim that the Jews of Israel return to their real homeland they are actually there. When the demand is for the Jews return to the lands where they arrived from, do they include the approximate half of Israelis whose former nation was throughout the Islamic world. Further, look at Europe with the European Union and their labelling of products from parts of Israel and the numbers of Jews literally fleeing European nations such as France, Sweden and others as well as the clincher, the unapologetic denunciations of Israel in every manner such that these are so egregious as they can only be described and blatantly anti-Semitic coming from the Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom. Her inflammatory accusations and denunciation along with her prejudging determinations which would be ruinous for Israel and against every agreement, convention, treaty, Mandate and other legal arrangements and pronouncement or still to be determined through formal negotiations and not the decree of some other nation not involved or even mentioned as a party to the situation are simply over the top. An example of her adamant refusal to take any moderation of her views is easily displayed in this recent debate in the Swedish Parliament where a member demanded of her an explanation of her extremist views shown below.
The lands of Israel have been conquered by nearly every empire which showed out of the Middle East, Europe and even from the Mongols from Asia and Egypt from Africa. The only empire to ever get production from the lands of Israel, which did not include simply ruling over and taxing Jews working the lands, were the Egyptians. There are those who claim the lands which today make up the nation of Israel, even if one were to concede Israel all the lands except Gaza from the Jordan River west to the Mediterranean Sea, were originally inhabited by a group of peoples, numerous tribes and city states, known as the Canaanites. This was a valid point in the times of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but by the time the Israelites left Egypt this was no longer the case as the Egyptians collected taxes and provided protection against the Hittites who resided further north possible within what is today Turkey, and from any other invaders. As the Exodus from Egypt was a revolt against Egypt, there would be a natural series of events that a group who had been originally welcomed and over time and a change in the lineage of the Pharaoh that they had been enslaved as had much of the Egyptian people who revolted with a shove and assist from Hashem who arranged ten incentives to persuade Pharaoh to allow the Israelite nation to leave and have their own homeland. The lands the Israelites took forty years later, give or take a few months, was land which belonged to the Egyptians and it was the tribal chiefs and some Egyptians that were defeated over some time and finally the lands were solidified by King David and King Solomon with a fair bit to spare. This marked the end of Israelite expansive designs. Here are some maps of the areas in question.
Eventually the land fell to the Babylonians who forced the Israelites into exile working them in Babylon. What is interesting is that the records show next to no Babylonians remaining in the Promised Land more than likely because it refused to produce a decent crop or provide grazing lands. The Persians having some knowledge about the Hebrews and the Promised Land had those Israelite who desired to return to their lands to do so and required only a tax be paid each year. This arrangement worked for a while and the Persian Empire finally fell to the Greeks led by the Macedonian Alexander the Great. The land was again worked by the Israelites but rifts politically had split the lands with the norther ten tribes taking the name of Israelite with them and the southern kingdom was largely made up by the tribe of Judah along with the considerably smaller Benjamin. These were called Judea and had control of Jerusalem and the Temple. The northern tribes were conquered by the Assyrian Greeks and were dispersed throughout their holding and eventually went their separate ways becoming the ten lost tribes of Israel, literally. Judea fell eventually as well but remained in the lands. The Romans replaced the Greeks and from this point forward the life of the lands of Judea and their people who were called Judeans which eventually shortened to Jew.
The next part of the lives of the Judean, Jews, was related by a former MK Yaakov Katz in an editorial 407,118: The up to date number of Jews in Judea and Samaria, not counting Jerusalem. In the article he gave a description of what is a Jew which I hope to never forget as it was very relevant to Jewish history, our history. He said that the way to define a Jew is to define us by what others destroyed in order to eradicate the Jewish People, a depravity which has a way too often horrific number of repetitions throughout human history. The Egyptian by restricting us through slavery kept us from our Promised Lands yet we did not simply accept their gods, their idols or leaders who claimed they were gods. The Babylonians destroyed the Holy Temple hoping that would dishearten us and we would assimilate and they would be done with us. Then the Romans dispersed us such that we were scattered with only a few families in any one location which the Romans had done to others to destroy their cohesion and family. This, the Romans hoped would put an end to the Jews. Eventually, after many centuries it was the Catholic and, in turn, other Christians who forced conversion and removed us from our Torah and normal prayers hoping this would end the Jewish problem. Finally we would face the Nazis who decided they would simply annihilate the Jews and finally solve the Jewish Problem. So, if we learned anything, it is that we are defined as Jews by all of our enemies starting with the Egyptians through the Nazis and we find a Jew is the Promised lands of Eretz Yisroel from the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. A Jew is the Holy Temple, may it be built in our lifetime. We find a Jew is community and one another as then we have a support group with whom we are more able to remember our commandments and perform mitzvahs and observe the Sabbath. The Jew is nothing without Torah and finally the Jew celebrates life. So, what is a Jew? A Jew is the Promised Land as we were made for each other as well as we are enriched by the Holy Temple which allows for certain Commandments to be fulfilled as they require the Holy Temple and we are to complete the Commandments but those remain unfulfilled. Our need for community becomes evident when after the Roman dispersal we quickly gathered where and how we could and made our little communities where we observed our customs which with time were adapted to the world around us. A Jew without Torah is a Jew unstuck and disconnected from the commandments and mitzvoth which was part of the reason that the greatest of the Rabbis wrote commentary and put the oral law into writings. And finally, a Jew is all about the celebration of life and the great gifts that Hashem has shared with us. What is a Jew in the fewest words possible? I will give it a try. A Jew is the land of Israel with the Temple in Jerusalem and community to be a part of with Torah and celebrating life, Torah, Mitzvoth, and Hashem.
All the empires, the Babylonian, Egyptian, Persian, Greek, Assyrian, Roman, the various Islamic and Christian conquerors, the Ottomans and the British all could not make the land bloom; but bloom they finally have done. But that works both ways. The Jews make the land and the land completes the Jew.
Coming home to Eretz Yisroel was the most wondrous thing in my life and has lifted burdens from me in ways I find impossible to quantify, let alone to define. For the first time I feel accepted to an extent which surpassed even Colorado in the 1970s and I thought that was heaven yet that barely compares with the coming to Israel. I often need to go look out the window to once again impress on me that I truly am home. The people I meet are mostly willing to go out of their way to help and their efforts mostly are beyond belief as they put up with us not having learned to speak Hebrew. We have found a couple of closely defined niches where we can speak freely and not fear being told to never return. As I explain, we have finally found the Jews we had searched for in the United States and they are all mostly here. I have likely been exposed and learned more about being a Jew here in the last couple of years and the rate of learning is only increasing daily. There are so many people making sure I get things correct that my biggest hope is that I remember one third and I will be far wiser than I was upon our arrival. How would I sum up Israel and the Jews in the fewest words possible? Mutual Fulfillment.
Beyond the Cusp