This will be a short piece, or so is our intent. We have been watching another argument as to whether a piece of Judea and Samaria where parts of Amona are situated is Jewish land or Arab land. Without demanding deeds or other proof, the leftist Israeli Supreme Court decided that since if an Arab is monetarily for real estate they own they will be put to death by their semiautonomous governance under, you will love this, former Jordanian law which makes selling land to a Jew a capital offense. Thus if an Arab claims land on which Jews reside, the Jewish homes must be destroyed as the land may not be purchased. Jordanian law when they were removed from their illegal occupation over half a century ago? Who does such insanity? The Palestinian Authority and the Israeli left are mostly fanatics who are definitively anti-Zionist and fully a subsidiary of European governments, the European Union and European NGOs who masquerade as human rights groups watching out for Palestinian Arab rights but not their betterment. They have no regard or care that the Arab Palestinian has no right as to how to profit or dispense their land and never want to either as they prefer being able to dismantle their homeland piece by piece. By their standards we should bring a Palestinian Arab’s claim from, oh, say Beverly Hills, who claims to have owned the lands under their leadership’s home and see what the Supreme Court, and they as well, would do. If they did not order a demolition in Tel Aviv then we would reveal a sad case of hypocrisy. But let us look for a moment on land and who really owns it.
Who owns land which had been occupied and lived on as long as the State of Israel as defined as from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea all depends on the when. That is, to what period of time are we referring? Remember the Canaanites? Well, during the time of Abraham they were ruled by several kingships so no one entity ruled the lands we will define as Israel for this exercise and as a form of simplicity. The Canaanite lands were, at times, conquered, and thus owned, by the Hittites. So perhaps we should reference Hittite law. Then often the Hittites were pushed out and replaced by the Egyptians (not the same people as the Egyptians of today) so perhaps we should be applying the appropriate law of Pharaohs. After the Exodus the Israelites were ruled by individual Tribal leaders and overall by the Prophets and Judges who applied Torah law and their own Hashem directed judgements which would require some extremely special people who are likely rarer than hens teeth. Then Israelite Kings Saul, David, Solomon etc. also owned the lands so perhaps a return to their laws, Torah laws. The Babylonians occupied these lands so perhaps we need apply Babylonian law. Then Israel was a semiautonomous province of the Persians which would demand a mix of Torah and Persian laws of Cyrus the Great through a series of successive kingships. Then there were the Greeks, the Polemic Greeks, the Assyrian Greeks, the Romans, Byzantines then finally the first Arabs of the Caliphate, then a series of Arab and Kurdish rulers, then the Ottoman Turks, then the British. Apparently about the only world powers not to ever have possessed these lands are the French, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Netherlands, the United States and the Duchy of Grand Fenwick. Obviously, when it comes to whose laws under which Israeli society, even in the territories, should be ruled, there could be many differing views depending which governance you prefer over the past almost five millennia.
While we are talking about such things as what rules, should all of Lebanon south of the Litani River be ruled under the laws of the Israelites when the Twelve Tribes were ruled separate placing much of that land under the Tribes of Asher, Naphtali and Dan? Then there is the question of what rules for Syria. While much of Syrian history had a similar set of rulers by kingdoms similar to those which ruled over the lands of Israel with the biggest differences being the French instead of the British and the Assyrians and some of the Kurdish and Arab rulers using Damascus as their capital city making them a kind of home body, there was a period under the rules of King David and Solomon when Syria was conquered largely by the Israelites. Egypt has had outside rulers. Iran used to be Persia until recent history and was at one time ruled by the Mongols. The United States consisted of a great number of Native American nations, parts were ruled by the French, the Spanish and the Russians and both Texas and Hawaii were at one time nations of their own (the Republic of Texas and the Kingdom of Hawaii). The Kingdom of Hawaii was established in 1795 and in 1810 the entirety of the archipelago was unified when Kauaʻi and Niʻihau joined the kingdom willingly and without bloodshed or war. Absolute power was vested in the King by a Constitution drafted in 1887. The succeeding Queen attempted to return to the “old ways” but she was overthrown in 1893 largely at the hands of the American plantation owners and American society. Hawaii remained a Republic until annexed by the United States in 1898 and was finally made a state on August 21, 1959. Descendants of the monarchy are alive today but who would be the rightful heir to the throne is debatable with many likely to claim that lineage, but the need is unlikely to arise except maybe to marshal a parade. Many, if not every, nations have had multiple claims to sovereignty over their soil. The British, Spanish and Arabs are three of the largest colonial powers with only the Arabs continuing to hold rule over most of the lands they conquered between 622 and 750 (see map below). One could easily claim that the Arab expansive empire has been the longest enduring of empires with the longest history of colonialism. But when your religion claims that the entirety of the world was made simply to be placed under your rule, perhaps such explains why in their minds they have been denied their rightful ownership of everything.
Back to Israel and which rules should be followed. If one were to ask which legal system has ruled Israel the longest, that answer would surprise most other than students of ancient history and Torah. The area of Israel was ruled by the Israelite people (incorrectly referred to as Jews because Jews was a shortening for Judeans which were those of the Kingdom of Judah which was the southern kingdom when the Israelites split into the northern kingdom of Israel which contained ten tribes and the southern kingdom of Judah with two tribes, see map below) were ruled by Torah. The strictness of its application has wavered during those times but it was the basis of rule from the time of Joshua through the times of Prophets and Judges and through the Kingdoms ruled by Saul, David and Solomon and a presumably beyond though many of the observances grew lax at times causing misery and troubles for the Israelite people. Even after the Kingdom split into northern and southern kingdoms, both presumably remained ruled by Torah though again exactitude was not maintained. Jewish history blames the eventual conquest of Israel and Judah and all other conquests on the lack of observance by the people as a whole, something which does have a ring of truth about it. Under such history, perhaps Israel as a whole should be following the Torah and we are not ones who would argue with such.
Israel becoming a Torah observant nation where Torah rules would be the source for the laws of the land would present many a difficulty. The first item is the applicable laws for the society would be the Oral Law. In ancient Israel (and Judah) the Oral Law was exactly that, oral. As such the Oral Law could be adapted to different societal needs. As the situations and the civilization changed, some might say advanced, we will call it transitioning to new discoveries and realities, the Oral Law was flexible enough to adapt to the changes. These alterations in the law would be gradual and likely not overtly evident as time passed. The Prophets and learned Rabbis, pending on the period, would advise on Torah and the level of stringency demanded to keep the Oral Law within the guidelines of Torah which while not changing the revelations within the Torah would come out as understanding of the world around us progressed. When the Romans spread the remainder of the Judeans to the far corners of the Roman Empire the Rabbinate decided that as the people were now dispersed there needed to be a more defined and stringent Oral Law and this situation necessitated writing the Oral Law into codified texts. This resulted in a work over many generations where the Talmud was written. None of us are Talmud scholars so we will not even attempt to describe the discussions and how conclusions were reached or any of the other particulars and leave that to individual interests to spur any further research. Warning, understanding Talmud can take a lifetime of intense study and where a formal education cycle averages seven years.
The Talmud is defined as having two components: the Mishnah (Hebrew: משנה, c. 200 CE), a written compendium of Rabbinic Judaism’s Oral Torah, and the Gomorrah (c. 500 CE), an elucidation of the Mishnah and related Tannaitic writings that often ventures onto other subjects and expounds broadly on the Hebrew Bible. Whatever the definition, the important item are the dates when it was debated generally and compiled. While more commentaries have followed, one would not find corporate law or other required rules for a modern society in its pages. Yes, much of it might apply but too much of modern life is outside the strict definitions and other sections have been relegated unnecessary by modern conveniences. Much of the writings deal with day to day living as a Jew and observances and other religious determinations as it was composed as a religious guide as the Jews were living under sets of secular laws other than Torah or Jewish law and the Talmud simply was the guide to maintain a Jewish compliant life. Israel requires a complete set of laws if the nation of Israel were to come under Torah law. This would require a whole new and different Oral Law which would be partially written codes and social laws which would hopefully largely remain oral and flexible. As stated above, it was an Oral Law for a reason but the life and society were quite a bit more simple two to four thousand years ago and the laws were largely interpersonal relations and simple property rules. The laws were few enough that they did not require being written though we can be assured that records were kept and laws governing taxes and the like were written though they were subject to change at a moment’s notice. When it comes to fees and taxes, at least that has not changed as anyone attempting to understand IRS codes fully understands. So, before Israel can even consider becoming a nation once again ruled by Torah, the Rabbinate need get very busy composing a new Oral Code of Law which is complete enough to justify trusting Israeli society to Torah judges. Just for the record, these Torah judges should be appointed by some combination of the Rabbinate and the people in each community where the communities have the greater say in who will stand in judgement of their lives. This will take quite a while and we would bet that by the time the new laws are ready and approved that Israel will have evolved to a point where such a change will be welcomed.
One last note, for those waiting for the reaction to the Security Council vote, tomorrow, hopefully tomorrow.
Beyond the Cusp