The New Israel

As we approach the year 2007, forty years will have passed since the liberation of Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).  That’s the same number of years the Jewish people wandered in the desert after they left Egypt before they were allowed to enter into the Promised Land.  And G-d in his words said to Moses (Deuteronomy 32:44) and Joshua (Joshua 1:6) as they looked beyond Jericho to the Land of Canaan , Behold, this is the land that I swore unto your fathers, and this will be the land of your People.”

This land was promised to the Jewish people, and although it remained under their control for many years, until it was liberated in the 1967 War, it had been under the occupation of many peoples, the last being the Jordanians.  It is time that the historic recognition is effectuated, that this land be annexed as part of Israel in the earliest part of the Year 2007, and that Judea and Samaria become fully part of Israel for our generation and for the generations to follow.

In writing this article, I reached out to Mendy Halberstam, one of the brightest young Chasidic men I know, to discuss the Biblical and historic rights that the Jewish people had to the land known as the West Bank.   We decided to collaborate on this article, providing a like-minded perspective of two very different members of our Jewish community from two separated generations, with a shared commitment to Israel and the Jewish people.

The Code of Jewish Law (OC § 329:6) specifically states that if a Jewish community, especially a border town, is attacked on the Sabbath, there is a clear obligation to react not only defensively, but also to take up arms and preempt any such attack.  Though this would entail performance of work normally forbidden on the Sabbath, Jewish law properly sees such a potential threat to one community as a threat to the land rights and integrity of the entirety of Israel. When your neighbors attempt to undercut your rightful claim,  you have an obligation to protect it.  Until now, too many have accepted the Arab spin that Judea and Samaria is Palestinian land occupied by Israel.  It’s quite the opposite, for it is land of the Jewish people that was Arab-occupied for many years until it was liberated in 1967.

It is not coincidental that we recently read in the Torah portion about G-d’s promise of the land to Abraham. In the portion of Lech Lecha,(Genesis 15:18) G-d tells Abraham unequivocally “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt…to the Euphrates river.” Again in 17:8 G-d makes clear that “I will give to you and to your offspring…the whole of the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession.” The Bible could not be clearer of our territorial rights to every inch of the land of Israel.

We should be rightfully proud of the IDF’s performance in the 1967 War, when Israel was attacked by its Arab neighbors.  Israel did not invite that war, and yet they fought hard, and Israel recovered the land of our ancestors.  Since that time, Israel has sacrificed land in the Sinai and the Golan Heights for peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, and a limited truce with Syria.  An illusive peace has remained a far distant possibility with the Palestinians and the remainder of the Arab countries as Israel has looked to trade land for peace.

Historically, peace had been refused to the Jewish people by the Arabs after the Balfour Declaration in 1923, which included Judea and Samaria as part of the new land for the Jewish people.  Lost in 1947, the West Bank  lands became part of Jordan, the declared Palestinian State under the agreements in 1948 when Israel was recognized at the United Nations.

Only after the 1967 War did the Palestinian people attempt to expand in defeat what they did not previously have, a State on the West Bank of the Jordan River. They nearly succeeded, with world opinion on their side, and the willingness of the Israeli governments to release most of the land to them to establish a Palestinian State.  Now, it is even clearer that their intention was as they always portrayed it in their Arabic language and media, to terminate the existence of the State of Israel.

Consider that in the 1930’s, the Arabs   already aligned with the Nazis in Germany, directly pressured the British to not let Jewish refugees into Palestine.  Why?  Among other reasons, so they would maintain the demographic superiority in Palestine.  They did not want an increased Jewish population, so the Jews were not allowed in, and many thousands, perhaps millions died in the Holocaust who should have been saved.  The audacity of the Arabs to talk of greater numbers in Judea and Samaria today considering their actions, and their impact on the Holocaust, and what the numbers would have been today if they had not blocked an increased Jewish immigration at that time.

Some may say that we are rewriting history, and we say not.  We are only correcting recent history which was being incorrectly written as we lived it.  Historically, the Arabs have no claim to Judea and Samaria.  There was no such place as Arab Palestine on the lands of Judea and Samaria.  Never.  The current historical usurpation that so many have bought into is insulting, and derogatory to the reality of the Jewish people’s claim, from Biblical times onward.  When we left the land, it was only because we were forced to leave.  The time we did not return, is when we could not.

Remember, since Talmudic times, our Jewish liturgy provides for the Jewish people to repeat three times per day in the prayers for our return to  Zion, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem.  Our forefathers and mothers, from Abraham to Rebecca, from Jacob to Deborah, from King David to Ezekiel, all have their deepest roots in Judea and Samaria.  Whether it be in Hebron, or Jericho, or Bethlehem, we have our most sacred land, which our ancestors fought for and gave up their lives for.  Land which we committed to G-d that we would not walk away from.  Land in which are the bones of Jacob and Joseph, brought back from Egypt to be buried in our ancestral land.  Land that was the original Land of Milk and Honey.

It is interesting that in his very first commentary on the Bible, the greatest Biblical commentator in our history, Rashi (1040-1105) informs us of the very events that would occur some one thousand year later. Rashi asks, “What is the reason the Bible began with Genesis? So that if the nations of the world say to Israel ‘You are bandits, for you conquered the lands of the seven nations’, Israel will say to them: The whole earth belongs to G-d, He created it and He gave it to the one found proper in His eyes. By His wish He gave it to them and by His wish He took it from them and gave it to us.”

We must realize that there is a message,  a reason we could not give this land away in negotiations during the past twenty years, when Arafat refused every possible offer.  Today, there are  no possible discussions for peace in Judea and Samaria other than annexation, when it is clearly apparent after the retreat in Gaza, that we would only face a fully armed territory with missiles ready to attack Israel proper from the East if Israel were to give up this  land.  Jordan is a good neighbor, and that’s who the future neighbor should be.

Now, for those who are asking the questions of what faces the Jewish nature of Israel if there were to be annexation, and what would happen to those Arab Palestinians who are living on the land in cities like Jenin, Ramallah, Hebron, and other places throughout Judea and Samaria.  This must be studied, and alternatives found.  Here are some initial thoughts for consideration.

Since we talk only of the annexation of Judea and Samaria there would still be a Jewish majority in Israel, considering that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians live in Gaza.  The Arab Palestinians from the newly annexed territory would have every right to live as citizens of Israel if they so choose, as they do today in Israel proper, and as they had been when they were living under Jordanian rule.

In fact, Israel would have to ensure the social welfare of the new Arab community in Israel.  That would include living standards, education, safety, healthcare, and general quality of life.  Enmity would have to be replaced by harmony on both sides.  The world community would need to be supportive.  In Deuteronomy, it is clear that the Jewish people have a responsibility to the treatment of our neighbors, even as we take over land that they may inhabit so long as they are not adversarial to us.

In that way, although the Palestinian Arabs would have choice, they would also have the responsibilities of citizenship.  That involves being supportive of the State of Israel, dropping every intention to destroy its existence, giving up all their weapons intentioned for the destruction of Israel, and working hard to make Israel flourish. In this process of developing their citizenship which would entail respect for the rules and laws of Israel, we believe it would develop a more secure environment for all people living there.  If any Palestinian would find it too hard to come to terms with the fact that Israel has and always will belong to the Jewish people, we revert to the concept of choice. Just as they would have the freedom to stay, they would have the freedom to leave.

Our priority however, must always be the restoring and sustaining the entire state of Israel, our G-d-given right, our inheritance, our home, and that includes extending Israel to the Jordan River in the Year 2007.