(link to Part 1- Judea and Samaria/ The West Bank- What’s it all about?)
It is no coincidence that leading Palestinian politicians have recently “Palestinianized” many local historical figures, such as Jesus Christ, as well as the biblical Philistines. The Israeli-Arab conflict is firstly a conflict of legitimacy: who is the legitimate native people of Israel/Palestine?
Over the years there have been numerous attempts by Palestinian leaders to rewrite history, to erase any Jewish history from Israel and invent a new, Palestinian-only history. According to this Palestinian narrative, the Temple Mount never was home to the first and second Jewish Temples, Kings David (Dawoud) and Solomon (Suleiman) were devout Palestinian Muslims, as well as Jesus Christ and other biblical figures. According to the Palestinian narrative, enhanced in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s (Abu Mazen) doctoral work, the holocaust never happened, and the Jews of today are a mixture of European tribes, unrelated to the biblical Israelites (a theory which has been disproved by genetic research).
This is why there is such vehement opposition to the archaeological digs in “the City of David” compound, just outside the walls of the old city in Jerusalem, where every day, more archaeological evidence of the ancient Jewish kingdom is uncovered. This is also why, despite the archaeological authorities’ best efforts, the Muslim Waqf, the Islamic trust which runs the Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount, continues to remove truckloads of earth from underneath the Temple Mount, with artifacts of the Jewish people’s heritage mixed in. These antiquities are unceremoniously dumped at garbage sites, where archaeologists frantically sift through them in an attempt to salvage an historical treasure trove from the Jewish people’s Holiest of Holies.
The Jewish people’s connection is first and foremost to the hills of Judea. Jerusalem and Bethlehem are our ancestral home, not Tel Aviv (Tel Aviv was founded in 1909). Beit-El in Samaria is where Jacob, who later became Israel, dreamed his dream of angels climbing a ladder. He received his name, our name, Israel, after a nighttime battle with an angel in the Jordan Valley. Shchem (Nablus) is where Jacob’s daughter, Dina was raped. Hebron is where Jacob is buried, along with his father Yitzhak (Isaac) and his grandfather Abraham, the three founding fathers of the Israeli people. Jacob’s son Joseph, before being sold to Egypt, was thrown into a pit in Dotan, in Samaria. He is buried in Shchem (Nablus).
When the twelve tribes returned from Egypt, they made Shilo, in Samaria, their first capital. The prophet Samuel spent his time travelling between Shilo and his home in Mitzpa. King David, from Bethlehem, was first anointed in Hebron, where he ruled for seven years before moving the capital of Israel to Jerusalem, three thousand years ago. His son, Solomon, built the Temple in Jerusalem. When the Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon a few hundred years later, and the people dispersed, they never ceased praying to return to Jerusalem. And 70 years later, they did.
When the Persian Empire replaced the Babylonians as the leading power in the region and King Darius allowed the Jews to return, they returned and rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem. A few hundred years later, the Maccabees started their rebellion against the Greeks in Modiin. The last of the rebels against the Roman Empire fell in Beitar and Masada.
After the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, Jerusalem and Zion became the focus of Jewish prayers for another 2000 years to this day. At every Jewish wedding, during the ceremony, the groom breaks a glass, in symbolism of our happiness that is not complete, and recites the words of Psalms 137:
“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not; if I set not Jerusalem above my chiefest joy.”
Every one of the places I mentioned above is at least in part, beyond the “Green Line” and is considered by the international community to be “occupied” by Israel.
In the early 1900s when Jews began contemplating the possibility of re-forming a Jewish state, it was obvious from the start that there could be only one place where such a state could exist. Theodor Herzl began meeting with European leaders to get their support. The British suggested an immediate solution for the troubles of the Jews: Uganda. Herzl was tempted to accept. He saw the pogroms of the late 1800s and early 1900s in Russia and elsewhere and was desperate to help his people. He brought the proposal before the Jewish Congress, where many were convinced that “a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush”. But many, especially the Russian Jews who had suffered the most from pogroms were outraged that Herzl could even contemplate such an idea. They had not waited 2000 years to found a state in Uganda. There is only one place where Israel can be, and that is in the Land of Israel.
Haim Weizmann, who later became Israel’s first President, describes Herzl’s address before the Zionist Congress of 1903:
“I remember one deeply significant detail of the stage setting. It had always been the custom to hang on the wall, immediately behind the President’s chair, a map of Palestine. This had been replaced by a rough map of the Uganda protectorate, and the symbolic action got us on the quick, and filled us with foreboding. Herzl opened his address with a vivid picture of the situation of the Jews, which we, the Russian Jews, knew only too well. He deduced from it only one thing: the urgent necessity of bringing immediate, large-scale relief by emigration to the stricken people. Emergency measures were needed. He did not relinquish the idea of Palestine as the Jewish homeland. On the contrary, he intimated that Von Plehve’s promises to bring Russian pressure to bear on Turkey had improved our prospects in Palestine. But as far as the immediate problem was concerned, something new, something of great significance had developed. The British government had made us the offer of a territory in British East Africa. Admittedly, British East Africa was not Zion, and never would be. It was only an auxiliary activity- but on a national or state foundation.
In any case, the proposal before the congress was only that of an investigation committee. But no one was mistaken as to the symbolic significance of that proposal. A deep, painful and passionate division manifested itself on the floor of the Congress. When the first session was suspended and the delegates scattered in the lobbies, or hastened to their caucuses, a young woman ran up onto the platform, and with a vehement gesture, tore down the map of Uganda which had been suspended there in the place of the usual map of Zion.”
Haim Weizmann, Trial and Error, 1949, Ch. VI
A Jewish state anywhere else but Zion would be a state without a soul. Jerusalem and the hills of Judea, where Jacob and David walked and lived are Israel’s soul. If we can give up Jerusalem, what right have we to Tel-Aviv? If we can give up Beit-El, what right have we to Ashkelon, a Philistine (not to be confused with Palestinian) city in Biblical times? If we can give up Hebron, what right have we to Haifa? To ask a people to voluntarily give up its soul is akin to asking a man to rip out his own heart. It is like asking a Frenchman to give up Paris, or an Englishman to give up London. It cannot be done.
Links to the next posts in this series: