October 6, 2002 Rabbi Moshe Pinchas Weisblum From Abraham to Statehood – Israel’s Right to the Land
Act II (Exodus), Scene V (Yithro) "And the Lord said unto Moses: 'Lo, I came unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and may also believe thee for ever.’?And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet G-d; and they stood at the nether part of the mount?"
Forgive me for jumping ahead to Chapter II and giving the plot away! As though this plot is not indelibly etched in our collective memories. This is the history of the Jews. It is also the history of the Christians. And it begins with Chapter I, Genesis. This history is the backbone, the foundation, the moral grounding and the strength of all of us who believe in a higher spiritual being-in one creator-our Lord.
This history outlines the promise of G-d to the Jews to live in "eratz" (the land of) Israel. It is laid out as clear as any street map and accepted as gospel, the infinite and finite gospel, by both Christians and Jews.
In Chapter XV, it is written that Abraham, the head and the forefather of the Jewish people had a vision. "On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abraham saying to his descendants I am giving this land, from the River of Egypt to the Great River, The Euphrates River." This promise is one of the basic tenets of Jewish life. It is the reason why every Passover Seder, which celebrates the Jews' freedom of slavery from the Egyptians, ends with the phrase "Next year in Jerusalem." This promise was not just written in the bible by G-d, the bible brought down by Moses from Mount Sinai, but G-d's presence was felt and heard by those witnesses.
This promise by G-d reappears many times throughout the bible and G-d re-iterated this promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua and King David. The language of the bible is so strong and clear, that interpreters repeatedly state that G-d's dialogue with the Jews was more than a promise but a definite commandment. This commandment to go and live in the land of Israel was not an easy journey. Jews paid an unimaginably heavy price, a price in dollars, and a price in blood.
When Abraham came to Hebron and wanted to bury his wife Sarah. He found a cave and approached the head of the city, Ephron. Ephron offered the property to Abraham for free, but Abraham, knowing the importance of having a clear legal claim, paid a very high price for the property, far more than the value at that time. These same sacred grounds house the remains of the daughters of Israel, Sarah, Rifka and Leah. This precedent has been followed to this day, despite all the propaganda we are constantly exposed to. The Jews were in the land of Israel until the time of Joseph. Because they were starving to death they moved to Egypt where Joseph was the advisor to the king. Many years after Joseph's death, the Egyptians became jealous of the Jews and eventually forced them into slavery. Moses not only delivered them from slavery, but took them to the border of Israel where he then ascended to the heavens and Joshua took over the job of delivering the Jews to Israel.
G-d's orders were very explicit to Joshua about conquering the land if Israel. The wars were carried on over many years and generations, at a tremendous toll in deaths. In the first chapter of Joshua, Joshua was told that he must have courage and do G-d's bidding. Joshua and the walls of Jericho is more than a song. It is just one of the many battles the Jews fought to gain the land of Israel.
King Saul was ordered to destroy the nation of Amalek in the Book of Samuel, Chapter XV. He was swayed by the populace and did not completely follow G-d's orders. For this he was punished and lost his kingdom to King David. King David, as is written in the book of Samuel, lived for 70 years. He was constantly at war fighting the Philistines. G-d commanded him to behave respectfully in the holy land and to adhere to His commandments. His son, King Solomon, witnessed the tribulations of his father and tried a new way to find peace. He gave a room in his palace to a daughter of each ruler of the lands. The room was for them to visit, or to live in, as their desire. Contrary to legend, he was not married to these women. Some of the women brought in idols and worshipped them. Because of this, King Solomon died at the age of 52 and lost his kingdom. King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple, killed massive numbers of Jews and as a result they were persecuted and exiled throughout the world. In some cases they assimilated, yet for the most part still retained their culture and religion. The persecution they experienced continued, it continued through the inquisition in Spain, the crusades in Europe, the pogroms in Russia and then the Holocaust.
The Holocaust destroyed half of the world Jewish population-6 million. To this day it is not clear whether the United Nations, which recognized the Jewish state, came as a consequence of the Holocaust or because of a guilty conscience. What is clear, though, is that the Jews from 1948 continued to pay a price for their beloved land of Israel, in blood, in money, in tears, in labor. The precedent set by Abraham was continued by the Jewish National Fund. Between the years of 1906 and 1912, they purchased approximately 70% of the property in the holy land, including the West Bank and Gaza (Judea and Sumaria). This land was placed in trust for the Jewish people and was purchased legally, paying full price and receiving a deed, just as Abraham paid Ephron to bury Sarah. Today, over 50% of the land of Israel is still owned by the Jewish National Fund and leased for 99 years. It is in sacred trust for the Jews, as commanded by G-d, and will not be sold. The Jewish National Fund has offices in New York City and in Israel, under the name Keren Kayemeth L'Yisrael.
Throughout the centuries, Jews have sacrificed their belongings, their money, their courage, their hearts and their lives for their land. During the Holocaust, Chaim Shapiro, a resident of Poland, with his wife and six children, were sent to Auschwitz. Only Chaim and one son, Baruch, survived and managed to find their way to Israel. Immediately upon arriving in Israel, Baruch, now aged 18, was inducted to fight the Arabs in 1948 - a ragtag army of skeletons emerging from the ashes of Europe to fight for their land. Baruch was killed on the way to Jerusalem. At his funeral, his father, Chaim, started singing "Am Yisroel, chai." His friends stared at him and thought he lost his mind. He stopped singing and explained that he lost his wife and five of his children without a whisper. He knew not how they died or for what reason they were murdered. He did know why his son died and that his son got to walk on this sacred earth. He then asked everyone to join him in singing "Am Yisroel, hai." This story was written up in a series "The Never Ending Story" in April 1996 in the Jerusalem Post by Rabbi Stuart Weiss. This story was run again on October 6, 2002, this time with an addendum. The son of Rabbi Stuart Weiss, Ari Weiss, an IDF soldier, was killed defending his country in Nablus. Rabbi Weiss stated, "But the epic story of the Jewish people goes on, unabated. It is a story written in the blood of our young men and women, on pages of pain and heroism, engraved in stone with quills of iron will.
That story describes a profound stoicism and suffering, one that that cannot be contained. It must inevitably burst out into song and dance, until we all affirm 'Am Yisrael Hai'."