The Jews and Eretz Israel

by Mark Schoenberg

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Anyone who reads the Bible, know that G-d promised the Land of Israel to Abraham and his descendents. Abraham, of course, was the first Jew, the progenitor of the Jewish people. Yet, although Jews have more or less lived continuously in the Land of Israel since the time of Abraham, they hardly ever had sovereignty over the land prior to 1948, except for the period from Joshua (1273 BCE) until the destruction of First Temple in 586 BCE, and briefly under the Hashmonaim from 165 BCE to 63 BCE.

After King Solomon died, the Jews living in Eretz Israel decided they could not get along (yes, it goes back that far!), and the Jewish nation split into the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah. In the ensuing years, the two separate kingdoms, sometimes fighting each other, were eventually taken over, and many Jews were expelled from Eretz Israel.

For nearly two thousand years, stateless Jews sojourned in other nations, sometimes prosperously (as in Spain, prior to 1492), but often disastrously.   In 1947-48, after some six million Jews living in Europe were murdered by the Nazis, the United Nations voted to establish a small sliver of land in the Middle East to be a state for the Jews. The Jewish state was to have access to the ancient city of Jerusalem where King David had reigned.

Instead of the establishment of a Jewish state (Israel) leading to peace for the devastated remnant of the Jewish people, this small Jewish state was immediately attacked by five Arab states (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt).

When the fighting in 1948 ended with a cease-fire agreement, tiny Israel occupied more land than it had been given by the United Nations before the Arabs attacked. Unfortunately, King David's "City of Gold", Jerusalem, which was designated to be available to both Jews and Arabs, had been conquered and occupied by Jordan, along with the rest of the land from the cease-fire line to the Jordan River. At the end of the 1948 War of Independence, Israel occupied less than 20% of the land of the Palestine Mandate, which was promised to it in the Balfour Declaration.

For the 19 years that Israel lived within the 1948 cease-fire lines, not a single nation, nor a single United Nations resolution, dealt with the fact that all Jews, not just those who were citizens of Israel, were forbidden permission to visit the Jewish holy places that had been occupied by Jordan.

In 1967, the Arabs attacked Israel yet again. When a cease-fire ended these hostilities, Israel had reclaimed from Jordan the territory Jordan had occupied in 1948, and for the first time since the period of King Solomon, Jews had sovereignty over much of the land that G-d had promised to them.

In 1988, King Hussein of Jordan affirmed that his country did not have any claim to the land it had conquered in 1948. This was not an entirely altruistic declaration, since at the same time, he encouraged the Arabs living on the land at the time it was occupied by Israel to lay claim to it. This is ironic since the Arabs living in Yehuda and Shomron at the time it was reclaimed by Israel are genetically, culturally, and historically indistinguishable from the majority of citizens of Jordan.

In an effort to make peace with its neighbors, Israel returned territory it had conquered in 1967 that was not part of Eretz Israel, the Sinai and the part of Syria near Kunetra, to Egypt and Syria. These efforts were only partially successful, leading to peace with Egypt due to the wisdom and leadership of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat who was subsequently assassinated by one of his people, but to a continuing official state of war with Syria.

Some Jews today feel that the Arab hatred of Jews can be blunted by ceding to them one-half of Eretz Israel. I find it hard to discuss this rationally, since it reminds me of the feeling of some in the 1930's that Hitler could be appeased with one-half of Czechoslovakia. The truth of the matter is that except for the brief (19-yr) illegal occupation of the territory of Yehuda and Shomron by Jordan between 1948 and 1967, no Arab nation has ever had sovereignty over this land.

This extremely brief history of the Jewish people and Israel was designed to be as bare-boned as possible. More extensive histories can be found at The Jewish Virtual Library or one of the links given at Eretz-Yisroel.Org. If you have any questions about my brief history, feel free to email me.

Updated 12 Jun, 2019