Our Right to the Land of Israel
There is a fundamental argument that must be dealt with.
At the bottom of all the Arab rhetoric lies one basic claim: "You are intruders. This
is our land. We had been living here for centuries and then you decided to take it from
Once it is established that the Jews have a valid right to the Land of Israel, then the
violence, hatred, and disregard for life that has characterized the Arab position can be
judged for what it is. Unless that right is established, the Arabs will always claim that
they have a valid goal: reclaiming a land that is rightfully theirs. And once validity is
granted to their goal, the debate whether all means are acceptable to attain it or not is
one of philosophy.
What is our claim to the land? -Gd's promise in the Torah. Gd told Abraham: "I
have given this land to your descendants." For one-and-a- half thousand years the
Land of Israel was our home, and ever since then, Jews everywhere have longed to come home
to their eternal heritage - to Jerusalem, the site of the Holy Temple; to Hebron, the
burial place of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and to Bethlehem, where Rachel weeps for her
dispersed children and awaits their return. Even throughout the two thousand years during
which our people wandered from country to country, Israel has remained the national home
of every Jew. From the beginning of the exile until this day, no matter how farflung his
current host country might be, every Jew has turned to face the Holy Land in his
So central is this principle to our faith, that Rashi, the foremost of the traditional
commentators on the Torah, begins his commentary by stating:
Rabbi Yitzchak said: The Torah should
have begun with the verse, "This month shall be for you the first of the
months...," for this introduces the first commandment given to Israel.
Why then does it begin with the
narrative of creation?...
So that if the nations of the world
say to Israel, "You are robbers, because you took by force the lands of the seven
nations [of Canaan]," Israel will reply to them: "The entire world belongs to
the Holy One, blessed be He; He created it and gave it to whomever He pleased. Of His own
will He gave it to them, and of His own will He took it from them and gave it to us."
From this perspective the entire Land of Israel - not only the coastal region,
Jerusalem, and the Galilee, but also Judea, Samaria, and indeed every tiny portion of the
land - is part of an organic whole, an indivisible and sanctified unity. In this spirit,
the Kneisiyah HaGedolah of Agudas Yisrael, an assembly of Jewry's foremost sages in the
pre-Holocaust era, declared in 1937:
The Holy Land, whose boundaries were
prescribed by the Holy One, blessed be He, in His holy Torah, was granted to the nation of
Israel, the eternal people. Any sacrifice of the Holy Land that was granted to us by G-d
is of absolutely no validity.
This explanation is, moreover, the only rationale that cannot be refuted by the Arabs
or the Americans. They also accept the Bible and believe in the truth of its prophecies.
The Koran does not dispute the Jews' right to the Land of Israel. And can you conceive of
an American president telling his people that Gd's promise to Abraham is not relevant?
Indeed, the connection between the land and our people is so well established that
everywhere it is referred to as "the Land of Israel."
For this reason, it is important to emphasize that this connection is rooted in the
Bible's prophecies. It would not be desirable to base our claim to the Land of Israel on
the Balfour Declaration or international agreements of the present century, for these
agreements could be countermanded by other ones. After all, how favorable is the United
Nations to Israel today?
Nor is the fact that our people once lived in the land sufficient in and of itself to
establish our claim to it today. If the American Indians would lodge a claim to all of
America, would it be granted them?
When the Bible's prophecies serve as the basis for our claim, then many other arguments
are effective in reinforcing the position. But when that foundation is lacking, we have
difficulty refuting the gentiles' claim: "You are robbers, because you took by force
the lands of the... nations."
After thousands of years of exile, our people have returned to our land. Every portion
of the land over which Jewish authority is exercised was won in defensive wars in which Gd
showed overt miracles. Now when Gd grants His people land in such ways, should it be
returned? Is it proper to spurn a Divine gift?