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Why is the land of Israel considered the Jewish Homeland?

by Rabbi Tzvi Shapiro

  

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The answer is in the question. It is in the name of the land. 

Why is the land called Israel?

Because that is the biblical name of the Jews: the "Children of Israel". (Israel of course being the other name of Jacob, of whom the Jews are literally children).

Long before there was such a thing as Christianity, Islam, or any other contemporary ism, a land was promised to, and inhabited by, the Jews. It was therefore called Israel: the land of [the Children of] Israel.

In the year 70 CE the Children of Israel were forced out of their land by the Romans, who also destroyed the Holy Temple which stood on Temple Mount. Since then Jerusalem has been the most conquered city in history. Myriads of nations, religions and empires, have tried to lay claim to this holy land. Ironically, Jerusalem, or Israel for that matter, never served as a capital or a primary country for anyone. It was always ruled from without, by regimes who reined over vast empires from their own distant "homelands".

While mighty warriors fought for a land they would never call their own, an exiled Children of Israel never forgot their Homeland. For two thousands years you could ask any Jew "What will happen when your Messiah comes?" and his response would be "Jews will return to our Homeland, Israel". 

The first interaction between G-d and the first Jew as recorded in the Torah was G-d's instruction to Abraham to travel "to the land that I will show you"1. Once Abraham was there, G-d said "Do you see this land? I will give this to you and your descendants for eternity".2

That land was Israel.

G-d reaffirmed that promise with Isaac3, and Jacob4. Later, when Jacob's descendants were but mere slaves in Egypt G-d told Moses He would liberate them and lead them to a land, a land He promised to their forefathers.5

That land was Israel.

In the dessert when the Jews received the Torah, the constitution of Judaism and its laws, some 300 (out of 613) laws were only applicable in, or significantly tied to, the land.

That land was Israel. 

Joshua settled it. King David secured it. King Solomon developed it. For hundreds of years, since their Exodus from Egypt, the Jews knew there is a land G-d chose for His, and their, home. It would be the eternal center of their laws, and life. They were prohibited from ever replacing it with another land.6

That land was Israel.

Israel is the beginning of our history. It is the destination of our exodus. It is the venue for close to half of our commandments. It is the promise of our prophecies.

Force took the Jews out of Israel. But no force in the world can take Israel out of the Jew.

For thousands of years, wherever they were in the world, Jews sent money to the small, and often poor, communities of their brethren living in Israel. Every Passover Seder was, and is, concluded with the hopeful prayer "next year in Jerusalem". 

Wherever the Jew prays, s/he prays facing the direction of one land. In every prayer the Jew prays for the peace of, and return to, one land.

That land is Israel. The Jewish Homeland.

Footnotes

  • 1. Genesis 12:1
  • 2. Genesis 13:15
  • 3. Genesis 26:3
  • 4. Genesis 28:13
  • 5. Exodus 6:8
  • 6. See for example Deuteronomy chapter 12

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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Passover
A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.
Joshua
1. Assumed the leadership of the Jewish people after Moses died in 1267 BCE. He split the Jordan River and led the Jewish people in their conquest of the Promised Land. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, which chronicles Joshua's leadership.
Moses
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Seder
Festive meal eaten on the first two nights of the holiday of Passover (In Israel, the Seder is observed only the first night of the holiday). Seder highlights include: reading the story of the Exodus, eating Matzah and bitter herbs, and drinking four cups of wine.
Abraham
First Jew, and first of our three Patriarchs. Born into a pagan society in Mesepotamia in 1812 BCE, he discovered monethieism on his own. He was told by G-d to journey to the Land of Canaan where he and his wife Sarah would give birth to the Jewish People.
Jacob
Third of the three Patriarchs and father of the Twelve Tribes. Lived most his life in Canaan and died in Egypt in 1505 BCE. Also known by the name of "Israel."
Isaac
Second of the three Jewish Patriarchs, son of Abraham and Sarah. Lived in Canaan (Israel); b. 1712 BCE, d. 1532 BCE.
Jerusalem
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.
David
King of Israel who succeeded Saul, becoming king of Israel in 876 BCE. Originally a shepherd, he became popular after he killed the Philistine strongman, Goliath. He is the progenitor of the Davidic royal dynasty -- which will return to the throne with the arrival of King Messiah.
Solomon
Son of King David, and succeeded him on the throne of Israel in the year 836 BCE. he was the wisest man to ever live. He built the first Holy Temple and authored several books of the Bible.
Exodus
1. The miraculous departure of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage in 1312 BCE. 2. The second of the Five Books of Moses. This book describes the aforementioned Exodus, the giving of the Torah, and the erection of the Tabernacle.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.