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Off By a Few Thousand Years

Friday, 20 May, 2011 - 3:00 pm

I was shocked to hear President Obama’s remarks on Israel yesterday. Without getting into the nitty-gritty politics of it, the bottom line is that the president put our brothers and sisters in a very awkward and dangerous situation. By declaring that Israel must go back to the 1967 borders as the starting point for negotiations, he has entered uncharted territory.

Let’s not get distracted with questions of whether Israel should compromise this or that for peace. At the end of the day, President Obama insisted on using a certain time period as the premise for a Jewish presence in the Middle East.

To me, that is simply offensive and ignores historical facts. Yes, I am aware of the ‘realities on the ground’ and the implications they have for Israel surviving and thriving in a new world. I don’t have my head in the sand. But it now seems that some others do.

I am not ready to pronounce the President a friend or foe of Israel. That’s not my point. Rather, my question is: How should we Jews view the current situation? Politicians will remain politicians. They may encourage what they believe is expedient for themselves or for their world outlook. But that should not dictate or influence how we Jews view our connection to the Land of Israel.

Way before there was a United States of America and long before Europe was settled, Jews inhabited the Holy Land. Millennia before Herzl dreamed of reestablishing the Jewish homeland and many centuries prior to Ben Gurion declaring the modern state of Israel – Jews have lived and died in our cherished land.

Almost two millennia before the Common Era, our Patriarchs and Matriarchs were buried in the land of Israel. The graves of Jewish sages and simpletons can be found from Tiberias to Jerusalem. Ruins of synagogues ranging in age from 200 to 2000 years old fill the sacred soil.

It’s high time we stop focusing on 1948, 1967 or any other modern year as a starting point. The Arabs sure don’t stake their claim based on those dates.

A political agreement may be part of the solution. But what is a homeland worth if it has no soul, no history, no direction?

For true peace to endure, the Jewish people, for one, must remember that this is our land and has been for thousands of years. If we stand proud as Jews, with a historic – not merely military – connection to the land, we stand a chance that others will respect our roots as well.

Let us look no further than this week’s Torah portion of Bechukotai, in which G-d promises that if we follow in His holy ways, "I will grant peace in the Land, and you will lie down with no one to frighten you."

Amen.

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