1st Essay for JBC has been marked. I am not going to lie and say that I wasn’t hoping for better marks, but 75% is not too bad. Okay I feel like I should have gotten more and it would have been nice if the Rabbi wrote why he marked the way he did. I mean of course when I read it I do pick up a few issues but not enough issues to validate the loss of 25%. Maybe it was the fact that my essay ended up being 2 478 words as supposed to 3000.
Yesterday while at Shul, I spoke with many other students who had just recently handed in their essays. It is only due for the 25th. Many thought that 75% was good.
Describe the Significance of the Land of Israel in Jewish Life and Belief
Follow only the path that the Lord your G-d has enjoined upon you, so that you may thrive and that it may go well with you, and that you may long endure in the land you are to possess.
- Deuteronomy 5:30
There are many ways to go about the importance of Israel to the Jewish people. There is the promise from Hashem, which I consider to be the main and most important reason and there is also, the declaration made by the United Nations, back on the 14th of May 1948 and finally it is the warmth and identity that every Jewish Person, no matter where in the world they may be, feels and knows when they pray towards Jerusalem, or when they are in Israel.
Throughout the Tanakh there are many mentions of Hashem telling the Israelites, through various subjects; Moses, other prophets, and The Burning Bush, that by following Him and only Him, by abiding to his Rules and Teachings, he will lead the Israelites to the Promised Land.
And now, O Israel, give heed to the laws and rules that I am instructing you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Lord, the G-d of your fathers, is giving you.
– Deuteronomy 4:1
Throughout history, and still to this day, there have been times when the Jewish People have been misplaced and confined, subjected to poor conditions and ill-treated. Dating back to even Before Common Era, the Jewish People have been denied the right of a place to recognise and call as their own Homeland, but with a Mighty Hand Hashem has always led them to Israel.
He, himself in His great might, led you out of Egypt to drive from your path nations greater and more populous than you, to take you into their land and assign it to you as a heritage, as it still the case. – Deuteronomy 4:37
In Exodus we read how the Israelites lived as slaves in Egypt for 430 Years. For 430 years Israelites were denied the right to have their own land and were controlled by people who did not recognise them as humans, as The Chosen Ones.
But through prayer and devotion to Hashem, the Israelites were saved by Him, and through Moses, Hashem led the Israelites to their Promised Land.
Even though it took 40 years and fights with other tribes, eventually the Israelites reached the land they were to possess.
When the Lord your G-d brings you into the land that He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to assign to you – great and flourishing cities that you did not build, houses full of good things that you did not fill, hewn cisterns that you did not hew, vineyards and olive grows that you did not plant and you eat your fill , take head that you do not forget the Lord who freed you from the land of Egypt, the house of bondage. – Deuteronomy 6:10-12
The most important conversation with Hashem any Jewish person is considered to have, is when they pray the Amidah. When praying the Amidah, a Jewish person should always be standing with their feet together and they should always be facing the Ark and or Israel/Jerusalem. This just goes on to further portray how Israel is so important and central to Jewish life, that no matter where you are in the world, a Jew is to always look to Israel for Hashem.
Since the creation of Judaism, Jerusalem has been the city which housed the holiest sanctuaries, namely the 1st and 2nd temple. Even though these temples were destroyed, back in 587-586 BCE, by The Babylonians and 70 CE, by The Romans, many Jews believe that the 3rd Temple will be built on the very same land that these temples once were. What currently remains of the destroyed temples, is what is referred to as the HaKotel HaMa’aravi, The Wailing Wall. Until the 3rd Temple is built; the HaKotel HaMa’aravi will continue to be the place where all religious prayer, particularly Jewish Prayer ie. The Amidah is directed to.
As declared in the below scripture, Hashem rests on this mount, which is where the Messiah will return once the 3rd Temple is built and peace across the world will be restored.
For the Lord has chosen Zion, He has desired it for His seat, This is my resting place for all time; here I will dwell, for I desire it. – Psalms 132;13-14
Now, if we had to step away from the ‘Tanakh’, which explains and relays the Promise that Hashem made to the Israelites, you will see that throughout history there have been many times when the Jewish People have been persecuted in other lands, removed from places they called home, denied Jewish Identity and even still to this day they are being terrorised in their own land, Israel.
|SECULAR YEAR||JEWISH YEAR||EVENT IN JEWISH HISTORY|
|614||4374||The Persians conquered the Land of Israel|
|The Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem|
|629||4389||The Byzantine empire reconquered the Land of Israel|
|637||4397||The Arabs conquered the Land of Israel|
|1096||4859||The Crusaders destroyed Jewish Communities|
|1099||4856||Jerusalem was captured by the Crusaders|
|1147||4907||The Crusaders attack Jewish Communities|
|1187||4948||Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem|
|1190||4950||Jews were massacred in England in the 3rd Crusade|
|1244||5004||Jerusalem was sacked by the Egyptians and Turks|
|1306||5066||All Jews were expelled from France|
|1421||5181||Jews in Austria were massacred in the Weiner Gezera|
|1492||5252||All Jews were expelled from Spain and Sicily|
|1496||5257||All Jews were expelled from Portugal|
|1553||5314||A mass burning of Jewish books took place in Rome|
|1793||5553||Jews suffered in reign of terror of French Revolution|
|1819||5579||Anti-Jewish riots spread throughout Germany|
|1881||5641||Many Jews began leaving Russia after a wave of pogroms|
|1905||5665||Many Jews were killed in (official) Russian pogroms|
|1938||5699||Jews were attacked in the Kristallnacht pogroms in Germany|
|1939||5699||Germany started World War II, and mass killing of Jews|
|1941||5701||200 000 Jews were killed at Babi Yar and Ponary|
|1942||5702||400 000 Jews of Warsaw were sent to death camps|
|1944||5704||300 000 Hungarian Jews were killed in 3 months|
|1945||5705||6 000 000 Jews were killed by the Nazis during the war|
|1947||5708||The United Nations divided Israel|
|Arabs attack Israel to gain territory|
|1948||5708||The State of Israel was established|
In the above timeline you will see how right across the world almost every nation has at one time played a part in the removal of the Jewish people from a land they once called their home. Many nations have tried to control the Jewish Community and have tried to demise their being and identity, but only once the Jewish people reunited in Israel were they able to stand strong and defend themselves.
In the above map you will see, how right across earth on various pieces of land, where a single religion is so prominent, it has become accepted that, that religion be the ruling religion in that land.
Where on Earth is there a piece of land where the Jewish people can turn to and call their ‘homeland’? That Red Arrow points to that small piece of land. This piece of land was not only promised to Jews by Hashem but was also declared the ‘State of Israel’ by the United Nations on 5 Iyar (14th of May 1948).
A few weeks ago, a few fellow JBC students and I went to the South African Jewish Museum and The Holocaust and Genocide Centre. While at the Jewish Museum I saw how even before World War 2, before World War 1, Jews were denied citizenship even though they fought and provided for the Land. Their own language was not accepted by others and furthermore they were mocked on every platform. Jews were always the minority and so often they found themselves to be the escape goat. And since the country they were living in was not theirs, they had to accept and tolerate all heinous acts that were done to them.
Again in South Africa, I Country which I have called home, although not as horrific and detrimental as in Germany, because Jews were not natural inhabitants, they were denied the right to have any say in how the country was run, they were restricted to work only in certain areas, and only once they were deemed valuable and their workmanship and successes became envied were they given some form of acceptance in certain areas for residence and business.
Just looking at South Africa; a country filled with many religions and races and identities, when it comes to the annual calendar for public holidays, like many other countries across the world, it only recognizes Christian Holidays and Historical Days that occurred in its land. Hence a need for a Jewish Homeland; where all religious events and traditions can be recognized and upheld.
It was back in 1995, when I was just about 10 years old when I went to Israel for the very first time. I remember my family and I stayed in my uncles’ flat in Natanya, right next door to a primary school; every day I would venture off on my own down the street for a shawarma, a packet of ‘Bazooka’ and a few packets of ‘Bissili’ and ‘Bamba’, which my sisters and I would gobble down in just a few hours. The safe and friendly community I was surrounded by, made me feel at peace and connected to Hashem. I felt this more when on Erev Shabbat by midday the whole country shut down to respect Shabbat and all activities that go against Shabbat were prohibited until the end of Shabbat. I know there is nowhere else in the world where an entire country shuts down just for the Jewish People, just so they can take some time to honour Hashem, their creation, and other Holy and significant Holidays.
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, wrote an article for the Jewish Press, last year, where he goes on to explain the Religious Significance of Israel, in his passage he mentions something that I touched on in the above paragraphs.
What was and is unique about Israel is that it is the sole place on earth (barring short-lived exceptions like the Himyarites in the sixth century and Khazars in the eighth, whose kings converted to Judaism) where Jews have had the chance to create an entire society on Jewish lines. It is possible to live a Jewish life in Manchester or Monsey, Madrid or Minsk. But it is always a truncated experience. Only in Israel do Jews conduct their lives in the language of the Bible, within time defined by the Jewish calendar and space saturated in Jewish history. Only there do they form a majority. Only there are they able to construct a political system, an economy, and an environment on the template of Jewish values. There alone can Judaism be what it is meant to be – not just a code of conduct for individuals, but also and essentially the architectonics of a society. https://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/rabbi-lord-jonathan-sacks/the-religious-significance-of-israel-2/2020/07/16/
It is profound how two people with two very different experiences and understandings, and at different points in time, can come to the same proclamation of Israel and the way life in Israel is conducted, primarily for the Jewish religion and people. This goes on to show the Significance of a piece of land whose primary function is to be a haven and place which Jewish Life and Hashem’s laws and can be followed.
On the 33rd day of the Omer there was a gathering at the Temple of Israel, Wynberg. Here there was a discussion that was led by the Israeli Shlicha; Batya Shmueli.
In 1939, during the Second Italo, a war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Batya’s father was just 16 years old when his childhood village was attacked. When the attackers found out he was Jewish, they beat him violently and abused him for hours. This horrific incident became the defining moment that led him to change his name so that he could assimilate into Ethiopian society, without the fear of antisemitic persecution. – Samuel Hyde (Jewish Chronicle Full circle for shlicha Batya Shmueli – Cape Jewish Chronicle (cjc.org.za))
Many Jews throughout the world have at one time or another had to hide their Jewish Identity, for safety of their own life. There is only one place in the World where a Jew can be proud to be a Jew, and that is in Israel.
“She recalls celebrating Jewish holidays such as Pesach, remembering how they weren’t able to sing or pray loudly for fear of drawing unwanted attention to themselves.” – Samuel Hyde (Jewish Chronicle Full circle for shlicha Batya Shmueli – Cape Jewish Chronicle (cjc.org.za))
One day, shlichim from the Jewish Agency for Israel came knocking on her family’s door and told them to get ready, “The way to Jerusalem is open for you.” – Samuel Hyde (Jewish Chronicle Full circle for shlicha Batya Shmueli – Cape Jewish Chronicle (cjc.org.za))
At the age of 11 years old, Batya and her family made Aliyah, after her father had been warned the night before that terrorist were preparing to kill them, as they were now aware of their Jewish identity and whereabouts.
She recalls the moment of arrival in Israel, as if for the first time, “My parents got off the plane and kissed the ground. We didn’t know why but we copied them. It was very emotional, very exciting, everyone was so welcoming and kind.” .” – Samuel Hyde (Jewish Chronicle Full circle for shlicha Batya Shmueli – Cape Jewish Chronicle (cjc.org.za))
Just like in The Bible; when Hashem spoke down to Moses and instructed him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and to make their way to the Promised Land, Hashem got shlichim to bring Batya and her family to Israel.
The story that I just shared, about Batya and her family, just goes to show the importance of Israel and the need that Jewish people, around the world, have. This need of a place where they will no longer have to hide their identity nor fear being ostracized for being Jewish. This land is the very land that Hashem promised to the Jewish People, many times in the Tanakh, this is also the very same land the United Nations declared to be The State of Israel, this piece of land is the very same land that receives an influx of 20 000+ Olim every year. These Jews, from right across the world also, declare Israel to be the land of the Jewish People.