In the aftermath of the October 7, 2023, Hamas massacre, which resulted in the reported deaths of 1,300 Israelis and foreign nationals, with 129 still held hostage, there has been a resurgence in attempts to distort history. Some are asserting that Jews are “foreign occupiers” without ties to the land of Israel.
False narratives seek to undermine Israel’s legitimacy, claiming it is a settler-colonial state. This misleading assertion suggests that Jews lack a historical connection to the land, and Zionists, advocating for Jewish self-determination, are accused of colonizing the area from the late nineteenth century. However, this claim overlooks the deep, millennia-long connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel.
Here are five facts affirming the extensive history of the Jewish people’s ties to the land of Israel.
Jews have had a continuous presence in the land of Israel.
Despite the Roman expulsion of the majority of Jews in 70 CE, a portion of the Jewish population remained in Israel throughout the years of Jewish exile. The rest of the Jewish community settled around the world, forming the Jewish diaspora. Notably, Jewish communities thrived in the Four Holy Cities: Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed (Tzfat), and Tiberias.
Jerusalem, distinguished for the Western Wall, stands as the most sacred among them. Hebron is associated with the Cave of the Patriarchs, the traditional burial site of several important Biblical figures, including Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Leah. The dates of significance vary for each figure, spanning from the patriarchal period, around 2000 BCE, to later periods.
In Safed, the city gained prominence as a centre of Jewish mysticism in the sixteenth century. During this era, notable Kabbalistic scholars, including Isaac Luria, contributed to Safed’s significance in the realm of Jewish mysticism.
Tiberias, notable for the Jerusalem Talmud, holds historical importance during the Byzantine Period, which generally spanned from 330 to 1453 CE. The exact dates of Tiberias’ prominence in the Byzantine Period would require specific historical documentation.
These cities, each with its unique historical and religious importance, contribute to the rich tapestry of the Jewish people’s enduring connection to the land of Israel.
In antiquity, Israel witnessed extended periods of governance under Jewish statehood.
The ancient history of the land of Israel spans many centuries of Jewish governance. Commencing around 1000 BCE, during the Iron Age, the entire land was unified under the rule of King Saul, David, and Solomon in a Jewish kingdom (Reference: 2 Samuel 5:1-5). Divided in approximately 931 BCE, the Unified Kingdom split into the Kingdom of Israel (Northern Kingdom) with its capital in Samaria and the Kingdom of Judah (Southern Kingdom) with its capital in Jerusalem. Both kingdoms experienced periods under Jewish rule. The Northern Kingdom fell to the Assyrian Empire in 722 BCE, leading to the exile of most inhabitants, while the Southern Kingdom remained under Jewish rule until 586 BCE when the Babylonian Empire conquered it and exiled many Jews (Reference: 2 Kings 17:5-6, 2 Kings 25:8-11).
The Jews returned from exile under the Persian Empire, reclaiming control with the Hasmonean dynasty in the 2nd century BCE (Reference: 1 Maccabees 13:41-42). Judea, as it was known then, became a client state of Rome in 63 BCE, later controlled by the Herodian dynasty—a Jewish dynasty under Roman influence. In 70 CE, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and exiled numerous Jewish inhabitants of Judea (Reference: Matthew 24:1-2).
These kingdoms significantly influenced Jewish history, religious traditions, and cultural identity. The city of Jerusalem and the two great Temples that once stood there held special significance in biblical narratives and Jewish history.
Jerusalem holds the utmost significance in the Jewish faith as its holiest site.
Jerusalem holds a profound significance as the spiritual, religious, and national center of the Jewish people for over 3,000 years. Established as the capital of Israel under King David’s rule, it became the site of the two great Temples, pivotal to Jewish worship. The first Temple, constructed by King Solomon in the tenth century BCE, was destroyed by the Babylonian Empire in 586 BCE, leading to the exile of Judeans from the Kingdom of Judah (Reference: 2 Kings 25:8-11).
Within a century, the second Temple emerged, only to face destruction in 70 CE by the Romans, accompanied by the exile of most Jewish inhabitants. The loss of the Temple profoundly impacted the Jewish faith. Despite these challenges, Jerusalem remained central to Jewish life, retaining its significance. Regardless of their location, Jews consistently face Jerusalem in prayer, emphasizing its enduring importance. The Western Wall, the sole remnant from the Second Temple, stands as the holiest site for Jews worldwide. Jewish customs, such as breaking a glass at weddings and the traditional Passover Seder proclamation of “Next year in Jerusalem!” illustrate the enduring connection to the sacred city.
During exile, Jews maintained a constant longing to return to Israel.
Throughout history, despite being dispersed globally, the Jewish people maintained a steadfast connection to the land of Israel through religious practices, prayers, and an enduring hope of eventual return.
Diaspora Jews longed to return to the Jewish homeland and the sacred city of Jerusalem, both prominently featured in daily Jewish prayers (Psalm 137:5-6).
Traditional Jewish religious thought asserted that the Jews’ exile from their homeland was a divine punishment, allowing return only in Messianic times. This belief restrained most Jews from contemplating a return to living in Israel.
However, in the nineteenth century, amidst rising antisemitism and violence against European Jews, Zionism emerged—an ideology of Jewish national liberation. Zionists perceived a return to the Jewish homeland as the avenue to redemption from centuries of oppression. Small groups of Zionist pioneers, inspired by this vision, began returning to their ancient homeland in the late nineteenth century, uniting with the community of Jews who had steadfastly remained (Jeremiah 30:3).
The founding of the State of Israel in 1948 marked the fulfillment of the longstanding dream of a Jewish homeland, evolving into the focal point of Jewish identity and culture for millions globally. Israel is revered as a sanctuary, a hub of cultural resurgence, and an emblem of Jewish self-determination.
Israel holds a central significance in the Bible.
The land of Israel holds paramount importance in the Jewish faith and is prominently featured throughout the Bible. In the Book of Genesis (Genesis 12:1-3), God pledges the land to Abraham, the inaugural Jew, and later reaffirms the promise to Abraham’s descendants, Isaac and Jacob—where the name Israel is synonymous with Jacob.
The Book of Exodus (Exodus 3:8) recounts Moses liberating the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, promising to guide them back to their ancestral land, Israel. Books like Judges and Kings narrate tales of Jewish rulers over Israel, with historical accuracy supported by archaeological discoveries and corroborating sources from Assyria, Babylon, and Persia.
In conclusion, the abundant historical, religious, political, and military evidence substantiates the deep-rooted connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel. The biblical narratives, archaeological findings, and geopolitical developments collectively affirm the legitimacy of the Jewish presence in the region.
Contrastingly, recent arguments challenging this connection, marked by illegitimate claims, dishonesty, and outright blatant antisemitism, lack credible foundation. Such content not only disregards the wealth of evidence supporting the Jewish connection to the land but also perpetuates an unjust and biased narrative.