Taking Possession: The Next Stage of Homecoming
“…we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” (Num. 13:33)
The Land of Canaan was only gained in stages by the Israelites, who had to overcome many internal divisions to progress. The same holds true in our day, as Jewry struggles to maintain internal unity while vacillating in its attitude toward the Land of Israel.
Although the Jewish right to a sovereign state in its ancestral homeland is incontestable – biblically, historically, morally, and legally – too many Jews and Israelis are self-shackled in the chains of constraint, still mired mentally in the vulnerabilities and fears of the last two millennia, unable to discard the Diaspora.
It is certainly an understandable phenomenon, but a crippling one, and we have suffered dearly from it for far too long.
For some elements of Jewry – including members of our religious establishment and military leadership – there remains an intrinsic dryness of the bones. Even some who dwell physically in Israel are psychologically in exile. They have gained the land, but have yet to take possession.
Some of their apprehension is well-grounded; inimical consequences will likely result from Israel’s unilateral annexation of Judea and Samaria, or from its full-scale elimination of Hamas and Hezbollah in the next wars. These outcomes, however, can be prepared for and dealt with. Jews are no strangers to dangers. Moreover, the consequences of Jewish half-heartedness vis-à-vis the land and Israel’s enemies have themselves been seriously debilitating and have bitterly afflicted Jewry and Israel since the rebirth of the Jewish state over 60 years ago.
Our modern nation is a statelet, a quarter of historical Palestine, and much less without the crucial provinces of Judea and Samaria. While these areas, which include eastern Jerusalem and Temple Mount, have been under Israeli control since 1967, the Israeli government then insisted that Temple Mount be left to the Muslim Waqf and no leader since has challenged this arrangement. Conventional thinking held that land-for-peace would be a viable solution to the conflict, and in some places, at some times, with some peoples, it might well have worked. But in the contemporary Middle East, history has definitively refuted that premise.
In Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, even in volatile Egypt – time and again land-for-peace has failed; only peace-for-peace can endure.
Those of us who obstinately argue for a re-commitment to the two-state solution have been bypassed by history, for the two-state solution to the question of Jews and Arabs in Palestine was implemented in 1921 when the sizable Transjordan was simply handed to the Arabs. Even the three-state solution came and went in 2005 with the ceding of the Gaza Strip. That is the status quo. So whoever speaks of the two-state solution – which really means the four-state solution (Israel for us, Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank for the Arabs) – is inadvertently trapped in nostalgia, for those halcyon days are long gone.
Our answer to the binary scenario was Yes; our answer to the four-state solution must hold firm at No. The provinces of Judea and Samaria – the tribal territories of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and west Menasheh – form the heartland of our homeland and were regained in a critical six-day war of self-defense against aggressive neighbors with genocidal intentions. For those of us who claim our heritage, these areas and their cities, villages, mountains and valleys are profoundly foundational, part of the bedrock of our collective identity, and no peace is worthwhile that requires the surrendering of our core selves to others. If ever there was a red line, this is it.
The evil report of the Israelite spies who reconnoitered Canaan, and the order of its wording, evinces a poignant truth which we would do well to internalize today: Those who suffer initially from inherent low self-esteem will inevitably signal their denigration to others. As long as the Jewish People sees itself as weak, it will project weakness and embolden its enemies. As long as Jews waver in their sense of rightful claim to take possession of the land, their adversaries will detect spiritual anemia and continue to assail the enfeebled.
Hesitation and reluctance despite a just cause do not deter, but rather incentivize. When we belittle ourselves, none will magnify us. When we act like grasshoppers of the desert, none will treat us like lions of Judah.
Instead, let our approach be that of Caleb, who bravely contradicts the chorus of naysayers and implores: “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome…”. This should be our present attitude, because what was true then is equally true now. The Jewish People is indeed able to overcome the obstacles to sovereignty in the land of its ancestors, if only it first prevails over the impeding ambivalences within.