Under the Subject: Israel
For thousands of years, the Jewish people have had a connection to their land, Israel/Judah. From Adam and Chava (yep, that’s the correct pronunciation of “Eve’s” name) to Israel’s twelfth Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, the Jewish presence has remained in the land.
There have undoubtedly been many attempted takeovers — it is a strategic spot at the crossroads of Asia and Africa. Some of the attacks upon our people have wreaked utter loss and devastation, but none of these have eliminated us entirely. Unlike other Biblical-era civilizations no longer in existence due either to eradication or assimilation into other populations, there have always been pockets of Jews with a physical attachment to the place. The Bible speaks of many foreign invasions to Israel, including our own to Canaan, its original name. There has definitely been great loss of life in our dear intent to hold onto our religion and to our G-d-directed injunction to hold and maintain the Land which He gave us. Other people aside, we have prevailed.
Whether it was the Babylonian exile, where our brightest Sages transcribed our heritage (as did our Jerusalem counterparts still within the land; evidenced in the two versions of the Talmud — Bavli and Yerushalmi (Babylon and Jerusalem) — and traditions to preserve in Exile; the transcription by seventy scribes in Alexandria, Egypt of the Bible (“Septuagint”; ‘sept’ from ‘seventy’) into the various lingua franca of the day; the period of captivity and release by King Artaxerxes (Cyrus) (I guess), where Jews were brought to Persia (many in Shushan) — this period is recorded in our celebration of Purim commemorating Mordechai, and Queen Esther/Hadassah, who married the Persian king, and thwarted the evil conspiracy of Haman (boo!!! hiss!!!) to have the Jews destroyed: eventually, king “Cy” sent laborers and building materials to allow us to rebuild our Temple, which the Babylonians had utterly destroyed. Yay, Cy! Then the Syrian/Greek/Roman/Egyptian periods, where those cultures fought between themselves and kind of amalgamated, in the end, invariably described as any of the above, and often containing terms like Seleucid, Abbasid, Roman, etc., but which came from the Alexandrian-type of Roman conquest across great swathes of continents.
Our further dispersion to and exile/expulsion from European lands, such as: Spain, and England; our ouster, even, from Arab-majority countries, invariably, all led in the end to our return. One thing has been constant, though — we were always there. Who did Babylon attack? The Jews in Israel (a.k.a. Zion, House of David, Israel, Judah, Samaria, Jerusalem, Moriah, etc.). Who did Persia attack? The Jews in Israel. Who did the Philistines (Goliath was one) attack? The Jews in Israel. Who did the Romans attack? The Jews in Israel. Who did the Crusaders attack? The Jews in Israel, and apparently the Arabs then there (according to recent telling, though I had always heard it relayed as an attack upon the Jews in Israel…); you get the picture. We had to have come back or not been totally absent from the land in order to have enabled this or the other group to have kept attacking us there…
On May 14, 1948, Israel declared itself independent — from the Mandatory assignment that had been given Britain over it by the precursor to the United Nations, the League of Nations; and from Eastern Palestine across the Jordan River, wrested from land declared as a Jewish homeland based on historical right, and not based on suffrance (see the Balfour Declaration of 1917, stating the English position of validation of the Jewish claim to the land). Its land extending northward was assigned to a French mandate by the League of Nations, becoming part of Syria.
The early twentieth century brought with it upheavals and wars, forever changing the landscape of the Middle East. The Turkish Ottoman Empire had been beaten back, losing all wars and all claims to any land it might have previously conquered. Part of this Turkish territory had been home to the Jews for thousands of years, but it had been known by its various Jewish designations as Israel, Judaea, Samaria, and Zion; as well as by its non-Jewish designation as “Palestine” applied by the Romans, and named for a group of foreigners living in a small coastal enclave at its southwestern end. These were termed the Philistines, who were said to be living THEN in the land during the reign of Israel’s second King, David. There are no written records pertaining to ancestry or descent from the Jews’ former nemesis of old, relating to people calling themselves “Palestinian” in the twentieth century. And the Jews were long in the land prior to the establishment of the monarchies: Abraham sojourned there and set up life for his family there for quite awhile before the Egyptian periods. They were the family which would beget the Jewish people. They were “Jews in Waiting”. They were Jews without yet realizing the specifics of what that would entend. Many, many centuries passed while the Jews were in transition.
Eventually, Saul came to rule as the first king of Israel. King David, his successor, was the second person to rule the land. The kingship continued through the millennia. Jewish kings still continued to rule their own country even when they fell under Roman rule during the first century of the Common Era, but they were a vassal state.
There were several kings of the Herodian ancestry (an Edomite convert and sons), which ruled with great allegiance to their Roman conquerors, angering the general Jewish population, as the Roman pagan pantheon of deities, prior to the establishment of Christianity, conflicted with the foremost tenet of Judaism: monotheism. The imposition of the Roman rituals to the exclusion of the local practice led to the uprising of the local populace under several rebellions, most notably those of Bar Kochba, as well as the Maccabee leaders, whose victory over our oppressors marks the multiple miracles received when we found oil still purified for Temple use through which we could re-sanctify the Temple from its defilement and which lasted eight days until more would be ready. Both Jewish reign and Temple practice were restored, with a succession of Jewish kings during this period called the Hasmonean Dynasty.
This period, though, eventually came to an end, when Rome sent a series of successive armies against Israel, each army commander vying to take top post and recognition, and pitting one, in stiff competition against the other, for primacy. This time frame, just slightly past the first century mark of the Common Era, basically begins the start of what would be considered Western civilization. Western cultures look back at this period as ancient history, whereas to Jews, it represents modern history. Our greatest event in recent history, though, would be the return of our exiled people of the Diaspora with the re-constitution of our nation. Israel has been reborn.
The Book of Life has reopened a new chapter for the People of the Book.
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