The last reading in any of the Five Books that comprise our Written Torah, our Chumash, always gives me pause. It marks both a completion and an opening as the saga of our peoples evolves and continues.
We are a People of the Book, and we are a People of our Land, Israel. The texts we read from the earliest of our times, and continuing through millennia, reference Jerusalem and the land of Israel, now the State of Israel. Often those texts reference borders well beyond present day political borders.
As Jews, we were displaced, colonized, and exiled over many centuries by various military/political invasions, including the Babylonians (destruction of the First Temple), the Greeks (our victory commemorated in Hannukah), the Romans (destruction of the Second Temple) and Ottoman/Islamic forces. Of course there were also repeated attempts by medieval Christian Crusaders to claim this land (then called Palaestina or Palestine, by the Roman invaders) for Christianity, to free the Land from all infidels – otherwise known as Muslims and Jews.
See: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/origin-of-quot-palestine-quot for a full discussion of the root of the term Palestine.
It wasn’t until 1948, nearly two millennia after the Roman destruction of the Temple, of destruction of Jerusalem and the massive exile of Jews from their homeland, that Jews could live in their own land again, fully, as Jews – in the only Jewish state in the world. Israel.
One of our challenges today in Canada, but certainly well beyond our own borders, is the political process of recognizing claims made by Indigenous peoples to title of their lands; be they acknowledged in word only (land acknowledgments at beginnings of various events) or by working out language inclusions, financial compensations, and beyond. There is a willingness on the part of many peoples to recognize long overdue recognition of Indigenous rights, however slowly that process may be wending its way through various government channels. There is deep sorrow and shame over how colonization has affected Indigenous peoples.
That said, similar recognition is often not given to the Jewish people and any hereditary claim of Jews to the lands of Israel, or even of historical ties to Jerusalem. Recently the UN voted (129 votes in favour, 31 abstentions, 11 against) that Jews had no historical claim to the area now knows as the Temple Mount, the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, again, failing to recognize that the origins of Islam (7th century CE) arose millennia after Jews had lived in Jerusalem and Israel. 19 countries actually reversed previous votes against Israel, but still 129 countries voted to deny existence of any historical connection.
“In a statement to The Times of Israel regarding the results of the Jerusalem resolution, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan lamented that “the automatic majority in the UN that votes in favor of pro-Palestinian decisions is shameful and makes the UN irrelevant and without real influence.”
So the question for me becomes why? Why this discrepancy of recognition? Are Jews not also an ancestral indigenous people? TaNaKh (Torah, the Prophetic writings and the Ketuvim, the other canonical writings such as the Book of Psalms) mentions this hereditary right of land over 600 times. Yet, there continues to be a refusal (amongst far too many people and nations) to recognize Jewish rights to this land. There continues to be a lack of credence given to the concept of Zionism, that Israel is the Jewish homeland. It is also home to many Arab Israelis who have full legal rights, including sitting in the Knesset.
Years ago Aaron spoke with an Indigenous friend who explained his people’s relationship to the land very simply. He said, “Our bones are buried here. Our bones became this land, this land is made from the bones of our people.” This week we read how Joseph wants the bones of his father Jacob and his bones to be returned to their mother-land, the land of Israel. Our bones, our people, our land.
There is a fundamental disjunctive here. One for us all to think about.
Wishing you all well,