Near Tel Aviv, April 2013
Should Jewish People Have a Sovereign State Where It Is Located Today?
I think this is the real question, the driving force behind the years of the Arab - Israeli conflict, up to and including the most recent war [August 2014] between Israel and Hamas - who currently happen to control an area of land known as Gaza. Gaza is not a country, it is currently under the control of the political group known as Hamas, whose stated aim is to destroy Israel.
I noticed when I began to take an interest in the Middle East that, no matter who is fighting with Israel, the general scenario is that of a whole people, Arabs, at war with a country, Israel.
At times this has meant as many as five or six Arab countries actively engaged in battle with Israel, and this has been possible because of the location of Israel, and its borders with neighbouring Arab countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt - with Iraq sometimes joining in from a little further afield.
My answer to this Question is: "Definitely Yes!" And there are two main reasons why I say this. One reason is based on the religious/historical argument. While there are many who place no credence in religious arguments, there is no doubting that such kings as Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus the Great, as well as King Herod existed, and that the Roman laid siege to Masada around 70A.D.
Here is my first argument in favour of Jewish people having a sovereign state exactly where it exists today: Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Esther, Ruth, John the Baptist, Jesus, to name but a few are all Jewish people, the earliest dating from around 2000 years BC. And for me these amazing and enduring humans are a convincing reason why Jewish people should have a country in the Middle East; why it should be where it is now; and why it should be called Israel, The Holy Land.
All of these world renowned Jewish people were either born in The Holy Land; or, like Abraham, they made it their home (1900BC) or like Moses led the original Israelites back there from Egypt (1300 BC).
If you take the first two of these people mentioned above: Abraham and Moses, you have the main founders of Judaism. From Moses there followed, as often happens in all great societies, a series of leaders, originally Judges and Kings - Joshua ( 1300BC) David (1000BC) Solomon (970BC) who eventually fail to live up to the original idea, for example King Ahab (circa 870BC).
And what the spiritual giants, mentioned above, do is to remind us of the original aims upon which a culture has been founded, and how it may have slipped.
For 2000 years BC, then, a considerable number of Jewish people living and working in a stretch of land roughly 50 - 100 miles wide, and 150 miles to the north and south of Jerusalem became, and have remained, some of the most inspirational people who have ever walked the earth.
Whilst many a tyrant has sought to overrun and oppress the people of the earth through mundane physical strategies such as brute force, manipulation, or sheer population growth; these Jewish giants along with other inspirational human beings from all corners of the globe, and all eras, have guarded and strengthened the spirits of us ordinary souls.
While places of worship are routinely built on legendary sites, and often usurp them, the remarkable thing is that the attraction of the Jewish Holy Land remains palpable, largely because, for the heroes and heroines mentioned, the land itself was their sphere of operation. Hill, and tree, desert, river, sea and sky. Thus, knowing the stories of these people, to simply walk in the land, to breathe the air is to connect with these people who walked and performed on the same earth.
And naturally, the very existence of so many world famous Jews originating from the land under discussion means that there must have been a supporting cast of millions of ordinary Jewish folk in the area down through the millennia. Jews, that is, lived here for a very long time.
Generally speaking, Christians accept that The Holy Land is first and foremost the home of the Jews. After all, Jesus, Mary, John the Baptist, and the Disciples were all Jewish, and they only sought to strengthen or refresh the Jewish religion, much like the prophets before them.
This is one of the best things about Judaism as far as I am concerned: people such as Elijah, Isaiah, Jesus, Jeremiah were all in the position where we might find artists, singers, poets, writers today - they attempted to enlighten us and to strengthen the things that remain. And yet, all of these people were originally seen, depending on the degree of corruption of the times, as anything from rebels to outright criminals. Yet now, Elijah is given pride of place at the Jewish Passover Seder. Jesus, John and many saints are celebrated throughout the year. Why? Because these people possessed as Herman Melville once put it "The great art of telling the truth." And we are ultimately glad of that, if not always at first. It's something like the story of The Rolling Stones, times about a thousand in intensity.
When you consider the number of great Jews who have lived and worked in and around Jerusalem, and The Holy Land in general, the claim of Islam upon Jerusalem as a holy place associated with Mohammed while valid falls into perspective.
That Mohammed ascended to Heaven for a night from Jerusalem is impressive, but it must be remembered that he is in incredible company here. We are also talking about Jews who have gone up to Heaven in a whirlwind from Jordan; have parted the River Jordan with a smite of their mantle; drawn water from rocks, made serpents of staffs, been fed by birds, called fire down from Heaven, walked on water, come back from the dead, raised the dead, and appeared to many saints over the years. King Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem. There is a City of David beside Mount Zion. Jesus overturned the tables here, made the blind see and the deaf hear. The ratio of miraculous events which occurred in what is now present day Israel would appear to be at least fifty to one in favour of the Jews, over any other peoples of the world.
It is also worthwhile considering that Mohammed revered the people responsible for the deeds mentioned above: Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Jesus. And as we know, Abraham began Judaism, Moses pulled it back together, while the other two sought to remind people of the original intentions. It seems logical then that both Christianity and Islam are actually based upon the original tenets of Judaism. Given the reforming intentions of Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed; Jews, Christians, and Muslims would logically all see themselves as adhering to the original Judaism.
And yet, judging by the situation today, it seems that most religions, especially the main three - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are divided within themselves as to the true message of their founders. There are several kinds of Judaism, Christianity and Islam today, and many of them are at war within and without their particular interpretations. It is significant that the prophet Jeremiah declared, as far back as 650 BC that in the future man's relationship with God would be personal.
To sum up my first point: Proportionately, if we are talking about rights for Israel to exist where it is, on a Religious basis, it seems reasonable that Jews should have at least 99% of the land known as The Holy Land, including 90% of Jerusalem in the custodial sense. Muslims and Christians should also be there as custodians, preserving their specific and communal sites, and welcoming and guiding visitors from all over the world.
Not everyone is a believer. Some people just don't believe that someone like Jesus ever actually lived, for example. Elijah and all the prophets are to them fictional characters. The story about Abraham and the creation of Judaism are myths. Mohammed ascending to Heaven on his horse is pure fantasy. Jesus appearing at the supper at Emmaus is a ridiculous fairy tale!
Everything I have written so far in this article means nothing to them.
But to take just one example: if Jesus or Moses never actually really existed, then whoever wrote those stories, I mean whoever conceived of all these characters, the events, the plots and the themes of the stories, was more than inspirational enough for me to understand that God does exist in some form or another. That Karma is a fact of life. In short, whether Jeremiah existed or not, his story and the words attributed to him certainly ring true to me. That's personal.
However, the Arab - Israeli conflict still exists. If insoluble on religious/historical grounds, here is a more materialistic argument:
In the present era, the Jewish state is located in roughly the same area as the Jews lived up until 70AD. This area is now called Israel, and it includes areas known as Judea and Samaria. It is a 26,000 sq. km. country. Israel exists amid several Arabic Middle Eastern countries, which together total well over one million sq. km of land.
Simple demographic research on Google shows that, at the moment, within the arena known as the Arab - Israeli conflict with which I began my personal investigation, Arab nations have roughly 38 times more land than Israel. I think I have shown that the Jewish people have lived in Israel for many hundreds of years. And in the lands surrounding Jerusalem, the Jews' historical and religious claims outnumber the Arab claims by at least twenty to one. The core area of the Jewish culture lies exactly where Israel, including Judea and Samaria, is situated today.
As mentioned in earlier articles, the so called 'West Bank' and 'Gaza' are the result of the failure of everyone to be able to sit down and hammer out the truth from all aspects. The situations in both of these places far from deserving to be called 'religious' matters, they hardly deserve to be called even 'political' matters. They are however always human matters. They are currently mean tempered, stubborn, attritional human matters which cannot be solved except by honest discussion.
I know that many do not consider history or religion important, and prefer to pick a moment in history, such as 1948 and begin the discussion there. To me, this seems to be the real crux of the actual Arab - Israeli conflict today. A territorial battle with no route to solving it, and which may or may not be fuelled by some form of religious thought. Certainly, looking at the present situation throughout much of the Middle East, conflicting religious persuasions, or interpretations, do seem to be fuelling several conflicts, quite apart from the Arab-Israeli war.
Whatever fuels the Arab-Israeli conflict, it certainly seems that the main weapons these days are propaganda, emotional fervour, and ignorance. And failing that, violence and death. The desired end is the same: At the least, the aim is that there should be a new Arab state called Palestine, with a lessening of the territory of Israel; and at worst the non-existence of Israel.
In my opinion, given the huge imbalance in territory already existing between the Arabs and the Israelis, apart from it being simply unfair, it would be a very unwise military strategy for Israel to hand over those areas known as Judea, Samaria and Gaza to an Arab people whose leaders often vow to destroy them. Surely they would be inviting their enemies right into their heart? Israel would be a mere ten miles wide at its narrowest point, overlooked by the hills of Samaria. With the best will in the world, and the firmest of promises, giving up almost half of their already tiny country would seem simply foolish from any angle. For the Arab people of this Arab - Israeli conflict, who already have such a huge proportion of land in the Middle East, to be asking for such a large proportion of Israel seems a cynical request. The actual creation and histories of 'the west bank' and Gaza need to be thoroughly investigated, discussed and made definitively public. My own reading and research is included in previous articles.
In gathering the above simple but significant figures about relative land and population distribution in the middle east, a thought came to me out of the blue which I can only put forward as an unprovable opinion: If the positions were reversed, and Jewish people inhabited a series of countries totalling around 1.2 million square kilometres, that surrounded a tiny Arab nation of a mere 26,000 square kilometres, can you imagine the outcry there would be in the world if the Jewish people expressed a wish to annex a sizeable proportion of that tiny Arab country, to create yet another Jewish state? Wouldn't everyone be saying, in light of the history of the area "Oh come on! You can't let the Arabs have even 1/38th on the land?! What is wrong with you?"
Meanwhile, Semitic people have lived in what we now call The Middle East for many thousands of years. Jews and Arabs are Semitic people first, but now they have different religions, beliefs, and different cultures. This does not mean that they cannot live happily side by side, if the situation is correctly understood and truthfully expressed. If you have an opinion, I think you are duty bound to check it out and verify it for yourself.
And that's My Middle East.
And to play us out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qRJIBtbc2c