The Land of Israel is where they story of the Jewish people began. It is where we first experienced autonomy, where we developed a culture and a sense of identity, and where we longed for throughout generations of exile. Israel, the collective memory of and longing for the land, Eretz Israel (ארץ ישראל), shaped the Jewish experience and psyche for years when the dream of being in the land was unattainable.
The State of Israel is the modern miracle of the Jewish people. After thousands of years of exile and living as minorities, as people with an uncertain future existing at the whims of benevolent or hostile leaders, Jewish autonomy and independence was achieved in 1948. Israel provides modern Jews with the chance to lead, to figure out what it means to be Jews with power, and to finally live out the destiny of true nationhood thanks to the creation of our nation-state.
Yet, in a volatile region with increasingly complex layers when it comes to how our future will unfold, the question that many have no idea how to answer comes up: the land or the state?
I’m referring, of course, to the idea that with the current peace negotiations, Israel’s government may need to give up significant pieces of land in order to obtain peace. In order to keep the state, the parts of the land that are historically and religiously, not to mention strategically, significant, may have to be relinquished. So it must be asked: with the future of Israel as the question, what is the the answer?
The reason that the Jewish State is located here is due to the inherent bond that the Jewish people share with this physical space. Whether one subscribes to the biblical narrative of God giving this land to the Jewish people or not, the fact remains that Israel, that Jerusalem, has been the direction towards which the Jewish people have prayed for countless generations. The collective Jewish experience has been marked by longing for the return to Israel. It is this land that has received prayers and tears from thousands of people, and it is this generation that is able to fulfill the longing to live in the land. The State of Israel itself is the result of that longing. It is the implementation of the Zionist dream, and the creation of the Jewish People. It provides the Jewish people with a place to call home, wherever they are around the world, and brings strength to the global Jewish community.
The land and the state are inextricably linked. Together they comprise the homeland of the Jewish people, and personally I can’t imagine one without the other.
What do you think?