Jewish history at a crossroads

One hundred years after the Balfour Declaration and 50 years after the Six Day War, much has been achieved to reverse 2,000 years of exile.

Participants in the 51st annual Israel parade in Manhattan, May 31 (photo credit: EDUARDO MUNOZ / REUTERS)
Participants in the 51st annual Israel parade in Manhattan, May 31
(photo credit: EDUARDO MUNOZ / REUTERS)
Recent events have highlighted the need for Israel and the Jewish people to concentrate on how to maintain and consolidate the gains made by Israel in the 50 years since the Six Day War.
The recent recognition by US President Donald Trump of the reality that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and the Jewish people was hailed and celebrated as a significant step forward in the international standing of Jerusalem as the recognized capital of Israel. This proclamation is having a positive follow-up effect, with the anticipated transfer of embassies by a number of additional countries, in spite of the anti-Israel and anti- US resolution by the UN trying to reverse Trump’s declaration by calling it “null and void.”
While the UN vote may have backfired to some degree on the UN itself and its credibility in the international arena, it showed that Israel has still a long struggle ahead in the international community.
The vote demonstrated that Israel and the Jewish people are still a “nation and a people dwelling (almost) alone” in matters regarding the rights to our ancient homeland and our historic capital and spiritual center, Jerusalem.
One hundred years after the Balfour Declaration and 50 years after the Six Day War, much has been achieved to reverse 2,000 years of exile. We have retaken our place among the nations of the world as a proud people in our reunited ancient homeland. We are able to celebrate our national courage and determination to renew our sovereignty and independence and desire to be again masters of our destiny. We have also to commit ourselves to our national mission and the unfinished agenda of the Jewish people in our times.
There is much to work for. There is a comprehensive unfinished agenda that involves, among other things: preservation of Jewish life and identity in the Diaspora, to overcome assimilation and acculturation in the Diaspora; interaction of tradition and modernity in Israel and for Jewish survival and existence; the preservation of Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel; Israel-Diaspora interaction; antisemitism, boycott activism and outside threats to Jewish existence; a better understanding of Jewish and Israeli post-1967 history, just to name the most urgent ones.
In the light of the latest developments, one of the most urgent ones, however, appears to be the preservation of the Jewish presence in the Land of Israel and of Jewish sovereignty over the land.
The Trump proclamation, as positive as it is, does not take any position regarding the actual boundaries of Jewish sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the final borders of Israel, leaving these topics to be negotiated by the parties.
Therefore, the future of the Land of Israel will depend on what we do today to establish our sovereignty over the Land of Israel and Jerusalem.
In the Book of Numbers, after defining the borders of the Land of Israel, the Torah teaches us “veyarashtem ha’aretz veyashavtem ba”(Numbers 33:53), “and you will inherit the land and inhabit it.” The Torah is telling us that although we have a right to the land, to take possession of it we have to inhabit it. Hityashvut, therefore, is a biblical imperative.
The Ramban states that this imperative commandment applies to all generations.
Our possession of the land in the current situation will clearly depend on our determination to proceed full speed ahead with hityashvut planning and execution, with no delays and excuses, rejecting the terms “occupation” and “the West Bank.”
We have to reject the prevalent misperceptions, misrepresentations and ignorance surrounding the legal status of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, the Land of Israel and Jerusalem.
“Fidelity to law is the essence of peace” stated Prof. Eugene Rostow, a former dean of Yale University Law School, United States undersecretary of state and a co-author of the November 22, 1967, UN Security Council Resolution 242.
Rostow resolved that under international law “Jews have the same right to settle in the West Bank as they have in Haifa.”
Hityashvut planning for the Land of Israel has been the one of the main functions of Zionist congresses.
From the 1980s onward, Zionist Congress planning has always considered the entirety of the Land of Israel an indivisible unit and led the way to the settlement of the country. It has been the function of the various governments to establish the priorities and the timing of the execution of the planning.
It is imperative to support – without reservations – the initiatives that are being currently undertaken to apply Israeli law to Judea and Samaria and to extend full Israeli rights and status to the current and future Israelis living there in over 140 communities and towns.
They fulfill the biblical command of inhabiting the Land and deserve full recognition.
President Trump was able to recognize and state the truth about Jerusalem. The Jewish people and Israel should be able to fully state to the world the truth about our rights to the Land of Israel and Jerusalem.
Jewish history of future generations will depend on us, our initiatives and actions of today and tomorrow. It is our time and opportunity to shape Jewish history for generations to come.
This writer, a recent immigrant, was for over 30 years a national officer and vice president of the Religious Zionists of America and a delegate at eight Zionist congresses, where he was active in the Hityashvut committee.