Sanctity of the Land of Israel

In the days of Theodor Herzl, the Uganda Plan was presented as a temporary stopover/ potential replacement for settlement in then “Palestine”. It met with ferocious disapproval by delegates of the Sixth World Zionist Congress, though the majority voted to explore the possibility, at least. At the time, in the early 20th Century, Herzl was proposing creating a safe haven for the Jewish People who faced persecution across the world until a final solution in the rightful land was possible. But it did not pan out until shortly after another Final Solution was implemented - World War II. 

What was the source of an objection? If the Jewish people wanted a place to be safe, a place where they could exercise a decent degree of autonomy, why did they refuse this interim or even substitute piece of real estate? The Land of Israel in biblical times was a Jewish homeland - what was the objection to creating another Jewish Homeland with the same principles and foundations?

The answer is, of course, that the Land of Israel is not just a particular set of stones to which the Jewish people have become attached. It was specifically chosen by God, and was imbued with inherent spirituality. 

The bible recounts endless references to the Land as a chosen and unique locale. When God called to Abraham to leave his home, his family, and all that he knew, Abraham heard God’s call. But once Abraham arrived in Israel, he experienced God differently, “the Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘I will assign this Land to your offspring.’ And he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him” (Gen. 12:7). The nature of his relationship with God changed. Similarly, Isaac was instructed by God not to leave Israel for any purpose, even for finding a wife, as he was of a special holy status, having nearly been offered as a sacrifice to God. Such a spiritual person could not leave a spiritual place; it was not suitable. “The Lord had appeared to him and said, ‘Do not go down to Egypt; stay in the Land which I point out to you. Reside in this Land, and I will be with you and bless you; I will assign all these Lands to you and to your heirs, fulfilling the oath that I swore to your father Abraham’”(Gen. 26:2-3).

Jacob’s notable ladder dream took place while he traveled from his parents’ home in fear of his brother Esau. While still in the territory promised to his father and grandfather, God appeared to him, “A stairway was set on the ground and its top reached to the sky, and angels of God were going up and down on it...And God was standing beside him and He said, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac: the ground on which you are lying I will assign to you and to your offspring...Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is present in this place, and I did not know it!’ Shaken, he said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the abode of God, and that is the gateway to heaven’” (Gen. 28:12-17). 

In all of Jacob’s twenty years in Haran, only one prophecy is recorded, in which God simply commands him, “Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers where you were born, and I will be with you” (Genesis 31:3). Jacob also requested for his body to be taken out of Egypt and buried in Israel, as did Joseph (Gen. 47:30-31), (Gen. 50:24-25).

Examples proliferate thereafter, as well. In God’s instructions to the people of how to behave upon entry to the Land, He warns, “So let not the land spew you out for defiling it, as it spewed out the nation that came before you” (Leviticus 18:28).  There is no other land so spiritually sensitive that it cannot tolerate sin, a lack of justice, or idolatry. On the flipside, verses and verses of potential blessing evidence the inclination of the Land to reward those who walk in God’s path. 

Throughout the books of the Prophets, the spiritual nature of the Israelites is reflected in their relationships with their neighbors and enemies; when they are spiritually strong, they flourish and have military might, and when they falter, their enemies do. 

The Land of Israel is a land like no other. “It is a land which the LORD your God looks after, on which the LORD your God always keeps His eye, from year’s beginning to year’s end” (Deuteronomy 11:12). There is no other Land for the Jewish People than the one which God promised to them, and where His presence is most strongly felt.