Z I O N From the days of King David till our days Vision and Reality
In our century, the words Zion, Zionist Movement, Zionist State, make increasingly more headlines all over the world. Often they are interchanged with, or used besides, or used instead of the terms Israel and Jerusalem. After the Holocaust many Christian Churches expressed remorse for their anti-Semitic attitude in the past. They want to show some sympathy for the Jewish people, but many of them refrain from showing sympathy for the Jewish State for whose creation the Zionist movement was of crucial importance.
Arab states, in their war against Israel, pretend that they are not hostile towards the Jewish people, nor do they see themselves as anti-Semites (Sadat said they are Semites, too), but they come out vehemently against the Zionist State of Israel. Only as recently as Nov.10, l992, Faisal Husseini, a champion for a Palestinian state, expressed in a speech in Amman confidence in the Arab ability to pulverize the Zionist entity.
Even among the Jewish people in Israel and abroad there are anti Zionists, and among the Zionists there are many who consider the State of Israel merely as a haven of refuge for persecuted Jews. But was this the sole motivation for establishing the State?
Dr. Theodore Herzl, the founder of the new Zionist Movement, said that the recovery of the Land of the Fathers is not its only goal; rather to establish therein a society that could eventually become a model for the nations. Martin Buber, however coming from a different background, observed: Should the Jewish people be content with less than it is destined for, it would lose even that lesser part.
Words have their own dynamics even if the intellect does not grasp at once their full meaning. More often than not, concepts become controversial because they are not defined or understood properly. So it seems appropriate to search out more deeply the meaning of Zion. As known, this term appears for the first time in the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible), however not in the Torah (Law of Moses) but in connection with King David's conquest of Jerusalem. Did King David introduce something as yet new and unknown; something of his own imagination?
According to an ancient dictum, true prophecies and all the Jewish teaching must be based upon the Torah, and cannot depart from it, neither adding nor detracting from it. In order to understand King David's deed and its consequence for our days, we shall first delve into the etymological components of the term Zion, and then proceed to its prophetic and historic implications.
Dr. Asher Eder ©
Yerushalayim, Spring 1994
Part A:I) The concept of Zion.
The word ,ציוןֻ Zֻiֻoֻnֻ, derives from the root word צו, zav, which means command, order, order of the day (to be discerned from פקד, command, in the sense of an officer commanding a soldier). The word צוה , zavah, in its Qal [simple] form would mean to be solid, strong, hard; its common Piel-form [verb] means to command, to order, to bequeath, with the basic idea of bringing the solidified concept into the desired action. In other words, it means to cause someone to bring something from its state of thought into form, or to materialize and manifest it not in blind obedience but in willing co-operation (cf Ps. 32:8,9!). Following this train of thought, the Hebrew word צוואה, zavaah, is a will, or testament; and צוותא, zavta, is a crew, or team. Consequently, מצוה, mizvah, is a commandment given to, or practiced by, someone. (As in Hebrew, one should distinguish also in English between command, צו, and commandment, מצוה).
Applying that thought to Biblical language, we could understand the term commandment as giving, and respectively performing, a good deed. It would cover everything we do in thought, word, or deed in order to bring about the Divine good on earth, to bless His name and to be blessed. Every act of doing good, whether performed by an active doing or by consciously not doing something harmful, would in Hebrew thinking be considered a מצוה, mizvah, even if it is not explicitly ordained in the Torah (the word Torah, often rendered as Pentateuch, or Law of Moses, means literally Divine Instruction, Teaching).
Taking all these related words into consideration, we may conclude that the mizvah, if practiced, links its doer with its giver as well as with the others who do it: it brings about the community of the Lord, ‘עם ה, His צוות, the people of God who is the source of all the good. (This practice is described by the Hebrew word אמונה, emunah, which means rather faithfulness, and not merely belief, or faith, as often rendered).
The word ציון, Zion, can thus be explained as the expression of all that which is commanded by the Lord, as e.g. Shabbath, circumcision, the Decalogue, love of neighbor, good deeds, holidays, animal sacrifices--the latter expressing the willingness to bring also man's animal or dark side to the altar, thus purifying and preparing it for Divine service [i.e. rather than suppressing or eliminating it].
Thus, Zion with the Temple in Jerusalem as its visible center, functions as a gateway in two directions: there God's spiritual reality shines into the world, and there man is commanded to present himself to the Divine together with his fellow human beings.
However, even those commandments which are to be practiced visibly (i.e. not merely hidden behind closed doors), and are even called signs of the Covenant, do not yet constitute Zion, as this term (since King David) also describes a geographical location: the City of David where Jerusalem had its beginnings.
Some scholars understand the phrase "the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David" (1.Sam. 5:7, 1.Chron. 11:5) to mean that the Jebusites already called their stronghold "Zion." Did they supposedly speak Hebrew, or did they adopt it as a loan word from Hebrew? Or is it not rather that the people of David, after their conquest of the Jebusite stronghold, called it Zion?
As it may be, the term Zion since the days of King David, is inseparably linked to Jerusalem; it even became a basic concept of Jewish faith and thought, tracing back solely to King David's foundation of Zion.
Interestingly enough, aside from this foundation, Jerusalem is not graced with anything else of significance. There are no important trade roads; no agriculture; no industry; no military or strategic importance; no mineral treasures; nor anything else. Even its importance for Christianity and for Islam is rooted in King David's foundation.
This leads us to another possible etymological connection of the word Zion: ציין (zi’en) means to mark, to distinguish; and ציון, zi’oon, is a sign, or landmark. This indeed describes another characteristic of Zion, namely its geographical location and its visibility, even obviousness, due to its ordained localization (again a contrast to--certainly valid--prayers merely in a closed room). We begin to understand why the word Zion is not yet mentioned in the Torah: it could not be mentioned as an abstract; it must be linked to geographical Jerusalem.
When we look closely, we discover that everything that made Jerusalem/Zion into what it is, was already prefigured in the story of the aqedah, the Binding of Isaac (Gen.ch.22). Let us look into some of its details: Abraham was told, to "go to the land of the Moriah”. The word Moriah is made up of components which can be seen as the nucleus for the whole story, and which are directly relevant in our research to understand the meaning of Zion and Jerusalem. These components are, at least phonetically::
1) A repeated key word is ראה, r'eh, see, is a repeated key word. It appears there three times, each time in a different variation: to see; to show; to be seen (v. 4,8, and 14).
2) ירא , yira, fear of God (v.12);
3) יורה, yoreh, to lay a foundation, to teach, to shoot forth (an arrow etc). Either directly from it, or via the related word הרה, to be(come) pregnant from the seed (including the "seed" of teaching) are derived the words מורה (moreh), teacher; תורה, (Torah), teaching; הורה (horeh), parent. This etymological connection implies the concept that the tradition the parents pass on is of paramount importance, surpassing the biological factors.
All these different words (r'eh; yira; yoreh) which are basic concepts in the story of the aqedah, play their roles in the term מוריה, Moriah, the name of the place to which Abraham was sent for the aqedah. Having performed it, he summed up his experience by naming that place:
ויקרא אברהם שם-המקום ההוא ה' יראה
אשר יאמר היום בהר ה' יראה (vs.14) ׁThe second line thereof – depending on the vocalization which is not originally part ot the Torah’s text - can be rendered bya) "The Lord will see that which is expressed to-day 'On (in) the Mount of the Lord one will (shall) be seen';b) "... on (in) the Mount of the Lord it will be seen";c) "... on (in) the Mount the Lord will be seen".These different translations are not mere exercises in semantics; they rather reflect a profound truth and provide the base for far reaching prophecies:
aa) the version 'one will (shall) be seen' is the basis for the commandment given later on: "Three times a year shall all thy males appear (lit. be seen) before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose..." (Deut. 16:16). Elaborating on this, Ps. 84:8 says: "Going from strength to strength, each of them appeareth (lit. will be seen) before God in Zion”. However, not restricted to the sons of Israel, all men in every generation pass before the Mount of the Lord, and are seen and checked through and through (cf. Ps. 14 & 53; 33:14; Zech. 3:9);
bb) the version 'it will be seen' says that not only our deeds will be seen and judged from the viewpoint of that Mount and what it represents (cf. Ps. 14; Ps. 33:13,14). Also the works of the Lord with His people become obvious there: "He has remembered His grace and His faithfulness towards the House of Israel; all the ends of the earth saw the salvation of our God" (Ps. 97:6; also 98:2,3; 102:14-22);
cc) the possible version 'the Lord will be seen' is reflected in the following passages: "...for thou, O Lord, are in the midst of this people (Israel), seen eye to eye..." (Numb.14:14); "Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shineth forth (lit. appears)" - Ps.50:2; "We will see it (or: him) eye to eye in his return to his habitation as it is written: for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall bring again Zion" (from the Shabbath morning prayer quoting Is.52:8; also Jer. 31:22). Also Ps. 36:10 seems to be directly linked to this idea: "For with thee is the source of life: in thy light shall we see light."
We notice that these passages, as well as the aqedah story, reflect a two-way relationship, God to Man and Man to God. God's test of Abraham's faithfulness turns out to be a test of God's faithfulness to his promise that "in Isaac shall thy seed be called" (Gen. 21:12). This mutual relationship forms indeed an essential part of Jewish thought and experience in history--from Abraham via Moses (cf. Exod. 32:9-14), and the exiles to the Shoah and the State of Israel. This experience forms the solid base for the faith that, in the end, God's grace and faithfulness will prevail (Ps. 96:13; 117 et al).
In the above context, we should consider also the related word ראה, reah, the lung. By linking the word for this vital organ to the words to see; to lay a foundation; to fear the Lord; the Hebrew language indicates that the Torah is the breath of our life-- our נשמה, neshamah, or Divine soul (cf. Gen.2:7)-- similar to the air for our body system (נשימה, neshimah, the physical breath).
Moreover, what we see inwardly, not with our outgoing physical eyes, is a חזון, hazon (vision, "insight"), this word being derived from ,חזהֹ hazeh, chest. It is the inner eye which needs to be opened for beholding the vision of Moriah/Zion. "Without vision a people will get disarrayed (lit. will go wild), but blessed is he who keepeth the Torah" (Prov. 29:18; see also Is. 33:20).
The second part of this passage, by linking lasting blessing to the keeping of the Torah, expresses an historic experience which shows that people--and peoples--who go after their own visions, ideas, ideals, etc, may perhaps enjoy short-lived blessings but will get disarrayed in the long run, and collapse.
The faculty of vision is ingrained in us as a Divine gift. It is an essential part of our individuality. Whereas seeing is the beholding of things, a vision--by anticipating the future--gears the present towards its visualized state. Vision motivates us, even if initially it is mainly in the form of desires and longings for achieving material things (wealth, fame, power, etc.)--until we begin to learn as individuals, as couples, as groups, and as mankind, that these things alone will not suffice. Then we look for some higher fulfillment, and eventually visualize our image as true Man--Adam--in the image and likeness of our Divine Maker. In fact, therein lies the reason for our being. However, more often than not, we are brought to this search by adverse circumstances such as disease, the death of a loved one, calamities, wars, etc.
In history, we have reached a point where mankind, with all its severe problems, even threats to our very survival, is challenged and called upon for its own good by Zion and the Divine teaching it represents. Zion is the vision of that which is ordained by the Lord, our Creator, not a vision of man-made ideals (these being nothing other than idols). Interestingly enough, both words, ideal and idol, derive from the Greek root word for picture: an ideal is what a man pictures unto himself, and the idol in its corresponding form symbolizes it.
As mentioned earlier, the Torah speaks in the above context of the "land of the Moriah." This implies that the land, which is also called the Land of the Hebrews (Gen. 40:15) and which became known as the Land of Israel (cf. Ezek. 40:2; Matt. 2:20, et al), belongs inseparably to the Moriah. In Hebrew, colloquially it is called ארץ הקודש, erets hakodesh, Land of the Holy, or Land of the Sanctuary (not "Holy Land" as English has it): the land belongs to the Sanctuary, is an inseparable part of it.
"The real destiny of the land to which Israel is tied is not to be merely a home for the Jewish people but to be a home for the Presence of God on Earth... by His preparation and education of this people for such a calling, God has produced for Himself a home for the re-entry of His Glory into this world." says Rav R.S.Hirsch in his commentary on Exod. 16:17
Every land, naturally so, must have its center, or capital. In our case, the very term "Land of the Moriah" specifies Mount Moriah as the spiritual and geographical center; but it likewise specifies the subjugation of the land and its people to the Divine ordinances in a very specific way.
In the days of Abraham, the town next to Mount Moriah was called Salem (Gen. 14:18; Ps. 76:3), as if wholeness and peace-- which this name means--had already been achieved. Since this was not so, King David re-named it Jerusalem which means "they will establish, or teach, peace"; and, stressing that this was not his own invention or whim, he called it Zion, i.e. that which is commanded and marked by the Lord. In fact, King David only developed what had already come through Abraham. He gave birth, so to speak, to what was conceived by the Patriarch. Only after the child was actually born, could it be given the name: Zion. We understand now why this term does not yet appear in the Torah (Pentateuch), and for that matter not even in the Books of Joshua and of the Judges. II) Freedom, an important aspect of Zion.
The term Zion does not only describe an idea or spiritual teaching, nor a geographical place or landmark; it implies another fundamental characteristic of Hebrew thinking, namely that of human freedom. As said, many commandments must be practiced visibly, and many of them can be practiced only at the commanded place, such as working the land, or the three annual convocations in Jerusalem. Obviously, a pre-condition is the freedom to do this unhampered. The relatively modern idea of Freedom of Religion, elevated in the Atlantic Charter to one of the four principles of every democracy, has its roots in the idea of Zion.
In Hebrew thought, however, freedom means to live in accordance with the Divine teaching, the Torah. This idea is expressed beautifully by the word חרות. When read ֹharuth, as in Exod. 32:16, it means engraved (the Decalogue engraved upon the two tablets), but when read ֹheruth, it means freedom. It should not be confused with permissiveness. Man finds his true freedom only if and when he is free in God, i.e. when he can live freely in accordance with the Divine essence of his soul to which the Word of God relates; and not when he thinks he can be free from God and the instructions He gave us to achieve this freedom.
David, the Anointed of the Lord and King of Israel, understood himself as the servant of the Divine King. He fought for himself and for his people to be able to serve the Lord in freedom. He proclaimed the Lord God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, as the King of all mankind; for all of us shall in the end--guided by God's truth--be freed from the enslavement to base drives which find their political expressions in Pharaohs, Nimrods, Inquisitors, Hitler, etc.
This idea of true חרות, freedom, is a basic principle of the Divine teaching. The following two episodes may illustrate this:
a) the Exodus. Its motive was מעבדות לחרות, mi'avdut le'heruth "from slavery to freedom," a well known Jewish slogan to this day. The exodus was not a mere running away from enslavement. Moses said pointedly to Pharaoh that the people of Israel had to leave Egypt so that they could serve the Lord (Ex. 7:26; 8:4; etc). Indeed, after crossing the sea, Moses led them straight to Mount Horeb, the place of Mathan Torah, the Giving of the Divine Instruction, in preparation for serving the Lord in the Land of Promise.
b) at Mount Horeb, the word of the people: ונשמע נעשה, na'aseh venishma, "we shall do and we shall hear," i.e. we shall comprehend the truth and the depth of the commandments only after doing them, through experience. As is known, the majority of these commandments are linked to the land, and can be practiced and experienced only by Israel's living in it. Indeed, the Hebrew idea of freedom stretches from the Exodus via Horeb (the Giving of the Law) into the Land, in order to serve the Lord here in freedom.
In this context, Christian readers might like to read a relevant passage from the prayer of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist: "...that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all those who hate us, to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy Covenant... that we, being delivered from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear..." (Luke 1:71-76. See also Ps. 106:47).
This longing for freedom is ingrained in every human being. It is a basic character trait. As children, we long for freedom even from the dominance of parents and teachers; but the more we grow up and mature, the more we aspire to that freedom which allows us to truly become ourselves--so much so, that what we usually call our second or Divine nature, will eventually become our first and indeed genuine nature, with Zion being its apt expression, consciously so or still unconsciously.
ֻIII) Zion's geographical location.
As mentioned already, the idea of Zion is inseparably linked with its geographical localization: Mount Moriah. King David bought this place in order to build the Temple there (1.Chron. 22:1; 2.Chron. 3:1). It became the site of the First and Second Temples (thence colloquially the term Temple Mount); and eventually the Third Temple could be built only there.
This definitive localization, as given by "the Moriah" in Gen. 22:2, is also most likely the reason why neither Shiloh, nor Beth-El, nor Mount Gerizim, nor any other place, was ever called Zion--although these places were surely part of the "Land of the Moriah," i.e. the land (of Israel) which belongs to the Moriah.
Geographically and topographically, Mount Moriah, and Salem (which became the City of David), form one unit. In fact, the City of David is but a protrusion of Mt. Moriah. This bottle-shaped hill is bordered on the eastern side by the Kidron Valley, and on the western side by the Tyropeon, with these two valleys meeting at the southern tip of the City of David. This hill became the nucleus from which Jerusalem developed. Thus, the terms Jerusalem and Zion often go together, as in Isaiah's famous statement: "The Law shall go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."
Many may ask: why all this? Would the Decalogue, and the commandments to love the Lord and to love one's neighbor, not suffice? To answer this question, let us return once more to Abraham. He was a contemporary of Nimrod, the founder of Babel, but Abraham left its capital, which was called Ur of the Chaldeans. Nimrod's foundation was a spiritual kingdom in revolt against Shem and ‘Eber.
All these names have their significance:
Nimrod means "Let us revolt" (As a descendant of Ham --which means heat, emotion-- Nimrod obviously followed those drives);
Babel, read Bab-El, means "Gate of (or: to) God";
Ur of the Chaldeans means "Light ( or: fire) of those who are guided by the stars" (astrologers; worshippers of the stars and their forces);
Shem (Engl.: Sem) means name: Name in general; but it is also an epithet of the Lord God (as in "Blessed, praised, hallowed be thy Name"). Noah's first son was given this name with reference to the name of the Lord; for, as the bearer of the Lord's name, he was meant to form the priestly tribe for mankind after the flood.
‘Eber (Engl. for Hebrew) means "Of the other side; beyond."
Nimrod's revolt against them Shem and ‘Eber and what they represent, found its expression in "the tower whose head should reach up to the heavens." We can see in Nimrod an archetypal figure for anti-Semites, i.e. those who do not want to hearken to the Divine ordinances, but go after their own councils and judgments. Questioning the timeless validity of the Divine Instruction, the Torah, they prefer the fruits of the tree of their own knowledge of Good and Evil. By that they want to put themselves in the place of Shem (Sem), oppose him, and cause confusion.
Descendants of Esau, in the footsteps of Nimrod, went even so far as to use this tower to depict God. This idea is expressed in the names of their dukes of Edom: "Duke Magdiel, Duke Iram" (Gen.36:43), these names meaning literally "My sweet teaching is God," [in] "their Town."
According to oral tradition, Abraham --who realized the futility of Nimrod's enterprise-- was thrown by him into the furnace, but came out alive and went toward a land which God would show him. It was the land of the Moriah.
Ashur tried a third way. He did not stay on in Babel, nor did he join Abraham; he founded his own (spiritual) kingdom, Niniveh. Later on it also became hostile against Israel--inevitably so, for there is no third way. With this background in mind, we may now perceive Zion as not just one landmark amongst many, but rather as the visible sign of God's answer to both Babel and Niniveh.
Here we may ask, what was wrong with Nimrod's wanting to build Babel, i.e. his direct "Gate of (to) God", and his tower with its head reaching up to heaven? Was this not at least an attempt to approach God, rather than to deny him altogether? And why place in opposition one landmark--the Moriah--against another landmark--the tower of Babel? Is God, the Omnipresent, not everywhere, in the land of the Moriah as well as in the plain of Sinear? Does one of the Hebrew epithets of the Lord God Creator of Heavens and Earth, המקום (ha'maqom, The Place; Omnipresence) not express His omnipresence very vividly?
Indeed, it does. But this does not give men license to do what they deem to be right in their own eyes. What is straight, or right, in the eyes of men, is of no avail in the long run; it needs to be straight (right) before God. (In Hebrew, the terms straight and right are expressed by the same word, ישר, yashar. See e.g. Deut. 6:18; 12:8; Prov. 12:15, 14:12). Adam, Man(kind), was driven out from the Garden of Eden precisely because of his venture to discern and to decide for himself what is good and what is bad (evil). Tasting the deceptive fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil cost him/us nearness to God. How, then, could men--Nimrod or anyone else--venture to regain nearness to God by feeding again on that deceptive fruit? Not willfulness of different and differing individuals, but hearkening to God's word, and walking humbly with the Lord, is required of us for our own good (cf. 1.Sam. 15:23; Micah
6:8; et al).
This whole idea is conveyed very picturesquely in Jacob's dream:"Behold, a ladder set up on earth and the top [lit. head] of it reached to heaven, and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac..." (Gen. 28:12,13).
In our context, it is important to note that there was not merely an ascent representing man's aspirations. There was also the descent of the angels, which may represent God's answer to man's longing, and His instructions guiding him in his aspirations. It is equally important to note that "the Lord stood above it," the same Lord God of Abraham and Isaac, and not some idea of God conceived by man. Jacob’s dream with “the angels of God ascending a n d descending the ladder the top of which reached to heaven” (Gen. 28:12), is a correction of Babel’s aspiration to merely build a tower with its top (=human aspirations) reaching up to heaven; as well as a foreshadowing of Mount Sinai where Moses went up and received the Torah from on High.
We understand now, why it was, and is, necessary to set up Zion by Divine commandment, not only as a concept or idea but as a visible, geographically exact located landmark as well, vis-a-vis Babel.
In the Land of the Moriah, which was then inhabited by the Canaanites (Gen. 12:6), the Lord God Creator of Heaven and Earth, made a Covenant with Abraham which included the land as an integral and inseparable part of the faith to be practiced by him and by his seed after him. It forms, so-to-speak, part of a Jewish trinity consisting of the Torah, the people of Israel, and the land of the Covenant.
Land is something very earthy, material, visible, and touchable. This aspect finds its expression in the Land of Israel the more so since Israel forms a land bridge between the three continents Africa, Asia, and Europe. Indeed, this location made it a focus of world politics throughout the ages. Moreover, it is also the meeting place between the civilizations of the farmers and of the towns in the fertile north and west; and the nomads and shepherds in the desert areas south and east. The gift of this land to Abraham and to the people of Israel after him thus turns out to present a tremendous challenge. Israel, as the "Kingdom of Priests" unto the nations, finds itself confronted by the permanent task of balancing the opposing trends of these different cultures, and eventually of establishing peace based upon truth and justice as ordained by the Prophets.
Not living up to this task entails, naturally, the threat of losing one's hold on the country, "to be spit out" (Lev. 18:28), i.e. to be overpowered and driven out by one of these powers when the balance has not been maintained. This also explains why-- again naturally so-- no other power is able to control the country permanently and enjoy its blessings. For the same reason, dividing the land that is one unit by nature, would be a sure recipe for a permanent conflict of interests, and consequently for wars between the powers trying to share in it.
On the other hand, Israel as a nation cannot afford to lead a merely contemplative life; it is part and parcel of world events with all their impact upon this land and its people. In this ongoing process, "The Name of the Lord is a Tower of Strength" unto the people of Israel (Prov. 18:10; also Ps.61:4). The power of armies, such as those of Kings Saul and Ahab, may gain victories, but will wane, when not backed by the "joy in the Lord (is) our strength" (Neh. 8:10, Ps. 60:14; etc).
Rejecting Mount Moriah and what it represents, Nimrod and his people chose the smooth plain of Shinear to build their rallying point: a tower whose top (lit. head) they hoped would be in the heavens. In contrast, Zion is linked to a pivotal point, or hub, in God's creation; it is commanded, even founded by him: "The Lord has founded Zion" (Is.14:32).Therein lies indeed all the difference: Zion is not an invention of a law, or constitution, or charter made by man; it is part and parcel of the Divine Law, given by the Creator of all for the benefit and welfare of all. It is above individuals and groups, and above their particular and transient interests and strivings which lead them more often than not to conflicts and wars. From that Divine decree – and only there from – derives Israel’s title to the land. (Regarding Christianity and Islam see chapters V and VI).
Yet, since Nimrod's revolt, the world has been divided into two camps. Realizing this, ‘Eber named his son Peleg which means "The World is Divided" (Gen. 10:25). One part is centered in Zion and what it represents. The other part wants to pursue its own aspirations and have its own Bab-El (Gate to God), an enterprise which is bound to end up in countless sub-divisions. This confusion is summed up by the word Babel. We may note that what they meant to be their Bab-El, their Gate to God, turns out in the light of the Hebrew Scripture to be ba-bel, literally "with nothing." Bel, a chief god of Babel, is thus equated with nothingness (see Jer. 50:2, 51,44).
Zion, once again, should not be confused with an abstract belief; nor was it founded merely for Israel's sake. It is God's gift to man for the sake of his dignity and freedom in the Creator's image, as already mentioned. All prophecy aims at this dignity and freedom.Just as every people has its capital and/or spiritual center--Paris for the French; Rome for the Catholics; Mecca for the Muslim; Beijing for the Chinese; etc.--likewise Jerusalem will be the center for all mankind once "the name of the Lord will be one," and all the nations "will serve the Lord in one consent" (Zach. 14:10; Zeph. 3:9).We may compare this ideal state to a well-functioning government: Once the different nations and their respective religions acknowledge the Creator of Heavens and Earth as their Divine King with Jerusalem as the "dwelling place of His Name" (1.Kg 8:17-20,29), they become comparable to a government's various ministries with their respective specific tasks, working in one consent for the good of all.
IV) Zion in Jewish History and Tradition.
1.) Milestones in history:
a) Its foundation by King David, as mentioned above.
b) The erecting of sanctuaries by the Northern Kingdom of Israel was condemned by the Prophets as idolatry, notwithstanding that some of them related to the Patriarchs (e.g. Beth-El). History proved that they did not function as a spiritual and national focus for the dispersed tribes, as Jerusalem did for the Jews.
c) the edicts of the kings Cyrus and Darius, with their lasting political, legal, and prophetic significance. These confirmed the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem (2.Chron. 36:22; Ezra 1:2-4; 5:17-6:12), and rejected the claims of its adversaries (Samaritans, Arabs, etc; Neh. 4:1,2)
d) The war of the Maccabees against the imposition of Greek culture and religion. This war was the first war in history that was waged for what is today called freedom of religion; or, as we might say, for the sake of Jerusalem/Zion (since then celebrated annually as Hanukkah). e) The war against Rome was actually also fought for the sake of Zion. Names like Caligula, Nero etc, speak volumes
Within this framework one should see also the crucifixion of the Nazarene. This war is still continuing.
2.) In Psalms and in prophecies --a brief excerpt:
a) Zion founded by the Lord (Is. 14:32)
b) Zion described in a nutshell (Ps. 146)
c) Anointing of the kings in Zion (Ps. 2)
d) Zion the residence of the Divine Name (1.Kings 8:13-20,28,29; Ps. 76:3;
132:13,14; Is. 8:18)
e) The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob -
f) Zion, you are my people" (Is. 51:16) - here the Prophet extends the term Zion
to the people of Israel!;
"Daughter Zion" (Is. 16:1; Zach. 2:14; at al)
"Sons of Zion" (Lament. 4:2, et al) -- (these passages speak of Israel's spiritual
relation to Zion)
g) Jerusalem the strength ("right hand") of the people of Israel, (Ps. 137:5,6) is
placed above its chief joy, as—for instance--is mentioned in marriage
announcementsh) the Songs of Zion (the Songs of the Lord) can truly be sung only in the Land of
Israel, not on foreign soil (Ps.137:1-3)
h) "The Lord sees", and "He (it) shall be seen" through the eyes of Zion (Gen.
i) 22:14; Ps.14, and 53; 33:13,14)
j) Jerusalem, the geographical expression for Zion, "shall remain located (lit.
seated) in its place, even in Jerusalem" (Zach. 12:6); i.e. it shall not be
transferred --neither to Rome, nor to Mecca; nor to any other place, not even to
the western hill of the Hagia Zion Church (i.e. so-called " Christian Mount
k) Zion shall be built in the days of the last generation, and the glory of the Lord
shall appear (Ps. 102:14-19; Zech. 1:16). -The term last generation, דור אחרון, dor
aharon, is in most translations falsely given as next generation, or coming
l) In Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance" (Joel 3:5)
m) "The Lord shall bless thee out of Zion" (Ps. 128:5)
n) "Blessed be the Lord out of Zion..." (Ps. 135:21, i.e. the blessing of men, and
the blessing of the Lord and His Name truly, are related to Zion)
o) "In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely, and this
is how she shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness"; "...and the Name of
the city from that day shall be, "The Lord is There" (Jer. 33:16; Ezek. 48:5).
In this context, the Jewish custom should be mentioned of reading the Book of Psalms every week as a guide for one's way of life.
3.) Zion in the prayers of the synagogue and at home throughout the millennia:a) It is a focus of the three daily prayers (morning, afternoon, and evening; especially in the "Amidah," the 18 benedictions performed standing), expressed symbolically by the direction of prayer towards the Temple Mount. It should be noted that this custom traces back to King Solomon's prayer of inaugurating the Temple he built. There, he ordained: "...when they (the people of Israel) pray towards this place... likewise when a foreigner... comes and prays towards this house..." (1. Kings 8:35, 41, 42);
b) in the Grace after Meals, we have passages like: "Have mercy, our God, upon
Israel thy people, upon Jerusalem thy city, and upon Zion the dwelling place of thy honor..."c) the beautiful song of welcoming the Shabbat, דודי , לכהLechah Dodi ("Come my friend") includes passages from Is. 51:9-23
d) in the Shabbat liturgy. One of its prayers, after the reading from the Torah, speaks of Zion as the "house of our life." This turned out to be true both spiritually and physically: Zionist Israel became the haven of refuge for persecuted Jews, and to a considerable extent, even the protector of Jews all over the world.
e) in the prayers of the Feasts, especially of Rosh haShannah (Hebrew New Year)f) part of the daily morning prayers are the supplications: "Let a new light shine upon Zion, and may we all be worthy soon to its light"; and: "enlighten our eyes in Thy return to Zion in mercy" (in the Kedushah before the Sh'ma; and in the Amidah). V) Zion in the teachings of the Apostles.
Although Christianity broke away from Israel, it should be mentioned in our context that the Apostles saw themselves still within the fold of the Jewish people and Jewish teaching:a) Matth. 1:1--the very first phrase of the Gospels--speaks of Jesus as "son of Abraham, son of David." This is a clear proclamation, perhaps even a campaign slogan: The term son of Abraham implies the confession of the Lord God of Israel as the ruler of the universe, and challenges the Roman Emperor as the god of the empire; and the term Son of David proclaims the restoration of the Kingdom of David as the earthly expression of the Divine Kingdom as the aim of the campaign.
Quite in line therewith is the supplication in the Lord's Prayer "Thy Kingdom come..." This should be seen against the background described vividly in the prayer of Zechariah the father of John the Baptist: "... a salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us, to perform His Mercy with our fathers and to remember the holy covenant, the oath which He swore to Abraham our father: to grant us that we, being delivered from the hands of our enemies, might serve him fearlessly..." (Luke 1:71-74); i.e. already in Zechariah's days, the Jews were sorely afraid to perform their religious duties freely.
a) Quite in this train of thought, the Apostles are recorded as asking their beloved one: "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the Kingdom to Israel?" Revealingly enough, the answer was neither a denial nor a rebuke, but "it is not for you to know the times or the seasons..." (Acts 1:6,7)
b) In their first council, the Apostles proclaimed (quoting Amos 9:11,12) as the goal of their work "the rebuilding of the tent of David which has fallen" (i.e. of Zion).c) Peter, in his epistle to "the exiles of the dispersion," refers especially to Is. 28:18 which speaks of Zion as the cornerstone (1.Peter 2:6);
d) Even Paul, the Apostle commissioned to the Gentiles ("the uncircumcised", Gal. 2:7,8), declares that he wants to bring the nations to the "obedience of the faith" (i.e. not only to some convenient make-beliefs; and not at all to a substitute one). He wanted to establish the Law (Romans 1:5; 3:31; 16:26) also in that part which pertains to the nations. He speaks of the Gospel as "preached beforehand to Abraham" (Gal. 3:7) in whom all the nations shall be blessed, as said: "I will bless them that bless thee" (Gen. 12:3). Quite in line therewith, he compares his followers to wild olive branches that were --contrary to nature-- grafted into the goodly olive tree, Israel; and warns them not to boast against its original branches (Rom. 11:18,24). By adhering to the rules, they would be co-citizens and co-heirs (Eph. 2:19; 3:6). They were not meant to be masters of the house, nor sole heirs.
e) All this is exemplified in the episode of the Gentiles who begged healing by touching the fringes of a Jew’s garment (Matth.14:36; Zech. 8:23; Numb.15:38-40)1)
VI) Islam and Zion.
While the words Jerusalem and Zion do not appear in the Koran, Israel is mentioned frequently. King David is even called a Khaliph (Divine Viceroy) and Divine Judge on earth (Sura Zad 16-19). True, the Surot (chapters of revelation) given before the Hejirah, stress repeatedly the eternal validity of "The Book" (Hebrew Bible), as well as Israel's special status and connection with her land and the final return to it. In contrast the Surot given after the Hejirah contain very harsh, and occasionally insulting, rebukes of Israel's faults and sins. Nevertheless, there is not one verse in the whole Koran that could be interpreted as abolishing or altering the favorable sayings.
In accordance with an Islamic doctrine which says that all the sayings of the Koran are of equal value (i.e. irrespective of their time of revelation), and that the whole Koran existed with Allah before Rassul Muhammed received it, one can safely conclude that the Koran admits--even confirms--King David's foundation of Zion. (For details, see my essay "Peace is possible between Ishmael and Israel according to the Koran")2) . Irrespective of such positive attitudes of the Koran towards Israel, the Muslim nations are now waging a Jihad, a "Holy War," against the Jews who have returned to the land of their destiny.
Regarding the Divine tasks of Christianity and Islam, the Rambam disclosed: “All these words of Yeshua [=Jesus] and of [Mohammed] the Ishmaelite who came after him are but to prepare the way for the King Messiah to perfect the world that they [the peoples] will serve the Lord in togetherness”.
VII) The new "Zionist Movement" -- some milestones.
a) The destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE did not in any way terminate the Divine Covenant and its prophecies; nor did it abolish the Jewish longing for Jerusalem/Zion, a longing which has been engraved upon the hearts of Jews since the days of King David (Cf. above, Par. IV).
Following the calamities and catastrophes brought upon the Jews by events like the Crusades and the Inquisition, a circle of top scholars formed in Safed, a town in Upper Galilee. Their teachings, both halahic and kabbalistic, transformed this small town to the most important place for Jewish tradition after Jerusalem, Hebron, and Tiberias. These teachings went on to achieve paramount importance for the Jewish people all over the world. They dealt with important matters in daily life; with the meaning of Jewish suffering throughout history; and with the final hope, climaxing in the reinforcement of the longing for rebuilding earthly and heavenly Jerusalem.
Prayers and songs composed by these teachers and expressing this hope, became standard folksongs to our day. One good example is "Leha dodi," sung on Friday evenings to welcome the Shabbat as a spiritual bride. It expresses this Messianic hope by quoting passages from Isaiah 52 which speak of raising David's Sanctuary and city from ruins.
b) Relentless anti-Semitism on the one hand and--on the other--hopes for a speedy redemption, often inspired by those very prayers and songs, led to pseudo-messianic movements of which those of Shabtai Zvi and Karl Frank are the best known. Despite their failure, these movements left their mark on the Jewish people.
c) In this wake, new movements sprang up at the end of the 19th century, with the hope of liberating the persecuted Jewish people through its return to its homeland. Best known among these movements are the "ֹHovevei Zion" (Lovers of Zion), and the "Bilu" (initials for Hebrew "House of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk...", taken from Is. 2:5). It should be stressed here that none of these movements was first and foremost motivated by theological or ideological aspirations. Rather they expressed the imperative urge to return the Jewish people to its homeland as a haven of refuge from violent anti-Semitism.
c) Newly established settlements in the ancient homeland (then under Ottoman
rule) expressed by their very names the hopes for eventually restoring
Jerusalem/Zion. Some of them are
*Petah Tiqvah (“Gate of Hope”), established in 1864; name taken from Hos. 2:17
*Miqveh Israel („Israel's Ingathering“); 1870; cf Jer. 14:8, 17:13
*Rishon le'Zion (“ First of Zion”); 1882; cf Is. 42:27
*Nes Zionah (“Banner Zion-wards”); 1984; Jer. 4:6
*Rehovot (“Spaciousness”); 1890; Gen. 26:22
*Rosh Pinah (“Head of the Corner”); 1892; Ps. 118:22
*Ayelet haShahar (“Hind of the Dawn”); 1917; Ps. 22:1.
d) The Zionist Movement founded by Dr. Theodore Herzl.
Herzl realized that the small and privately organized movements cited above had little chance of succeeding. This the less so as they, although being religiously motivated, found little support; or were even rejected by the orthodox establishment: The latter hoped for a redemption by the Messiah himself…
Herzl described the goal of his movement as not only redeeming the land, but also building in it a society based upon justice and righteousness which could serve as a model for the nations. This can be seen as a modern rephrasing of Isaiah's famous term "light unto the nations," ( Is.42:6, 49:6)
It is worth noting here a little-known dream which Th. Herzl had in his early boyhood: "The King Messiah came, a glorious and majestic man, taking me on his arms and sailing away with me upon the wings of the wind. Upon one of the radiant clouds we met the figure of Moses... The Messiah called out to Moses: 'I prayed for this child', but to me he said: 'Go, make known to the Jews (that) I shall come soon and perform miracles and great works for my people and the whole world" (quoted and translated from the Herzl Biography, by Alex Bein, Fiba-Verlag, Wien, 1934, p.25).Surely it is not accidental that Dr. Herzl chose the term Zion for the movement which was once more in history to unite the Jewish people with the Land of the Fathers, and to bring about the Jewish State, Israel. Most likely Rav Alkalay, Herzl's uncle and one of the spiritual fathers of modern Zionism, was influential in this.
These lofty goals are a modern rewording of the prophetic idea of Zion as described above. They are, in fact, the essence of the Zionist Movement. Unfortunately they could not be pursued as its main concern. The need for healing the wounds caused by the age-old anti-Semitism and its climax in the Shoah, as well as the need for physical survival threatened by the Arabs’ “Jihad”, got described by the term מקלט, miqlat, shelter, or haven of refuge. Sadly enough, these harsh facts made it imperative to see the Land and the State of Israel foremost as a “miqlat”.
However, the mere physical survival within that shelter cannot be the apex of Jewish history and destiny. Therefore, Zion and what this term stands for, will yet be brought to the fore, be it through our own insight, and/or forced upon us through the circumstances; for Zionism without Zion would be like Adam before breathing the Neshamah (Divine Soul) into his nostrils (cf Gen. 2:7; Ezek. 37:8,9), prone to corruption. Yet it says in Deut. 30:16-19: "... and you shall choose life so that you and your seed shall live." Putting that idea into his own words, Dr. Herzl said: "If you will, it is no fairytale; but if you don't want, it will remain a tale." And Martin Buber, although not a supporter of political Zionism, observed: "If Israel wants to be content with less than what it is meant to be, it will lose even this lesser part."
f) The State of Israel
Established just three years after Auschwitz and Hiroshima, it can be seen as the "beginning of the blossoming of our redemption" (as so aptly stated in the "Prayer for the State," a part of Jewish prayer services). Thus, even the so-called “secular” State of Israel is seen as a necessary stage within a process, and not as its end or fulfillment. This is indeed--and naturally so--in line with the sequence of events outlined by the Prophets, foremost in Ezekiel Ch. 37. Here, the Prophet speaks first of the coming together of the "dry dead bones" from the exile into the land of Israel; then they put on sinews and skin--for strengthening and protection; then, the spirit enters into them - and the “Tree of Judah” and the “Tree of Ephraim” [symbolizing the “religious” and the “secular” part of Israel respectively, according Rav S.R.Hirsch] shall become one “Tree” in the Hands of the Lord. This sequence is reflected also in our Amidah prayer, benedictions 10 – 16
It is most interesting and revealing to note that in this prophecy, Ezekiel uses key words directly taken from the record of Adam's formation in the Garden of Eden: * breathing the breath of life, ויפח / ופחי , vayifah / oo'pehi, into Adam's nostrils /into the people of Israel respectively;
* the enlivening (ויהי האדם לנפש חיה / וחייתם - vayehi ha'adam le'nefesh hayah /
ve'haitem) of Adam and of the people of Israel through that act
* placing comfortably (or: giving rest, setting at peace, וינחהו והנחתי / --ve'hanahti
va'yinhehoo) Adam in the Garden of Eden / Israel in her land.
After Adam’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, the Lord God “placed at the east of [it] … the flaming sword which turned every way to keep the way [of the “tree of life”, Gen. 3:24]. In Prophet Ezekiel’s vision, “Gog in Magog” and his cohorts appear as the adversary. They think of spoil (Ezek. 38:11,12; see also Ps. 83:6,13), but in all their wickedness they may play – unknowingly so – the role of the “flaming sword” which enforces our purification from the dross of the Galuth. This, of course, is not a justification of their hatred and fierceness: “I am very sore displeased with the heathen who are at ease; for I was but a little displeased – but they helped forward the affliction” (Zechar. 1:15). Yet for their overdoing they will, like King Nebukadnezzar, the “servant of the Lord” in the ordained destruction of the First Temple (Jer. 25:9; 27:6), get their due punishment (Ps. 83:14-19; and many others).
f) The beginning of the return of the Jewish people to its land and the establishment of the State, as outlined above, occurred in a period known in Jewish tradition as "the days of the Messiah" ( ימות המשיח- yamot hamashiah, also spoken of as birth pangs). Talmud Sanhedrin 99A (and Zohar Par. וירא) predicted this period to begin in the year ת"ר (=5600) of the Hebrew calendar --which corresponds to 1840 of the Western calendar. Indeed, that year saw the short rule of Muhammed Ali over Egypt and the Land of Israel (later called Palestine by the British). This event turned out to be a political watershed which brought about the developments that led to the famous Balfour Declaration of 1917. Interestingly enough, Rav Alkalay --relying on the prediction of ת"ר and evaluating the political events of his days correctly-- predicted already in 1844 that England would have to play a decisive role in the return of Israel to its land. These "Days of the Messiah" stretch over a considerable period in human history, with all kinds of decisive events and trials (cf. Dan. 12:10), but for the sake of the righteous they shall be shortened.
g) The name Israel
As widely known, the name Israel was given to Jacob in his nightly wrestling with the angel of his twin brother, Esau, before meeting him personally (Gen. 32:29; 33:10). The name Israel is usually interpreted as “he (=Jacob) wrestled with God, and prevailed” (cf vs. 29), but literally translated it means “God (=EL) will rule”. That is, Jacob/Israel witnesses God’s rule (Is. 41:8, et al) throughout history.
Willy-nilly also the enemy admitted that fact: Nazi-Germany added in the passports and identity cards of every Jew the name Israel to the name of the holder (Sarah in case of a female) to brand them. Then, the Jewish State established in 1948, honored this ancient Biblical term and adopted it as its name. What is more, taking up that ancient name, matched a forecast by Prophet Ezekiel. In the sequence of his famous prophecy about the revival of the “dry dead bones” which symbolize “the whole house of Israel” in the Diaspora, and their return to the country, he visualizes himself as “brought into the Land of Israel” (40:2; also 47:18). In 1948 the Jewish State took up that name, as said.
We should note in that context that the name “Israel” is given, by Divine decree, to the people as well as to the land: Both the “People of Israel” and the “Land of Israel” are ISRAEL.
In addition, there are two more designations which describe vividly its peculiarity: In the Aqedah- story, the land is characterized as the “Land of the Moriah” (mentioned above): that is, it is attached to the Moriah, and derives from it its peculiarity. Then, Joseph tells his Egyptian taskmasters plainly that he was “stolen from the Land of the Hebrews” (Gen. 40:15): not from the land of the Canaanites “who happened then to be in the country” (Gen. 12:6).
It were then the Romans, after the destruction of the Second Temple and the crushing of the Bar-Cochba Revolt in 136, who attempted to erase the names of Jerusalem; of Judea; and of Israel (by the latter name it is mentioned in Matth. 2:20) – and called it “Palestine” by taking up the name of Israel’s arch enemies, the Philistines. Then, after WWII, the British entrusted with the “Mandate” over that area, took up that Roman stratagem – and all the world followed suite. Easily so, for throughout the centuries all the peoples were made believe that the Jews had no other hope for the future except by embracing Christianity, or Islam respectively. Focusing on the “Quest of Jerusalem”, and on “Palestine”, that battle is still raging…
h) The liberation of Jerusalem in 1967, triggered by the hostility of the Arab nations which led to the Six Day War; and the legal unification of the two parts of the city in 1982, were more than just another milestone in Jerusalem's history. These events mark the beginning of what the Scriptures term "the turn of the prison" (Deut. 30:7; Ps. 142:7; Is. 61:1-3).
i) Prophet Micah's warning not to build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with wrong (ch. 3:10) is valid also for our days. This warning, as well as warnings of the Prophets to the nations not to make their burden over Israel too harsh (cf. Zach. 1:15, et al), is summed up in Talmud Ketuboth (111:71). There it states that Israel "shall not storm the walls (shall not by her own counsel retake Jerusalem by force); it shall not revolt against the nations; and the nations shall not subjugate Israel too severely." For Jerusalem/Zion shall be rebuilt in justice and in righteousness.
Nevertheless, given the Balfour Declaration of 1917, and the subsequent UNO Resolution of Nov.29, 1947 on the one hand; and the Shoah on the other hand, no one can deny the right and the duty of the State of Israel to defend its citizens against Arab onslaughts. Judah by his very existence in his homeland turns out to be for the hostile nations "like a blazing pot in the midst of wood, like a flaming torch among sheaves" (Zechar. 12:6).
Significantly, the Zionist Movement--and in its wake the State of Israel--respectively adopted the six-pointed star as their symbol. This ancient sign, known as Shield of David, or Star of David, expresses graphically the (still hoped for) harmonious balance and interaction of the different polarities characterizing our world: spirit and matter, including heavenly and earthly Jerusalem as united in King David's foundation of Zion; male and female; Israel and the nations; etc. May this symbol, and what it stands for, increasingly become mankind's guiding star. (For more on the history and the symbolic meanings of the hexagram, see the author's "The Star of David--an ancient symbol of integration." Rubin Mass Publ., Jerusalem, 1987).
In this context it should again be stressed that the State of Israel was not founded either for the sake of lofty ideals, or for theological reasons; nor was it founded in pursuit of imperialistic aspirations--as alleged by its enemies. Rather, the will of physical and spiritual survival, expressed in the State of Israel, coincides with the ancient prophecies and can be understood as a decisive step towards their fulfillment. Strikingly, no other geographic solution was feasible--not Biro-Bidjan, not Uganda, not Madagascar; nor could any other place substitute for the Jewish homeland, the "land of the Covenant." By the same token, plans to divide the land will not succeed: rather, they would entail new wars. And dividing Jerusalem is a contradiction in terms [translated into English, it would mean "dividing wholeness," with all the disastrous consequences thereof].
In the war of the Arabs against Israel, the point of contention is not the question: "Whose Land?" i.e. to whom the land belongs. Arabs and Jews can, and do, possess lands side by side. The issue is, who dominates the Land of the Moriah.3) For the people of Israel, its independent State is an indispensable means, both for its security and for its physical and spiritual survival – even call - in accord with its Divine vocation. In contrast, for the Muslim world and its Arab peers it is merely a matter of doctrines and pride, worked up from the Koran but not backed by it (as mentioned in chpt. VI). That contest has Jerusalem as its focus.
Partitioning Israel cannot achieve peace, as said. On the contrary, it would inevitably lead to war. We saw that this small country forms a kind of a bridge, or hinge, between Africa, Asia, and Europe; and that it is the meeting place between the cultures of the desert in the south and east, and the cultures of the fertile lands in the west and north. These different cultures are now-a-days represented by Islam and its Arab peers on the one hand, and by Christianity and the civilizations of Europe and America on the other hand. Naturally, each with its particular mindset and imagined or real needs, aims to control the country in general, and Jerusalem in particular. Israel, re-established now in its "land of the Fathers," finds itself confronted by these two incompatible claims. Perceiving our country merely as a haven of refuge from the onslaught of violent anti-Semitism; and Hankering after a “post-Zionism”, or propagating democracy as supreme value, rather than realizing Zion as our very "House of Life," would only erode Israel’s spirit, and lead to endless disputes over defining "secure borderlines"; and might entail the loss of our independence. Nor would nostalgic ideologies of a "Greater Israel" bring a solution.3) The country itself, together with our will to survive and live as Jews in the "Land of the Fathers," challenge us to become what we are: the "Kingdom of Priests" which is called to establish true peace (שלום אמת ובר קיימא - shalom emet oo'bar qaima). The Holy Scriptures, and the Gospels and the Koran in line therewith, outline the means for that end (as traced above). True peace can be established only upon the words of the Prophets. and by our living up to them. In fact, these words were given for this very end. May it be stressed here that the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the UNO’s Decision of Nov.29, 1947, do not establish novel rights for the Jewish people; rather they are at least to some degree in line with the Divine Law: Torah and Prophets establish for Israel the title to the land.
VIII) Zion and the nations - scriptural references.
a) Out of Zion shall go forth the Law (Torah), and from Jerusalem the word of the Lord
(Is. 2:3). This will happen naturally. Once the peoples--first individuals and then the nations--realize that all their endeavors to the contrary are bound to come to naught, even will work havoc, they will finally turn to the Lord God of Israel to seek His forgiveness and directions for healing and blessing; for they will behold God's blessing of Israel (Ps. 126:8). They even will behold and admit that Israel is set as a blessing for the nations (Zach. 8:13 expounding Gen. 12:2 and 26:4).
Putting this idea into his own words, Th. Herzl predicted in his famous book “The Jewish State” that the latter would come into existence as “the world is in need of it”, for its healing.
b) Mankind will then realize that the teachings of the Prophets fit their own innermost longings like a key in its lock. This realization will lead them "to seek the Lord of Hosts in Jerusalem;" go with the Jews (Zach 8:20-23); even persuade them: “Go ye, and let us ascend to the mountain of the Lord, the House of the God of Jacob…” (Is. 2:2-5). This turning towards Jerusalem and the people of Israel, will climax in a spiritual re-birth in Zion, as it says in Ps. 87:5: "...this and that man was born in her."
Significantly enough, Babel and Philistine (,פלשת Palestine in modern parlance), Israel’s chief opponents, are mentioned especially in this context. This gives us guidance and hope for a satisfactory solution of the “Palestinian problem”: Those Palestinians who do not join in the conspiracy against Zion (cf Ps. 83), may have the chance to get re-born in her.
A corollary to that rebirth will be the final healing even of Babel's confusion: "I will turn to the peoples (,עמים amim) a pure (lit. purified) language that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent" (Zephan. 3:9). In that process of purification of the language, Bible interpretations and translations adhering faithfully to the letter and the spirit of the original Hebrew text will replace the current translations which are often insufficient--if not altogether willful--renderings. This new mindset is described by the prophets as the new heavens and the new earth (cf. Ps. 102:26-29; Is. 66:22).
c) "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples" (עמים , amim), Is. 56:7. By using the term עמים, amim (not: גויים, goyim; nor: אומות, oomot, nations), the Prophets Isaiah and Zephaniah indicate that the peoples (עמים) will form an unanimous community together with Israel under the kingship of the One Lord and Creator of all – focused on Zion, becoming and even being “Zion my people” (see above, par. I). The Hebrew word עם, read 'am (the vowel "a" read as in are), means people; read `eem (as in deem), means with, i.e. being actively with someone. Consequently, what is said about עם ישראל, 'am Irael, the people of Israel, is extended here to the peoples all over the world: once they will be with the Lord God of Israel, and thus with Israel.
Thus Prophet Zechariah says plainly: "And many nations (גויים - goyim) will attach themselves unto the Lord on that day and will become my people (עם - 'am), and I will dwell in thy (= Zion's) midst..." (2:15).
Through their spiritual rebirth in Zion they will become brethren to Israel, who was the first-born (Ex. 4:23) in the spirit of God. Simultaneously they will become brethren each to the other, and there end their present strife and vying about who is right and who will lead. Only then --after they come to Zion and receive the “Torah from Zion and the Word of God from Jerusalem” -- will the peoples (עמים - 'amim) beat their swords into plough shares, and say: "O House of Jacob, go on, and let us walk (together) in the light of the Lord" (Is. 2:4,5). The word Zion will then not be merely a spiritual term connected to a geographical point, rather, it will comprise all those who go along therewith (as said above (chpt VIIIc). In his words, Martin Buber said so aptly: "We become what we are, sons of God, when we become what we are, brethren of our brethren."
d) Zion will then be the expression of humanity's true worship of its Creator. In Zion they will find healing and blessing, and will give praise and thanks to the One Lord
e) It is for the above reasons that, while Mathan Torah, the Giving of the Divine Teaching, or Law, is related to Mount Sinai; the Prophet Isaiah said that it shall go forth out of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Let us note here that the term Mathan Torah, Giving of the Torah, does not describe something of the past; in grammar and in meaning it describes a permanently ongoing process of Giving the Torah. It is upon us in every generation to receive it, to understand it, and to live it
All this has nothing to do with a "Zionist conspiracy" as alleged by anti-Semites. Why don't they speak of a "Catholic conspiracy," or a "Muslim conspiracy"? These religions aspire to missionize the whole world, while Judaism does not missionize at all. Israel is the smallest of all nations precisely to prevent any thirst for power with the help of masses or quantities. In Zion, not the Jews shall rule, and not Rome, or Mecca either, but the Creator of all. As it says in Ps. 146:10
"The Lord shall reign forever, thy God, O Zion, from generation to generation. Hallelujah."
1) Details in “The Parable of the Olive Tree”, attached below
2) “ “ the essay “Peace is possible between Ishmael and Israel according
to Tanakh and Koran” (Summary thereof see below)
3) See “Part B: The Land of the Moriah”, in the following.
according to the
Parable of the Olive Tree
(Epistle to the Romans chpt. 11:16-24)
"...if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches were broken off, and thou being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree, boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, the branches were broken off that I may be grafted in. Well, because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high minded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in goodness; otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. For if thou were cut of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a goodly olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural ones, be grafted into their own olive tree?"
The parable brings a comparison with the practice of grafting known in horticulture and tree nursery. In order to understand the parable and its implications, we should first try to comprehend the procedure of grafting.
Let's say we want to grow sweet almonds. If we put an almond kernel into the ground, and wait several years till the growing tree brings forth fruit, we could be unpleasantly surprised in case they are bitter almonds. There is no certainty in advance what variety fruit trees grown from seeds will bring forth. But if we take a twig from a tree whose fruit we like, and want to get; and graft this twig upon an existing, preferably wild tree of the same kind (e.g. a bitter almond), we will get exactly the variety of the tree from which we took the twig (e.g. sweet almonds). There are some more advantages to the practice of grafting: usually the wild tree has a stronger, disease resisting root and stem than the goodly variety; and the grafted twig can draw more sap from the strong wild root, and thus be able to develop more branches and fruits. However, the gardener has to watch the grafted trees that their roots would not grow wild shoots besides the grafted twig, for they would take over and strangle it.
Now, our parable says that branches from a wild olive were grafted in the goodly olive tree "against nature", i.e. against the usual practice. Many say that Apostle Paul, by profession a tent maker, was not acquainted with tree growing; and made here a mistake. But by pointing out that something was done here "against nature", he tells us that he was well aware of what he was doing, and took into account that the wild twig(s) would bring forth few and small oil berries, but would grow an impressive foliage. Consequently, he warns his Gentile followers grafted against nature in the goodly olive tree, Israel, not to become proud and boast against the remaining goodly branches; for "not you (Gentiles) are carrying the root, but the root (Israel and its Torah) carries you".
The parable is quite in line with fundamental sayings of the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible. Let's have a look at some of them:
a) Noah, blessing his sons, established "God shall enlarge Japhet, and he shall dwell in the tents of Sem" (Gen. 9:27. Sem, one of Noah's three sons, is the "father of the children of 'Eber", i.e. of the Hebrews, Gen. 9:21. The word Sem means name, especially the Name of the Lord as in "hallowed be thy name", which the Cohanim (priests) were to put upon the children of Israel, Numb. 6:27; whence Semites. And "all the people of the earth shall see that thou [Israel] are called by the name Sem of the Lord", Deuter. 28:10).
b) The Lord, in his covenant with Abram/Abraham, decreed:
"... thou shall be a blessing; and ... in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 12:3). An ensuing specification says: "...and in thy [Isaac's} seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed" [liter. bless themselves; Gen. 26:4].
c) Gen. 49:10 speaks of Judah and his scepter that "unto him the gathering of all the peoples shall be".
d) Exod. 19:6 designates Israel as a "Kingdom of Priests", that is, her very call implies a priestly function for the nations.
e) When King Solomon inaugurated the First Temple, he prayed also for the strangers that the Lord might hear them when they pray in direction towards it (1.Kings 8:27-29, 41). In this train of thought, Prophet Isaiah speaks of it as the "house of prayer for all nations" (56:6); for, as Ps. 133:3 says, the Lord has commanded the blessing in Zion.
f) Jer. 11:16 compares Israel to a green olive tree; and Hos. 14:6,7 sees Israel as the root of that “olive tree of his majesty” [=זית הודו] which is “casting forth its roots like the Lebanon". ((Obviously the Prophets are tracing back to a peculiar term in Deuter. 8:8. There, the Land of Israel is described as land of the goodly olive tree, liter. “land of the oil(giving) olive tree” [ארץ-זית שמן], apparently in distinction from other countries with olive trees; or from (wild) olive trees which do not grow oil berries)).
g) Ezra, then. enjoined the people to bring for Succoth “branches from the olive tree and branches from the oil tree” (Nehem. 6:15)- probably understood by Paul as referring to the wild olive tree and the goodly olive tree.
h) The vision that the nations would be on top for a certain time, i.e. would play the role of the head temporarily, is part of ancient prophecies:
"...thou hast grafted [ordinary] men to our head" (Ps. 66:12).
The passage is usually rendered "thou hast caused men to ride over [הרכבת] our heads", but the Hebrew word רכב which can mean to (cause someone to) ride, is often used in the sense of putting someone or something on top, as e.g. in 2.Sam. 6:3; 2. Kings 13:16; 23:30, where it is impossible to render it as riding. In fact, as we saw, the grafted twig, is above the root, or figuratively speaking, it rides the root.
The same thought expressed in Lament. 1:5, and 2:17, reads:
"Her [=Jerusalem's] adversaries became the head";
"The Lord has done that which he has devised, he has fulfilled his word that he has commanded in the days of old: he has thrown down, and has not pitied; and he has caused the enemy to rejoice over thee [Israel], he has set up the horn of thine enemies".
At the time of the compilation of the Epistle to the Romans, Rome was indeed the head of the nations, even put over Israel. It ruled mercilessly (the crucifixion of the Nazarene as "King of the Jews", besides many other crucifixions, was one of the demonstrations of its rule). The destruction of the Temple as the seal of this rule was pre-told, too (e.g. Hes. 3:43; Luke 21:20-25); and Rome commemorated this fact matchlessly by minting a special coin, inscribed "Juda capta".
All this shows that the destruction of the Second Temple and the Roman exile were not at all a punishment caused by the crucifixion of the Nazarene, as often alleged.
Many allege that the natural branches were broken off because of their unbelief, and that instead of them Christianity is now grafted in. But the parable says plainly that only some of the natural branches were broken off, not all of them. Besides, Christianity developed from early times a novel interpretation of the term belief, in fact an interpretation which is not covered neither by the Hebrew of the Tanakh nor by the Septuagint, nor by the original Greek of the Epistles.
The Hebrew word emunah, (from which Amen derives), as well as its Greek translation pistis, mostly rendered belief, convey the idea of trust, faithfulness (as in Ps. 33:4; 89:25,34; 119:86). That means to say both the Hebrew and the Greek word describe an attitude or behavior which result from one's certainty or conviction. The list of witnesses of faith in the Epistle to the Hebrews, chpt. 11, gives a clear picture of what is meant also in the NT as belief, or faith.
Be it mentioned in this context that most of the modern translations of Hebr. 11:6, which brings a definition of faith, say improperly "... for he who cometh to God must believe that he is...", while the Greek text states that one has to believe (liter. be living it, be faithful) because God is. In Hebrew thinking, God's existence is the cause of belief, or faithfulness. He is not the object of philosophical or theological speculations, nor of considerations whether the Torah and its commandments can be altered or done away with through a resurrection or ascension. The list of witnesses of faith in Hebr. 11:17-32 may give an idea about the Apostles’ understanding of faith.
The Jews, of course, had to reject these novel interpretations of belief. In turn, they were accused of unbelief, stubbornly sticking to the commandments of the "Old Testament"; and many Christians developed that kind of haughtiness by boasting against the root and its natural branches of which Romans 11:18,29 warns so severely.
Paul, “entrusted with the glad tidings to the uncircumcised” (i.e. the Gentiles; Gal.2:7), felt the task to graft them as branches from the wild olive into the goodly tree. In that, he offers co-fellowshipx) with the goodly branches to those who even during the "Times of the Gentiles" stay in faith; and do not boast nor become haughty; do not change the rules of the housexx); and do not missionizexxx) goodly branches to novel concepts. “Nostra Aetate” of the Catholic Church, and similar declarations of some Protestant Churches after WWII, may be seen as opening the way of return to the original scriptures, coming in line with the "glad tidings to Abraham" referred to in Gal. 3:8:
"I will bless them that bless thee... and in thee all the nations shall be blessed". Eventually, the nations will “bless themselves” (=והתברכו) in Abraham (Gen. 22:18) and in his seed (Gen. 26:4). By using here the reflexive form “will bless themselves”, the Torah tells us that the nations, once they realize that all their crafts are of no avail, shall come unto Israel (cf Jer. 16:19), urging “Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us His ways…” (Is. 2:3-4; also Zech. 8:20-23, 14:16,17; et al).
X) cf. Eph. 2:19; 3:6 where the Greek text addressing the believers from the Gentiles speaks of them as co-citizens; co-heirs; co-body; co-partakers; that is, it depicts them as joint to Israel, not as superseding her. – Significantly, the “Lord’s Prayer”, taught to Jewish listeners yet adopted by Christians throughout the world, is addressed to: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as in heaven…”
xx) Indeed, the Gentile believers are enjoined "to abstain from blood"( Acts 15:20); not to touch anything unclean (2.Cor. 6:17); “not to eat flesh … by which thy Brother stumbles, or is ensnared…” (Rom. 8:21; 1.Cor. 8:13); not to teach differently (1.Tim. 1:3); etc.
xxx) The "Great Commission" in Matth. 28:19, translated literally from the original Greek, reads: "Going, you will teach all the nations...". These words are addressed to Jewish disciples who, by their going, will teach the nations; i.e. their way of life (הלכה, halakhah), as well as the exile and the return to the country will be a teaching to the nations (cf. Ps. 98:2-4; 117; Ezek. 36:23,24; and others).
Summary from an essay entitled
PEACE IS POSSIBLE BETWEEN ISHMAEL AND ISRAEL
ACCORDING TO THE TANAKH AND THE KORAN
The ruling wing of Islam has severed its original ties with the “Book” (the Tanakh, Hebrew Bible) and the “People of the Book”, Israel. It plays out the idea of Jihad, and the quest of Jerusalem.
In Islamic view, a Jihad can end only with a complete victory - or else with an unreserved admittance that waging it was wrong from the start.
The Koran itself suggests this change of attitude, and can help paving the way to mutual understanding, trustworthy peace, and co-operation:
1. It stresses the continued validity of the “Book” – Jonah 38; Table 52;
Cow 172; Believers 56; Bee 45-47; and others;
2. it recognizes the teachings of the Prophets, even of the rabbis - Table 48,
(notwithstanding Repentance 30-35);
3. it recognizes the peculiarity of Israel and the unparalleled gifts to its people
(incl. the Land) – Hobbling 15; Cow 44, 116; Smoke 30;
4. the Holy Land prescribed for Israel - Table 23;
5. Israel admonished to stand firmly on the Torah – Table 73, et al;
6. it was Allah who settled the Children of Israel there – Jonah 93;
7. Israel rebuked for not fighting for her land - Cow 60, 247;
8. David’s kingdom (Zion), and Psalms, confirmed, and he being acknowledged
as a Divine viceroy and judge on earth – Zad 19, 25; Cow 252 [cf. Is.28:16];
9. the Psalms and the Prophets speak of Israel’s return to the land and to
Jerusalem, and so does the Koran – Bani Israel 8, 105;
10. Israel often harshly rebuked in the Koran, but there is no cancellation of
the Covenant or of the Promises;
11. on the contrary, the words of the Prophets shall surely be established –
Greeks 5; Hobbling 31; Believers 76;
12. Abraham is called a true believer, i.e. Moslem - Imram 60; Pilgrimage 77;
Cattle 162; and so are the Prophets – Table 48, notwithstanding their
keeping Shabbat and their direction of prayer toward Jerusalem;
13. Abraham established
a) Mount Moriah in Jerusalem for Israel - Gen. 22:2; 2.Chron.3:1;
b) the Kaaba in Mecca for Ishmael - Cow 119, 123;
14. Quiblah (direction of prayer) for Muslims to Mecca, and for Jews to
Jerusalem (Cow 140,143) - yet see also Cow 171, and 1.Kings 8:41-53!
15. Koran admits different religious rites, and urges us to emulate in good
works - Cow 143; Table 53; Pilgrimage 66;
16. the God of Israel and the God of Ishmael is ONE GOD – The Spider 45;
17. Allah wants to be honored by forgiveness and love - Table 15-17;
Woman Tested 7; Counsel 14.
It is the words of the Prophets which provide the base for true peace
(Democracy being merely a form of government but not its soul, has to be guided by them)
A B R A H A M ’ S P R A Y E R
When told by the Lord that in spite of his high age he would get a son from Sarah, Abraham prayed (Gen. 17:18):
"O that Ishmael might live before thee".
Abraham loved both his sons, Ishmael and Isaac, therefore he had to be told:
"Take now thy son, thine only one whom you have loved, even Isaac..." (Gen. 22:2).
The specification "even Isaac", was to tell him which one of the two beloved sons he should bring to Mt. Moriah.
Abraham did not merely pray "that Ishmael might live". He was not concerned that Ishmael would be threatened by Isaac, and would need a special prayer for protection from the latter.
Abraham was concerned that Ishmael, born from Hagar and biologically the firstborn, might try to bring the whole heritage unto himself, and deprive Isaac of God's promise1).
Abraham's prayer that Ishmael might live before the Lord, should encourage and guide him to let the spiritual -Abrahamic- inheritance get the upper hand so that he would be alive in the Divine spirit, and consequently recognize also Isaac's call.
The two brothers and their descendants should not fight over the inheritance rather "compete in good works" as the Koran, Ishmael's guide book, says so aptly2).
In the spirit of our Father Abraham, let us pray:
O h t h a t b o t h o f u s
I s h m a e l a n d I s r a e l
m i g h t l i v e b e f o r e T h e e "
1) Ishmael is the ancestor of the Arab (Muslim) nations; Isaac is one of the three Patriarchs of Israel.
2) Sura “The Table” 53; also “The Cow” 143; “Pilgrimage” 66.
The Land of Israel –
Land of the Moriah
Land of the Hebrews
The term “Land of Israel” is mentioned several times in the Scriptures (e.g. Joshua 12:22; 1.Sam. 13:19; 2.Sam. 22:2; 2.Chron. 2:16) in a way which does not allow to conclude that it was the official and accepted name of the country destined to be the homeland of the people of Israel. A change to the latter –based upon Ezek. 40:2- came apparently about during the period of the Second Temple. According to Matth. 2:20, the angel told Joseph plainly to “go into the Land of Israel”. Obviously, this term comprised Judea and its Bethlehem (vs. 21,22), and must have been understood that way.
After the crush of the Bar-Cochba revolt (in 135 c.e.), the Romans re-named the land “Philistea”, taking that term from Israel’s arch enemies, in an attempt of a kind of psychological warfare to erase the generic names Israel and Judea, and to deprive the people of Israel of its heritage and destiny.
The British, then, picked up the term Palestine (the modernized form of Philistea), and applied it in 1920 to the territory of their Mandate west of the Jordan River.
So far, all these namings and re-namings of the land were quite in line with the very common custom to name a land after its people: England – the land of the Anglo-Saxons; France – the land of the French; Arabia – the land of the Arabs; etc.
The Torah however, brings Israel’s particular call to the fore also by applying a very specific name to the country of our destiny: it records the Lord telling Abraham to go to the “Land of the Moriah” (Gen. 22:2). That is, the name Moriah was given by the Lord, not by men. Moriah, we are told, is the Temple Mount (2.Chron. 3:1).
The term “Land of the Moriah” implies: the land is adjoined, linked, to the Moriah. It is an extension thereof. Without the Moriah, the land would be like any other country in the world. True, each land and people is characterized by something specific, something which discerns it from others, but Israel’s peculiarity – that of the people as well as that of the country – is indeed expressed by the connection to the Moriah and all what that conveys.
a) The Moriah is the visible and touchable link between the Lord, the people, and the country. It is the residence of the Lord’s Name (1.Kings 8:27,29).
b) In Hebrew, the term Moriah (מוריה) is directly related to the terms for teaching ((הוראה; for the subject taught (Torah, תורה); and for conceive (הרה) in its double meaning of conceiving an idea or instruction; or of conceiving a child, becoming pregnant.
Expounding on this denotations, Prophet Isaiah said: “…for out of Zion shall go forth the law (תורה), and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Is.2:3). Not from a Jerusalem under a foreign rule, whether spiritual and/or political, but from that Jerusalem which is in essence Zion; that which is Moriah.
Moriah and Torah – Zion – cannot be substituted by, nor associated with, any other concept or teaching. Others may try to subdue or even erase Moriah and Torah; or may try to amalgamate it with their norms but they cannot change its essence and peculiarity.
This holds true in respect to other, hostile nations as e.g. Babylonians; Romans; Arabs; or to the Church which tried to establish herself as the New Zion; etc. Yet it is true also in respect of the people of Israel. We are severely warned: “Take heed of yourselves that your heart be not deceived, and you turn aside, and serve other gods…” (Deuter. 11:16).
Interestingly enough, the Hebrew term here for deceived, יפתה, yiphteh, could well mean: Do not be inclined toward Yephet. That is, do not be deluded by the philosophies and licentiousness of Yephet’s main descendant: Greece, and its culture.
One of the main contributions of ancient Greece to the modern world is the idea, even ideal, of democracy. It is now praised as the supreme value, overriding even religion(s). Yet looking closer, we could see that democracy is but a form of (political) life, in fact a frame. What is the filling or content of that frame?
While all nations find themselves confronted with that question, this is the case the more so with Israel and its core, Moriah. We are bound, like Isaac, to go up, and find our salvation there. Trying to turn away, would pull the ground from underneath our feet, figuratively and literally.
In the “Land of the Moriah”, we cannot reduce the Divine Covenant to an object of democratic votes which parts thereof to be observed, and which ones’ to be declared outdated. We may practice democracy based upon the Divine Covenant within its frame: “For the Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our King; He will save us” (Is. 33:22). Ultimately it is His Torah which entitles us to the land (the Koran agrees therewith!)
In the blessings after reading the Torah, we refer to “Zion, the house of our living”: we are alive physically and spiritually only in the “Land of the Moriah”; or, “Land of the Hebrews”, as Joseph termed it (Gen. 41:15).
RE-BIRTH IN ZION (Ps. 87)
By the sons of Korah, a Psalm of Song.
Its foundation is in the holy mountains. (vs.1)
The Lord loves the gates of Zion more
than all the dwelling places of Jacob, (vs.2)
Honorable (things) are proclaimed within thee
O city of God. Selah. (vs.3)
“I will make mention of Rahab [=Egypt] and of Babel
to my intimates.
Behold, Philistea, and Tyre, with Ethiopia -
this [man] was born there. (vs.4)
And to Zion it will be said:
This and that [man] was born in her,
and He will prepare her highest. (vs.5)
The Lord shall count when He writes up peoples:
"This [man] was born there". Selah. (vs.6)
And singers as well as players [shall say]:
"all my wellsprings are in thee" (vs. 7)
While verses 1-3 speak of Israel’s re-birth in Zion, after Jacob’s return from the exile, verse 4 then specifies some of Israel's enemies, Philistea among them, and adds: "this [man] was born there." Most commentators understand this addition as a hint that every individual was born in one of the respective countries - quite naturally so.
The next verse, then, points at those individuals who were "born in her", that is, in Zion. Zion is a spiritual entity, or concept, however linked to a geographical (physical) place, Jerusalem. Being born in her [=Zion] can only mean a spiritual rebirth, besides the preceding natural birth mentioned before. Besides Israel’s national and spiritual re-birth in Zion, the possibility of such a –spiritual- re-birth is given to everyone - Egyptian, Babylonian, Philistine, etc, that is, even to men who grew up in these societies as idolaters and enemies of Israel. The individual, even families, tribes, and peoples, can make this step of linking up with Israel in Zion (cf Gen. 12:3; Ps. 117; Is. 2:3; Zechar. 2:19, 8:22,23; et all). Hence, our Psalm speaks of such a step as of their spiritual re-birth.
This linking up of theirs with Israel and Zion shall than be confirmed by the Lord God when He "writes up peoples" (vs.6) in the Book of Life (cf. Exod. 39:32; Ps. 40:8; Mal. 3:16; Dan. 12:1; et all) on the Day of Judgment (Rosh haShannah).
As a result, all those who came up to Zion and got written in the Book of life, will give thanks and praise, and proclaim: "All my wellsprings are in thee" (grammatically, the term "in thee" can refer to Zion, or to the Lord. In either case it comes to the same: It tallies with verses 2, and 5: "The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than the dwelling places of Jacob"; and "He shall prepare [=establish; maintain] her -Zion- highest". And: "The Lord shall bless thee out of Zion" (Ps. 134:3); and: "Blessed be the Lord out of Zion" (Ps. 135:21).
Applying the above to the present situation would point a way to solve the "Palestinian problem":
As we saw, verse 4 speaks, amongst others, of Philistea. Palestine is but the English transcript for Latin Philistin, and the local Arabs adopted this name.
Modern, European-enlightened politicians and writers, in an attempt to defuse the conflict, refuse to see any connection between ancient Philistea and modern Palestine. In this train of thought of theirs, they describe the conflict as a political Israeli/Palestinian controversy, and thus fail to find a solution. The conflict is in fact an Arab-Islamic confrontation against Israel, carried out much more on the expense of the local peoples than for their benefit. Arab/Moslem feudal lords who perceive democratic Israel as something dreadful to their system, and narrow minded Islamic religionists appalled by Israel's resurrection in her ancient homeland, linked up to remove her from the map in an all-out war which they hand out as Jihad (=Holy War). This, in twisting the Koran for their ends.
It is exactly the religious component which could - and eventually will - pave the way to an honorable solution acceptable to both sides, gratifying all of us.
Psalm 87 sets the tone for such a solution: It is astounding that this Psalm mentions Philistea, Israel's arch enemy in ancient times, but does not mention enemies like Assur, Edom, etc. This bears some significance: As King Nebuchadnezzar exterminated Philistea, the term in our Psalm cannot refer to ancient Philistea but must bear prophetic meaning. We may deduce from it that the local "Palestinians" -modern Philistines- are granted the chance to become reborn in Zion (irrespective of the fact that their leaders depict them as descendants of the ancient Canaanites). Such a rebirth would, automatically so-to-speak, repeal their present political and "religious" hostility to which they were instigated. Such a change of mind and attitude would be in line with their respective scriptures - the Koran for the Muslims, and the writings of the NT for the Christians. Both these writings are in this respect in harmony with the Tanakh1).
May it be stressed that such a change of mind and attitude would not require a conversion to Judaism; for "my house shall be called a house of prayer for a l l peoples" (Is. 56:7). Strangers (גרים) may well live in the land of Israel even after the final return of the people of Israel (Ezek. 47:22,23).
The pre-requisite for such a "rebirth in Zion" and the ensuing peace is outlined by Prophet Isaiah (2:3,4):
"And many people shall go and say:
Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the House of the God of Jacob,
and He will teach us His ways,
and we will walk in His paths:
for out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
And He shall judge among the nations,
and shall rebuke many peoples:
and [i.e. t h e n, consequently] they shall beat
their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks:
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore".
As the Land of Israel - termed "Land of the Moriah" by Divine decree (Gen. 22:2) - cannot be divided (as outlined in Part A), the above ideas translated into the reality of our situation, leave the local Palestinian population with the following choices:
a) conversion and merging into the Jewish people as גרי צדק (guerei zedeq, proselytes) - to be checked thoroughly, of course, that such a conversion is not done merely as a means of political and temporal convenience);
b) staying on as תושב גרי (guerei toshav, permanent residents of Israel);
c) staying on as גרים (guerim, strangers living temporarily in the Land of Israel);
The Tanakh provides for the possibilities mentioned in b) and c) - see e.g. Ezek. 47:29. That is, they can remain in their respective religions, as e.g. Christians, Druze, Muslim, or Samaritans, and live in the State of Israel. However, since living in the Land of the Moriah will be a privilege for them, they will have to respect basic rules of the Hebrew community (as e.g. those of Shabbat);
d) those who think their respective religions and/or political views would not allow them to become one of the before-mentioned categories, may stay on as temporary residents, with their permits of residence to be renewed in certain intervals in accordance with their attitude toward the people and the State of Israel. Their minimal obligation, from the religious point of view, is the observation of the "Seven Laws of the Sons of Noah"
e) those who claim descent from the ancient Canaanites and glorify suicide bombings and sacrifice of children to Moloch will have to be expelled from the country.
A pre-condition for an arrangement like the above, is the unequivocal and irrevocable abolition of Jihad against Israel by the competent representatives of the Islamic / Arab world. This, because the conflict is -as mentioned- an Arab/Moslem war against an independent Israel in the land of its vocation - the "Land of the Moriah", and "Land of the Hebrews" (as per Gen. 22:2; 40:15).
As the above is in line with the teachings of the Koran (and of the NT as well)x, it could be the religious/spiritual base for the peace envisioned by the Prophets, and hoped for by the peoples and their innermost longings.
Dr. Asher Eder
Jewish Co-Chairman, Islam-Israel Fellowship
Root and Branch Assoc. Ltd, Yerushalayim / Israel.