For those who are home, and for those who are on the way. For those who support the historic and just return of the land of Israel to its people, forever loyal to their inheritance, and its restoration.
In much discourse about the Middle East, there is a widespread myth that Jews are interlopers from Europe and the US - white westerners who came to ‘colonise’ and ’steal land’ from the ‘native’ Palestinian people to whom it rightfully belongs. This myth, drawing on Marxist terminology, gained increasing legitimacy after 1967 when Israel annexed East Jerusalem and ‘conquered’ the West Bank. The notion of 'occupation' and the use of the word ‘settlers’ reinforce the concept of Israeli ‘colonisation’ of ‘Arab’ land.
Aside from assuming that the Palestinians must be the true natives because they look authentically ‘brown’, the colonialism myth supports another myth: Jews are not a people, deserving of the right to self-determination, but a religion. Thus anti-Zionists habitually talk about of US citizens of the Jewish faith, Germans of the Jewish faith and even Arabs of the Jewish faith. At the time of the French Revolution, Clermont-Tonnerre said of the emancipation of Jews: “We must refuse everything to the Jews as a nation and accord everything to Jews as individuals.” The Jewish community would somehow disappear, leaving only French citizens of Jewish religion or ancestry.
Lately, the notion that Jews are not one people but a motley collection of converts has been given a boost by Tel Aviv Professor Shlomo Sand, whose bestselling book, The Invention of the Jewish People, is now out in English. Sand’s theories build on the work of Arthur Koestler, who popularised the idea that Ashkenazi Jews are descended from the Turkic tribe, the Khazars. Both men undermine the legitimacy of Israel by inferring that Jews have no link to Palestine. Genetic studies, however, discredit Koestler’s theory: they find that Jews from East and West have more in common with each other, and are genetically closer to non-Jews of Middle eastern origin – the Kurds in particular – than they are to the non-Jewish populations they lived amongst.
Last June President Obama articulated another myth: Israel was created as a penance for the Holocaust in Europe. This myth obscures the truth that every Arab state is equally a creation of western colonialism. It also ignores the fact that the institutions of a Jewish state-in-waiting were established decades before Ben Gurion read out Israel’s declaration of independence.
We often hear or read about Israel being populated by pork-munching non-Jewish Russians and settlers from Brooklyn. But these groups are marginal. We almost never hear that 40 percent of Israel’s Jews trace their ancestry from Muslim and Arab lands. The vast majority of these Jews merely moved from one corner of the ‘Arab’ world to that Middle Eastern coastal sliver known as Israel.
Until their expulsion 50 years ago, Jews had been settled in Iraq, for example, since the Babylonians exiled Jews from Jerusalem almost 3,000 years ago. In the early 20th century, Baghdad was the most Jewish city in the world, after Salonica and Jerusalem. The Jews can be said to have as legitimate a claim on Baghdad as Palestinians on Jerusalem.
I visited Hevron in November 2000 after the outbreak of the Rosh Hashanah War to see what could be done to assist in the face of the growing daily attacks on the community. After returning to work for the community in the summer of 2001, a bond and a love was forged that grows to this day. My wife Melody and I merited to be married at Ma'arat HaMachpela and now host visitors from throughout the world every Shabbat as well as during the week. Our goal, "Time to come Home!"