April 15, 2008
Israel at 60 - Give or Take a Few Thousand YearsBy Steve Feldman and Robert Sklaroff
The nation of Israel is about to commemorate its 60th birthday. That's the official, politically correct, line. But to be truly accurate, a cake celebrating the milestone should have more candles than 60 -- thousands more.
While it is most certainly true that David Ben-Gurion stood in Tel Aviv in front of a portrait of Zionist Patriarch Theodor Herzl and proclaimed Israel's independence from Britain on May 14, 1948, (immediately after which the armies of five Arab nations attacked the Jewish state), this year's celebration would more accurately be "Israel 3,200" or perhaps even "Israel 3,400."
In other words, the popularly promoted notion that Israel was "founded", "created", or "established" just in 1948 to give the Jews a piece of land by the Western powers out of guilt over the Holocaust is not accurate. Israel's detractors use this claim to try to delegitimize the Middle East's only true democracy.
After all, Israel has really been in existence since at least 1200 BCE and some experts place the establishment of Israel as the home of the Jewish people as early as 1406 BCE.
It is dutifully recorded in Scripture (Book of Joshua, ArtScroll Edition) that after the Children of Israel had gathered on the eastern bank of the Jordan River, as instructed to do so by G-d, that "When the bearers of the Ark [of the Covenant] arrived at the Jordan and the feet of the Kohanim, the bearers of the Ark, were immersed in the edge of the water - and the Jordan was overflowing its banks all the days of the harvest season - the waters descending from upstream stood still and they rose up in one column ... and was cut off; and the people crossed opposite Jericho. ... [A]ll Israel crossing on dry land until the entire nation finished crossing the Jordan." Joshua 3:14-17
Next, G-d commanded Joshua to select 12 men - one from each Israelite tribe -- to each gather one stone from amidst the river bed, bring it into the land of Israel and erect a memorial "and these stones shall remain a remembrance for the children of Israel forever." Joshua 4:7.
Scripture chronicles the date of this miracle: "The people ascended from the Jordan on the tenth of the first month, and encamped at Gilgal at the eastern end of Jericho." Joshua 4:19.
Nisan is the first month of the Jewish calendar, and this year the 10th of Nisan coincides with April 15 in the Gregorian calendar. [Note: Though Nisan is the first month, the Jewish New Year is marked in a different month.]
The Children of Israel -- better known today as the Jewish People -- has inhabited the land of Israel continuously ever since, despite a string of wars, conquests and expulsions. There has always been a remnant, as noted in Jerome Verlin's book Homeland: The Jewish People's 3,000-Year Presence in Palestine, which cites the works of the top Middle East historians and scholars of all time.
The first Jew to set foot in the Land of Israel was the Patriarch Abraham. He purchased the cave of Machpelah in Hebron from the Hittites (as is recorded in Genesis 23:16) as a place to bury his wife, Sarah. Later Abraham himself and the other Jewish Patriarchs and Matriarchs (except for Rachel) were interred there.
This is the same city of Hebron which the media commonly -- and erroneously -- refer to as a "Palestinian" [i.e., "Arab"] city. [Other Biblical cities such as Jericho, Shechem (a k a Nabulus) and other areas] are commonly and erroneously referred to as "Palestinian" or "Arab" cities.
Abraham did not permanently establish a Jewish community in the Land of Israel at the time.
There is considerable debate among academics as to precisely when the Hebrews entered the Promised Land to stay -- though to be sure it is thousands of years before 1948.
Much of this dispute surrounds a record of early Egyptian history known as "the Merneptah Stele," an artifact dating to 1209 or 1208 BCE which was discovered in the first court of Merneptah's mortuary temple at Thebes by Flinders Petrie in 1896. Merneptah was a pharaoh who ruled over Egypt in the late 13th Century BCE.
The stele refers to Israel as a "foreign people" and it is the only ancient Egyptian document generally accepted as mentioning "Isrir" or "Israel."
Merneptah's father, Ramesses II, reigned over Egypt during the period when Moses led the exodus of the Jewish People out of Egypt. The Jews then "wandered" in the desert for 40 years before the aforementioned Joshua led them into Canaan/Israel from areas to the east. It was then that the Israelites remained in the Land of Israel (including the areas of Judea and Samaria) and later established Jerusalem as their capital.
Another similar ancient artifact known as The Mesha Stele (also called the Moabite Stone), said to date from the 9th Century BCE, records a victory by Moabite King Mesha over Israel and thus also establishes the fact that Israel existed thousands of years ago.
The government and people of Israel -- and their supporters throughout the world -- must remove the shackles of political correctness and proudly proclaim a legitimate legacy tied to the land of Israel that goes back more than 3,000 years. As the song goes: "Joshua fought the battle of Jericho and the walls came tumbling down." It is high time that the fallacy that Israel is only 60 years old be brought down.
An annual celebration on the 10th of Nisan would mark the occasion and help insure that younger generations - which particularly need to be made aware -- - never forget the Jewish Peoples' true birthright to the Land.
Steve Feldman is a journalist and executive director of the Greater Philadelphia District of the Zionist Organization of America. Robert Sklaroff is a member of the Philadelphia ZOA Board and a physician.