Jerusalem/Hebron Day 2017
There are various philosophical and religious beliefs that all that happens or occurs in the world is chance, or fate.
For example, one could be tempted to believe that chance dictated that on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Jerusalem, the president of the United States would stand in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and say,
“The ties of the Jewish people to this Holy Land are ancient and eternal. They date back thousands of years, including the reign of King David whose star now flies proudly on Israel’s white and blue flag.”
Others might be convinced that an apparent Israeli goal of the Trump visit, that being recognization of Jerusalem as our capital, and the Western Wall as part of Israel, was lost and that the President’s words missed the mark:
“Jerusalem is a sacred city. Its beauty, splendor, and heritage are like no other place on earth.
Yesterday, I visited the Western Wall, and marveled at the monument to God’s presence and man’s perseverance – I was humbled to place my hand upon the wall and to pray in that holy space for wisdom from God.”
I think otherwise.
I’m not speaking of comparing Trump to Obama. And not even relating to 69 years of Israeli independence.
Rather a few years earlier: (https://goo.gl/rwfNJ5)
Following the defeat of the Bar Kochba rebellion in 135 C.E., Jews were barred for the first time from the Temple Mount.
Emperor Constantine (272-357) renewed the laws that prohibited Jews from living in or even visiting Christian Jerusalem, allowing access to the Temple Mount once a year on Tisha b’Av (the ninth of the Hebrew month of Av, the anniversary of the day the temples were destroyed).
Roman Empress Eudocia (401-60): 438- More than 100,000 Jews came to Jerusalem that year, but once again, Jerusalem’s Christians launched a violent protest and blocked access to the mountain.
For almost two centuries after this incident, Jews were forbidden to live in Jerusalem. Until the Persian conquest in 618, Jerusalem was officially a city without Jews.
Within hours of breaching the walls of Jerusalem in 1099, the victorious Crusaders had massacred almost all of the city’s Jewish and Muslim inhabitants. The Crusaders ascended the Temple Mount and after giving thanks to God for their victory, converted the mosques into churches, renaming the Dome of the Rock the Temple of God (Templum Domini) and al-Aqsa Mosque, the Temple of Solomon (Templum Solomnis). The mount was declared off-limits to all non-Christians and became the center of religious and civil life in Crusader Jerusalem.[
When the Iberian Jewish scholar Abraham Abulafia visited Palestine in 1260, he could get no closer to Jerusalem than Acre in the north because of the ceaseless fighting. (https://goo.gl/O7JELs).
For example, Saladin, who at first had urged Jews to come back to Jerusalem, a few years later forbade them to go on the Temple Mount. From the late thirteenth century to the mid-nineteenth, the mountain was, for the most part, off-limits to Jews with occasional interludes of access.
1948: For the next nineteen years, no Jew was allowed to approach the Western Wall or the Temple Mount despite provisions in the Jordan-Israel armistice agreement that called for free access to all holy places.
In other words, for the better part of two millennium, Jerusalem and Temple Mount were forcibly off-limits to Jews.
Sixty nine years ago, for the first time in almost 2000 years, Jewish independence in Israel was again a reality. Yet it took another 19 years to reunify and declare Israeli sovereignty in the heart of Judaism’s soul – that being Jerusalem. For the first time since the Roman occupation, Jerusalem was back under Jewish control.
Having waged war on the Jews, and having taken turns controlling Jerusalem for so many hundreds and thousands of years, it’s really no surprise that following the 1967 Six-Day war, Middle East Muslims and European Christians had a difficult time swallowing the fact that the Jews had come home and liberated what was rightfully theirs. As demonstrated last week, when a US consulate official again declared that Jerusalem, i.e., the Western Wall is ‘occupied (palestine).’
That total renunciation came to an abrupt end yesterday, when Donald Trump officially – yes, officially, stood in Jerusalem, and accepted Israel’s legitimate presence in our Land and in our city. Anyone who is not able to read that, or hear that, in his words, is either deaf or blind.
And Trump was not only talking about Jerusalem. He was speaking about Hebron. His statement, ‘The ties of the Jewish people to this Holy Land are ancient and eternal‘ was not about Tel Aviv. ‘Ancient and eternal’ is Hebron, Beit El, and Shilo.
What should be Israelis reaction to these explicit statements? Should we thank Mr. Trump?
Speaking last night at Ma’arat HaMachpela, Rabbi Eliezer Waldman reiterated an answer to this question, posed to Rabbi Kook, following the Balfour Declaration, issued seventy years ago. He said, ‘we not need thank the English for recognizing what is rightfully ours, given to us by the Master of the Universe. Rather, they should thank us for being allowed to participate in this event of Redemption. For those who follow in ways of G-d will be blessed, and they should thank us for the opportunity to be a recipient of this blessing. For those who do not walk in the way of G-d will lose this opportunity for such a G-dly blessing.’
In other words, we don’t need to justify our existence, or what is rightfully ours, to anyone. Rather it is incumbent upon them to recognize the Jews’ rights to Israel, to Jerusalem, to Hebron, and all other parts of our holy Land.
Returning to fate: why now?
I’ll mention two short evidences of destiny:
About 250 years ago lived one of the most righteous Jewish scholars of the last millennium, that being the Sage Rabbi Eliyahu from Vilna, known as ‘the Gaon’ or ‘the Brilliant.’ As a result of his teachings, many of his students came to Israel in the 1700s, amongst the first to return and resettle the Land in almost two thousand years. (One of those was the great-great-great grandfather of the present President of Israel, Rubi Rivlin.)
The Gaon told his students, ‘there are two special days, suitable for redemption: the 5th of Iyar and the 28th of Iyar.’ Those two days are, respectively, by the Hebrew calendar, Israel’s Independence Day, and Jerusalem Liberation Day.
And finally, there is a Jewish tradition to study, every day, one page of Talmud. Doing so, it is possible to complete the entire Talmud once every seven years.
In the space of 2,711 pages, how many times does Jerusalem and Hebron appear on the same page?
A simple Talmud search shows that only 11 times are these two holy places mentioned on the same page.
So then, what are the chances that the page studied today, the same page studied by Jews around the world today, would contain both Jerusalem, liberated today, and Hebron, liberated tomorrow, fifty years ago, on the same page?
I don’t know the statistical odds, but, both, Jerusalem and Hebron, in the context of their being settled by the Jewish people, are mentioned on today’s page, in the Tractate Baba Batra, on page 122. The subject matter is the division of the land by the ancient Israelites, as they enter into the Land of Israel, under the leadership of Joshua, as directed by G-d.
Fate? Chance? I think not. Judaism doesn’t believe in chance. All is controlled from above. We are not back in Hebron and Jerusalem by chance, and these places were not liberated today by chance. Rather it was, and is the Will of
G-d. Just as Trump’s declarations yesterday, recognizing the truth for what it is, was not chance.
We are home. The Jews have come home. And we’re not leaving anytime soon.
Happy Jerusalem and Hebron Day!