Where Does the History of Israel Begin?

Thursday, February 25, 2016 |  Tsvi Sadan

In the never-ending debate between political rivals, the latest fracas erupted after right-wing Minister of Education Naftali Bennet posted to Facebook this week stating, "I am proud to announce that fifty years after Jerusalem was freed, the educational system will devote the next year to our united capital." 

Bennet went on to remind Israelis that "our history begins with Jerusalem."

Left-wing Member of Knesset Stav Shaffir (Labor) rushed to "correct" the minister via Twitter, insisting that  "we came here from Egypt," hence, our history as a people with Egypt. 

Her tweet was subjected to a feast of ridicule. One fake Twitter account had Shaffir saying that the two Tablets of Stone (Ten Commandments) were made in China because it says in the Mishna that "Moses received Torah from Sini" (in Hebrew, one vowel changes Sinai to Sini, the word for Chinese).

Laughs aside, Shaffir touched upon an ever relevant subject with which Jews have continuously wrestled – does Israel have the right to a land occupied by others? 

Those like Shaffir who support a Palestinian state are basically saying that Israel stole another people's land, and it should be given back to them. If indeed they are right, the Bible should have opened, as Shaffir suggests, with the people of Israel leaving Egypt and becoming a nation.

This position is nothing news. From time immemorial, Jews have been suggesting that since the five books of Moses are regarded as Torah or Law, the Bible should begin with the first commandment given to Israel as a people, which is, "this month shall be unto you the beginning of months" (Exodus 12:2) 

Instead, the Bible opens with "in the beginning God created..." 

Interesting as the stories of Genesis and those leading up to the Exodus are, the relevant "beginning" is the first commandment, and the passages from Genesis 1 to Exodus 12 are, therefore, superfluous. Or so this logic goes.

But it must be for good reason that the Bible opens with Genesis, and not with Israel in Egypt. 

Based on Psalm 111:6, God told the story of Genesis so that Israel could not be accused of being "robbers, because you took by force the lands of Canaan." This famous rabbinical commentary demonstrates that long before there was any Palestinian, Jews were conscience of the fact that the Promise Land was under dispute. 

Israel's claim to it rests upon the premise that it was given to her as a declaration of the power of His works and to be a light to the nations.

The Promise Land, therefore, is not some kind of divine reward for those who suffered under the hand of Egypt, or even for those who endured the Holocaust. Israel inherited the Land for the sole purpose of guiding humanity to the God who created heaven and earth. Failing to do so endangers not only Israel, but the entire world. 

In other words, the people of Israel sustain the world through submission to God.

In this light, though she claims to be Zionist, Stav Shaffir's understanding of Israel's history actually forfeits Israel's right to the entire Land of Israel, and not just to the "occupied territories," because in a world void of God, Israel is truly a robber of another people's land.

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