Perhaps a well rounded perspective of any entity is to consider it through the eyes of the differing people looking at it. Of course that could be an endless pursuit; however, if done with due diligence such a method could lend valuable insight. Thus, this exploration into Israel will seek to understand how Israel is viewed by Palestinians, Islam, the western world, and by Jewish Israelis themselves. After considering these various perspectives, I will attempt to muddle through the information to find the most objective truth concerning the identity of Israel given the facts as they exist independent of as much personal bias as possible. Granted, total objectivity is impossible when dealing with human beings, but with the variables noted, the objective stated, and the possible hindrances pointed out, an attempt will be made to define Israel as succinctly as possible.
How do Israelis view Israel?
Most Jewish Israelis view the Torah (Old Testament) to be not only a religious book but also an accurate book of history. This is true whether or not the Jewish person is religious. Thus, much of how they view Israel is taken from the Torah which is essentially the first part of the Bible. Most scholars would agree that when the Bible speaks about verifiable archeology, it gets it right. Not once has the Old Testament been proven wrong on its geography either. There may be a few questions and doubts, but no proof of inaccuracies.
The Torah refers to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (later called Israel) as the patriarchs of the Israelites who lived in the land of Canaan, that later became known as the land of Israel (and even later as Palestine). The descendants of Abraham culminated into a nation around 1300 BC. Most will recall the famous Exodus of Abraham’s decedent’s from Egypt under the leadership of Moses. Although Moses never made it to the area we call modern day Israel, his people did, after forty years of roaming the Sinai desert. King David then Ruled in Israel between 1010 to 970 BC followed by Solomon from 970 to 931 BC, just to name a couple of the more famous leaders.
In 587 BC the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar’s army captured Jerusalem and exiled the Jews to Babylon (modern day Iraq). From that point until 1948, about 2,500 years, approximately 10 different empires ruled Israel. It is perhaps important to note that there have always been Jewish settlers in what is now known as Israel even after they were exiled and all during the occupations by various empires. It wasn’t until Rome conquered Israel around 63 BC that the name of Palestine was given to the land and the name change was for no other reason than to obliterate Jewish identification with the land of Israel (http://www.eretzyisroel.org/~jkatz/meaning.html). Arabs ruled the area from 636 AD to 1099 until the crusaders from Europe captured the land. In short, the Turks ended up ruling the land after World War I until they eventually transferred Palestine to the British Empire.
In 1917 the British issued the Balfour Declaration which established Palestine as a “national home for the Jewish people.” There were numerous other mandates and allocations of the land in this area (e.g., Transjordan), but the most important date was May 14th, 1948 when after a United Nations resolution to separate a Jewish state and an Arab state, Israel declared it’s independence as a free and sovereign nation. In summary, Israel’s international identity was validated by uninterrupted Jewish settlement from the time of Joshua onward (over three-thousand years ago); the Balfour Declaration of 1917; the League of Nations Mandate, which incorporated the Balfour Declaration; the United Nations partition resolution of 1947; Israel’s admission to the UN in 1949; and the recognition of Israel by most other international states.
However, much of the Arab community refused and still refuses to accept the identity of Israel and four major wars have been fought since independence was declared. Five Arab countries, Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon, and Iraq have invaded Israel. All of them lost while Israel fought to protect its people and its borders. Not once has Israel ever gone to war to try and take over Arab land. The size of Israel today is smaller than Lake Michigan covering about 8,000 square miles (the size of America’s fifth smallest state – New Jersey).
In conclusion, The Jewish people base their claim to the land of Israel based on four primary principals: The God of the Jews promised them the land to their patriarch Abraham; The Jewish people settled and developed the land and in one way or another have occupied the land for over 3,000 years; the modern international community has granted sovereignty in Palestine (previously known as Judea) to the Jewish people; and the land has been successfully defended against surrounding countries in four major wars and many acts of terrorism.
Any attempts to define, explain or otherwise clarify the identity of such an ancient land is indeed cumbersome. What has been done here is an attempt to summarize and simplify data that already exists. In no way am I under any illusion that I have thoroughly explained the topics being addressed but an attempt was made nonetheless. I sincerely hope that what you have read here will spark and encourage you to further explore this ancient land. Please click on the links provided and come back for more. In the next segment, the Palestinian view of Israel will be explored.