Temple Mount
Temple MountFlash 90
Meyer Weisgal, the personal assistant of Chaim Weizmann, Israel’s first president, and principal architect of the Weizmann Institute of Science, was often asked why the Jews decided to return to their ancestral home, the land of Israel. Before and even after the establishment of the state, someone would inevitably inquire “Why here?”

Given their vast innovative ingenuity, why hadn’t the Jews immigrated to Uganda or Argentina where there was enough uninhabited land to have made the areas prosper? Why pick Palestine (a name referring to the name given the geographic area by Rome, instead of the original Judea) and Jerusalem? In these countries there wouldn’t have been any hostile Arabs to contend with, they opined.

In March 1968, J. B. Priestley, an English novelist, playwright and broadcaster, asked Weisgal the same question. Weisgal told Priestley about a cartoon in the Israeli press by the cartoonist Dosh showing Yisrolik, a little guy with a cap, who had become a symbol of the young state, explaining to King Hussein of Jordan how he might get back parts of Jerusalem. “Do what we did,” he told the king. “Say over and over again for two thousand years’ Next year in Jerusalem.’”

Jewish religious ritual and liturgy and biblical, medieval and modern literature is pervaded with longing for Zion.
The phrase Next Year in Jerusalem “has been the umbilical cord which has tied the Jews of the world to the land of Israel for two thousand years,” Weisgal explained. “Jewish religious ritual and liturgy and biblical, medieval and modern literature is pervaded with longing for Zion. Agricultural and meteorological conditions in Israel are also a fundamental part of this identification."

-During January, when the cities in the Northeast might be covered with snow, Jewish children plant saplings because in Israel, it is the New Year of the Trees, when the almonds blossom for the first time. Even though the streets might be soaked from torrential rains in October, Jews pray that it should rain in Israel. The harvest has ended and the fields are parched. No other space on earth arouses such fervor and passion among the Jews, and infinite sacrifice to bring back the land to life. [1]

-When the Jews began to rebuild the land, they found the Valley of Jezreel infested with malaria. Today it is the agricultural heartland of the country. Reclamation cost the lives of hundreds of Jewish pioneers. No one forced them to engage in this dangerous work, yet they did so because it was their land. (Ibid)

-Observant Jews believed that simply by inhabiting the land, they were guaranteed a place in the world to come, while anyone who permanently left “is like a man who has no G-d.” [2[

On the 28th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar ( June 7 in 1967) Israeli paratroopers captured the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, the portion of the Western supporting wall of the Temple Mount that remained since the destruction of the Second Temple (70 C.E.) When they reached the Wall, many of the secular soldiers who were not observant were overcome with emotion. One soldier remembered looking around at the officers and the other soldiers:

“I saw their tears, their wordless prayers, and I knew they felt as I did: a deep feeling for the Temple Mount… a love for the Wall on whose stones so many generations have wept. I understood that it wasn’t only I and my religious friends who sensed its greatness and sanctity; others felt it too, no less deeply and strongly.”

He saw his kibbutz educated friends who spurned Jewish tradition, “now overwhelmed by a feeling of holiness.”[3]

For another soldier, the Wall represented “the realization of our people’s unity, of their longing, of the whole Jewish people. Not that particular place, but what it means to the whole Jewish people.”

When a group of soldiers fighting elsewhere heard Colonel Mordechai “Motta” Gur, commander of the 55th (Reserve) Paratroopers Brigade, announce on the army wireless: “Har Habayit Beyadeinu,”--The Temple Mount is in our hands! I repeat, the Temple Mount is in our hands!” they spontaneously began dancing and jumping on their vehicles and hugging each other. “It was like being in exile and suddenly hearing that Jerusalem was ours.” [4]

In 1917-1922 no one had to debate the aboriginal rights of Zionism. It was accepted that there was a unique connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel. They are forever linked with its name. The International leaders, who were overwhelming Christian, grew up knowing about the Holy Land as the Jewish homeland through Jesus, the Bible and Christian missionaries. [5].

In the British war cabinet of 1917, three of the five members were sympathetic to Zionism--Lloyd George, Alfred Milner and Jan Smuts. Lord Arthur James Balfour served as foreign secretary, Sir Mark Sykes and Leopold Amery were assistant secretaries to the cabinet. [6]

The Jewish people had been sovereign in their own land for a thousand years before many were forced into exile... Notwithstanding Arab claims, Palestine was never a separate country as Bernard Lewis has explained.
The Gentile Zionists of England respected this historical bond of the Jews to their ancient homeland land. They fought within their government to secure the right of Jews to return to their ancestral home, but as events in Palestine led to strained relations between the Jews and the British, the need to present the Jewish case to the international community became even more urgent.

When David Ben-Gurion spoke as representative of the Jewish Agency before the U.N. Special Committee on Palestine in Lake Success, New York in July 1947, he outlined the rationale for a Jewish state:

“We claim our rightful place…as human beings and as a people, the same right as other human beings and peoples possess, the right to security, freedom, equality, statehood and membership in the United Nations. No individual Jew can be really free, secure and equal anywhere in the world as long as the Jewish people as a people is not again rooted in its own country as an equal and independent nation.” [7]

In the last century, Israel is the only state established whose legitimacy was officially acknowledged by the League of Nations and the U.N. The League of Nations Mandate did not grant the Jewish people the rights to establish a national home in Palestine, it simply recognized a pre-existing right that had never been surrendered or forgotten. The Jewish people had been sovereign in their own land for a thousand years before many were forced into exile.

The establishment of the State of Israel did not represent a creation ex nihilo. These rights were upheld by the U.N. under Article 80 of the UN Charter after the U.N. replaced the League of Nations. [8]

Since 1517, the Ottoman Empire ruled the land of Israel. When Turkey lost World War I to the British in 1918, Jews used the occasion to reassert their historically recognized rights. In the Treaty of Sèvres, the Ottoman Empire relinquished sovereignty over their Asiatic territories outside of Turkey.

The Supreme Council of the Principal Allied Powers, Britain, France, Italy and Japan recognized the Jewish people’s claim to an historic connection to the land of Israel and provided a definite plan to create “a national home for the Jewish people.” [9]

Notwithstanding Arab claims, Palestine was never a separate country as Bernard Lewis has explained:

“From the end of the Jewish state in antiquity to the beginning of British rule, the area now designated by the name Palestine was not a country and had no frontiers, only administrative boundaries; it was a group of provincial subdivisions, by no means always the same, within a larger entity.” [10]

With regard to the Palestinian Arab population, a study of Jewish, Arab and British policies conducted by the Esco Foundation for Palestine published in 1947 concluded: “It is highly improbable that any but a small part of the present Arab population of Palestine is descended from the ancient inhabitants of the land.” Aside from those brought to Palestine through conquest, “Palestine, like Syria, has been from time immemorial been peopled by the drifting populations of Arabia, and to some extent by the backwash of its harbors." [11]

Furthermore as Richard Crossman, a British Labor M.P, who served as a member of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry pointed out, the Jews of Palestine had proven to the West they were undeniably a nation after having been forced to fight and triumph in their war of independence. The only criterion of whether an ethnic community deserves nationhood, Crossman said, is the “test of war.” [12]

The war further demonstrated that Arab allegations of Israel being “a direct threat and a tool of Western, and then principally U.S., imperialism to divide, dominate, and exploit the Arabs” [13] were false.

Had the Jews established a state with the help of the British, this would have reinforced the belief that Israel is merely a British colony that could not survive without British protection. [14]

Alex Grobman, a Hebrew University-trained historian, has written a number of books on Israel. He is the Senior Resident Scholar at the John C. Danforth Society, and a member of the Council of Scholars for Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME),


1,Meyer Weisgal, So Far Meyer Weisgal: An Autobiography (New York: Random House, 1971), 252.

2,Eliezer Schweid, The Land of Israel: National Home or Land of Destiny (New York: Herzl Press, 1985), 39.

3,Avraham Shapira, The Seventh Day: Soldiers' Talk about the Six-Day War (Tel-Aviv: Steimatzky’s Agency Ltd., 1970), 213.

4,Ibid; for an analysis of the anxiety and ambivalence experienced by some Israelis about the war see: Michael Oren, Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 309-310 ; Gili Izikovich, “The Seventh Day’: Censored Voices From the 1967 War,” Haaretz (June 7, 2015); Gal Beckerman, “Six Days, 40 Years of Controversy,” Forward (June 1, 2007); Tom Segev, Israel, the War, and the Year That Transformed the Middle East (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007; Michael Oren, “Who Started It?” The Washington Post (June 10, 2007).

5,Abba Eban, “Israel, Anti-Semitism and the United Nations,” The Jerusalem Quarterly (Fall 1976), 119; Eitan Bar-Yosef, The Holy Land in English Culture: Palestine and the Question of Orientalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); N.A. Rose, Ed. Baffy: The Diaries of Blanche Dugdale 1936-1947 (London: Vallentine, Mitchell, 1973).

6,N.A. Rose, The Gentile Zionists: A Study in Anglo-Zionist Diplomacy 1929-1939 (London: Frank Cass, 1973), 227.

7,Official Records of the Second Session of the General Assembly Supplement Number 11 United Nations Special Committee on Palestine Volume III Annex A: Oral Evidence Presented at Public Meeting, Lake Success, New York (July 4, 1947).

8, Dore Gold and Jeff Helmreich, Jerusalem Viewpoints Number 507 Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (November 16, 2003); Joseph Dan, “Jewish Sovereignty as a Theological Problem,” Azure Number 16 (Winter 2004).

9,Rifkind, Simon H. Rifkind, et. al. The Basic Equities of the Palestine Problem (New York: Arno Press, 1977), 26-27; Email from Allen Hertz to author (January 28, 2014).

10,Bernard Lewis, "The Palestinians and the PLO, A Historical Approach," Commentary 59, (January 1975): 32; Bernard Lewis, Semites and Anti-Semites: An Inquiry into Conflict and Prejudice (New York: Norton, 1999), 164.

11,Esco Foundation for Palestine, Inc., Palestine, A Study of Jewish, Arab, and British Policies, Volume I (New Haven: Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1947), 462-463.

12,Richard Crossman, A Nation Reborn: The Israel of Weizmann, Bevin, and Ben-Gurion (London: Hamish Hamilton, Ltd, 1960), 74,

13,Samih K. Farsoun and Naseer H. Aruri, Palestine And The Palestinians: A Social and Political History Second Edition (Bolder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1997), 3-4.

14,Crossman, op.cit. 74-75.