Twice-Promised Land

To be clear about the ground from which I speak: I am passionately committed to wrestling God as part of the people named Yisrael—"Israel, God wrestler." I feel connected with Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig, and Abraham Joshua Heschel (their memories be for a blessing) in the last generation, and I look forward with eagerness and trepidation to the coming of Messiah—be it speedily and in our own day!

When I address the issue of the land of Israel, my first thoughts are:

  • That God promised that land to the people of Israel on permanent and irrevocable but intermittent loan (for ownership of that land, like all land, belongs to God);
  • That Israel's actual possession of the land is intermittent because possession depends on how well Israel follows the commands of Torah to hallow the earth and human society;
  • That every intervening exile from the land, caused by Israel's failure, no matter how long the exile will be followed by another chance;
  • That the contemporary state of Israel is the form the Jewish people's continuing experiment in fulfilling Torah in the land takes, in our generation;
  • That Israel is commanded also to live among the nations, in order to learn from them and teach them; in order through dialogue-in-action to renew its own, and their, holiness and creativity.

These are my first thoughts. I hold them out of my own reading of God's Word as revealed in Torah, in the human heart, and in history. These first thoughts are not unusual in the Jewish community, though the last one among them is not universally accepted.

My second thought is held by far fewer people in the Jewish community. It is that in some sense God has also promised a relationship with the same land—not necessarily the same kind of relationship—to another people: the children of Ishmael, in our generation represented by the Palestinian people.

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