Trekking through the hills of Judea and Samaria, I found myself walking in the footsteps of the Jewish people some thirty-five hundred years ago. In a time where most native peoples dream of returning to their homeland, we are both privileged and blessed to have the legal rights to our indigenous home. Despite the pressures the Israeli government faces, Jews continue to work the land, build communities on it, and have continued what has become a dream come true following millennia of torment and torture.
I navigated the rocky paths of Shiloh, where the first Tabernacle was constructed following our return to the land after centuries of enslavement and exile. I could not help but wonder how our enemies have continuously claimed that this land was never our own. The archaeological expeditions in Shiloh have supposedly uncovered the location of the Tabernacle, successfully discovered homes dating back thousands of years, and revealed traces of ancient settlement that preceded Christianity and Islam. I was reminded of the great history that this city once had in the eyes of our people, just before it was overshadowed by the greatness of Jerusalem. The Jewish people do not find this in Europe, America, North Africa, or Iraq; the cornerstones of our people’s history only exist in the Land of Judea.
Moving through Jerusalem, we laid eyes on the City of David, lying on a slope south of the Temple Mount. The views of supposed retaining walls of the city, as well as the water systems used by David’s descendants, figuratively and literally show how entrenched the Jewish people’s history runs though Jerusalem. For three-thousand years, it has been the capital of our people and it is where Jews all over the world pray towards when performing their morning, afternoon, and evening prayers. No city in the world means more to the Jewish people than Jerusalem, yet there are people who continue to claim that we have never had any history in that city.
So our enemies have a daunting task to make that has only resulted in failure. Should they erase the history of the Maccabean Revolt, which overthrew the Hellenized Jews and the Seleucid Empire from its grasp of the Second Temple? Should they wipe away the stories of the Babylonian’s sacking of Jerusalem from the Book of Lamentations? Should they cleanse the psalm that states that, “if I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither”? Should they try to throw away the archaeological records of Jewish life on the Temple Mount from the same sediment they removed in 1999 when they desecrated the southeastern corner of the holiest site in Judaism? If they wish to continue their futile attempts to erase our history and to turn the world against the Jewish presence in Judea, then they will have to destroy the very narratives that remind the world that we were here. More importantly, they have to fight us when we proclaim that “we shall remain.”
It is high time for the Zionist movement to not only reclaim the narrative that the Palestine Liberation Organization terrorists failed to destroy, but also to proclaim that this is our story, that this is our history, and that we will not be defeated so long as we remain on this earth and in our homeland. We took Israel for granted. We took the fire of the Zionist movement for granted. Most devastatingly, we took our own narrative for granted. We are the great liberators of our time. We fought against the occupiers. We fought against the colonial powers that tried to squash us. We defeated those who attempted to throw every last one of us in gas chambers and sent us to the firing squads. However, despite the hell that they brought upon us, we not only survived; we thrived.
I call upon the Jewish people to proclaim our Zionist narrative of redemption, emancipation, and triumph. I urge my fellow Jewish college students to stop apologizing for our existence and to fight for a cause that is greater than ourselves. I hope to see every Jewish student on campus fighting back against the very forces that threaten our safety and our existence on campus. We have to let Students for Justice in Palestine know that they can hit us with shopping carts, punch us in the face, threaten to stab us, hurt us with mock checkpoints, post fake eviction notices on our doors, and rip off our mezuzot from our doorposts, but we will not be defeated and we will not be silenced. Not only do the Jewish people live, but Zionism lives.
However, we cannot do so if we remain in the shadows. If each Jewish student lights a candle on a hate-filled campus, it will only combat the darkness that has been cast upon us. If we do not illuminate and shine in the memory of the millions who yearned to return to Judea and rest their eyes on Jerusalem, then we only ensure that the evil that tried to destroy us has a chance. We cannot allow that to happen; we have everything to lose. Fighting back is our only chance of survival. Whether it is through the pen or through the sword, our mere existence endangers those who wish to annihilate us. We can only show that we exist through proclaiming our right to be self-determined Jews in our homeland.
The Zionist community must rise above all others. The time is now.