Twice Given

The prophet Nehemiah discussed the terms of the covenant made between God and Abram. First he refers to promise number one.

“It is You, O Lord God, who selected Abram and brought him out of Ur Kasdim, the city of the Chaldees, and changed his name to Abraham (father of a multitude of nations) because You found his heart faithful before You”.

Then, having made a covenant, a promise to Abraham, God proceeds to promise number two.

That promise was clearly stated as giving to Abraham and his people the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Emorites, Perizites, Jebusites and Girgashites…. six of the idol-worshipping groups. The seventh one, the Hivites, were left unmentioned because they were a very small and insignificant people.

But then, God added another “clause”. The promised land was to be given to Abraham and later to his offspring.

The book of Deuteronomy (Dvarim) makes it explicitly clearer in chapter 7 verses 1-2 and 5-6 :

“When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and shall cast out many nations before thee…. then thou shalt utterly
destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them…. ” and “Thus shall ye deal with them: ye shall break down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and burn their graven images with fire. For thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be His own treasure, out of all the peoples that are upon the face of the earth.”

Herein lies the beginning of a three-thousand year old dilemma. Abraham had two sons..Isaac and Ishmael. Isaac (Yitzchak) was a progenitor of all the Hebrew tribes whereas his brother Ishmael, son of an Egyptian slave woman, became a hunter and a wild man.

And while all Muslims revere Abraham (Ibrahim) as do all Jews as their spiritual father, Ishmael has the place of honor for Muslims, not Isaac.

Therefore as an offspring (son) of Abraham, Muslims claim that Ishmael as offspring, the promise includes them.

However, it seems that God later had a change of mind.

In all the later 24 books of the Hebrew Bible, which includes the books of the prophets, God instructs the Israelites, once they inhabit the promised land after their exodus from 430 years of slavery in Egypt, to destroy all the foreign nations surrounding them, to destroy their idols and temples of worship, and to cleanse the land of idolatry and idolators.

Here, then, begins the wars under the leadership of Joshua ben Nun, successor to Moses, to wage war against them and to utterly either drive them out of the land or destroy them.

Interestingly, one of ancient Israel’s biggest enemies were the Philistines. They, however, were not a Middle Eastern desert people. They arrived by sea in Israel and settled in the southern part of the land. They were an Aegean people, a warrior people, whose language was Greek.

For centuries they harassed the Hebrew Israelites. The biblical story of Samson and Delilah paints a picture of Philistine cruelty.

Because they were a numerous people who inhabited the land promised to Abraham and his family, many years later under Roman conquest the name of the Philistine land was changed to Palestina, the name recorded in history as Palestine.

Arabs who lived in the land never called themselves Palestinians. They originated in south Syria and referred to themselves as Syrians.

There has never been a Palestinian nation or state. Palestinian Arabs were never an independent people. They had been ruled over by stronger nations and for four hundred years by the might of the Ottoman empire whose caliphs and sultans treated them cruelly.

In 1918 at the end of the First World War, Great Britain was given the Mandate of Palestine and Jews and Arabs living there were given Palestinian citizenship.

One year previously, in 1917, Lord Arthur Balfour issued his famous Balfour Declaration which promised the Jewish people a homeland in Palestine.

The Arabs considered it to be only a “home” where Jews could live, but definitely not a “homeland” which would make them rulers of the country.

In 1920 in the Italian city of San Remo, members of the League of Nations were assembled and by a unanimous vote they upheld the legality of the Balfour Declaration and they recognized Palestine as the rightful owners of the country. Palestine was now legally given to the Jewish people as their rightful homeland.

Arabs in Palestine went to war against the Jews. Jewish men, women, children and babies were brutally slaughtered by Arab swords and knives. Pregnant Jewish women had their bellies cut open & left to die.

The British Mandate authorities did little, mostly nothing, to protect the Jewish population. They were pro-Arab and did not hide their anti-semitic feelings to the Jews.

Instead, they rejoiced in their partition of Palestine, giving 77 % to the Emir Abdullah of Trans-Jordan, founder of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and the Jews of Palestine were left with only 23%.

From 1920 to 1948, riots and massacres of Jews at the hands of murderous Arabs encouraged by the pro-Nazi Grand Mufti of Palestine, Haj Amir al Husseini, caused the Jews to form their own defense force, the Haganah (which ultimately became the IDF, Israel Defense Force).

The Arab riots and the Jewish response created an international problem for London and on 14 May, 1948, all British forces and government left Palestine and retreated to the comforts of tea and scones in Great Britain.

On the very same day when the British flag had been hauled down, David Ben-Gurion and his Zionist comrades signed Israel’s Declaration of Independence in the city of Tel-Aviv. The new blue and white flag with the shield of David in its center was raised while those assembled sang Hatikvah.

The Jewish nation, State of Israel, was born. A re-birth of the Jewish homeland two thousand years earlier.

Great changes have taken place in the Jewish State. Few changes, if any, were made for or by Palestinians.

The Jewish-Arab wars continue while other nations promote the concept of a two-state solution.

The Arabs insist upon Jerusalem as their proposed capital and the return of the thousands (and hundreds of thousands of their offspring), victims of the 1948 war and flight from Palestine.

As Jews waited anxiously for two thousand years for their homeland, I imagine that with patience, Arabs could also manage to wait for the same period of time.

Mi yodaya? Who knows? Only Allah.

Our God has twice given us His promise. And our Eternal God does not break His promises.

We are in our land, our homeland, the State of Israel, to abide here forever.. hopefully in peace.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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