Over the past five years, working as the international liaison for the Shomron region, I have toured around the world speaking on behalf of this community. I have met with people from all types of backgrounds, both Jews and gentiles who are regular people, public officials and media personalities. I have led many tours east of the pre-1967 Green Line
in the Jewish communities which many call "settlements."
Local leadership here has learned that our greatest enemy is ignorance. Ironically, in spite of our region being the most talked about disputed area in the world, most people who have an opinion about its future have not taken the time to visit and see the facts on the ground for themselves. Many wish to believe that the Jewish residents
of Judea and Samaria are, as one guest told me, "the core of the problem," and that if the Jews were just removed from this region, utopian peace would reign in the world.
Upon visiting our communities, the hard facts dawn on most - who realize that over 750,000 Jews who live east of the Green Line are not camped out in temporary dwellings as part of some kind of demonstration. They have built their homes, schools, universities and cities with the full intent of staying here forever.
When I mention to my guests that the majority of the so called "settlers" in this region are secular Israelis, many ask "but why would seculars choose to live in the West Bank?"
People have been taught by the media that it is only religious fanatics like myself who believe that this is part of Israel. Well (surprise, surprise!), many secular Israelis choose to live in Barkan, Ariel, Tzofim and many other communities here for the same reasons that many Jews choose to live in Haifa and Beersheba and not in Los Angeles. The phenomenon is called Zionism:
It is a historic, cultural and religious connection to the land of Israel.
To all with whom I have spoken on the matter of Israel's rights to this area, I have preached the same message, whether it be to unaffiliated young professionals in Union Square in New York City, African statesmen in Lagos, Nigeria, a Chinese journalist visiting the Shomron or Jewish students. Interestingly, those who are most put off by the biblical claim are the last mentioned. Jews seem the most concerned that mentioning the Bible as the foundation of our claim to the land of Israel will be seen as illegitimate in a popular debate.
But I have found that others, non-Jews, actually appreciate our historical claims and our persistence to hold on to our national pride and heritage. Italian, Czech and Ukrainian government officials who visited here each expressed their admiration for our patriotic dedication to our historic homeland. This connection has been preserved by the Jewish people throughout history, through the observance of the biblical holidays and our studies of the Bible, where we read the promise of this land by HaShem to us – the descendants of our founding fathers, Avraham, Itzchak and Yaakov.
How silly it is to suggest that Jews not mention our biblical connection to the land of Shechem, Hebron and Jerusalem. If not for that connection, why would Jews have regathered from the nations here and not in Uganda? Could you imagine suggesting that America's patriots be advised not to mention the historic actions of those who threw tea in the sea and rebelled against the British? Or telling them not to sing about a flag that was still there after a battle in 1812?
The Jewish claim to the land of Israel goes back more than 1812 years - to the days of the Bible, when there was a Jewish country. We have never forgotten that heritage, and we have the teaching of the Bible to thank for that. One need not embrace the Jewish theology in order to appreciate the Torah's contribution to our history and culture.
While out public speaking or guiding tours for guests here in Shomron, I am always sure to refer to our biblical claim to the mountain ridge of Judea and Samaria. I do not do this as a means of winning a legal argument, but in order that my listeners get a true perspective of our national motivation to be here.
Once I met with a Chinese journalist at my home in Kfar Tapuach, in the Shomron. I showed him the main road below, which leads from Shechem to Jerusalem, and from there on to Beersheba via Bethlehem and Hebron. This road (number 60 on the map today) is the highway of the Bible. All of the events in the lives of our fathers Avraham, Itzchak and Yaakov that are mentioned in the Bible occurred on this
The journalist, who was neither Jewish nor Christian (and so was unfamiliar with the stories of the Bible from his own upbringing) remarked to me that he was so thankful to me for outlining this biblical connection of the Jews to this land. People in his country, he said, had no idea what brought Jews to live here and sacrifice so much for this land.
The value of mentioning the biblical claim of the Jewish people to the land is not so much to convince foreign ears that it is our right because it says so in the Bible, but, more so they can understand the roots of our love for this land, and our motivation to hold on to it forever.