Question:  I know that this is not a simple question and I am also aware that this question has many answers, depending on who I ask.  I would like to know who has the “right to the land of Israel”. I am doing a project in world history on this and I am trying to find different opinions from all sides.

Answer: Jews have a right to the land of Israel.  Our claim goes back to the days of the Bible – to the promise of the land which God gave to Abraham, Sarah and our other matriarchs and patriarchs; to the days of Moses and the Israelites who left slavery and traveled for 40 years to reach the land; and to the days of Joshua, Samuel, and the early Kings, who conquered and settled the land which was promised to their ancestors.

This does not, by the way, mean that others do not also have a claim to the land.  But it is an indisputable fact that Jews have a claim to the land.

Question:  Why is Jerusalem so central to Israel’s modern history?  The old city of Jerusalem is not even in Israel’s control since 1948, why then is it so important to this day?

Answer: First of all, to correct an inaccuracy in your question, since 1967, united Jerusalem HAS been in Israeli hands.  That, however, is irrelevent to the question of why Jerusalem is so central to Judaism (and modern Israel).

Since the time of King David (3000 years ago), Jerusalem has been the political capitol of the Jewish presence in Israel, during all the years when Jews have had political self-control or autonomy.  In addition, the Temple, the religious center of the Jewish world, was in Jerusalem for just over 1000 years.  After the destruction of the second Temple, Jews continued to look towards Jerusalem as a spiritual center.  The remaining western wall of the Temple became a site of pilgrimage and prayer.

Question: Why when the state of Israel was created did we not name it Judah? Israel was the name of the northern country of the 10 tribes. Judah to the south was the tribes of Judah (Jews) and Benjamin.  This has always confused me. Can you shed any light on the subject. Thank you in advance.

Answer: The area known as Judea was owned only by the tribe of Judah.  If the country had been named Judea, it would have excluded the other 11 tribes from ownership in the land.  Israel, as another name for Jacob, includes the entire Israelite, later Jewish, people.  In addition, later sources (Talmud, Siddur) refer to the land as Eretz Yisrael, not Eretz Judea.

Question:  I am curious about the Hatikvah. It is obviously the basis of or copied from the River Moldau by Smetana. Can you advise which came first?

Answer: According to the Encyclopaedia Judaica, the words to Hatikva were written by the Hebrew poet Naftali Hertz Imber in 1878.  In about the same year, it was set to music by Samuel Cohen, based on a Moldavian-Rumanian folk melody, Carul cu Boi, “Cart and Oxen.”  I am not familiar with “The River Moldau” by Smetana, so I cannot comment on which came first.

Question: I am a Jew. I do not consider myself a zionist. All my Jewish brethren are disturbed each time I bring up the topic of Theodor Herzl, framed in a question: Is the founder of zionism, Theodor Herzl, the Moshiach? I do not consider Mr. Herzl the Moshiach. The Moshiach will establish a government in Israel…. This is my question, is the current State of Israel a falsehood created for political-economical reasons rather than fulfilling the prophecies of the Torah, et al? I look forward to your reply.

Answer: The messianic prophecies of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) refer to the ingathering of the diaspora Jewish community and the re-establishment of a Davidic dynasty in Israel, among other things, such as universal worship of one God and world peace.  By no possible stretch of the imagination has anyone ever suggested that Theodor Hertz (or any other modern figure involved in the establishment of the State of Israel) is the Messiah.

The current State of Israel was created by Jews who longed for the re-establishment of a Jewish state in the land that has been associated with Jews for thousands of years.  Liturgically, it has been called “reishit tz’mihat ge’ulateinu,” the beginning of the flowering of our redemption.”  In other words, it is not the beginning of the messianic era (in which we and the entire world will be redeemed), but in the long process of transforming and redeeming the world, the establishment of Israel is just one beginning step.

During the exile following the destruction of the first Temple, the prophet Isaiah prophesied that the Persian King Cyrus was God’s agent in bringing the Jewish community back to Israel, and rebuilding the Temple.  Who is to say that the founders of the modern State of Israel were not also God’s agents?

Question: I am Jewish. I have met a few Jews online who state because I do not support the State of Israel I am not a Jew. I explain to each, I was not raised as a religious Jew, though my mother and father were Jewish (my father had passed on when I was 2 1/2). I have heard that though I never had my Bar Mitzvah, this does not make me any less of a Jew. And, it is my understanding, that in Isaiah 11 and Zechariah 14, until the Moshiach reigns, a State of Israel (the current one created by Theodor Herzl) does not fulfill any of the prophecies in the Torah, Nevatim, and/or Kethuvim. So when I speak of the above to my fellow Jewish brethren, am I any less a Jew?

Answer: Your position regarding the State of Israel does not affect your Jewishness.  Neither does the fact that you never celebrated your Bar Mitzvah, although assuming you are more than 13 years old, you are Bar Mitzvah.

I do want to tell you, however, that Theodor Herzl did not create the State of Israel.  It was created following more than 50 years of World Zionist Congresses working the arena of political action; international grass roots groups of Jews making aliyah, buying, settling and working the land; and finally a United Nations Resolution in 1948 partitioning the former British Empire into the states of Israel and Trans-Jordon.  Whether or not the modern State of Israel fulfills the prophecy’s of the Bible (I happen to think it is reishit tzemihat g’eulateinu, the beginning of the flowering of our redemption), it is a Jewish nation on the land that historically has been sacred to Jews.  Whether or not you agree with all of the particular policies of the government of Israel, what’s the harm in showing some support to the largest Jewish community in the world.

Response:  We do have our difference, but I do respect your answer to my question; and as one Jew to another, regardless if we may have differences in opinion over the State of Israel, you are still my brother, we are still brethren of a long line of suffering, but as Jews, we are a strong ingenious people who in times of trouble, we will come out as victor. I do appreciate your responsvie reply. Currently I am reading The Essential Torah by Norbert Weinberg, and if there are any books in which you wish for me to read, please do not hesitate forwarding such reading material.Question: As I was visiting the website, I noticed that everything written about the war in Israel was about the deaths of the Jews.  I seemed to have noticed that the Palestinians are suffering just as much.  Don’t you think so?  What do you think should be done about this situation. I am only 14 and I would like to grow up and see our nation unite with the Arabs.

Answer: There is no question that Palestinians are suffering, but we need to ask the question, “Why are they suffering?”  The previous prime Minister of Israel offered Arafat a Palestinian country on the West bank, but he rejected it, because it did not meet every one of his demands.  Had they accepted it, there would be a Palestinian State right now, and there likely would be no war right now.  Israel was willing to negotiate and compromise – the Arab side was not.  Arafat and other terrorist Arab groups are acting like they still believe that Israel has no right to exist, like they will not stop the attacks until the State of Israel ceases to exist.

Israel’s actions against the Palestinians are been defensive.  How do you defend yourself when someone send a suicide bomber to a 13 year old girl’s Bat Mitzvah party, killing her grandmother?  How do you defend yourself when a Passover Seder is attacked by a suicide bomber?

Israel’s answer — go into the cities where the bombs are being built and stored, and take them away.  Take away all of the weapons that are being used against Israel.  Essentially, that is the battle that is being fought right now.

I, too, want to see our country of Israel at peace with the Arabs country and peoples around and within it.  However, that cannot happen until they accept the existence of Israel, and stop teaching their children that it is praiseworthy to die killing Jews.

Question: I have always been a firm believer in the separation of church and state. But I’m also a firm believer in Israel. So when my social studies teacher asked me why Israel should belong to the Jews and the only reason I could come up with was that God gave it to us I felt like I was betraying my own ideals. Is their a more political or socially acceptable reason for why Israel should belong to the Jewish people?

Answer: Judaism is more than a religion – it is a religious civilization.  Like any civilization, it has a language (Hebrew), art, food, philosophy, literature, and land.  Historically, Jews lived in the land of Israel.  I happen to believe like you, that the land of Israel became a Jewish land because of a covenant God made with the Jewish people.  However, the fact remains that no matter how Jews first lay claim to the land of Israel, they did live there continuously for over 1000 years during the first and second Temple periods.  For most of this time there was some kind of Jewish government, even if it was subject to a foreign power.  Following the destruction of the second Temple, control of Israel went Rome.  Following Rome, there were a series of empires and powers that controlled the land, and the Jewish community slowly was dispersed around the globe.  But the key factor is that the Jews, in our sacred texts, in our prayer books, and in our other literature, never lost the desire to return to the land of Israel.  Every other Western civilization that conquered Israel eventually died out — except the Jews.

Jews, just like any other people, deserve a place to call their own.  The French have France, the German have Germany, the Croats have Croatia, the Slavs have Slovakia, the Arabs have Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemin, . . .

There are people within Israel, by the way, who also feel that their should be a greater separation of religion from the State.  It is a young country, a democratic country, and as it matures it will need to figure out exactly what ongoing role religion will have in its national life.  But the land of Israel contains the Biblical and the beginnings of the post-Biblical Rabbinic history of the Jewish people.  God willing (!), it will always be a safe refuge where Jews can go, even if we are not welcome in other countries of the world.  Imagine what World War II would have been like for the Jews if there has been an Israel accepting refugees with open arms, while nearly every other country on earth was denying entry visas.

Question:  What plant foods are grown in Israel?

Israel is a very fertile country, and they grow a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains.  If you look in the Encyclopedia Judaica under “Israel,” there is a long article listing the vegetation grown there.

Question:  What is Benjamin Netanyahu’s brother’s name?

Answer: His name was Jonathan – Yoni.  He was the only Israeli killed during the raid on Entebbe.