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Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Do you own property in Israel?

Daf Yomi Bava Basra 44

Jerusalem, The Movie, is a 2013 IMAX documentary that describes the history and contemporary life of the holiest city in the world.  The film begins showing the Jebusites as the original inhabitants of the city.  It was then conquered by the Jews.  Subsequently, the Romans took it.  Then the Muslims.  Then the Christians.  Then the Muslims again.  And finally the Jews reconquered it.  The message of the movie was that everyone really had a part in the city’s history and that we should all ideally share the city.

Only problem is that the first part of the story is absent.  The Torah’s original introduction to Jerusalem happens when our patriarch Avraham returns from his successful mission to rescue his nephew Lot and the other captives.  He is greeted by his great-grandfather, Malkitzedek, King of Shalem.  City name sound familiar?  Of course!  That was Jerusalem!  In fact, our Sages explain that Malkitzedek was Shem, the son of Noach.  Initially, he ruled over the entire area of what would later be called Greater Israel.  But the Canaanites conquered most of the land from him, leaving him with only the city of Shalem, or Jerusalem.  And indeed, after his death, that city too was conquered by a Canaanite people called the Jebusites.

Nevertheless, Hashem promised Avraham that one day, his descendants would return to the Land.  They would be replanted in the country that was once the domain of their forefathers.  It belongs to us and any subsequent conquests are invalid in the eyes of Hashem.

Tosfos: When one creates a power of attorney for monetary matters, one writes, “I hereby transfer four cubits of my yard to my agent” (thereby rooting the transaction in land).  One writes the clause even if he does not own any land, since there is no Jewish person who does not own a portion of land in Israel, for land cannot be stolen.

What is your motivation for Israel advocacy?  Most of us advocate for two primary reasons: first, to help our brothers and sisters in Israel.  Almost half the Jewish people live in Israel and so we want to make sure that Israel is treated fairly and protected by the global society of nations.

The second reason we advocate for Israel is that, following 2000 years of persecution in exile, we all recognize that we need Israel as a safe haven for our people.  G-d forbid should the next Hitler or Queen Isabella rise up, we now have somewhere to escape to.  Unless we fight for Israel’s right to exist and flourish now, it will not be there if and when we should ever need to take shelter under her wings. 

The reality is, though, it’s really hard to motivate young people to advocate on that score.  While many of us grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust, our children have grown up in a world that is so open and accepting to all.  They couldn’t begin to imagine real anti-Semitism, the likes of which existed blatantly in every country until quite recently.  So why should they fight for Israel?

Certainly the first reason – acting for the love of their Israeli brothers and sisters – continues to hold true, but Tosfos here offers an additional, very compelling reason to defend Israel.  You own property there!  Every single Jew, says Tosfos, is an automatic landowner, since we all have a share in the physical land of Israel.  Even if it was stolen by the Jebusites, then the Babylonians, then the Romans, and finally by the Christians and Muslims, it still belongs to us.  You can’t steal land!

If you saw someone trying to steal your car, would you just stand there and let them get away with it?  Of course not!  You would do everything in your power to stop them.  The same is true with any property you own.  So what are you going to do when they try to sweep away your land from under your feet?  You’re going to work your hardest to make sure it doesn’t happen! 

That’s the imagery we need to convey to our children.  Israel advocacy is not about some country on the other side of the world we’re working to support politically.  It’s about our personal ownership rights that are being threatened!

You own a piece of Israel.  Don’t let it slip away.  May you never stop fighting for your rights and the rights of every one of your landowner brothers and sisters!