No people in the world today have an older claim to the Land of Israel than the Jewish people do. The Jebusites, Amorites, Canaanites, and Philistines do not exist in today’s world. According to the American archaeologist Eric Cline, writing in Jerusalem Besieged, “Historians and archaeologists have generally concluded that most if not all modern Palestinians are probably more closely related to the Arabs of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, and other countries than they are to the ancient Jebusites, Canaanites and Philistines.” He claims that all of the ancient inhabitants of the Land of Israel, except for the Jews, have been vanquished.
Nevertheless, Cline proclaimed, “Few would seriously challenge the belief that most modern Jews are descended from the ancient Hebrews.” Cline is backed up by a study that was published in the American Journal of Human Genetics. After doing a detailed study titled “Abraham’s Children in the Genome Era: Major Jewish Diaspora Populations Comprise Distinct Genetic Clusters with Shared Middle Eastern Ancestry,” scientific research found that “Jews originated as a national and religious group in the Middle East during the second millennium BCE and have maintained continuous genetic, cultural, and religious traditions since that time, despite a series of Diasporas.” Thus, given this, it has been established that most Jews are descended from the ancient Israelites that have lived in the Land of Israel since antiquity.
One of the earliest archeological proofs for the existence of the Jewish nation in the land of Israel can be found in Egypt, where a victory monument of Pharaoh Merneptah claims that the Egyptians defeated the Israelites in about the year 1207 BCE. Inside the Israel Museum today, one can find an Aramaic inscription proving that the House of King David really existed. One can also witness within the Israel Museum a cuneiform inscription in which Assyrian King Sennecherib bragged about how he defeated the Kingdom of Judah. He proclaimed, “And Hezekiah, King of Judah, who did not submit to my yoke, I laid siege to 46 of his strong cities, walled forts and to countless small villages in their vicinity. I besieged them and conquered them.” None of these archaeological relics would have existed if there weren’t an ancient Jewish kingdom within the Land of Israel.
Indeed, in 66 BCE, Israel had a population of 3 to 4 million souls, of whom 75 percent were Jewish. Jews remained the majority of the population up until 135 CE, when Roman persecutions transformed the Jews into a minority within their own country. From that point onward, the majority of the population in Israel would comprise of Hellenistic Christians. By the seventh century, only 150,000 to 200,000 Jews continued to live in Eretz Yisrael. And by 1517, following the Black Plague and the Crusades, only 300,000 people lived in the Land of Israel, of whom 5,000 were Jews. For the first time in history, Muslims became the majority population within the country under Mamluk rule, although many more Muslims would migrate to the Holy Land throughout the late Ottoman period up until the conclusion of the British Mandate. Most modern Palestinians are descended from these recent Muslim migrants. During Ottoman times, Jews continued to live in their ancestral homeland, although significantly reduced in size.
Since the Roman expulsion Jewish prayer liturgy has been filled with references of the yearning the Jewish people to return back to their ancient homeland, and for the past 2000 years the Jewish people have prayed at least three times a day to return from their exile.
In 1948 David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, expressed the Jewish peoples indigenous claim and connection to the Land of Israel when he read the Israeli Declaration of Independence in which it is stated: “ERETZ-ISRAEL (the Land of Israel) was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books. After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom. Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses.” The declaration then annoucned “the establishment of a Jewish state in the land of Israel to be known as the State of Israel. … Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles.”
By Rachel Avraham