More than 2,100 years ago Jews were accused of being occupiers when the Maccabees revolted against a true occupier of the land, namely, the Greek empire.

One of the challenges of living in Israel is putting up with the media portrayal of Israel that simply does not meet reality. Sometimes you want to just yell at the top of your lungs, “It is a lie! Don’t listen to the mainstream media as they misrepresent the truth.”

Sometimes the media, in their rush to get the story out, make honest mistakes, but at other times the “mistakes” are intentional and in fact rooted in anti-Israel or, more accurately, anti-Semitic sentiments.

One of the myths and lies that has been spread for years is that Israel is an occupying force. In fact, if you remember back in 2010, the late Helen Thomas, who was then a senior White House correspondent for Hearst Publications, was caught on tape saying that the Jews should leave the “West Bank” and to “go back to Poland, where they came from.”

Calling Israel an Occupying Force is a Lie

Really? Is that where we came from? Anyone with a Bible or with just a smidgen of historical knowledge knows that we do not originate in Poland. Poland was just a stop on the long path of exile from our homeland after the Romans destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem. When all of this occurred in the year 70 CE, the long march of the Jewish Diaspora began and did not end until 1948, with the declaration of the modern State of Israel on May 14. In fact, it was more than a thousand years prior to the destruction of the Temple that the Israelites came to the land of Israel, fulfilling the promise God had made to Abraham that his descendants would inherit the land. That promise was made over 500 years before the entry of the Israelites into the land.

The words of Economy Minister Naftali Bennett ring true: “A nation cannot occupy its own land!”

Calling Israel an occupying force in the “West Bank” is an utter falsehood. The socalled West Bank is Judea and Samaria, the heart of the biblical homeland given to and possessed by the Jewish people for thousands of years. While Israel may have been ruled by occupying nations over the last 2000 years, there has been a continuous Jewish presence that expected and waited for the return of Jewish sovereignty. Their patience has paid off and we have returned to our homeland not as occupiers, but as rightful owners. End of story.

Learning from the Maccabees

Bennett was not the first to declare the Jewish right to the land. More than 2,100 years ago, Jews were accused of being occupiers when the Maccabees revolted against a true occupier of the land, namely, the Greek empire. If you are not familiar with the story, I am referring to the story of Chanukah, which we are now celebrating. The Syrian-Greeks occupied the Land of Israel and turned the Holy Temple in to a place of pagan worship. In 167 BCE, a revolt led by a Jewish family known as the Hasmoneans (or Chashmonaim) successfully restored Jewish sovereignty, and the Temple was once again cleansed of pagan worship and restored to its glory.

We can infer from the words of Simon the Maccabee that he was responding to the naysayers of his generation. Here are his powerful and stirring words:

“We did not take a foreign land and we did not rule over the property of others. Rather, the land of our forefathers, which at some time without trial was captured by our enemies. We, the Jewish nation, when we had the opportunity, restored the land of our fathers.”

As we celebrate Chanukah, these are some of my thoughts as a resident of Judea and Samaria. Having moved here six years ago with my family, we feel deeply that we have come home. When we light the candles on our Chanukiah (candelabra), we think about the darkness of the exile and the sacrifices that were made to light the path that eventually brought us back here – not as conquerors, but as redeemers. Not to occupy someone else’s land, but to return to our own.

By Rabbi Moshe Rothchild, United with Israel

Chanukah articles


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