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Abraham – A Biblical Zionist

Thoughts on the Torah portion by Sondra Oster Baras

“And God said to Abram go forth from your country and from your birthplace and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1) What an amazing Scripture! So begins the story of Abraham and the story of the Jewish people. If there was ever a “Zionist” Bible story, it’s this one. And each time I read Genesis 12, I am reminded that God chose Abraham out of all the people of the earth, and made him the father of our nation and the recipient of God’s promises for the Jewish people.

“And Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem to the Oak of Moreh, and the Canaanite was then in the land.” (Gen. 12:6) This marks Abram’s entry into the Land of Israel and immediately afterwards, God appears to Abram and makes an amazing promise: “I will give this land to your children.” (Gen. 12:7)

Imagine the scene. Abraham is 75 years old, he is married to Sarah, he is traveling with Lot and his entire family, but he has no children. He has spent his entire life in Ur of the Chaldees and a few years in Haran and then God speaks to him and tells him to leave it all behind and go to a different land. In fact, when God first tells Abraham to leave, he doesn’t even tell him where he will end up. He just says “to the land that I will show you.” And Abraham is totally obedient to God and goes forward, not knowing what he will find when he gets there.

But the first thing he does see is the mountains of Samaria. Up on top of those mountains outside of Shechem he is promised “this land.” And, let me assure you, from the mountains outside Shechem you can see just about all of “this land.” I believe that this is the reason that God does not delineate the borders of Israel at this point — God points out the land to Abraham and he can see it with his own eyes. He can see it and I’m sure he falls in love with it.

But he makes no attempt to conquer the land. God has said very clearly that this land would be given to his children. And, Scripture emphasizes this idea with the statement — the Canaanite was then in the land.

Many of you have heard me discuss these verses in my talks about the Land of Israel. Everything we are doing today in Israel, the essence of the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, is established in these few verses in the Bible, back in the time of Abraham. Without understanding and accepting the truth of these verses, the Jewish right to the Land cannot be understood.

But today I want to add one more thought. God made many promises to the Jewish people, but not all of the promises were to be fulfilled at once. As with this promise to Abraham, which would ultimately be fulfilled hundreds of years later, the ultimate possession by the Jewish people of the Land, in any generation, depends on God’s timing.

But at the same time, we, as human beings, must be attuned to God’s timing. Abraham did not conquer the land during his generation because it was clear to him that the right time would come later. And it did, when Joshua led the Children of Israel into the land.

So too, when the Jewish people began returning to the Land, they did so slowly, purchasing land whenever possible, working the land that was available to them. In 1948, the State of Israel was established by vote of the United Nations. Clearly, this was a signal that God’s time had begun. What was left to us was to be attuned to that timing — for Jews to make aliyah (immigrate to Israel) and for non-Jews to support our efforts to do so. In 1967, in a war that we did not ask to fight, the rest of Israel was given to us. Again, God made it clear that the timing was right. What was left to us was to follow His lead and settle the land.

That is what we have been doing for more than 100 years, since the beginning of modern Zionism. That is what we have been doing intensively since 1948 when the State of Israel was born. And that is what we, the people of Judea and Samaria have been doing since 1967 when the center of Biblical Israel became ours again.

May we all have the strength and the courage to follow God’s timing and do what He has in mind for us.