The Jewish Connection to the Land

The West Bank is better known in Israel as Yehuda v’Shomron, or Judeah and Samaria. Why do the Jewish People have their own name for this area of Israel? What is the Jewish connection to this area, dating back millennia? Knowing the history, from ancient times to modern day, sheds light on the contested settlements and geo-political reality in Israel today.

Watch this video and use these prompts to delve deeper into all that this mini-series has to offer.

  1. Why do the names “Jew” and “Judea” share the same root?
  2. In what century did Muslims begin taking root in what was then called Palestine?
  3. What ancient Jewish landmark can be found in Hebron?
    • The Tomb of the Patriarchs
    • The Western Wall
    • The City of David
    • The Mishkan of Shiloh
  4. In what year did Israel win control of the West Bank?
    • 1936
    • 1948
    • 1967
    • 1973
  5. What was the particular significance of the Kfar Etzion settlement?
  1. What has the area of Judea and Samaria meant to the Jewish people for the past 3,000 years? How has Jewish tradition kept the dream of returning to the land alive during all this time?
  2. Is it possible for two different peoples to feel a strong historical connection to the same place? How is this manifested in Israel?
  3. Is the Jews’ claim to modern-day Israel based on their historical/religious connection to the land, or on 20th-century political realities? Which claim do you think is stronger and why?
  4. Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, a key leader in the religious Zionist world, said in May 1967, right before the Six Day War.

    “Where is our Hebron — have we forgotten her?! Where is our Shechem, our Jericho — where? — Have we forgotten them? And all that lies beyond the Jordan — each and every clod of earth, every region, hill, valley, every plot of land, that is part of Eretz Israel — have we the right to give up even one grain of the Land of God?”

    One of the results of the Six Day War was that the Biblical cities mentioned by Rabbi Kook a month before the war broke out were returned to the Jewish people. Do you agree or disagree with Rabbi Kook’s assessment that we deeply need Hebron, Shechem, Jericho, etc. to foster a deep connection to the “Land of God” as he calls it?

  5. What’s in a name? Judea and Samaria, as the area is called in Biblical and Jewish tradition, is known more generally as the West Bank, while others call it “occupied territory” and some describe it as “disputed territory.” Can land have multiple names? And why does language matter? Read this article and discuss what you think you should call this area of land, and listen to what others think the land should be called.
  1. What’s in a name? Judea and Samaria, as the area is called in Biblical and Jewish tradition, is known more generally as the West Bank, while others call it the “Occupied Territories.” Can land have multiple names? And why does language matter? Read this article and declare what you think this area of land should be called and why.
  2. Five Choices Activity: Bring your students together for a “five corners” activity: Label five areas of the room as “International recognition,” “Indigenous,” “Pioneering,” “Military” and “Historical / Religious.” Ask students to walk to the corner of the room that they think is the Jewish people’s best claim to modern day Israel. When there, students should discuss why they chose that corner with the other students in that corner, and then open the conversation to the whole group to explain their stances. Students may change corners based on the conversation. If one of the claims is the obvious favorite, acknowledge that to the class and discuss the reasoning.
  3. Engage your students in an experiential learning activity around the theme of Home, a theme found in the accompanying video.
  4. Give your students our Kahoot on the Jewish Connection to the Land – Settlements Part 2!
  1. Based on what you learned in this video, do you understand why many Jews feel a strong attachment to Judea and Samaria? How would you articulate that connection?
  2. If you are Jewish, does the area of Judea and Samaria take on particular significance to you, or do you view it as an ancient and therefore irrelevant connection?
  3. Ze’ev Maghen writes in John Lennon and the Jews, “All the biblical text means by Yehudim is people who hail from Yehuda – Judea. The title ‘Jew’ was originally (and still is) a geographical and national – not a ‘religious’ – appellation. And that is why, for example, the following SAT exercise doesn’t work:‘Jew’: Judea: ‘Christian’ _______(Christiana?); ‘Muslim’: ________(Muslimland?); ‘Buddhist’: _________(Buddhistan?)… The designation ‘Jew,’ on the other hand, is not only connected to the land and tribe of Judah – that’s all it means.”In reflecting on this insight of Maghen, how does it allow you to understand the unique Jewish connection to the land of Judea and Samaria differently?The founding chief rabbi of Efrat, Shlomo Riskin, once said, “If Israel is Disneyland, come when the sun is shining. But if it is the motherland, come when she needs you the most.” Does this quote resonate with you? In what way do you view Israel as a “motherland”?
  4. Sari Nusseibeh, a Palestinian academic, describes Menachem Begin’s position in the following way: “Begin believed that the captured territories were integral parts of Israel because they were God-given Holy Land, the birthplace of the Jewish people. He was willing to grant limited autonomy for Arabs living there, just not national rights. National rights implied control over a territory, and this was what he determined to deny us.” From a Palestinian perspective, would you be able to identify with the designation of “God-given land” for the Jews as Begin understood the land, or would you insist on your “national rights” as Nusseibeh understood them?
  1. Dr. Noam Weissman, “West Bank Annexation?” 
  2. Martin Gilbert, Israel: A History, chapter 4
  3. Yossi Klein Halevi, Like Dreamers, chapters 8-10
  4. Sari Nusseibeh, Once Upon a Country, chapter 16
  5. “At least 40,000 Jews gather in Hebron to mark biblical purchase of Cave of the Patriarchs” 
  6. Jewish Virtual Library, “Hebron: History & Overview” 
  7. Hey Alma, “What are the settlements?”
  8. Primary Sources: Center for Israel Education, Liturgical References to Zion and Jerusalem 

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Experiential Learning is a proactive way to educate with a focus on reflection and can take place in any academic setting: day school, supplementary school, camp, youth group, synagogue, college campus or university. 

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