Perhaps nothing evokes a stronger debate within the Israeli political sphere than the idea of land for peace.
The idea itself is quite simple. Israel gives over land that it has conquered (historically it has always been in a purely defensive war) in exchange for peace with their Arab neighbors.
This question was immediately thrust into the center of Israeli politics after the Six Day War in 1967. After a swift and seemingly miraculous victory, Israel suddenly found itself with a massive territorial gain. Israel immediately offered up both the Sinai and the Golan in return for peace only to be faced by a strong no by each of the Arab states. But, once the idea was out in public, the Jewish world began to think about it.
And then the debates started.
Most Israelis felt that if there was a true peace partner on the other side, then land concessions were not only reasonable but encouraged. All we have wanted since the outset of the Jewish state, they said, is peace, and if that can be brought about by giving away land - especially land that no Jews currently live on - of course we should do it!
Others disagreed. Many from the religious community felt that giving away land was fundamentally sacreligious. The land of Israel is holy, they said, therefore it is forbidden to give away even an inch to the non-Jews. This had nothing to do with whether or not they trusted the Arabs or not, rather the idea of giving away land was anathema to the religious Jewish psyche.
Now this debate ended up having real political relevance in 1979 with the signing of peace with Egypt. After four wars with Egypt over the course of 40 years, Israel - to the protest and dismay of much of the religious Jewish world- gave back the Sinai in exchange for a cold peace with the southern country. Today very few would disagree that this was the right decision.
But this is not the first time in history that Israel has given away land.
No, to find the first occasion we must travel some three millenia back in time to the united kingdom of ancient Israel. There, in about 950 BCE, a young King Solomon had just taken over the throne from his father David and began two monumental construction projects: the building of Solomon’s palace and the Jerusalem temple.
Needing an abundance of building materials, such as wood and gold, Solomon reached out to his geographical neighbor, the king of Tyre, to make a deal. And, what do you know, he gave away land!
At the end of twenty years, during which Solomon built these two buildings—the temple of the Lord and the royal palace— King Solomon gave twenty towns in Galilee to Hiram king of Tyre, because Hiram had supplied him with all the cedar and juniper and gold he wanted. (1 Kings 9: 10-11)
It doesn’t get any more explicit than that. Solomon gave away 20 cities in the north of Israel to a foreign power in exchange for building materials.
The same portion of the Jewish community that feels that giving away any part of Israel is a traitorous and blasphemous thing to do either has no clue that Solomon had done such a thing or they find a wild rationalization that probably contradicts the simple explanation of the text.
Given that the Tanakh was written over a 600 year period in ancient Israel by the Jewish community who tried to exemplify the best of Jewish values while dealing with political, economic, and military tensions - it can offer valuable pieces of wisdom when it comes to many decisions corresponding to modern day Israel. And if giving away land for a good reason is one of those pieces of wisdom - we would be wise to listen.
Moshe Daniel Levine is a regular contributor of blog postings on Jewish Values Online.
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I truly support Israel, but in this day and age it is difficult to do so, with so much dissent in the news and on the streets. Where in the Torah does it state that the land of Israel belongs to the Jews? Does the Torah delineate borders?
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