The Bible tells us that Patriarch Avraham (Abraham) buried his wife, Matriarch Sarah, in the Cave of Machpelah in the city of Ḥevron (Hebron). Genesis 23. The Torah text specifies that he purchsed the cave with his own money at an exorbitant over-market price. 23:15-16. Later, he was buried there by his sons, Patriarch Yitzchak (Isaac) and Yishmael (Ishmael). 25:7-10. In time, Isaac and Matriarch Rivkah (Rebecca) were buried there, and thereafter Patriarch Yaakov (Jacob) and Matriarch Leah. 49:29-32; 50:13. Of the seven patriarchs and matriarchs, only Rachel was buried elsewhere, having died on the road to Efrat, near Beit Lechem (Bethlehem), while giving birth to Binyamin (Benjamin). 35:16-20.
In Judaism, four cities are known as “Ir HaKodesh” (the Holy City): Jerusalem, Shiloh, Tzfat (Safed), and Ḥevron. Jews have lived in Ḥevron since the time when Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan River after their forty-year peregrination through the Wildernes of Sinai, fought the Battle of Jericho, and then apportioned the Promised Land. Joshua 14:13-15. King David’s first capital was in Ḥevron. II Samuel 2:11. In all, Jews lived in Ḥevron virtually uninterrupted for some three thousand years until 1929.
That is fact. Muslims did not exist until the Seventh Century when Muhammed beheaded his enemies in the 600’s and created his religion. In the Riots of 1929, Arab Muslim murderers undertook to exterminate the Jews in the Holy Land. They slaughtered every Jew they could murder in Ḥevron. Likewise in Jenin, Tulkarm, Nablus, and even in Gaza. For purposes of space, Ḥevron will be the instant focus.
“Palestinians”? None of them were there. Christians — Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Evangelicals, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and all others who adopt the Christian Gospels — know there were no Muslims or “Palestinians” in Ḥevron. Even Muslims who know their Quran (Koran) know there were no Islam and no “Palestinians” back then.
Jews always lived in Ḥevron. It’s like the French living in Paris, the English living in London, and the Chinese living in Beijing. City names may change — like Peking to Beijing — and the Bible records that some called the city “Ḥevron” while others called it “Kiryat Arba,” but it always was home to Jews. 23:2.
And then came August 24, 1929. In the Hebrew-Jewish calendar, that is the 18th of Av, which falls this year on Tuesday, July 27. It is a national day of remembrance through much of Israel. On that day, Arabs rioted throughout Ḥevron, murdered sixty-seven Jews, and drove the survivors out of the City of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. It was a pogrom worse than Kishinev and Odessa, in a way worse than the Warsaw Ghetto and Jedwabne. Virtually overnight, Arab Muslim murderers turned one of Judaism’s four holiest cities, the City of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, Judenrein — a complete and total ethnic-religious “cleansing,” a prelude to the Nazi Holocaust in which the leading “Palestinian” religious cleric, Haj Amin el-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, counseled Hitler on strategies for wiping out and ethnically cleansing Jews from the world.
The recent Ben & Jerry’s outrage, in which that anti-Semitic corporation announced it now will boycott 800,000 Jews living in the historic Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, the rest of East Jerusalem, and throughout the 140 Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria, prompts this rejoinder. Jews living in cities like Ḥevron are not living in “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” the term used by the Ben and Jerry anti-Semites. Rather, unlike Vermont, those are cities, towns, and villages where Jews always have lived. They never were “Palestinian” anything.
For those who still own an old encyclopedia that predates the mid-1960’s, look up “Palestinian.” The term did not exist as its 1964 fabrication has created. Ḥevron was a Jewish city in the Holy Land, and Jews lived there until the Arab marauders cleansed out the Jews — exterminated them, to use Hitler’s and Himmler’s term — in 1929. By contrast, the term “Palestine” was coined by the Roman Empire two thousand years earlier as they expelled Jews from the Holy Land and sought to distance future Jewish attachments by naming the region for the Biblical Philistines. Arabs are not and never were ethnic Philistines.
There never was an “Arab Palestine.” It never existed as a polity. What was its capital city? There was none. Name any king or sheikh or president or prime minister it had. There never was any. Indeed that lack of any connection to the land is why the contemporary “Palestinians” call the region they want “the West Bank.” They call it that because, after 5,781 years or so of human history, the Arab world never has had its own name for that region.
Other Arab places have names: Tyre, Sidon, Damascus — all Biblical names like Jerusalem, Beit Lechem (Bethlehem), Shiloh, Be’er Sheva (Beersheba), Galil (Galilee), Natzrat (Nazareth), Yehudah (Judea), and Shomron (Samaria). To be sure, Jews and Christians have had a specific name for “the West Bank” for 3,000 years: Yehudah v’Shomron (Judea and Samaria). Judea (Yehudah) is the southern part of the “West Bank,” and Samaria (Shomron) the northern. Those terms are all over the Bible, with more than a hundred mentions just of “Samaria” in the Tanakh (Jewish Bible) and the Christian Gospels. Just a few examples:
- “Elisha replied, “Hear the word of the Lord. This is what the Lord says: About this time tomorrow, a seah of the finest flour will sell for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria.” (II Kings 7:1)
- “Again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria; the farmers will plant them and enjoy their fruit.” (Jeremiah 31:5)
- “Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.” (Luke 17:11)
- “[A]nd you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
- “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened.” (Acts 9:31)
I never once saw the Jordan River through two years living and traveling and visiting up and down Judea and Samaria. Yehudah and Shomron are not the “west bank” of anything...
But Arabs never have had a name for the place — because it never was “Palestinian territory.” So Arabs call it the “West Bank” as though it sits on the bank of the Jordan River. However, there is no river in sight throughout 99 percent of the “West Bank.” Travel up and down Judea and Samaria to cities like Ḥevron, Ariel, Shiloh, Beit El (Bethel), Maaleh Adumim, Gilo, and all 140 Jewish communities there. They are not remotely near the Jordan River, certainly no more than Los Angeles fairly should lose its name and instead be called “The East Bank” (of the Pacfific) or New York City “The West Bank” (of the Atlantic) or “The East Bank” (of the Hudson River).
I began my rabbinic career in Jersey City, home of my first congregation. From where I lived downtown on Barrow Street, I truly could see Manhattan’s Twin Towers and the Hudson River. To get into Manhattan I had to take a PATH train or drive through the Holland Tunnel or Lincoln Tunnel to get across the Hudson. By contrast, I never once saw the Jordan River through two years living and traveling and visiting up and down Judea and Samaria. Yehudah and Shomron are not the “west bank” of anything, not any more than are California, Oregon, New York, Florida, Georgia, South and North Carolina, and such. Not any more than Kentucky should be re-named “The South Bank” (of the Ohio River) or Indiana “The North Bank” (of the Ohio). Not any more than we should re-name states on either side of the Mississippi as “The West Bank” or “The East Bank.”
The Woke Left is the master of adaptive language: “Gay” instead of homosexual, “Ms.” instead of Mrs. And Miss, “Negro” instead of “Colored People,” “Black” instead of “Negro,” “African-American” instead of “Black,” “Latinx” instead of “Latino” or “Hispanic,” “People of Color” to co-opt Asians and Pacific Islanders, “Native Americans” instead of “Indians,” and new pronouns for the “non-binary.” If language matters so much, consider that, in three thousand years of Middle East history, Arabs never once have had a name for the land that Ben & Jerry’s calls “Occupied Palestinian Territory.” They easily employ Biblical names for so many other of those places — among them Lebanon, Damascus, Egypt, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Hebron (Ḥevron) — but they inexplicably resist calling the region of their supposed “Palestinian territory” by its names: Judea and Samaria. And perhaps we understamnd why: how, indeed, can even Jew-haters announce they are boycotting Israel for allowing Jews to live in “Occupied Judea”?
Until Arab proto-Nazis liquidated the Jewish presence in Ḥevron in 1929, it was a city where Jews had every right to live — and did.
The Woke argue: “OK, but you can’t turn back the clock. The Arabs took it from the Jews in 1929, and you have to move on.” Then the response is: “If that is your best moral argument stemming from the 1929 Ḥevron massacres, then consider that in 1967 the Jews took it back from the Arabs, and you can’t turn back the clock, and you have to move on.”
If suzerainty is determined by war, then the land is Israel’s. If rights are determined by history, then the land is Israel’s. If rights are determined by the simple principle that, if someone murders you and seizes your home, then your kids have a right to take it back, the land belongs to Israel. If rights are determined by international law, then the land the Romans seized two thousand years ago later was taken from them, ultimately transitioned to the Ottoman Empire, and the Turks then lost it in World War I to the French and British who cut up the Middle East between themselves.
At no point did Arabs ever lay claim to Judea and Samaria as a “Palestine” polity of its own. When the British and French colonialists were driven out of the land by the Irgun, the Lechi, and the Haganah anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist Jewish undergrounds that saw the British hang twelve of their leaders on the gallows and lash others in the underground as they whipped their unruly subjects in Africa and India, Jordan saw an opportunity in 1947 and grabbed Judea and Samaria. However, the Jordanian occupation was not recognized by world bodies. Nor did Jordan make a country of it. No “Palestine” was set up. They simply leveraged their manifestly illegal occupation to ban Jews from visiting the Cave of Machpelah in Ḥevron, barring Jews from climbing above the seventh step of the stairway to visit and worship at the Patriarchs’ and Matriarchs’ tombs. Similarly, Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser grabbed the Gaza Strip.
In 1964, Ahmad el-Shukairy convened a conference at which he created a terror movement called the “Palestine Liberation Organization.” The P.L.O. undertook to perpetrate terror acts against civilians to “liberate Palestine from the Israelis.” Yet, none of their terror was aimed at driving Jordan out of its occupation of Judea and Samaria, nor Egypt out of Gaza. Rather, to liberate the newly fabricated “Palestine,” all P.L.O. terror aimed instead at driving the Jews out of Tel Aviv, Haifa, Ra’anana, and other cities, towns, and villages in pre-1967 Israel and driving the Jews “into the [Mediterranean] sea.”
It always has been Arab Muslim Orthodoxy that “Palestine” actually is the entire country of Israel, not merely Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”). “Seeing is believing”: look at the following flags and logos of the “Palestine” terror groups whose claims Ben & Jerry’s favors over Israel:
1. The logo of Hamas: the green vertical squiggle in the top middle is the entire country of Israel.
2. The logo of Islamic Jihad: the red vertical squiggle in the middle is the entire country of Israel.
3. The logo of the P.L.O.: the green vertical squiggle in the bottom middle is the entire country of Israel.
4. The logo of Al Fatah: the green vertical squiggle in the upper-half middle is the entire country of Israel.
5. The logo of Palestine Liberation Front: the green vertical squiggle on the left is the entire country of Israel.
6. The logo of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine: the vertical geometric shape on the left half is the entire country of Israel.
That is their “Palestine” — not the “West Bank” or Gaza but all of Israel. It is on their flags, banners. It is their logo. No need to read Arabic. One picture is worth a thousand Hamas missiles.
That is the dream of all “anti-Zionists,” i.e., Jew-haters, and Israel haters. It is the dream of all BDS advocates: “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free.” And it forever will remain a dream. Because from the River to the Sea, the Land of Israel Now Is Free.
Rabbi Prof. Dov Fischer is adjunct professor of law at two prominent Southern California law schools, Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Coalition for Jewish Values, congregational rabbi of Young Israel of Orange County, California, and has held prominent leadership roles in several national rabbinic and other Jewish organizations. He was Chief Articles Editor of UCLA Law Review, clerked for the Hon. Danny J. Boggs in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and served for most of the past decade on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. His writings have appeared in The Weekly Standard, National Review, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Jerusalem Post, American Thinker, Frontpage Magazine, and Israel National News. Other writings are collected at www.rabbidov.com .