The Invention of the Land of Israel: From Holy Land to Homeland
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What is a homeland and when does it become a national territory? Why have so many people been willing to die for such places throughout the twentieth century? What is the essence of the Promised Land? Following the acclaimed and controversial The Invention of the Jewish People, Shlomo Sand examines the mysterious sacred land that has become the site of the longest-running national struggle of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
The Invention of the Land of Israel deconstructs the age-old legends surrounding the Holy Land and the prejudices that continue to suffocate it. Sand’s account dissects the concept of “historical right” and tracks the creation of the modern concept of the “Land of Israel” by nineteenth-century Evangelical Protestants and Jewish Zionists. This invention, he argues, not only facilitated the colonization of the Middle East and the establishment of the State of Israel; it is also threatening the existence of the Jewish state today.
exclusively for Jews. In addition to this intentional politics of segregation, an intensive political/ideological campaign, carried out under the slogan of “Hebrew labor” (avoda ivrit), was initiated in all production sectors of the Zionist community. Employers in all sectors of the economy felt heavy pressure to refrain from hiring Arabs, regardless of the circumstances. During the very same years that propaganda in Germany was calling for the dismissal of Jews from their positions and the
Britain itself, a belief in the religious uniqueness of the Holy Land never completely disappeared. As a result of the flourishing of commerce in the East, pilgrims were no longer alone in traveling to Palestine; now they were joined by adventurous merchants. The Land itself did not interest the merchants as a source of economic profit, but Jerusalem was on their route, and the religious cloak that enveloped the commercial drive sparked a special curiosity. The best-educated travelers among them
being a Jew. He was a faithful observer of the commandments; he expressed a deep connection to the Holy Land and objected to the integration of the Jews into Christian culture, even within the framework of an egalitarian religious coexistence. At the same time, however, he worked to improve the socioeconomic condition of Jews and to facilitate their cultural departure from the ghettos, which, though providing their residents with a sense of protection from the onslaught of modernization, had been
one opinion—the orthodox and the Reform, the ultraorthodox and the well-educated [die Aufgeklärtesten].”11 One prominent example of this dynamic was Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, the major nineteenth-century German leader of Orthodox Judaism. At the time, he could already read and write fluently in German and is still renowned as a brilliant commentator whose talented students and followers outnumbered those of all other rabbis of his day. With the first reverberations of proto-Zionism resulting
therefore—but not necessarily elsewhere—secularization and politicization played a role in shaping a specific culture. Political parties, newspapers, and literature were organized, managed, and published in Yiddish. Like all other inhabitants of Tsarist Russia, these Jews were not citizens of the empire but only its subjects; as a result, no significant non-Jewish local nationalism developed. And when we take into consideration the bitter Judeophobia that crystallized in these areas, we