On Wednesday, the annual International Bible Contest for adults was held at the International Convention Center in developing unified Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar and some 2,000 Bible aficionados were on hand to enjoy and marvel at the knowledge of the contestants, especially the woman who eventually placed second. The reinstitution of the contest for adults (in recent years the competition has only been held for students) represents the desire among many Israelis to reacquaint themselves with the Jewish bookcase, especially “the” book – the Bible. These days, Israelis are a manifestation of the prophecy of Amos: There will be a hunger in the land, not for bread, not for water, but for God’s word.
We humans are currently witnessing a massive clash of civilizations. No one can prophesy who will emerge victorious. Jews who are well versed in the Bible know for a fact that, though history’s greatest empires collapsed and disappeared, the people of Israel have always survived, against all odds. The wonder of Israel’s ability to survive can be found in the Bible – the root of our existence.
During these times, when world nations are denying the Jews’ exclusive right to the Land of Israel, it is very important to study the Bible – the source of this exclusive right. Not only is it important to study the Bible, it is equally important to experience it. There were times when schoolchildren in Israel would go on field trips with a copy of the Bible in their hands. They quickly discovered that their feet were treading on the very land that their ancestors had walked upon thousands of years before them. The stories of the Bible came alive.
As friction between different sectors of Israeli society increases, it is imperative to delve into the Bible, which teaches human dignity, concern for others and social tolerance. Many of the mitzvot have to do with the way a Jew treats his fellow man. The French Revolution and the American Constitution were created thanks to the vision of Israel’s prophets, way back when Europe and the U.S. were populated by nomad hunter-gatherers.
The book of Genesis is nothing more than a description of the bond between Jews and the Land of Israel. Abraham was promised by God that the Land of Israel would belong to the Jews, and insisted on paying full price for what is known today as the Cave of the Patriarchs. Jacob dreamt of a ladder in Jerusalem reaching all the way to sky. The people of Israel went to Egypt during the famine only to escape from there 400 years later to receive the Torah on Mount Sinai and return to Israel. Our entire experience and essence as a people begins in the Land of Israel, and in the heart of that land: Jerusalem.
For thousands of years in the Diaspora, every Jewish home had some drawing or painting of the Western Wall, Rachel’s Tomb and Jerusalem on its walls. The Jews would leave one small part of a wall unfinished as a reminder of the destruction of the Temple. They prayed three times a day to return to Jerusalem. Modern Zionism would have never come about if it were not for the Bible and the eternal link between Jews and the Land of Israel. I laugh when I hear the Palestinians, having come from a nomad Bedouin tribe, say that they have rights to this land. The Bible is the legal deed proving our ownership of the Land of Israel. This deed has been handed down from generation to generation and the chain has never been broken. There is no Zionism without Zion, and there is no Zion without the Bible.
Simon the Hasmonean said to Antiochus: “We did not take a foreign land, no land of strangers, we returned to the land of our forefathers from which we were exiled without a trial by our enemies.”
The books of the Bible, and especially the words of the Prophets, are a universal and supreme message of morals. While other nations were worshipping idols and hunting beasts, our prophets spoke out against breaching boundaries and victimizing the weak, and vehemently opposed bribery and corruption. If there is a moral code in this world, it stems from the books of the Jews.
In a world of alienation that seeks luxuries and worships a golden calf, the modern form of idol worship, it is important to go back and study the books that guarantee the continued existence of the world. A world without God is a world without justice or mercy. A world without justice or mercy cannot exist. Therefore, we must go back to the Bible and its lessons and values. (Israel Hayom)