By Ryan Jones
Though Zionism is first and foremost based on a God given promise, the Jews’ right to the Land of Israel is also backed by strong historical legitimacy. Although in the end all that will matter will be God’s Word, in our present day a historical case must be made for the Jewish return to Zion if Israel is to gain much needed support from various outside sectors.
We begin in approximately 1000 BCE (BC) with King David’s conquest of the Jebusite city of Jerusalem. The Jebusites had a fortress at Jerusalem on a mountain named Zion. The term “Zion”, over the following centuries, became a synonym for not only Jerusalem but for the entire Land of Israel.
This “Kingdom of Zion” (Israel/Judah) lasted for a little over 400 years. In 586 BCE (BC) Jerusalem was razed to the ground by the Babylonians and her Jewish population was exiled to the land of Babylon. During this first exile the basic concepts of Zionism were first seen and the term “Zion” became a rallying cry for all Jewish hopes of return to the Land.
Is this to say that the Children of Israel did not have a deep love for their land before the exile? Absolutely not. Ever since the first promise of the Land was given to Abraham, the chosen Nation of Israel has longed for her God given land. However, it took being uprooted and torn from their land for the Children of Israel to first realize their grave sins against God and second realize just how much they really did love the land that God had chosen for them. This realization is evident in the words of so many of the Psalms and prophecies written during the time of the Babylonian Exile.
The hopes and dreams of those first Zionists were realized a mere 70 years later when, under Persian rule, the Jews were allowed to return to Zion. The Jews in Israel experienced varying degrees of independence over the following centuries until 66 CE (AD) when, under increasing Roman oppression, the Jews revolted against Rome.
The Great Jewish Revolt ended four years later in 70 CE (AD) when Jerusalem was razed to the ground and the Temple burned by the Roman general Titus. Another revolt against Rome in 132 CE (AD) also ended in defeat three years later with the Roman Emperor Hadrian sending the Jews into exile and founding the pagan city of Aelia Capitolina on the ruins of Jerusalem.
At this point in history begins the nearly 2,000 year exile of the Jewish people from their homeland out of which modern Zionism would eventually be born. Also at this point in history we first come across the term “Palestine” being used to denote the Land of Israel. The Romans, after bringing final defeat upon the Jews in 135 CE (AD), resurrected the name of ancient Israel’s greatest nemesis, the Philistines, as the new name for the Land of Israel. This was done first to humiliate the defeated Jews and second as an attempt to sever any Jewish ties to the Land.
The Jewish claim to the Land of Israel as a national homeland is given historical legitimacy by the fact that during the 2,000 years of exile the Land was never again an independent, sovereign entity nor was Jerusalem ever a capital city under any people other than the Jews and, for a short time, the Crusader armies. Instead, the Land of Israel was for the most part a backwater or frontier region of successive empires and Jerusalem was never more than an insignificant provincial center.
Historically, only under Jewish rule has the Land of Israel ever existed as a cohesive, independent, and sovereign nation with Jerusalem as it’s capital.
Therefore, only to the Jewish people and only as the Nation of Israel has the Land of Israel ever been a homeland to any group of people, besides certain Canaanite tribes now long extinct. And so, historical legitimacy is given to the claim of the Jewish people on the Land of Israel as their historical, ancient homeland.
Ryan Jones is a Gentile believer from the United States who lives and works in Israel as a journalist for Israel Today. His website is www.zionist.com