Throughout history people have moved from one country to another…they abandoned the memory of their former homes. The Jewish people, however, forced to leave their ancient country… has never forsaken the Land of Israel; the Jewish people has never ceased to be passionate about Zion. It has always lived in a dialogue with the Holy Land. Exile from the land was conceived as an interruption, as a prelude to return, never as an abandonment or detachment.
Bonds of hope tied us to the land. To abandon these bonds was to deny our identity. Again and again our hearts turned to Zion and Jerusalem… When Jews were no longer permitted to be at home in their own land, Zion– Jerusalem – did not simply linger on as a vague memory of a distant past. Zion, Jerusalem, continued to be a presence … Wherever we lived, the sky was above us, and Jerusalem in the front of us. The destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70, the onset of a history of distress,
remained a lasting sorrow and hurt. Throughout the ages it was as if since the year 70 time stood still. The disaster was constantly lived and relived, the anguish never ceased. Separation from the land was never accepted as final. The vision of restoration, craving for redemption, love of Zion, longing for Jerusalem, fill the words of our liturgy, words that give no rest.
From Israel: An Echo of Eternity
by Abraham Joshua Heschel
What is so precious about the land? What is the magnetic quality of its atmosphere? The land of Israel – biblical chapters hovering everywhere. Places like Hebrew letters, waiting to be vocalized, waiting for crowns with which to be
adorned. The land is a text. Here you are illiterate unless you remember words of Scripture. Wherever you stand you are at the frontier of biblical moments.
It is a land where the bible is at home. This tiny corner is the spot where the most sublime moments of encounter between God and man took place, where the most precious visions were born. Many poets have claimed that the grandeur of heaven
and earth is disclosed in this land in a special way. But even those whose ears are not fully opened to the silent song insist that just being in the land is a recalling. It is like being embraced by an air of spirit, challenging us into the awareness that
living in the land is a confrontation with the prophets who were able to hold God and man in one thought at one time, at all times. We must seek to understand Israel reborn in the light of history, from the perspective of time. It is a land where not a spot is visible that is not reflecting an event, a moment.
The land is different. Those who built it and those who worship in it inspire it. It is an inspired land. Just to be in the land is a religious experience. It is a land where time transcends space, where space is a dimension of time. When you
think of Israel, you think of events, of breakthroughs in history. Faith is a moment, the sight of a lightning. So difficult to retain. The land of Israel is memory, frozen faithfulness. We cherish the air we breathe, but the air is not a fetish. Jewish
history is a craving for the land, but the land is not a fetish, the potatoes that grow in its soil do not possess spiritual efficacy. We do not worship the soil. The land of Israel without the God of Israel will be here today and gone tomorrow. Zion, many lands are beautiful, but no eye has seen the equal of thy beauty. I know not whether the skies bow to thee, or whether thou ascendest to the skies.