Who's Land Is It Anyway? -

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Resource Goal

1. To learn about the events surrounding the cave of Machpela.

2. To think about what it means to have a right to Israel - What does or should ownership entail?

3. To understand the responsibility that goes hand in hand with possession.

Resource Contents

Who's Land Is It Anyway?

Topic: Parashat Chayei Sarah

Written by: Bnei Akiva of UK and Ireland

Age Group: Aleph and Zach

Time: Shabbat


1. To learn about the events surrounding the cave of Machpela.

2. To think about what it means to have a right to Israel - What does or should ownership entail?

3. To understand the responsibility that goes hand in hand with possession.


Whose land is it anyway - Right or Responsibility?

Here goes on what could, but shouldn't be, a rather tricky and controversial meeting

In this weeks meeting we shall quickly look at whom Israel belongs to. It's quite simple and straightforward. What is not so simple and straightforward is to then think about the consequences

The important thing here is to really re-assess the way we think about Israel, and how we must continue to act to all its inhabitants and the rest of the world. Here goes

The story so far

Once Avraham had sorted out his guests with a huge feast, they passed on the message that Avraham and Sara would have a son. They then turned and went towards Sodom and Ammorah, which Hashem explained was soon to be utterly devastated.

Upon hearing that Sodom & Ammorah were to be destroyed, Avraham had the audacity to challenge Hashem over it, and begged for the 2 towns to be saved. 2 melachim (angels) went to visit Lot in Sodom, who invited in them. Soon the other inhabitants were banging his door down trying to get to the strangers. Lot refused to give them to the mob outside, and the next morning the 'strangers' told Lot and his family to leave immediately and not look back as their town was about to be destroyed. Lot's wife didn't pay much attention to the last bit of advice

Once they had escaped and realized that Sodom had been destroyed, Lot's daughters assumed that the rest of the world had also been destroyed, and the future of mankind depended on them. Consequently, the 2 daughters slept with their father, and from them came the tribes of Moav and Amnon.

Meanwhile, Sara and Avraham have migrated south, where Avimelech takes a liking to Sara (pretending to be Avraham's sister). After taking Sara to his palace, Hashem appeared to him in a dream and explained that he would die if he touched Sara as she was married. Avimelech immediately returned her to Avraham. Avraham davened for Avimelech's wife to have a child. Shortly after, Sara became pregnant (we learn from this that if you daven for someone else, you get it first). Sara gave birth to Yitzchak who had his brit at 8 days old. Avraham, following Sara's advice sent Hagar and Yishmael away, with the knowledge that Yishmael would also become a great nation.

Avraham is 'tested' by Hashem, and asked to sacrifice his son that he has waited so long for. Just before Avraham was about to kill Yitzchak, he was told to stop.

Sara, at the beginning of Chayei Sara passes away, and Avraham goes about trying to find an appropriate place to bury her.

1) Sara had lived to be 127 years old. [These were] the years of Sara's life. 2) Sara died in Kiryat Arba also known as Chevron, in the land of Canaan. Avraham came to eulogize Sara and weep for her. 3) Avraham rose from beside his dead, and he spoke to the children of Chet. 4) "I am an immigrant and a resident among you," he said. "Sell me property for a burial place with you so that I can bury my dead, [and not have her here] right in front of me." 5) The children of Chet replied to Avraham, saying to him, 6) "Listen to us, Sir. You are a prince of G-d in our midst. Take our best burial site to bury your dead. No one among us will deny you his burial site to bury your dead. 7) Avraham rose and he bowed down to the local people, the children of Chet. 8) He spoke to them and said, "If you really want to help me bury my dead and [put her out of] my presence, listen to me, and speak up for me to Ephron son of Tzohar. 9) Let him sell me the Machpela Cave, which belongs to him, at the edge of his field. Let him sell it to me in your presence for it's full price, as a burial property." 10) Ephron was then sitting among the children of Chet. Ephron the Chitite replied to Avraham in the presence of the children of Chet, so that all who came to the city gates could hear. 11) "No, my lord," he said, "Listen to me. I have already given you the field. I have [also] given you the cave that is there. Here, in the presence of my countrymen, I have also given it to you. Bury your dead." 12) Avraham bowed down before the local people. 13) He spoke to Ephron so that all the local people could hear. "If you will only listen to me," he said, "I am giving you the money for the field. Take it from me, and I will bury my dead there." 14) Ephron replied to Avraham saying to him, 15) My lord, listen to me. What's 400 silver shekels worth of land between you and me? Bury your dead." 16) Avraham understood what Ephron meant. He weighed out for Ephron the silver that had been mentioned in the presence of the children of Chet, 400 shekels in negotiable currency. 17) Ephron's field in Machpela adjoining Mamre thus became his [Avraham's] uncontested property. [This included] the field, its cave, and every tree within its circumference. 18) It was Avraham's purchase with all the children of Chet who came to the city gates as eyewitnesses. 19) Avraham then buried his wife Sara in the cave of Machpela Field, which adjoins Mamre, also known as Chevron, in the land of Canaan. 20) This is how the field and its cave became uncontested property of Avraham as a burial site, purchased from the children of Chet.

Bereishit 23:1-20

- Why do you think Avraham went out of his way to pay for the site?

- Why do you think Avraham clearly bought all the surrounding area as well?

- Why did he have so many witnesses?

- Why does it repeat the fact that this land was now 'uncontested property' of Avraham?

- Why do you think this is a hugely important piece of text?

This piece of text is important as it shows that Chevron one of the most fought over parts of Israel is 'uncontested property' of Avraham, and therefore the Jewish People. Likewise, the areas of Shechem and Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) were also bought with money as opposed to being conquered. These acquisitions were done entirely according to Halachik requirements of purchase and to the letter of the law, so that no one could ever question our right to the land.

I must tell you though; I don't like that word 'right'. What does it mean, and ultimately - so what!!!

Right: claim, title etc allowed or due; what is right. (Collins Gem Dictionary)

Okay, so the Jewish People have this claim on Eretz Yisrael, but what else? We have a right to the land, but does that mean we have the right to do what we like to anyone and anything in it?

Responsible: liable to answer for; involving responsibility. (Collins Gem Dictionary)

The Jewish People have always striven to be a highly moral people. Simply because we own the land does not mean we should ravage it. We have a responsibility to it and for it. As we have seen especially in light of the recent 'intafada' (a term totally wrong for the events of last year which are still continuing. An intafada is a rebellion from the grassroots up, something the people instigate. What is happening at the moment began with carefully implemented terrorist attacks and propaganda from the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organisation) which has filtered down to the people.) the army has consistently been wary of attacking sites where there may be civilians. In fact an Israeli soldier is not allowed to shoot (to wound, definitely not to kill) a small child who is throwing stones that could prove to be fatal.

Okay, this is getting a bit heavy. Let's take a breather for a minute

Let's look at all of this at its most basic level. Tom has been saving hard for a bicycle, and eventually he has enough money to buy one. So he does - and it is his most proud possession. However what would happen if

- Someone nicked it? Tom would probably think flippin' cheek and have a bit of a cry. He has wanted it so badly, and spent his hard earned cash actually paying for it. Someone has now come along and just taken it -it's not fair!

- He didn't look after it? Tom loved the bike, but then wanted a new toy, so just left it to get all rusty and rubbish. Well, it's Tom's fault that his bike is a mess. It was his choice and the pile of metal is a result of his own actions.

- If he looked after it and even let his little sister Susie play on it? Well, as annoying as Susie always is, she's Tom's sister and he realizes that it is a nice thing to share with her. He may lay down some ground rules first, and hold his breath every time she rides it, but he knows it'll all be all right, and, ultimately if Susie damages the bike, she'll have to answer to their parents!

As this little analogy shows there is more to ownership then just possessing something. We have to look after it or face the consequences

It has been prophesied in the Torah that the land of Israel was rich and fertile while the Jews were living there. And when they were exiled, it would become barren and desolate. During the two thousand years of Israel's exile from its Land, numerous empires have conquered the Land and countless wars were fought for its possession. And yet, astonishingly, no conqueror ever succeeded in permanently settling the Land or causing the deserts to blossom. Mark Twain, who visited Israel in 1867, describes the Land of Israel:

"We traversed some miles of desolate country whose soil is rich enough but is given wholly to weeds - A silent, mournful expanse... A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action. The further we went the hotter the sun got and the more rocky and bare, repulsive and dreary the landscape became." ("The Innocents Abroad" Vol. II)

Since our exile from Israel 'til when the Jews first began to come back, the Land was left to go to waste. It was infertile land, which was neglected. However, we know from the first chalutzim (pioneers) that when they came to Israel they were busy draining swamps and working this wasteland. The result; the third most technologically advanced country in the world today! All it takes it for people to care. We should take pride in our possessions and look after them. Because of our love and devotion to our homeland, we were determined to make even the most barren deserts flourish.

I shall leave you with an edited version of the Declaration of Independence (issued at Tel Aviv on 14th May 1948 - 5th Iyar 5708), which for me highlights how on our return to Israel, we clearly set out how we not only aim to look after our Land, our people, but also all other inhabitants and neighbours of Israel.

The land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and national identity was formed. Here they achieved independence and created a culture of national and universal significance Exiled from Palestine, the Jewish people remained faithful to it in all the countries of their dispersion, never ceasing to pray and hope for their return and the restoration of their national freedom.

Impelled by this historic association, Jews strove throughout the centuries to go back to the land of their fathers and regain their statehood. In recent decades they returned in masses. They reclaimed the wilderness, revived their language, built cities and villages and established a vigorous and ever-growing community with its own economic and cultural life. They sought peace yet were ever prepared to defend themselves. They brought the blessing of progress to all inhabitants of the country.

In the year 1897 the First Zionist Congress, inspired by Theodor Herzl's vision of the Jewish State, proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national revival in their own country.

This right was acknowledged by the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, and re-affirmed by the Mandate of the League of Nations, which gave explicit international recognition to the historic connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and their right to reconstitute their National Home

On November 29, 1947, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a Resolution for the establishment of an independent Jewish State in Palestine, and called upon the inhabitants of the country to take such steps as may be necessary on their part to put the plan into effect.

This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their independent State may not be revoked. It is, moreover, the self-evident right of the Jewish people to be a nation, as all other nations, in its own sovereign State.

ACCORDINGLY, WE, the members of the National Council, representing the Jewish people in Palestine and the Zionist movement of the world, met together in solemn assembly today, the day of the termination of the British mandate for Palestine, HEREBY PROCLAIM the establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine, to be called ISRAEL.

WE HEREBY DECLARE that as from the termination of the Mandate at midnight, this night of the 14th and 15th May 1948

THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open to the immigration of Jews from all countries of their dispersion; will promote the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; will be based on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace taught by the Hebrew Prophets; will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex; will guarantee full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture; will safeguard the sanctity and inviolability of the shrines and Holy Places of all religions; and will dedicate itself to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations

We appeal to the United Nations to assist the Jewish people in the building of its State and to admit Israel into the family of nations.

In the midst of wanton aggression, we yet call upon the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to return to the ways of peace and play their part in the development of the State, with full and equal citizenship and due representation in its bodies and institutions - provisional or permanent.

We offer peace and unity to all the neighboring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all.

Our call goes out the Jewish people all over the world to rally to our side in the task of immigration and development and to stand by us in the great struggle for the fulfillment of the dream of generations - the redemption of Israel.

With trust in Almighty God, we set our hand to this Declaration in the city of Tel Aviv, on this Sabbath eve, the fifth of Iyar, 5708, the fourteenth day of May 1948.


1. To learn about the events surrounding the cave of Machpela.

Learn / read the text

2. To think about what it means to have a right to Israel - What does or should ownership entail?

Brainstorm: How could you go about acquiring something?

How far would you go? Putt a bar of choccie in the middle of a circle and give chanichim a 'how far would you go' sheet e.g. ask nicely for it, beg for it, lie for it kill for it, nick it while everyone else is reading this sheet! See what they do and then discuss each individually afterwards.

3. To understand the responsibility that goes hand in hand with possession.

Ask your chanichim what their most prized possession is. Ask them in kvutsah to what lengths would they go to get it back if it was taken, or where they keep it, how they care for it.

HARD-BOILED Egg Babies. Give each chanich/a an egg baby that they must look after throughout kvutsah (or part of it!) If the egg has even the slightest crack then they are out. How do they look after it, or don't they care? Would they let others hold it? Leave it alone throughout their 'caring time? Or name it and sing it lullabies? (Please hard-boil them as otherwise it will be Ba'al Tashchit (a real waste of food!) and really messy which means the shul will kick you out!)

Related Resources can be found under:

» All > Eretz Yisrael > The Holiness of Israel

» All > History > The Tanach

» All > Torah > Parshat Shavua > Breishit > Chayei Sarah

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