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October 23, 2014 / 29 Tishri, 5775
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What Judea & Samaria Mean to the Jewish People

For Jews, the ancient tribal territories of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and west Menasheh – a.k.a. Judea and Samaria or the West Bank – form the very heartland of the homeland.
A Map of Eretz Israel during the Roman Empire

A Map of Eretz Israel during the Roman Empire

8. Gophna Hills – These woods served as a refuge and training ground for the Maccabees during the rebellion against Antiochus IV and his Seleucid Greeks in the second century BCE. Here farmers became fighters and militiamen a military, in what would become the only successful revolt of Jews against imperial oppressors.

9. Beth El (Luz) – Abraham erected a sacred altar to the Lord between Beth El and Ai. Here Jacob spent a night dreaming he saw a ladder rising heavenward, with angels ascending and descending it. A heavenly voice then assured him of divine protection, confirming the promise that the land upon which he rested would be for him and his descendants. When morning came, Jacob built a sacred pillar over which he poured oil as a thanksgiving offering. For a time the Tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant were stationed in Beit El, and in the conflict with the tribe of Benjamin the Israelites prayed, fasted, and offered sacrifices here. The prophetess Deborah lived nearby, and Samuel sojourned here to judge the people. King Saul gathered his forces here against the Philistines. Frequented by King Jeroboam as a central shrine, Beit El hosted a community of prophets during the time of Elisha (who was mocked by the children of Beit El), and witnessed Amos’s righteous indignation against illegitimate worship and the impious priest Amaziah. Later, the pious King Josiah cleansed the city of its cultic practices. The city hosted General Bacchides’s Syrian garrisons during the Maccabean Revolt. Mentioned often in Joshua, Judges, I & II Kings, Hosea, Jeremiah, and Ezra.

10. Mizpah – Here the Israelites gathered to punish the tribe of Benjamin after the outrage committed by the men of Gibeah. Home of the reluctant judge Jephthah who repeated his conditions for leadership in Mizpah. Also where the prophet Samuel assembled the people to fight and defeat the advancing Philistines, and where he annually judged Israel. King Asa of Judah fortified the place, and the Babylonian-appointed governor Gedaliah established Judah’s capital here after the fall of Jerusalem and was later assassinated in Mizpah (giving rise to the fast day in his memory around the Jewish new year). The city was also a district capital in Nehemiah’s time, and was later where the Maccabees prayed, tore their clothing, wore sackcloth and ashes, fasted, and read the Torah before the Battle of Emmaus.

11. Michmash – Where King Saul gathered his army before the Philistines encamped there, and from which the latter fled following defeat. Mentioned in Isaiah, Ezra, Nehemiah, I Maccabees, and by Josephus, and praised in the Mishnah for its excellent wheat. Jonathan the Hasmonean resided here prior to assuming the high priesthood.

12. Emmaus (Nicopolis) – Where Judah Maccabee defeated Nicanor and frightened off Gorgias in a stunning and strategic double victory over the Seleucids. The town was known for its hot springs, and is often mentioned in the Talmud. Tannaitic rabbis held discussions here, including local scholar Nehunya ben Ha-Kanah, and Yochanan ben Zakkai’s prized disciple Eleazar ben Arach took up residence in Emmaus.

13. Beth Horon – The sun stood still here for Joshua in battle. Both a village fortified by King Solomon and a steep pass where the Canaanites fled from Joshua, Judah Maccabee defeated Seron and his phalanx of hoplites, and Shimon Bar Giora and other zealot stalwarts similarly defeated Roman general Cestius Gallus during The First Revolt.

14. Gibeon (Givon) – The city whose men negotiated in bad faith with Joshua, and where Joab fought Abner by the pool and slew Amasa. King David conquered the Philistines nearby, and Gibeon is also the site at which King Solomon sacrificed a thousand burnt offerings to God, Who appeared to Solomon in a dream eliciting then granting the king’s request for good judgment. Mentioned in I Kings, I & II Chronicles, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, and the Talmud.

15. Elasa (Eleazar) – Site of the tragic battle in which the woefully outnumbered Judah Maccabee fell, and equated by some to Mount Baal Hazor (near Ramallah), mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

16. Anathoth (Almon) – The Levitical hometown of Evyatar the priest and of Jeremiah, in which the hopeful prophet redeemed property from his cousin Hanamel in defiance of Judah’s dire situation under the Babylonians, giving the lie to his reputation as a preacher of doom and gloom. Also mentioned in I Chronicles.

About the Author: Brandon Marlon is a Canadian-Israeli playwright, poet, and freelance writer. He is the author of “Judean Dreams and Inspirations of Israel: Poetry for a Land and People.”


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5 Responses to “What Judea & Samaria Mean to the Jewish People”

  1. Tim Upham says:

    It is like what Kosovo is to the Serbian people, and today Serbians only make up 5% of Kosovo's population. Today Muslims make up 75% of the West Bank's population. There will never be a Jewish majority in the West Bank, but one of the options is, if there is an independent Palestine, let the Israeli settlers stay there and become citizens of Palestine. It is not any different than Israel having an Arab minority. But the Palestinian Authority will have to drop this unwritten clause that Palestine is to be Jew-free. Because it is just as unrealistic as Israel annexing Judea and Samaria.

  2. At first glance the Wahabi Muslim decision to destroy one of their oldest mosque, the mosque of Medina seems like complete lunacy.

    These theologians are concerned that the people's veneration for the ancient buildings associated with Mohamed is idol worship, not worshiping G-d.

    There is a great element of truth to this madness.

    After the tremendous trauma of Jewish history, Jews cling to their historical sites and ruins.

    I also have tremendous attachment to them.

    But as I understand the counsel of many rabbis, the question of how to deal with the status of the future of these lands was decided entirely on the question of are the Arabs really willing to trade land for peace. These rabbis mostly decided the answer was no.

    Even if that verdict is correct, practical considerations such as the alliance with the US should be weighed before building a Jewish city in Scechem, for example.

    Any further settlements in the heart of Samaria or other mostly Arab areas diminishes the future of Jewish Jerusalem and other areas near the green line.

  3. Anonymous says:

    We should not give up these lands. We do not care about Arabs, whether they want us to live there or not. They have 22 other countries and there were thousand of jewish refugees that were forced to leave Egypt and Jordan.

  4. Anonymous says:

    We should not give up these lands. We do not care about Arabs, whether they want us to live there or not. They have 22 other countries and there were thousand of jewish refugees that were forced to leave Egypt and Jordan.

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