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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Latest nonsense from Shlomo Sand - "The Land of Israel is a myth"

Shlomo Sand, the academic with no background in history who wrote an absurdly ridiculous book  "The Invention of the Jewish People" to much acclaim by anti-semites, has now come out with a new piece of fiction masquerading as scholarship.

And the anti-Zionists are lapping it up.

I don't have the book, titled "The Invention of the Land of Israel," but Yossi Gurwitz's worshipful  review at 972mag shows enough to prove that this book is as absurd as Sand's previous work (and that Gurwitz is as much of a fraud as Sand is.)

As with the previous book, when Sand makes a blanket statement as fact, all one needs to do is provide a single counterexample to prove that he is a fraud. And as with his previous work, it is trivial to do exactly that.

The heart of Sand’s thesis is the intentional confusion in Zionism between the Halachic – Jewish law – concept of Eretz Israel (“The Land of Israel”, EI) and the concept of a place which is under Jewish sovereignty, and yearning for such a place. “Eretz Israel” is, originally, a Talmudic concept – not a biblical one – which delineates it as a territory that imposes extra religious obligations on Jews living in it, which Jews living outside of it are unburdened of.

Really? There was no concept of Eretz Yisrael in the Bible? It originated in the Talmud?

Tell that to Ezekiel, who quoted God as using that exact term when delineating the borders of the Land in Ezekiel 47.

The term is also used in Ezekiel 40:2, in 1 Samuel 13:19, and in 2 Chronicles 34:7.

Of course, for much of the times of the Prophets, it was divided into two kingdoms - Israel and Judah. The latter phrase is used another half dozen times in the Bible. Moreover, the phrase "Kingdom of Israel" was used a number of times, as it was more specific designation than "Land of Israel."

Is that enough to show that Sand is just making stuff up? Well, there's more:
The rabbis came up with the Three Vows, which forbade Jews from massively emigrating to Eretz Israel, forbade them from rebelling against the nations of the world (it’s worth noting the rabbis, servitors of the emperors, gave divine sanction to their rule), and the third vow is directed at the nations: “That they should not enslave Israel too much.” Rabbinical Judaism left Eretz Israel behind. Sand quotes some later rabbis who opposed emigrating to EI since the Halachic demands on those living in it are very high, and failure to meet them would make the land impure.
The Three Oaths are based on a Midrash and it is far from clear that they are legally binding. But even here Sand is being deceptive, because the relevant oath was not against Jews "massively emigrating to Eretz Israel" but against "storming the wall." What that exactly means is not clear but it probably means forcibly returning to Israel by war.

The Talmudic discussion about this Midrash was referring to the desire of a single rabbi to move to Israel, not a "massive emigration."

It was clearly not forbidden for Jews to move to Israel, because many of these rabbis who Sand say ignored the Land did in fact make aliyah. Encyclopedia Judaica gives details:
During the time of the Second Temple there were many immigrants to Ereẓ Israel. A famous example is the aliyah of Hillel, who went from Babylonia (Pes. 66a) poor and without means, and later became the head of the Sanhedrin (Suk. 20a), founding a long line of nesi'im (see *nasi). One of the high priests appointed by Herod was Hananel ha-Bavli, i.e., of Babylonia. Aliyah, mainly from Babylonia, did not cease after the destruction of the Second Temple (70 c.e.). Sources cite many immigrant scholars who achieved a prominent place in the Jewish community of Ereẓ Israel. In the third generation of tannaim after the destruction of the Temple (110–135 c.e.), Hanan ha-Miẓri ("of Egypt"; Yoma 63b) and Yose b. Dormaskos, who went from Damascus (Sif. Deut. 1), are mentioned. The next generation (135–170 c.e.) included R. Johanan ha-Sandelar of Alexandria (tj, Ḥag. 3:1, 78d) and R. Nathan ha-Bavli, who was the son of the exilarch in Babylonia. Among the fifth generation of tannaim are (170–200) R. Ḥiyya the Great, the disciple and colleague of Judah ha-Nasi (Er. 73a), and Issi b. Judah (Pes. 113b), both of whom emigrated from Babylonia, and Menahem the Gaul (i.e., France; tj, Ber. 4:4, 8b).

Aliyah from Babylonia did not cease in the amoraic period, despite the fact that the great centers of Jewish scholarship were located there. Of the first generation of amoraim (220–250), R. Ḥanina b. Ḥama, a disciple of Judah ha-Nasi and one of the greatest amoraim in Ereẓ Israel, emigrated from Babylonia (tj, Pe'ah 7:4, 20a). In the second generation (250–290), Eleazar b. Pedat, rosh yeshivah in Tiberias (Ḥul. 111b), R. Zakkai (tj, Shab. 7:1, 9a) and R. Ḥiyya b. Joseph (Ḥul. 54a), who emigrated from Babylonia, and Ḥinena Kartigna'ah (of Carthage; tj, Shab. 16:2, 15c) are mentioned. The latter attests emigration from Africa. Two amoraim called Rav Kahana also emigrated from Babylonia (Zev. 59a). There was a particularly large aliyah among the third generation of amoraim (290–320), some of the immigrants forming the leadership of the Jewish community in Ereẓ Israel. Prominent among them were: R. Abba (Ket. 112a); R. Avina (tj, Shev. 4:2, 35a); R. Oshaiah and his brother Hananiah (Sanh. 14a); R. Assi, the colleague of R. Ammi, who was rosh yeshivah of Tiberias (mk 25a); R. Zera, a central figure of both Talmuds (Ket. 112a); R. Ḥiyya b. Abba (Shab. 105b); and R. Ḥelbo (Yev. 64b; tj, Ta'an. 2:1, 65a); R. Yudan of Gaul (Lev. R. 20:4); R. Jeremiah, who later became rosh yeshivah at Tiberias (Ket. 75a); R. Samuel b. Isaac (tj, Ber. 3:5, 6d); R. Samuel of Cappadocia in Asia Minor (Ḥul. 27b); R. Simlai (tj, Pes. 5:3, 32a); and others. In the fourth generation (320–350) the well-known immigrants included: Ray Huna b. R. Avin (tj, rh 2:2, 59a), R. Haggai (mk, 25a), R. Yudan of Cappadocia (tj, Ber. 3:1, 6a), and R. Kahana (tj, rh 2:6, 59b).
So far from Sand's thesis that the rabbis abandoned Israel and discouraged aliyah, many prominent members of their ranks actually moved to Israel themselves. If the Land of Israel was unimportant in Talmudic times, why would they do that?

Oh well, Sand is proven a liar again. And his selective quoting of "some later rabbis" discouraging aliyah is shown to be more of an anomaly than a mainstream view, and proves that he is using sources selectively.

As the article goes on to say, it was Christian persecution of Jews in Israel that slowed aliyah down dramatically after this, not any supposed "oath" based on a non-halachic midrash. Indeed, Maimonides himself - who counseled the Jews of Yemen not to rebel against their rulers based on his interpretation of the three oaths - moved to Israel himself, and Nachmanides declared moving to Israel to be obligatory.

All of this of course predated Zionism by the better part of a millennium.

So Sand is again shown to be an academic fraud, cherry picking sources that he pretends proves his point and even taking them out of context when it suits him.

The only people who take him seriously are those who desperately want to believe him, because they have already made up their minds that Zionism is the world's biggest evil.