For 2,000 years almost the entire Jewish people lived outside the Land of Israel. Beginning in the late 19th Century, following centuries of discrimination, persecution, riots, and murder, young Jews began to return to the Land of Israel to reestablish a Jewish state. Their dreams and hard labor were crowned with success with the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
Since then, Jews around the world have followed the struggles and fortunes of Israel closely, as if it were their own state, and in a very real sense it is a state for the entire Jewish people, not just its citizens.
Yet this support has never been automatic or universal. At the beginning of statehood, many Jewish communities, particularly in San Francisco, opposed a Jewish state fearing it would bring their loyalty into question.
Today, some Jews who oppose the policies of the Israeli government toward the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza believe that a Jewish state is not moral and should cease to exist.
This week’s Torah portion reminds us that there have always been Jews who lived outside the Land of Israel. The tribes of Gad and Reuben want to remain on the East Bank of the Jordan river because it is good pasture land. Moses gives them permission on one condition: “Moses said to them, “If you do this, if you go to battle as shock-troops, at the instance of the LORD, and every shock-fighter among you crosses the Jordan, at the instance of the LORD, until He has dispossessed His enemies before Him, and the land has been subdued, at the instance of the LORD, and then you return—you shall be clear before the LORD and before Israel; and this land shall be your holding under the LORD. But if you do not do so, you will have sinned against the LORD; and know that your sin will overtake you.” (Numbers 32:20-23)
Our Torah teaches us the obligation that “All Israel is responsible, each for the other.” Those of us who live outside the State of Israel, must be engaged, seriously engaged in the life of the state. We must do our best to help Israel achieve its full potential or we miss our obligation as Jews. Just as in this week’s Torah portion our fates are intertwined… whether we like it or not.