The Torah tells us something very unique about the Land of Israel and its relationship to the People of Israel. It says in the book of Vayikra (Numbers):
“I [G-d] will lay the Land desolate, and your enemies who live in it will experience desolation.”1
The Ramban in his commentary on the Torah on this says:
“[This verse] comforts us with the realisation that during all our exiles, our Land will not be hospitable to our enemies. This is another strong proof for eventual redemption, and a promise to us, that nowhere on earth is there another land as fertile and as welcoming as the Land of Israel, which has been in a state of ruin for such a long time. For since the time we left it, it has not accepted any other people. They have all tried to settle it, but to no avail.”2
Many nations desired control over the Land of Israel for numerous reasons. Geographically it is the land route between three continents, Asia, Africa and Europe. Christianity and Islam too had a desire to control this land for religious purposes. The Crusades sought to conquer the land from the Muslims. In spite of the land changing hands several times during the Jews absence, whilst they were in exile there was every incentive for any of them to seek to establish a permanent presence there. But no nation was established on the land since Judea was destroyed by the Romans 2000 years ago.
The Torah makes the claim that the land will simply not yield its fruit for anyone but the Jews. Our Sages taught in the Talmud:
“There is no clearer indication of the end than this -“And you, mountains of Israel, your branches will produce, and you will carry your fruit to My people Israel, for they will come soon.” [Ezekiel 36:8]”3
Rashi explains that -“When the Land of Israel yields its fruit abundantly, then the end is near, and there is no clearer indication of the end than this.”4
We have seen both of these occur in recent history. The early Zionist pioneers from the the 1800’s began returning to the Land of Israel in progressively larger numbers. The land they encountered and settled on was not fertile, they dried up swamps and built Kibbutzim (communes), they made the desert bloom. Prior to large scale Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel by the early Zionists, in 1867 the famous author Mark Twain travelled to the Holy land, on his travels he wrote memoirs of what he saw. He writes:
“We traversed some miles of desolate country whose soil is rich enough but is given wholly to weeds – a silent, mournful expanse…. A degree of desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action. We reached Tabor safely… We never saw a human being on the whole route…. (Ch. 49).
[W]e pressed on toward the goal of our crusade, renowned Jerusalem. The further we went the hotter the sun got, and the more rocky and bare… the landscape became…. There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of worthless soil, had almost deserted the country. (Ch. 52)
Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods the spell of a curse that has withered its fields and fettered its energies… Palestine is desolate and unlovely. And why should it be otherwise? Can the curse of the Deity beautify a land? Palestine is no more of this work-day world. It is sacred to poetry and tradition – it is dream-land. (Ch.56)”5
The Geologist John William Dawson (1820-1899) in 1888 too noted:
“Until today no people has succeeded in establishing national dominion in the land of Israel… No national unity or spirit of nationalism has acquired any hold there. The mixed multitude of itinerant tribes that managed to settle there did so on lease, as temporary residents. It seems that they await the return of the permanent residents of the land.”6
What sort of land only makes itself hospitable to a particular group of people! This very idea sounds bizarre and not plausible. But this is exactly what we see when it comes to the Land of Israel and is a sign that the time of the redemption and coming of Mashiach is near.
1) Vayikra 26:32
2) Ramban, Vayikra 26:32
3) Rabbi Abba, Sanhedrin 98a
4) Rashi Sanhedrin 98a
5) 1867 Mark Twain,(1922) Innocents Abroad, New York: Harper and Brothers
6) Professor, Sir John Dawson (1888) Modern Science in Bible Lands, London, pp.449-450