Jewish identity was born in their journey to the land of Israel—Eretz Yisrael. It began with two very epic journeys. The first was with Abraham and Sarah from Mesopotamia, and the second, several centuries later was with Moses and the Israelites from Egypt. To be a Jew has always held a sense of being on a journey—a journey to the Promised Land!
God’s covenant promises are always sure, including the dispersion of the Jewish people because of their disobedience, as well as the re-gathering of the nation of Israel. He promised both to the descendants of Abraham.
“…and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where He scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors.”—Deuteronomy 30.2-5
Biblical history reveals that Jews have lived in Eretz Yisrael for nearly 4,000 years—dating back to the biblical patriarchs who lived c.1800 BC. Although many tribes and nations have tried to forcibly uproot and destroy the Jewish population living within the borders of Israel and Jerusalem, there has always remained a constant Jewish presence—a Jewish remnant.
In fact, the earliest known non-biblical reference to Jews living in Israel was recorded in 1209 BC, when the Egyptian king, Merneptah, son of Ramesses II, made mention of a revolt by Jews in Israel. This evidence was found etched into a stone monument erected in his honor.
We find a similar non-biblical reference in the middle of the 9th century BCE, When Shalmaneser III, king of Assyria, went to war against the coalition of Levantine monarchs, he mentions the leader of this coalition: Ahab the Israelite who went to war with two thousand chariots.
Israel subsequently has had a lengthy documented history of conquerors over her land: Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Mamelukes, Ottoman-Turks, and finally the British in the 20th century just prior to the rebirth of present day Israel. But not one of these empires was able to establish Israel into their own homeland. Israel remained an insignificant outpost at best throughout most of these reigns.
Supported by archaeology, the biblical text, and other outside sources, we learn that never in this nearly 4,000 years of history was there never a time where Jews were not found physically living in Eretz Yisrael.
In fact, at the end of the 16th century there were nearly 30,000 Jews living in Eretz Yisrael. In Jerusalem, from the 1840s onward, the Jews have constituted a majority of the population. Even in the midst of the Ottoman Empire, the Jewish population overtook both the Arab and Christian communities living in Jerusalem. This is still the case today.
Less than a century ago a national homeland for the Jewish people seemed as only a dream. Nearly half of the worldwide Jewish population had been obliterated during the Holocaust, and those who remained were scattered across the globe. Yet today we are witnesses to the greatest reformation of a nation in the history of mankind. Today the nation of Israel stands strong among the nations with over 8.25 million people—over 6 million Jews. That is nearly half of the entire world’s Jewish population!
“Who has ever seen anything as strange as this? Who ever heard of such a thing? Has a nation ever been born in a single day? Has a country ever come forth in a mere moment? But by the time Jerusalem’s birth pains begin, her children will be born.”—Isaiah 66.8
Today, we are of a privileged generation—witnesses of this prophetic word come to pass. The Jewish nation is on-track to fulfilling a covenant promise by God to the descendants of Abraham by living within the borders of the Promised Land—the fulfillment of His promise to the Jewish people.