If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy. — Psalm 137:5–6
In 1903, Joseph Chamberlain, the British Colonial Secretary, made an offer to Theodore Herzl and his Zionist group. The British were prepared to give the Jews 5,000-square miles in Uganda, Africa to serve as a Jewish homeland. The proposal evoked a fierce debate. On one hand, the land would provide the Jews with a homeland where they would be free to live in peace and protect themselves from danger.
On the other hand, it fell far short of the Zionist dream to return to the ancient homeland of the Jews — Israel. Thankfully, the offer was declined because the land was deemed unsuitable. However, the question remained: Even though the historical homeland of the Jews is Israel, does it really matter where the Jewish homeland is today?
Psalm 137 answers that question with an emphatic “Yes!” For 2,000 years, Psalm 137:5 has been a cornerstone of Jewish worship and devotion: “If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.” For centuries, we longed for, prayed for, and worked for the Jewish return to Jerusalem. At times of joy, this verse was read as we remembered Jerusalem. A small part of every Jewish home was left unfinished to remember the destruction of Jerusalem. Every year on the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, we spend the day fasting and crying over Jerusalem.
Jerusalem. Not Poland, not America, and not Uganda. Jerusalem is the only capital the Jews have ever had, and Israel is the only Jewish homeland that will ever be!
This is because Israel is where the Jews belong. In Deuteronomy 1:8, God says, “See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land the LORD swore he would give to your fathers . . . and to their descendants after them." Guess which land God was talking about? Not Uganda! The land of Israel was promised to the children of Israel and their descendants for all eternity.
In Jeremiah 50:19, God says, “But I will bring Israel back to their own pasture, and they will graze on Carmel and Bashan; their appetite will be satisfied on the hills of Ephraim and Gilead.” Even though the Israelites would go into exile, God would bring them back. Not to New York and California, but to Carmel and Bashan in Israel. Israel is our eternal homeland.
Over the years, The Fellowship has been blessed to participate in helping Jews from around the world return home to Israel through our On Wings of Eagles ministry. We invite you to join us in this holy work bringing the Jewish people back to their God-given home. Visit us here to find out more.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President