“'I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.'” — Ezekiel 37:14
As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi in Great Britain, once wrote, “to be a Jew is to be an agent of hope in a world serially threatened by despair…Judaism is the religion, and Israel the home, of hope.” This is one of six devotions focusing on this attribute of faith that has sustained the Jewish people for millennia. To learn more about the Patriarch Abraham and a life lived with hope, download our free Bible study.
Seventy years before Israel was declared a nation, Naphtali Herz Imber penned the words to a nine-stanza poem named Tikvateynu, which translates “Our Hope.” In this poem, Imber put into words the feelings he had upon learning about the establishment of one of the first Jewish settlements in what was then the Ottoman Palestine.
Here are the first two stanzas:
As long as in the heart, within,
A Jewish soul still yearns
And onward, towards the ends of the east,
An eye still gazes toward Zion;
Our hope is not yet lost,
The hope of two thousand years,
To be a free people in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.
As you can see from this poem, which was adopted as the anthem for the early Zionist movement, the idea of Israel and Jerusalem as the Jewish homeland are nearly synonymous. This poem refers heavily to Jerusalem throughout.
In fact, this poem was officially adopted in 2004 as the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah, which means “The Hope.” It is a reflection of the 2,000-year-old hope of the Jewish people to be a free and sovereign people in the land of Israel, a national dream that was realized with the founding of the modern State of Israel in 1948.
Some have linked the idea of hope to the biblical prophet Ezekiel and his vision of the dry bones. In this account, Ezekiel sees a valley filled with dry bones, and God commands him to prophesy to the bones to come to life. But the bones, who symbolize the exiled people of Israel, reply, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off” (Ezekiel 37: 11). To which God replies, “'I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it'” (37:14).
Indeed, just as God promised, our hope has been realized. We have been brought back to new life in Israel. We have been settled in our own land, and we thank God for what He has done for us as His people.
Jerusalem is at the very core of Israel. It is the city of David, the capital of the State of Israel, and the heart of our Jewish faith. We face Jerusalem when we pray, and we end the observances of Passover and Yom Kippur with our heartfelt hope, “Next year in Jerusalem!”
Just as the psalmist wrote thousands of years ago, “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).
We will never forget — Jerusalem belongs to us, and we belong to Jerusalem.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President