The Promised Land

We find many times in the Chumash that G‑d promised Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel, to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his descendants.

“The L‑rd appeared to Abraham and said, I will give this land to your descendants.” [Bereishit 12:7]

What is so special about Eretz Yisrael

Many of the 613 mitzvot are connected with Eretz Yisrael, e.g. Tithes, the Shmittah [Sabbatical year when the land lies fallow], worshipping and sacrifices in the Temple etc. Eretz Yisrael has a special kedushah — holiness — so much so, that one who lives there may only leave for a very good reason, e.g. to marry a wife or to learn Torah. Many great Jews kissed the land upon entering.

It is a mitzvah to live in Eretz Yisrael. Those who live in the Diaspora should support the needy in Eretz Yisrael. Going to live in Israel is called going on Aliyah.

The Holy Places

Although the whole of Eretz Yisrael is a Holy Land, certain sites are of special significance;

1) The Western Wall The only remaining wall standing from the Second Temple in Jerusalem is the Western Wall, often referred to as “the Kotel.” The Midrash tells us that the Divine Presence never departed from the Wall. Anyone who visits feels deeply touched and prays for the rebuilding of the Temple and for peace, prosperity and good health for the Jewish people and all mankind. It is called the “Gate of Heaven”. The Wall is also known as the Wailing Wall since many Jews go there to lament the destruction of the Temple and hope and to pray for Moshiach.

2) Kever Avot [ Kever = Grave Avot = Fathers]. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, Adam and Eve are all buried in a cave in Chevron. This cave is called M’arat Hamachpaylah — The cave of doubles — since four couples are buried there. The Matriarch Rachel is buried on the way to Chevron in Kever Rachel. It is customary to pray at these sites and ask the Fathers and Mothers of the Jewish people to intercede in Heaven on our behalf.

3) Miron, Tiberias, Tzfat Many great Jewish Sages are buried in Eretz Yisrael. To name a few; Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in Miron, (thousands of Jews flock to his grave on Lag B’Omer), Rambam and Rabbi Meir Baal Haness in Tiberias, the Arizal and Rabbi Yosef Karo, the author of the Shulchan Aruch in Tzfat. All the above cities are in the north east of Israel near the Sea of Tiberias.

Israel Today

At present, there are over five million Jews living in Israel. The capital city is Jerusalem where the
government sits in a building called the Knesset.

Industry and technology is highly developed and the agricultural settlements called a kibbutz or moshav produce high quality produce. The currency is the Israeli Shekel. Israel’s main airport is called Ben-Gurion airport near Tel-Aviv, a large city on the Mediterranean. The spoken language is Ivrit — Hebrew with Sephardic pronunciation.