(August 22, 2021 / JNS) There are good reasons for the Arab world and the anti-Israel left to insist on using the false and geographically inaccurate term “West Bank” when referring to Judea and Samaria.
Think about it: imagine a human rights movement built around the slogan: Banish the Arabs of Arabia! Such a slogan and such a movement would raise many questions. For example, where else would the Arabs have the right to be if not Arabia, and who could have more rights over Arabia than the Arabs?
While freedom-loving Americans have endless reasons to squirm when considering Saudi Arabia (as do Americans who hate freedom), we all tend to agree that Arabs who want to live there have a right to presumed to do so. Arabia for the Arabs.
India for Indians. Russia for the Russians. Mongolia for the Mongols — some outsiders, some insides. Austria for the Austrians. Guatemala for the Guatemalans. Cuba for Cubans. Sounds right.
Somewhere in the litany it would make sense to say: Yehuda for Yehudim—that is, Judea for the Jews. Even anti-Semites would find it difficult to support slogans such as “Ban the Jews of Judea!” The Jews never lived in Judea! The Jews (Yehudim in Hebrew) from the tribe of Judah (Yehuda) gave the land of Yehuda its name: Judea, as transcribed in the King James version of the Bible.
It has always been absurd to call Judea and Samaria the “West Bank”. Think about the most famous places in the Bible: Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Beth El, Jericho, Shiloh, Sichem (Nablus), Galilee, Tekoa — all the places where Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs, kings and prophets have walked and lived. Jesus and the apostles too. Their lives were all centered in Judea and Samaria. These terms are found throughout the Bible, with over 100 mentions of “Samaria” alone in the Bible. Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and in the Christian Gospels.
At that time, there was no Tel Aviv, no Herzliya, no Haifa, no Netanya. Of course, the Zionists also occupied these lands. But it was in the cities of Judea and Samaria that the seeds of Western civilization were planted and took root.
Visit virtually any of the 140 Jewish communities where 800,000 Jews currently reside in Judea and Samaria, and you will not see any riverbanks. It’s not like Jersey City, New Jersey, which is on the west bank of the Hudson River. No one calls Jersey City “the West Bank”. Why not? Too much history there? Too many Bible memorabilia of Moses and Aaron buying shoes in Journal Square or using the PATH trains at Grove Street station?
The Arab world and their awakened allies have no problem calling all other places in the Middle East by their biblical names: Beersheva, Galilee, Jordan, Gaza, Damascus, Lebanon, Tire, Sidon and of course Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem. and Nazareth. Even Americans comfortably use Biblical names for so many of their cities: Hebron, Maryland; the Jericho Turnpike, New York; Bethel, Indiana; the Battle of Shiloh, Tennessee; Manassas (Menashe), Virginia.
Judea and Samaria—Yehuda and Shomron—should be called by their real names and not by the term ersatz woke which seeks to strip the 800,000 Jews who currently live there of their heritage and their land. When a newborn is due to arrive, think about the hours, contemplation, even feuds and inter-family negotiations that often precede the appointment of the newcomer. Names have great power and meaning. This is why the enemies of Israel call Judea and Samaria “the West Bank”.
And why we should call it Judea and Samaria.
Rabbi Dov Fischer, law professor and senior rabbinical researcher at the Coalition for Jewish Values, is senior editor of “The American Spectator.”
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.